The Textiles Of Lake Atitlan

INDIGO DYE

The art of weaving has been passed down through many generations of Guatemalan women and is an intrinsic part of their culture.

For many women the art of weaving is their livelihood, contributing much of the family income and putting food on the table.

The entire process is completely handcrafted, from the making of the loom, to growing the cotton, spinning the cotton into thread and colouring the thread with natural local dyes.

The natural dye process is incredible to watch, and what is more amazing is the way they make use of the local nature. Examples of the natural dyes used include aloe-vera, avocado, bark, basil, beetroot, carrot, charcoal, cinnamon, cochineal, coffee, coconut, curry, eucalyptus, hibiscus, indigo, mint, mustard seed, onion and walnut

Once all of the materials are ready, the artesian kneels on the floor, with her legs folded beneath her. The loom is suspended from a tree or the ceiling, with a strap anchored behind her hips. this strap creates the tension. The warp threads are laid out vertically on the loom, and colour by colour the weaver threads the cotton horizontally through the warp threads.  They make the process look effortless however, if a single thread snaps, they must start the entire process again. So the process is slow and laborious. To make one blanket requires a minimum of 40 hours.

There are a variety of different patterns, motifs and weaving techniques, unique to each of the villages surrounding the lake and you can often tell what village a woman is from by the textiles that she wears.

Much of the symbology found in the woven textiles pays homage to the life around the lake; the surrounding mountain peaks, the ripples of the lake, the corn that they harvest, the ducks that are native to the area and the serpent that in Mayan culture tells the story of the creation of all animals originating from the head of the serpent.