Fairmount Fibers, Ltd.
U.S. Distributor of Manos del Uruguay Yarns

Meet Irene

Irene Méndez Guerra has been with Manos since 1978.  She was introduced to Cecelia, an artisan in the production group, by her brother.  It was her first job, which she pursued because of her family’s economic situation.  At the time, work was done in the artisan’s home, with the delivery of materials and finished garments arranged by the artisan in charge. cooperativa coarmo 009 Irene began work in the hand-knitting group, creating elaborate garments.  In 1980, the artisans had an assembly and began working in a shared workshop space.  Inititially, the co-ops did everything under one roof – spinning, dyeing, knitting and weaving.  At times, Irene would also spin or teach others her skills. More recently, the co-ops have become more specialized, with each one focusing on one or two aspects of production.  Irene is now the cooperative task-leader and has helped to pioneer a new skill for the artisans: felting.

cooperativa coarmo 022 Irene comes from a large family.  Her father worked for the National Railway Company for many years and her mother was a housewife.  She has 19 brothers and sisters, 47 nieces and nephews, and is a grand-aunt as well.  Many of her family members have also worked with the co-op:  her older sister made pillows with a group that formed and worked in the Carlos Reyles High School; her youngest sister wove ruanas (a poncho-like garment) and scarves, and four of her nieces have worked as hand-knitters – one is even still knitting with the co-op today!

Irene loves everything about her job, and notes that it has given her strength to develop herself as a person, enduring good times and bad.  Working at the co-op enables her to stay in Molles with her family.  Molles is a small village of approximately 1200 people in central Uruguay. It was formerly known as Carlos Reyles, so named for the novelist and wealthy horse-breeder who owned land in the area.  Its main attractions are the Caves Reyles, the rose garden and historic railway station.

Click here to read more profiles of Manos del Uruguay artisans! villagephotos

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