Pampa was launched last year, by Victoria Aguirre and Carlyon Wilson. Capturing their stories through photography, the Argentinean and Australian couple are passionate about fair trade, uniting territories and connecting cultures through art, in the form of traditional woven rugs and tapestries. Working with artists in rural communities, Victoria and Carl help to preserve the heritage of these people who use techniques that have been passed down from generation to generation. They do this by rescuing their art works that are fading away, and bringing them to the Australian (and soon New Zealand) markets. "We believe in a world of trading fairly, that’s the way we work with our artists, so you know your rug is not only improving your home, but improving theirs as well."
I grew up between the city of Buenos Aires and the farmland to the South. My family owns a beautiful farm in a province of Argentina called “La Pampa”. So I guess it all started with a healthy fusion of the cultural/artistic Buenos Aires and the natural, simple and earthy Pampa. I finished a degree in advertising, and then studied photography in a creative space in Buenos Aires, where I learnt that “THE” photo of your life is in your own backyard. Then I completed my photography studies in New York (in ICP), where I lived one of the most inspiring chapters of my life (so far). After travelling and working for adventures magazines as a photojournalist, I ended up where I am today, falling in love with an Australian and starting Pampa, a dream come true. Since then we have been living our own stories together, a mixture of interests with one same passion: EXPLORING.
Carl is an air-conditioning technician by trade. Nothing to do with rugs or design, I know. But when you’re in and out of people’s homes and commercial spaces for 10 years everyday, and have an interest what people do with their surroundings, you tend to pick up an eye for what aesthetically works. He has also had the chance to experience many native cultures through his extensive travels and picked up a photographic eye during these times. So I guess Pampa was a result of my story, Carl’s story and now the story we are building together.
Carl and I met in Chile in 2011. I was with two Argentinean brothers whom were surfing their way back to Argentina from San Diego over 12 months. I was undertaking a photography assignment for an Argentinean Adventure magazine. They happened to have an Aussie guy on board for a few weeks whom was towards the end of a similar solo journey. This Aussie guy was Carl, we soon took a liking to each other, so I thought it was a good idea to extend my assignment. It was only a few months later and Carl and I were living together in Australia.
Where does the name Pampa come from and what does it mean to you?
Pampa means the fertile lowlands in South America. It also represents nature in a general manner. Therefore Pampa is a commonly used word in South America. All our products come from Pampa, they come from the earth in such a natural and magical process.
Pampa unites territories through art. Pampa traces heritage, as to return to simple basics. Pampa connects culture by memories and creations. That’s why we think Pampa is more than just a brand that sells hand-woven rugs. In essence, we rescue what is ours, that with which we identify, in order to trace the clues that lead us to understand and become aware of our identity. For me Pampa represents a lifestyle, a way of seeing and given certain values to things, moments, ways. Ideally Pampa will become a brand that represents creative art in different forms. We are always based on the fact that we want to Explore&Preserve&Empower, at the moment we are doing it by three products, rugs, the little things and our photography.
You launched last year with an incredible collection of artwork, in the form of rugs and tapestries handpicked from Argentina. Can you tell us a bit about the artists who make them, the process by which they are made, and what it is that makes them so unique?
The people that make these rugs are generally women. These weavers are ARTISTS in all forms of living, how they manage themselves to live everyday life in connection with nature. They have that simple beauty of being who they are (and they don’t want to become anything else), they are so proud of their own traditions. They live simply and wisely. It is a world of older times, filled with identity and truth. Truth, is what you see in these peoples' eyes. The first two feelings we had when we met them was of admiration and recognition. We couldn’t talk much, just contemplate their art, their ways, their life. Admire their hands, those silent hands that spun, twisted, dyed and wove in their looms, everyday, under the shade of a tree. Those looms that have lived in their backyards for longer than memory can recall.
These rugs are made out of those hands, so they become woven art pieces with such a special energy. It is a very lengthy process, which takes a great deal of knowledge and patience. Starting with caring for their own sheep on their pieces of land, removing the wool and then hand spinning it, (this is one of the most time consuming parts of the whole process), to dyeing the wool using extracts from plants and insects amongst other organic matter from their environment, and then they weave the piece on loom, which is the final step. These rugs were being woven hundreds and hundreds years ago, by mothers for their children when they left the house. They were used as bed coverings. These rugs are still given to the children when they finally leave the family house; they are scared offerings that will protect them throughout their lives.
What I can say about the specific places where these weavers live is that you get lost, physically lost, mentally lost… it’s so simple and so vast, so pure in it itself, that you try to find the answers… How? Why? Where? It’s like they live in immense regions that seem to be undiscovered. Trails that lead to nowhere. Fences are not yet born, land belongs to no-one. Houses made of adobe (mud bricks) with no flooring, just earth. No pure water, no electricity, no cars…
So, our products are uniquely special because they carry love, effort, heritage, culture and they come from natural vast regions.
We have four range of Pampa rugs: Monte, Puna, Andes and Vintage Awayos. All of our pieces are one of a kind and 100% handmade. In most cases we purchase these rugs directly from the weavers themselves in Argentina, so we know the money is going to the people and their families who need and deserve it most.
The rugs in the Monte collection are our favourite, closely followed by the Puna. The Monte’s are of the highest quality and are the largest of our pieces, they are very unique and to our knowledge are not available anywhere else in Australia. They are the heaviest of all of our rugs, so they sit so nicely on a floor.
Probably our favourite piece is Monte #62 (see below) but the truth is we love them all, as we handpick every single rug and we know where they come from, and who made them. It is like we start developing a relationship with each piece. It is hard to choose one, especially the ones from the Monte and Puna that are so unique.
Eclectic, with a lot of heritage in the art pieces we have around the house. We also have a couple of walls full of photography art works. We do have a few styles crossing over each other, but that keeps it interesting.
Capturing your stories through photography is a powerful tool that has become your voice. What are some of your most memorable photography projects to date?
Well… it’s been almost a year since we started Pampa and the truth is we wouldn’t be where we are now without our photography. It is our voice 100% and the most powerful tool we have to express what Pampa is and represents. The most memorable photography projects would be the ones we shoot during our travels through Argentina, sourcing our rugs. We love getting lost in the forest and mountains. We love those silent moments where we just take photos and contemplate the solitude of nature.
Pampa Horses, this is the only series out of all Pampa Photography that is done only by myself. The rest we shoot together, so there are some photos that belong to Carl, and some that are mine throughout the other projects.
Pampa Horses started 15 years ago when I decided I wanted to become a photographer as to express my passion for horses through a creative path/road. These are the horses I grew up with on my family farm in Argentina, as I mentioned named PAMPA. I know the name and personalities of each single horse in the photos, I feel in tune with their ways of being… I could start talking about each one for hours, about their mothers and grandmothers, etc. I love going back home and getting my camera out amongst them. Even though I took photos of them a million times I always find something new, new relationships between them and the environment. The series Pampa Horses represents home, beauty, solitude, freedom, heritage and nature.
Aren't these images breathtaking? I hope you've enjoyed reading through Victoria's answers as much as I have. What she and Carl have achieved so far with Pampa is admirable, and I'm looking forward to seeing how the journey continues. Huge thanks to Vicky for sharing their story so far. You can read and see more on their comprehensive website, where you will also find links to their social media and be able to sign up to their newsletter.
Pampa is available from Koksela in Australia, and I'm also very happy to report that a selection of the Pampa Horses photography prints and rugs will soon be available in NZ from Indie Home Collective. See the full list of current stockists here.