If you ever come to Guatemala I advise you two things.
Number one - climb up a volcano or visit a lake
Number Two - take a backstrap weaving class with a Guatemalan women's weaving association
I was super excited when my Spanish teacher suggested I check out Trama Textile's all indigenous women owned weaving association. At first I thought he said trauma and didn't question it, assuming I would learn why trauma was part of the association's name. However, upon arrival to the association (just two streets away from the Parque Central in Xela), I learned that it was tra-ma, and not trau-ma.
The first time I walked down the steps, past the open teaching area and into the little store of textiles my eyes were wiiiiide open and I thought "So many beautifully local hand woven textiles in one place, what to do, what to do!?" After speaking with the vice-president at the the Xela (Quetzaltenango) location I made plans to visit one of the weavers to take a little video interview in a near by community. I also signed myself up for a 10 hour weaving course and selected a few things to purchase."For us, the Spanish word TRAMA, “the weft” or “binding thread”, is interchangeable with the word comida, “food¨. Our weavings clothe us, warm our families through highland winters, and carry our babies on our backs. They unite our people from generation to generation and sustain us as much as any food."-- Trama Textiles 2016
Of the 5 course options, I signed myself up for the chalina (scarf) course. This was a 10 hour, one-on-one weaving course with one of the women at Trama Textiles. When I first began weaving, and I'll be completely honest here, I WAS STRUGGLING! I could not remember which rod went where and when... and when to move the rod up and shift the threads down... and oh my goodness gracious I learned a lesson of patience and respect for these women weavers within that first hour than I could ever have imagined. That first hour of weaving fostered in me a new found respect that I would not have cultivated without taking the course and trying to weave myself. Weaving well is a skill that takes time to develop. Even the tension of how you hold each rod influence the final product. #Respect
Over the course of two weeks there, which were a mix of weaving and doing photoshoots, I also met really interesting and knowledgeable young women also taking a backstrap weaving courses. Not to be mean, but many times I find that travelers (specifically backpackers) think they know a lot about the world, but when they travel it is purely hedonistic. In this, it is quite easy for this certain type of traveler to travel through but not actually learn about the cultures they visit. In comparison, the amazing young women I met taking weaving courses at Trama Textiles came to Guatemala and Trama Textiles specifically to learn about Guatemala, indigenous textiles, their histories, and the women behind the patterns. It was actually inspiring (and quite refreshing) to be able to talk to other travelers who were interested in fashion as a means to share stories and learn about where the product came from and the context of it. Shout out to all you ethical fashionistas across the globe we all call our home!
So now, over the next few weeks I will share more photos from the course, the interview I did in the near by community, a blog piece on cultural appropriation and some photos of my new Guatemalan huipil made by Trama Textiles! But now for a few more photos. Below we have the final product of my 10 hour weaving course. There is also a photo from the interview which shows a backview of a woman weaving. The traditional backstrap weaving is done with the weaving contraption tied to a tree and the backstrap (which is more of a booty belt) behind you as you sit on your knees on the ground. You will learn more about that on an upcoming post later this month but for now I hope the picture below helps. :)
Have you ever only realized the value and labor something was worth only after trying it for yourself?
With a new respect for weaving,