Carl Wilson was surfing the coast of Chile when an impressive Argentinian woman, Victoria Aguirre, showed up with camera in hand. She was on assignment for a magazine to photograph Carl’s two surfing buddies. Carl and Victoria ‘clicked’ over their shared interests in travel and photography, and soon after a relationship and business blossomed! In 2012, the couple took a leap of faith and decided that Victoria would move to Australia. They started Pampa together, drawing on Victoria’s South American background to establish a business in Australia.
Pampa is a grassroots business, focused on selling the handwoven artisanal rugs, throws and cushions of Argentinian ethnic communities, for a fair price, along with the couple’s range of fine photography prints. ‘Pampa’ means fertile lowlands between mountains in Quechua (a South American indigenous language). Within these lowlands is the ‘La Pampa’ province, where Victoria spent much of her childhood riding horses bareback at her grandparents’ farm.
Since 2013, Victoria and Carl have invested themselves in developing honest relationships with traditional Argentinian weavers living in remote villages. They started by exploring the different provinces throughout the dry, forested areas, and then higher up in the Andean mountains, where there’s no phone reception. They spoke to whoever they met, and inevitably these conversations led them to skilled weavers.
These days, Carl and Victoria work with a range of different groups, including NGOs, co-ops, and extended families. They regularly spend time with their weavers’ families, document their processes through photography, and have developed a deep understanding of their traditions. In turn, the weavers see hope in the Pampa business model; the increased income from selling their work at a fair price is helping to sustain their traditional communities into the future.
Working from their base in the Byron Bay hinterland, Victoria notes that ‘nature and its people is our number one inspiration. These weavers live everyday connected to nature in a way that most of the world lacks.’
Each Pampa collection of rugs and fine art photography is infused with ideas of place and process. Collections are named after the Argentinian landscape from where the pieces originate, fibres are coloured with locally extracted natural dyes, and patterns and designs are passed down through generations, most being unique to specific communities. Pampa represents the merging of Australian and Argentinian cultures, and hopes to continue to work with local communities and preserve heritage of its makers.
You can purchase Pampa’s beautiful wares and fine photography prints from their online store or from their various stockists, listed here. Victoria also has her first Australian photography exhibition, Highlanders in the Hinterland, showing at The Farm in Byron Bay until 31st January 2016.