Meet Aula Artesana.
Based in the heart of Cusco, Aula Artesana is a women-founded retail and learning space with a focus on inclusivity, transparency, sustainability and social good.
We collaborate with artisan communities in the highlands and jungles of Peru to offer a unique, curated collection of handmade, fair-trade products, from textiles to ceramics and beyond. We also host immersive workshops with master makers in their home studios and communities, where guests can learn and experience the creative process of making these goods. In all that we do, we aim to facilitate intimate environments where buyers and makers become students and teachers, fostering a connection that goes beyond the transactional to share knowledge, experience and passion for handmade goods.
“Aula Artesana” means “artisan classroom,” and our next goal is to bring our name to life. With your help, we want to open Aulita: a new boutique, cafe and learning space, all in one, in historic Cusco, Peru.
Meet the founders.
We’re Steph and Sonya. We first met at the Cusco airport on Steph’s very first day in Peru back in 2017, and we quickly became friends and colleagues. But before that serendipitous meeting, our paths took a roundabout route to bring us both to Cusco.
Steph spent years working in nonprofit community-led initiatives and living in Ecuador and Bolivia before moving to Peru. Sonya lived and worked in New York City until a late-night epiphany convinced her to pick up and move “temporarily” to Cusco. Once here, we got to work, digging deep to learn as much as we could about our new home. (We’re both permanently based here now, and we feel so lucky to call it home.)
Brought together by our love of the diverse artisanal products of Peru, as well as our shared values of ethical business practices, human engagement and collaboration, we first began to dream up Aula in a cafe in Cusco’s San Blas neighborhood in August 2018. We quickly honed our values, ordered our first stock of artisan products and prepared to open shop. By October 2018, our store was open to the public, and we celebrated that December with a launch event with friends and colleagues (complete with tapas, drinks and live music).
In the spring of 2019, we dedicated time to visiting our artisan partners to connect face to face. We also focused on developing our branding and launching our website and online market, and then strategizing for our pilot Tintes & Textiles workshop in September.
That workshop -- a five-day, all-inclusive retreat -- was a joyful, educational success, with a group of nine creatives joining us to get their hands dirty in dye pots and weave their own backstrap textiles. And that experience just reinforced the next big goal we already knew was on its way as we headed towards the company’s first birthday in October: opening our new space called Aulita.
About the project, Aulita, and why we need your help!
Now that we’re officially one year old, we’re ready to expand! We’ve been searching for a new store space, and we’ve finally found “the one” that will allow us ample room to grow and share our vision and that of our partners. The more room we have, the more…
- artisan goods we can stock, including all sorts of new products
- income our artisan partners can bring home to their families
- workshops we can run, both in the space itself and in our partners’ communities
- opportunities for connection and exchange
We also want to build a space where visitors can sit and stay a while, whether enjoying an organic Peruvian coffee or delving into a photo series from a recent community visit.
In order to bring our bigger, brighter shop and cafe space to life, we need funding support. Crowdfunding felt like the perfect approach, since we’ve always been all about collaboration and community. By pledging, you’ll be joining our Aula Artesana family of artisans and art-lovers from around the world, and you’ll be helping our sustainable, fair-trade, socially-minded enterprise thrive.
Here’s how our overall $40,000 funding goal breaks down. The largest slice of the money will go towards building out the space, which needs a full renovation, all furniture and decorations, and basic appliances, along with an initial rent payment. The next largest slice will go towards fair wages for our employees and payments to our artisan partners for their handmade products. We’ve also allotted a small portion of funds to cover Kickstarter’s fee.
Since we’ll be moving from one space to another, we can get this project up and running quickly, so long as we have the funds to do so. Here’s the timeline we have in mind:
October 18th - November 18th: Kickstarter campaign!
Late November through December: We’ll begin renovating, furnishing and decorating our new space, aiming to open the store in December.
January: We’ll officially open Aulita and host a launch event, which all backers will be invited to!
Here's a selection of rewards that you could receive for supporting Aula! Please read the detailed descriptions of each reward down the right side of the page.
A word from the Aula Artesana community - here’s what people say about our workshops…
“Where do I begin?! This workshop exceeded my expectations times ten. Our group got an extensive, hands-on education in natural dyeing with numerous locally-sourced materials (including some wild botanicals we got to forage ourselves!) and weaving on backstrap looms, partnered with artisans whose expertise was consistently matched with welcoming warmth. All in all, I can't say enough good things about this retreat and its balance of learning and play.” - Leah (Los Angeles, CA)
“I had the best experience with Aula Artesana. As a fiber artist from Peru, I was looking to gain some knowledge of traditional techniques from communities in Cusco, and they didn't disappoint. We were introduced to local dyeing and weaving techniques, experiences that I couldn't have planned on my own being from Peru.” - Mariana (Lima, Peru)
“A week after my adventure with Aula in Peru and I'm still processing the magical things we did, the awe inspiring places we saw, and the beautiful people we met along the way. Sonya and Steph are master facilitators, educators, communicators, and overall badass women that make me want to become a better human. I learned so much being around them, and from the beginning was made to feel like family. What we learned during our workshop was unique and intimate in a way that I've never encountered before in an immersion program. I learned so much about the communities we visited, and I feel strongly that we made an actually meaningful connection across cultures.” - Matt (Santa Fe, NM)
"As an avid traveler, I feel pretty confident in my ability to seek out really special experiences on the road. But there is absolutely no way I would ever be able to curate a trip like this alone. The access to centuries old practices and traditions, via remote communities and seasoned was a constant throughout the week. Highly recommend for anyone seeking a truly immersive experience in the artisan culture of the Sacred Valley." - Allison (Joshua Tree, CA)
...and what they say about our current Aula Artesana shop.
“I was so happy to have stumbled upon Aula Artesana during my time in Cusco. It was the perfect place to buy fair trade gifts for my friends and family back home, and they work directly with the people making the crafts, so you feel great about the purchase and also have a story to tell when you gift the products!”
“This store is amazing! They have a great selection of beautiful products from all over Peru, which was a nice break from all the similar things I saw throughout Cusco!”
“I loved hearing the stories behind the products - It was a learning experience as well as a shopping one… Can't beat the cozy and the colorful.”
“All the stuff is fair trade and the store seems to take its mission really seriously. Plus, the shop has a really cool vibe.”
Our core values of inclusivity, transparency, sustainability and social good are reflected throughout our business, guiding our approach to relationships with our employees, partners, guests and planet. You can read the specifics on our website, here: www.aulaartesana.com/values.
From fair market compensation, to creative freedom for our artisan partners and team, to carefully designed retreats for our guests, to building sustainable choices for the environment into every aspect of our business -- our values direct everything we do. And at the heart of everything, you’ll find...
Our artisan partners.
Many of our partners come from Indigenous communities and draw on traditional knowledge to make their products. Their expertise around where and how to gather materials and dye plants, weaving, symbology, sustainable agriculture and farming, ceramics and much more has traditionally been passed down through generations of Indigenous communities.
However, cultural devaluation has historically excluded this knowledge and the people who wield it from the market, causing many communities to themselves devalue and lose these practices. Through collaborations with Aula and other outlets, our partners are looking for opportunities to revive traditional artisan practices and reach a greater audience, ultimately revaluing their art and culture.
Our weaving partners in Patacancha include women like Elena, Hermenegilda and Nicolasa, who work generously and patiently as one-on-one mentors (and friends) with our Tintes & Textiles workshop participants:
Meet Angela, Santusa, and Leonarda, the three sisters of Pichinku Yarn who make naturally-dyed skeins in a rainbow of colors, all from botanical materials sourced around their workshop in Lamay:
In Palca, Tiodoro and Juana make the coziest, most luxurious alpaca shawls and blankets from their home and weaving studio:
Elsa lives in Palma Real, where the weavers make joyous baskets and fans out of strong tamshi tree vines and natural plant and seed dyes:
Nicanor, Juana and Liz, a family from the highland jungle of Huyro, produce organically grown tea and are highly knowledgeable about all of the medicinal uses of the plants that grow in the area:
And that's just the beginning. It's a joy and an honor to work with these skilled artisans and friends from all around the stunning country of Peru, and we're so excited to introduce them to you as we bring Aulita to life.
Learn more, stay connected and share.
Risks and challenges
Since we’ve been operating for over a year, found a space to move into, and work with a dedicated team who can help us set up and run Aulita, there are few risks associated with our project.
Because each piece from our artisan partners is handmade and unique, production is time-consuming and a little unpredictable. It is also often reliant on good weather conditions -- for example, ceramics need time to dry in the sun, a process made more difficult during rainy season (October-March).
Moving to a larger store means a greater demand for goods and more products for our partners to produce. We’ll manage this influx by auditing our current inventory and calculating our future product needs. This way, we’ll know how much new stock we’ll need to kit out Aulita and place orders with our partners well in advance.
For these reasons, we have given ourselves up to 6 months to send out the pledge rewards -- ensuring that our partners will have enough time to carefully produce all the items needed.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (30 days)