The magical southern archipelago of Chiloé is known for its colorful stilted homes, delicious home-cooked food, its rich culture and textile traditions. A local designer has capitalized on these wonderful characteristics and the island’s skilled people creating a weaving workshop whose end products that truly capture the beauty of the area.
Kelgwo, named for the local word for the main part of the loom, is an artisanal workshop and store founded by Marcia Mancilla, a designer from Chiloé who decided to try to save the textile traditions of the island. As the outside world continues to embrace new technology, and the pace of work gets ever faster and the personal touches become fewer and harder to find, Mancilla opened the workshop where handmade scarves, vests, and ponchos are crafted from all-natural and local materials harnessing the original magic of Chiloé.
“We use the traditional techniques that were used and that are still being used here on the island, from the yarn, to the dye, and the way we weave,” Mancilla says.
The walls of the workshop are lined with varying rich shades of color as the naturally dyed yarns hang, ready for the next weaver.
“All of these were colored with vegetable dyes,” Mancilla explains, noting the amber colored yarn dyed with Spanish moss, another darker orange from apple tree bark, and other rich hues of brown dyed with natural clays and mud.
The yarn comes from people from around the islands, who also often spin it and dye it.
“We work with people who live in rural parts of Ancud, there are many, many people who are involved from the countryside and the Pacific coast of Chiloé,” Mancillo explains.
The result is something closer to art than clothing. The skillfully manipulated textiles ingeniously combine colors, textures, and form creating unique and inspired pieces.
“Our products aren’t made to be souvenirs. Here we care more about a piece’s quality than about the amount of sales and profit we make,” Macillo says. “It’s much more motivating to weave something aesthetically pleasing and that we’re happy with, than to make lots of trivial things that don’t have that “click” that we need that allows us to be proud of what we make.”
Kelgwo is located on Costanera Norte in Ancud, on the main island of Chiloé. The archipelago is a growing destination within Chile and is easily reached via the nearby city of Puerto Montt.