Maya World

LL in Guatemala (2)
Linda in Guatemala. Photo by Joe Coca

When Linda Ligon proposed recently that I work as the associate publisher for Thrums Books, I couldn’t believe my luck. How fabulous would it be to help make those brilliant books and introduce them to the world? What I’ve always loved about Thrums books is the view they offer into the lives of indigenous people, telling their stories, their history, all in the context of traditional textiles—spinning, weaving, knitting, embroidery, and much more to come.

And I love the faces.

Rich photographs of these artisans are an invitation into their world. Beautiful faces—joyful, wise, proud—look out at me as if to say, “Welcome. Come, let me show you something.” And they have. I’ve learned about the traditional clothing of Cusco, Peru; about the design iconography of Chinchero, Peru; the ceremonial huipils of Chiapas, Mexico; the daily lives of the weaving elders of the Andes; and a multitude of fascinating detail about heritage textiles.

Maya Faces

This dignified representation of global artisans is operating in full force in the upcoming Traditional Weavers of Guatemala: Their Stories, Their Lives by Deborah Chandler and Teresa Cordón. It also fills the pages of our most recent book, Maya Threads: The Woven History of Chiapas by Chip Morris and Carol Karasik. Here are a few snapshots:

Ceremonial Huipiles (2)Maya Threads author Walter “Chip” Morris took this photograph of two religious officials wearing vibrant and complex ceremonial huipiles composed of the Universe design. He writes, “The design of the Universe is woven with clarity and purpose, line by line into Maya cloth. The weaver maps the motion of the sun through the heavens and the Underworld through time and space. With the repetition of the ‘universe’ design, the lordly sun is prompted to continue his journey. A Maya woman weaves the cosmos as it awakens.”

Bochil Elder
Photo by Janet Schwartz

At right, a Maya elder from Bochil in Chiapas, Mexico, wears a fine example of the traditional embroidered huipil. The sleeves and bodice display an ancient design composed of diamonds each filled in with nine tiny colored squares.

Simbaca Embroidery
Photo by Chip Morris

At left, a beautiful young Maya woman from Sibaca, Chiapas, wears a huipil embroidered with rows of satin-stitch flowers. All women in Simbaca share a subtle style of cross-stitch, which includes more broken lines of color in the flowers than other communities in the region.


These are just a few of more than 200 photographs throughout Maya Threads, giving face to the complex fusion of culture, history, and textiles of Chiapas, Mexico. Welcome to the Maya world!

—Karen Brock

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