Folk Art Fun

Around the World

Last weekend I reminisced with a weaver of wild silk about her hometown in the highlands of Madagascar. I learned about modesty aprons from a Vietnamese embroidery artist. And I wandered amidst Mexican sculptors, Tuareg jewelry artists, Rwandan basketmakers, Uzbekistani ceramists, and weavers from Mexico, Laos, Guatemala, East Timor, Taiwan, and Paraguay.

© a Polished Eye. All rights reserved.
© a Polished Eye. All rights reserved.

As you’ve probably guessed, I was at the 12th annual International Folk Art Market in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Sponsored by the International Folk Art Alliance, it’s a magical weekend that, this year, gathered together 173 folk artists and cooperatives from 57 countries and provided them an opportunity to sell their work. In the days leading up to the Market, nearly 100 of the artists went through a business education and mentorship program called Mentor to Market. Throughout the mentoring, the artists learn everything from pricing to marketing—valuable information they take home to transform their lives and that of their fellow artisan.

 Folk Art Friends

Roaming the aisles under several giant white tents, I was overwhelmed by the artists’ skills, their devotion to their work, and their unending joy in presenting it to market-goers, and explaining, sometimes with the help of a translator, how a piece was made, with what materials, and what it means to them.

NildaIt was great to see old friends like Thrums Books author Nilda Callañapua Alvarez at the booth for the Center for Traditional Textiles of Cusco, Peru. Nilda and fellow weaver, Rosa Berdadeth should have been exhausted having just come from Washington D.C. where they’d spent the last two weeks (and were a huge hit!) at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival. But they weren’t! Nilda was her ever-ebullient self, greeting visitors, answering questions, and helping folks find the perfect handwoven delight.


AmaliaGueAnd I was so grateful to meet Amalia Güe from Guatemala, smiling broadly among folded piles of her feathery fine woven cloth. Amalia is the president of the Groupo de Mujeres Ix Balam Q’ue’, Diosa de la Luna (Group of Women, Goddess of the Moon), a group dedicated to keeping alive the traditional pijbil weaving techniques of the Samac region. The pijbil style of weaving uses a single-ply cotton. The cloth is a plain-weave foundation with inlaid designs that represent many aspects of Maya culture. The kicker is that they only use white thread! It’s truly phenomenal work. With the translation help of Olga Reiche,  a fellow Guatemala weaver who has worked tirelessly to promote the work of the pijbil weavers, I learned that it can take weeks to weave the three panels necessary for one huipil. The women used to only weave huipils, but now for broader appeal, they are weaving scarves and a variety of other garments.

TraditionalWeaversP1080692 (3)You will want to meet Amalia and to learn more about her work and where she lives. You can do that by reading Thrums Books newest release, available now, Traditional Weavers of Guatemala: Their Stories, Their Lives by Deborah Chandler and Teresa Cordón. And if you weren’t lucky enough to attend the Folk Art Market this year to purchase Amalia’s weaving, hop on over to visit our friends at ClothRoads where you will find her stunning pieces for sale along with a ton of other amazing textiles.

Next year, I’m arriving early and staying late!

—Karen Brock

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