The handmade camp chair, Silla en Fique from Colombia has special weaving techniques and vibrant colors. It can the most conspicuous home decoration. It comes from the traditional Colombian Fique weaving craftsmanship for hundreds of years.
Colombia's Representative Plant: El Fique
El Fique is a unique cactus plant in South America. It is a species of Genus Furcraea in the Family Agavaceae. It is a large, succulent perennial herb. The appearance of El Fique is very similar to the commonly known agave, and the two are often confused. The leaves of agave are soft and have natural downward curves in the tips, while the leaves of El Fique are stiffer and straighter.
El Fique is native to Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, and Mexico. It is sun-loving and tolerant of drought and barrenness. It is very suitable to grow in the tropical climate in the northern Andes of Colombia (Región Andina). The whole plant has a semi-sphere shape with a short stem. The plant can grow to be as tall as a human. The leaves have serrated edges and grow in a radial pattern, up to 50 blades of them in each plant.
Its fiber is strong and solid. it can also be made into a variety of products, such as ropes and packaging for agricultural products. It is considered, after cotton, to be the second most important material for threads. Workers cut its leaves for further process. The leaves have tough fibers that have to go through laborious production such as spinning, washing, dyeing, and twisting before they are weavable.
Origin of El Fique Weaving Craft: The Guane people and Curiti Town
El Fique weaving represents Colombia’s spirit and craftsmanship. The term "Fique" refers to the Guane, a traditional aboriginal people from Colombia, and means "a place with a weaving machine." The origin of the craft is also inseparable to the Guanes.
The Guanes mainly live in the provinces of Santander and northern Boyacá in the Colombian Andes region. They grow cotton, pineapple, fique and other crops. Their name is linked to textiles and weaving. The earliest record can be traced back to the 11th century AD, in the province of Santander where they are located. Back then a town in Curiti had developed an entire Fique industry. During Spanish rule in the 17th century, fique blankets were sent to Spanish as protection racket. In such a way, the El Fique weaving from Curiti was widely known by the whole country and Europeans.
El Fique weaving has a long history in Curiti（Source: The Citizenry)
Sun-drying El Fique can be seen everywhere in Curiti
In modern times, with the efforts of some craftsmen, Fique products have also been exported to France, Italy, or Japan. In 2011, the six local Fique workshops in Curiti town formed the Curiti Weaver Association (ASTECUR), organizing farmers and weaving craftsmen in the area, aiming to expand and promote El Fique weaving. The association also advocates better treatment for craftsmen and stable supply of raw materials.
A Fique weaver, María Patrocinia Pimiento （Source: Artesanías de Colombia)
Modern Fique weaving expands from daily supplies like ropes and packaging to wider ranges of products. More creativity is allowed into this traditional craft, making the products more diversified.
More than just a classic craft representing Colombia, Fique weaving can also be seen in household products and fashion accessories, such as sandals, hats, bags, floor mats, pillows and chairs.
Fique bag （Source: Maison Alma）
Fique Sandals （Source: ABBA SHOES）
Silla en Fique, perfect for picnicking
Fique rugs (Source: The Citizenry）
El Fique weaving process
Step 1-Harvesting and fiber collection: Cut the leave blades of the appropriate size off from the plant, and put them in a fiber extractor to remove the excess, leaving only fibers.
Step 2-Washing and drying: Rinse the fibers with water. It takes about 12 to 15 hours to soak and to remove the remaining juice. Then sun-dry the fibers. The longer they dry, the paler the colors develop.
Step 3- yarn grooming: Put the bundled fibers on a carding machine with nails and combs on it. Groom the knotted fibers and straighten them to form softer fibers.
Step 4-Dyeing: Put the Fique fibers into a pot containing natural dyes, water, salt, and fixing dye mordant. Bring to boil and keep boiling up to five hours, so that the dye can be fully absorbed by the fibers. This process is also called thermal dyeing (boiling dyeing). After cooking, wash thoroughly again to avoid other residues that might affect the quality. Sun dry them again.
Step 5-Twisting: Twist the fluffy fibers tightly and use the twisting machine and fingertips to combine the fibers together. Wind them into a coil.