I have had a long relationship with herons and egrets. It began when I did a canoe trip through the Okeefenokee swamp in Georgia during college. The abundance of long-legged water birds in this wetland could make anyone a life-long bird enthusiast.
Thirteen years later, my mother painted a beautiful design of a great blue heron on a piece of fabric that my fiancee (now wife) Yuri sewed onto the back of the raw silk jacket I wore when we got married.
When I first visited the village of San Francisco on the Maranon River in 2015, I was enchanted seeing their early efforts to weave figures of colorful herons.
It, therefore, seemed appropriate to choose the name Garza Viva (lively heron) for the company and store we opened in Iquitos to sell innovative crafts made by our artisan partners.
At our Artisan Facilitator workshop in Amazonas, the group making the great blue heron finished their first samples by lunch of the second day. Since they didn't have enough chambira with the colors needed to make another blue one, they accepted a challenge to make 3 snowy egrets with small touches of black and yellow.
Four hours later they called me over to show me the four snowy egret ornaments they had lined up on the table. It only took a few seconds to realize I was witnessing a golden moment I had never experienced before. This group had embraced the lessons we had been encouraging to work together to perfection. Before me stood four perfect and identical beautiful birds. There was not a single comment I could offer to help them improve the quality or consistency of their collective creative efforts.
I motioned the group together for a group hug. Pushing through tears and my throat welling up, I could only whisper "gracias." Thank you. I sense they also felt pride for their accomplishment. I sense the experience gave them all a taste of what it felt like to join their heads, hearts and hands.
New groups that made macaws, woodpeckers, and cock of the rock made awesome crafts in days 3 and 4. The aracari group greatly improved their colorful birds in their second try.
Chestnut-eared aracari woven with chambira palm fiber
Blue and gold macaw ornaments woven with chambira palm fiber
Lineated woodpecker ornament woven with chambira palm fiber
"While concepts like punctuality, mutual respect, no put downs of self or others, and listening when someone else is speaking may seem like obvious guidelines to form a positive community, a commitment to actually practice and hold each other accountable to observe these agreements is profound in a culture where showing up late, malicious gossip, and interrupting a speaker are painfully common."
"Artisan facilitators should of course share what they know, but beginning and experienced artisans all benefit by remaining humble, enthusiastic about learning, and committed to encourage and affirm their fellow artisans. So many artisans said that the thing they most wanted to bring back to their communities was this spirit of working in a mutually supportive environment."
"Both men and women wore garb made with bleached llanchama tree bark painted with graphic figures from Bora clans. Several wore headdresses made with the feathers from macaws and parrots. They discussed the importance of nature and craft-making in their culture and then launched into a lively dance where the men chanted and pounded sticks into the ground to the rhythm of moving around in a circle. Visitors joined the undulating lines to share the vibrant energy."