ARTIST OF THE LOOM | CHIAPAS
˜In the textiles of Chiapas, Mexico, Maya women tell a story in their weavings and textile embroidery about their understanding of time, space and the mythological forces of nature and the cosmos. The weavings of these Highland Maya women tell their individual stories and so assert their independence in creating an art form with designs and symbols derived historically from their ancient ancestors to which they have added their own modern interpretation of earlier design˜.
Traces of the World collaborates in Chiapas, Mexico, with 18 different indigenous communities. Each of these communities with its precise recognisable weave techniques. Our collaborative partner in Chiapas is Casa Textil, a production and quality control platform that works only with the indigenous artisan communities under sustainable and ethical standards.
Chiapas is one of the states of Mexico that Its main producers of handcrafts. Culturally, the most important reason is the various indigenous ethnicities that are found in the state, which has one of the highest indigenous populations in Mexico. In general, the handcraft producers are indigenous, mostly living in the Los Altos (Highlands) region. This area lacks industry, so handcrafts play an important role in the economy, alongside agriculture and work in service occupations. In addition, many indigenous see handcraft production as a way to preserve traditions.
Many textile products are still made completely with traditional methods, from materials such as wool, cotton thread and natural dyes. This include most handwoven cloth, which is made on backstrap looms. These products are made by women artisans in their own homes in conjunction with other domestic duties, but sometimes these women work in collaboration with others. Much of the embroidery designs are traditional as well, containing old symbolic images from a syncretism of Mayan and Christian worldviews. This is particularly true of the needlework of the Tzotzils of Larráinzar, Chenalhó, Chamula, Zinacantan, Pantelhó and Tenejapa, where designs can indicate where the wearer comes from. The quality of these pieces varies, with the best of these winning national awards and prized by international collectors.
In the state of Chiapas, located in southwestern Mexico, 200,000 Maya women or more weave their own intricate designs often using backstrap looms like their ancestors or more modern shuttle looms and sewing machines or needle and thread. They adapt these ancient designs into intricate forms of clothing for men and women in the Highlands of rural Chiapas north and surrounding the colonial city named San Cristobal de Las Casas. The textiles often include brocade technique and are interwoven with many designs considered sacred. It is their sacred duty to execute and perfect these designs and to often add their own personal interpretation of these ancient designs woven with respect for the Virgin Mary and Catholic Saints, as well as designs associated with their surroundings in rural Mexico.