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The Threads that Bind Us

Hello all! Greetings once again from Antigua Guatemala! First of all, happy Valentine’s day! Surely many of us are either very excited for this day, or looking forward to it being over; I guess it all depends on your views on love. For me love comes in many forms, and today I’m feeling particularly loving towards my craft. Last month I wrote a bit on how I ended up in Guatemala, so for this month I’ll share some more specifics on what made me fall in love with Guatemala, and especially my on-going love affair with Guatemalan textiles. After all, the woven arts are like a single uncut thread that connects past and present, spanning thousands of years, and connecting this marvelous country to its rich and ancient heritage.

Back in the late 1980s I first arrived in Guatemala, and like so many others who come here, I was blown away by the impressive textiles that adorn Guatemalan women. The most famous is the “huipil” – (pronounced Wi-pill) from classical Nahuatl huīpīlli – which literally means women’s blouse. But it is so much more than that; it is also a right of passage for young girls and heirlooms that are passed down within families. Traditionally young girls would weave their own huipil as a symbol of their becoming a woman. There are also special ceremonial huipiles and of course marvelous wedding huipiles. Immense varieties of huipiles exist in Guatemala, and different tribes use different patterns and colors depending on their traditions.

Since my arrival I have been exploring this land, and in the 30 years I have been here I can confidently say I have been everywhere, from the cold highlands of Alta Verapaz to the humid rainforests of Petén, and thus I have seen first hand the incredible diversity of woven art produced here. Over these years I have collected these textiles and today Loom Tree boasts an impressive collection of Guatemalan huipiles. From every-day huipiles to special ceremonial ones, and even some very old and precious examples woven with fine silk, the likes of which are sadly becoming harder and harder to find. Preserving and caring for this collection is all part of our mission to preserve and protect Guatemalan weaning heritage.

Today the huipil is still seen throughout Guatemala, and a lot of talented creatives are finding ways to incorporate them into other woven crafts. Surely any visitor to Guatemala will see purses, wallets, belts, and even shoes made from huipiles. While I did surely gain tremendous inspiration from these textiles, my craft stays well clear of reusing traditional huipiles, and especially of copying them. I have always said that my work is something different, and the traditional Maya weaving rightfully belongs to the Maya people. However, the process by which these huipil are made is the same process we still use today in my atelier. Therefore, dear reader, this month I would like to share with you the source of all my inspiration. Enjoy this small selection of our collection, and if you find yourself in Antigua feel free to come see it in person here in Loom Tree!


- Carmen


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