Carding the wool removes rubbish and combs the wool in the same direction. The cochineal bug, viewed as a plague by some, is a costly dying ingredient that gives (depending on your source) 10 to 100 different colors. To create proper tension it is important to create a “mountain peak” with the yarn before you pull it back on the beater. Skein, loom, spool, warp, and shuttle.
Words once never uttered from my lips are now commonplace vocabulary in my daily life.
In the last three years, I have listened to and translated over 300 demonstrations of the beautiful, strenuous labor of love and tradition that is weaving. And yet, this Saturday as I listen to the umpteenth artisan share their tradition with a group of very interested onlookers, I will be wooed and awed, as always, by their work and excited to be apart of sharing their tradition with the group. If you ask someone from Teotitlán, what their trade is – they will say ‘I am an artisan’ before saying that they weave. Their work is art, and this craftsmanship and artistry demands your attention and respect, and inspires you time and again. Considering that I spend so many of my days around this trade, I am very grateful that seeing a beautifully handmade rug or bag, can have this type of effect over me.
Sometimes it can be the pattern that catches my eye. The way they integrated the Zapotec diamond into a modern and simplistic design, or a tree of life with a little squirrel added to the tree usually flanked by birds. While most weavings feature the same traditional designs: Zapotec diamond, mountains, grecas, caracol, and many more – the artisans find ways to make each weaving their own. For me the colors used are what really pull me in. I love the different ways in which they create their color palate. Bright contrasting colors on simple symmetrical pieces can create a very dramatic affect. Where combining a cochineal red with just one or two other color has something quite elegant about it. Bright red with a bright turquoise, cabernet red with a deep sea blue or a burnt orange with a soft brownish green – there are just so many incredible combinations!
Recently an artisan shared with me that his work always reflects his moods. He expresses himself through the canvas of his tapetes (rugs). His wife nodded her head in agreement, and said all she need to do was look at his work to see the emotions that inspired him that day – happiness, anger, worry – it was all woven into loom. A bag or rug has taken on a new meaning to me since then, as I wonder whether that weavers’ mood is reflected as well. Is it a joyful yellow, or a tumultuous red, do these colors and design share ambition or despair? What inspiration led to the bag that hangs from my shoulder?