Breanna Johnston

Elkmont Elementary School, Elkmont AL

Study Andean textiles and weaving throughout Peru to inform students about the cultural aspects and scientific process behind the craft, as well as how it relates to the visual arts.

Where I've Been

  • Aguas Calientes, Peru
  • Cusco, Peru
  • Lima, Peru
  • Machu Picchu, Peru
  • Pisac, Peru
  • Puno, Peru

My Fellowship in Images

Rinsing wool during a natural dye workshop in Calca, Peru.
Learning the practice of backstrap weaving.
Finding natural dyes at the Pisac market!
Two woven Peruvian belts, made by me! :)
Weaving on sheep skins outside of Apulaya Center for Andean Culture. I had a master weaver as my instructor, she has been weaving since she was fifteen.
The beginning of backstrap weaving. This is the first process, the setting up of the loom.

Your Personal and Professional Growth

How have your knowledge, skills and capabilities grown?

My knowledge has grown tremendously on the process of back strap loom weaving and the extremely detailed patterns that the people of Peru weave. The history and culture of weaving in Peru is so important to its people and still plays a huge role in their culture still today. I appreciate the techniques and hard work that goes in to the woven artworks made by the Peruvian people. The hard work and setting up of the weaving is a difficult task and I am very honored to now know the processes.

As a result, in what ways will your instructional practice change?

I hope to implement more background knowledge into my instructional practice. The history of weaving in Peru deserves a very well in-depth explanation and I want my students to fully comprehend and value the work that the Peruvian people complete daily. I believe I need to practice also have more patience! Back strap loom weaving can be very difficult and I hope to transfer the knowledge to my students effectively and patiently so that they understand the process without getting frustrated.

What is the greatest personal accomplishment of your fellowship?

Probably successfully hiking Huayna Picchu AND successfully weaving three, almost four, back strap belts! I have a little fear of heights so Huayna Picchu was a challenge. Back strap weaving however was a little more daunting! I was very pleased that I caught on to the practice of weaving the "tullu" patterns into a belt design. The "pallay" pattern was a little more challenging and I am still practicing the technique at home in hopes that I can master it before school starts.

Impact on Your Classroom, School and Community

How will your experiences positively impact student learning in new ways?

I want my fellowship to educate my students not only on the artistic process of weaving in Peru but I want to successfully teach the culture of Peru to my students. I want my students to understand cultural differences and practices and value what other cultures have to offer. I hope that I can show my students how hard working the Peruvian culture is and how deeply they cherish their own culture and artistic practices.

What are your plans for working collaboratively with colleagues?

I was very excited to see how much science and history were used in the Incan culture and in Peru. I have many ideas as far as collaborating successfully with my colleagues. Symmetrical designs can be planned out in mathematics, the chemical process using acids and bases in science is needed in the natural dye process, and of course history is the main blood flow into reasons for patterns and colors in Peruvian weaving. Spanish language is also a main factor and terms will need to be understood.

Imagining the Future

How do you envision celebrating of your students’ new learning?

I envision having a Peruvian themed celebration to successfully showcase the learning of the Peruvian culture. I envision collaborating with other teachers to have completed Peru inspired weavings along with history reports and displays. I would like to be able to showcase the learning school wide to other faculty members and family members of the students.

Are there issues or challenges in your school, community or the greater world about which you and your students might try to make a difference?

I believe the largest problem in our school community is the limited amount of resources that our students have available. In a very rural town, students do not have a lot of access to other foreign cultures and practices. I believe this study will work on the problem of very little exposure that our students have to the outside world.

How would you describe to a friend or a grant funder the most fundamental ways in which your fellowship has changed your personal and/or professional perspective?

Seeing the time and effort that Peruvians put into their woven artworks is something I now truly admire. The people of Peru are extremely hardworking and never complain about manual labor. Women will work on weavings all day outside and will work to complete one weaving for an entire year. These traits that I have witnessed of the Peruvian people have inspired me to thoroughly educate my students on the history and details of all artistic processes in other cultures.