Born in Peru and raised in the United States, Jenni Li is the curator of Intiearth, a shop that prides itself in showcasing and providing work to local artisans from her native country. During her visits, Jenni meets directly and collaborates with the artisans whose unique handmade treasures she garners and shares with the world. Frazada rugs and Cajamarca hats have never look better!
How did you decide to start Intiearth? What was the ahah moment?
I was frequently traveling to Peru to visit family and one of our favorite stops was the local market. I had repeat requests for things I brought back from my travels, it seemed to go hand in hand. I love exploring my home country and in the process I can share it with people through the textiles and goods I bring back.
Tell us a little about your inspiration and process?
I strive to embrace the beauty and talent of the artisans I meet. Each region has it’s own special craft and this leads to my exploration of Peru. I visit regions that are remote and difficult to reach and look for traditional items that express the culture and personality of each artisan. Often the most beautiful items are used in their daily lives.
What is the best part of what you do?
Getting to know more about the country where I was born, traveling, and seeing the world from a different vantage point.
Tell me a little about the artisans you work with?
I work with artisans from all over Peru, north, south, and east. Some are continuing a family business while others have relocated in Lima after leaving their homes for more opportunity. A large majority of artisans living in Lima left their villages in the Ayacucho region during the terrorist occupation in the 80’s.
Are there new projects you would like to talk to us about?
I recently traveled to Ayacucho to visit the Yanamilla Prison Project. Founded by an American woman, the prisoners are educated in traditional crafts and given an opportunity to earn an income that they send to their families outside of prison.
I am working on a collection focused around their traditional textiles and hope to have them produce it. Ninety percent of the inmates are incarcerated for drug trafficking. Living in the Vraem Region (where 70% of Peru’s cocaine is produced) poverty is extreme, they have little money and resources are limited. Working in the Coca industry is often seen as their only option for survival. These women spend an average of 8 to 15 years away from their children and families.
Who is your favorite artist? Georgia O’Keeffe
4 must have you pack for your vacation? Depends where I’m going… My glasses, Intiearth Lima Basket, Intiearth handknit shawl for the airplane and a good book
Are you listening to music when you work? No
Favorite Leila Ligougne dress or top? The Lola
One piece or bikini? Bikini
Your happy place? Tropical places
Prized possession? My grandmother’s fur coat, her name is embroidered on the inside pocket
Dream vacation? Galapagos Islands, an authentic Amazon rainforest trip
One adjective to describe yourself? Busy
Favorite charity? Currently, Pathway to Paris
Secret about yourself? It wouldn’t be a secret anymore if I told you!