"They could go to grades four through six, but that was only for white people," anthropologist
Belote called from the Dallas Market Center, where two Saraguro members of the
The Saraguros are just two of more than 150 artists from 62 countries converging on
"We use our imagination," she said of the designs. "We see the natural world, we look at the plants."
Because there are no written patterns, Marcos said she retains examples for herself. She uses the money she makes selling her beadwork to pay for the education of her four sons, as well as food, clothing, medical supplies and beading materials.
When Belote first visited the Saraguros, the women knew only one beading pattern. No one could remember its origins. The artists had no needles or nylon thread. They used waxed cotton thread to pass through the beads in a laborious process.
Primarily subsistence dairy farmers, the Saraguros live at an elevation of 8,500 feet, growing most of their own food -- corn, beans, squash and tree tomatoes -- and herding cattle and sheep.
Although they remain proud of their Incan heritage, it did not generate their beading. In about 1900, they searched for wider pastures and crossed the Andes into
"We can't find anything about who started bead weaving," Belote said.
The 1970s brought nylon thread and hair-width beading needles, accelerating the process. The Saraguro technique differs from any other bead weavers.
"They go horizontally," Belote said. "Most people who are bead weaving go up and down. They put the thread over the string between the beads. That creates almost a fabric feel."
The artists never write their ever-expanding patterns down; they carry them in their heads. One pattern resembles feathers. The women call it strawberries, Belote said.
"But it's a crochet pattern called pineapple," she said, adding, "They do shading; they love the rainbow. That's very symbolic to them."
A peacock pattern uses four shades of blue, three shades of purple and three kinds of yellow.
A design by La Mega's
The piece named for her is called "Tejido de Juanita" (weaving of Juanita).
"It's a little necklace -- almost a choker with very fine weaving," Belote said. The piece incorporates an array of Czech fire-polished beads.
Sarango credited the group's "collective memory" for her designs. She uses the money she earns to educate her six children, who range from age 10 to 24.
As Belote and members of the market's training center worked with the Saraguros, the quality of their work rose, along with their business sense. Before
Domenici, who holds a master's degree in art history and runs a Native American jewelry business, heard about the mentoring program from a cousin. She signed up for a year and stayed.
"We've seen such progress," she said. "We were able to get them an online catalog. According to the Folk Art Market, they are the only people doing this work. It's almost like tapestry; it's very smooth."
One member told Domenici she spent 600 hours creating a single necklace.
"She said, 'That wasn't all at once; I took breaks,'" Domenici said with a laugh.
Last year, La Mega made
If you go
WHAT: International Folk Art Market:
HOW MUCH: Friday opening party
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