SONORA -- People in the Sierra Nevada, home to a small number of llamas over the past few decades, are celebrating the animals' ancient home in the Andes.
The Central Sierra Arts Council has put on an exhibition, "Woven Art of the Andes: The Fabric of a Culture," running through Oct. 7.
It features textiles woven from llama wool by people in the South American range, as well as demonstrations by the Mother Lode Weavers and Spinners Guild, based in Sonora.
George Caldwell, who has raised llamas east of Sonora for 30 years with his wife, Christine Dunham, is giving talks about his Andean travels and his concern about the animals' fate in the modern world.
The advent of motor vehicles has greatly reduced the need for llama power for transportation and hauling, he said.
"Llamas are beasts of burden," he said. "They were extremely important for the culture. Everything moved on the backs of llamas."
The idea for the show came from Joy Severin, another Tuolumne County llama raiser, who had turned to Caldwell for help with an animal injured by a mountain lion, said Connie O'Connor-Gahagan, executive director of the arts council.
The exhibition, which opened July 28, features photographs by Caldwell and Columbia College art Professor Laurie Sylwester.
"We had 100 people for the opening and two llamas in tow," O'Connor-Gahagan said. "They sat down at the reception."
Tuolumne County had 180 llamas in 2007, according to the U.S. Census of Agriculture, which is being updated this year. Stanislaus County had 212.
The animals, which are related to camels, can serve as pets, pack animals and therapy aids, as well as wool producers.
"It turns out that llamas are not just farm animals," Caldwell said. "They are amazing, sentient creatures. To me, they have the same spirit, the same soul we do."
Bee staff writer John Holland can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (209) 578-2385.
What: "Woven Art of the Andes: The Fabric of a Culture"
When: 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekdays, noon to 4 p.m. weekends, through Oct. 7; open until 8 p.m. Sept. 8
Talks: Sonora-area llama raiser George Caldwell will speak on various topics at 2 p.m. Saturdays in August and 2 p.m. Sundays in September.
Demonstrations: The Mother Lode Weavers and Spinners Guild will show off skills from noon to
4 p.m. Sunday; from 2 to 4 p.m. and 6 to 8 p.m. Sept. 8; and from noon to 4 p.m. Sept. 23 and 30.
Where: Central Sierra Arts Council, 193 S. Washington St., Sonora
More information: (209) 532-2787 or www.centralsierraarts.org