After years of admiring the handcrafted gifts her good friend would send from South America, Clevelander Brooke Kelsey noticed a common thread in the traditional Peruvian goods made by local artisans and American home decor: a bohemian style and versatility. To bridge the gap between the two countries, Kelsey partnered with Abbie Whisner and Kate Reategui, who both live in Lima, Peru, to start Kukuli Market last July. The home decor line of curated rugs, throw pillows, blankets, dishware and more is all handmade by Peruvian artisans. “It was just taking traditional products and translating them into interior modern decor,” explains Kelsey. “We really represent a bohemian modern sensibility and aesthetic. The pieces are beautiful.” Strong Bonds: Relationships are key to Kukuli Market’s success. Whisner and Reategui have established personal connections with seven formal artist collectives that include groups such as the Shipibo tribe who paint pillow covers by hand. “It’s incredibly woven into the culture,” says Kelsey. “There are many people doing this, so it isn’t new for them. But every area has different expertise, craftsmanship and products that they produce.” Inherent Beauty: Often these handmade pieces incorporate important landmarks of the artisan’s lifestyle and culture. Take the Frazada rug ($350), where the reoccurring diamond print represents the Andes Mountains and the sunset tones signify the crops that are available during each harvest. “Grandmothers will teach their daughters and then their granddaughters,” says Kelsey. “When we’re working with select tribes, you’ll see a differentiation in patterns when it comes to tribal histories. It’s very much a family affair that is passed down from generation to generation.” Kitchen Aid: For Kukuli Market’s kitchenware, the three owners often work with artists on what a modern American home needs. Those collaborations have resulted in a large salad bowl hand carved from olive wood ($135) and an alabaster cheese plate ($98). “It’s really rewarding to see how their traditional products can be evolved into products that work in the American home,” she says. Dye Job: The dyes on the Shipibo pillows ($98) are made from mud, insects and resin, while the blankets are made from alpaca and lambswool. “The alpaca is one of the most prized agricultural resources they have,” says Kelsey. “It’s incredibly soft, lightweight and warm. It almost feels like cashmere.” Giving Back: Since starting their business, the three women have seen the difficulties artisans face trying to earn a living. Kukuli Market offers fair wages and donates 5 percent of profits to a local Peruvian nonprofit that helps new mothers learn necessary skills to be successful. “For a lot of them, it’s their main source of income — that money is going to help one of their daughters go to school and get an education,” says Kelsey. “We are all mothers, and that transition can be difficult, so it’s important to help them.”
Made of lambswool, this Frazada pillow cover ($65) is hand-spun, dyed and loomed by artisans from Cusco, Peru.
More Info: kukulimarket.com