As COVID-19 spread around the world and slammed the brakes on the global economy, Alejandra Challapa Castro did something she never thought she would do: she put away her loom. An Aymara weaver, Challapa had a business making hand-woven alpaca scarves, shawls and capes as well as other items for more than 30 years. She was about to walk away from a skill she had first learned from her mother when she was 7 years old.
“I thought, ‘this is it for hand-made crafts,’” said Challapa, who lives in Arica, Chile. Then she received an email from someone thousands of miles away who she hadn’t heard from in years.
Heidi McKinnon was pursuing a lifelong dream: opening a shop that would feature the clothing, jewelry, pottery and other items made from natural materials and by artisans such as Challapa who she met during her years of travel through Latin America. “There’s so much beauty out there,” said McKinnon. “I just felt that people weren’t seeing what I was seeing, and I wanted to share it.”
She offered to sell Challapa’s works at her new shop, Heritage By Hand, which she then opened in Santa Fe, New Mexico, in December 2020. Challapa changed her mind about quitting, and her business has since survived the pandemic. “I cannot walk away from it easily,” said Challapa.
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