Photographer Joe Coca captures brilliantly the heart of his subjects and the beauty of their place. Through over 200 photographs, he tells a story of the physical beauty of Guatemala, the diversity of a landscape that has shaped its people, the Maya culture, and of the textiles themselves. Several opening pages are devoted to images of place: from waterfalls to farm fields, from bustling marketplaces to religious festivals, all lit with the vibrant colors of Guatemala. “A land,” Chandler and Cordón write, “as colorful and varied as its weaving.” The opening imagery prepares for the artisans’ stories—as difficult, diverse, and enchanting as their home.
Chandler and Cordón introduce a diverse range of fiber artists, including men and women and spanning generations, from thirty-three to eighty-nine. You will meet weavers who exhibit their work in galleries and museums and earn significant prices for the sale of their traditional handwoven garments; widowed women struggling against poverty to raise their families through their weaving; and artists who, through necessity and creative expression, have evolved traditional weaving techniques and design, explaining subtle but significant regional differences in the use of patterns, colors, and styles.
In addition to the poignant conversations with weavers, the authors share the stories of spinners, dyers, basketmakers, and embroiderers who provide insight into their craft traditions, techniques, and tools.
Traditional Weavers of Guatamala is the most recent publication from Thrums Books, once again, masterfully exploring the compelling traditions of indigenous textile artisans throughout the world. The book will appeal not only to textile artists, but to anyone intrigued by the history of Guatemala and the cultural traditions of its people.
Deborah Chandler, author of Learning to Weave and co-author of Guatemala’s Woven Wealth, has lived in Guatemala since 1999. As the Director of the fair trade organization Mayan Hands—Guatemala, she has worked extensively with many Mayan weavers and textile artisans.
Teresa Cordón was born in Zacapa in the eastern part of Guatemala and is the owner of Comercial Naleb, providing both education and markets for the work of Maya artisans.
Praise for Traditional Weavers of Guatemala
“Deborah Chandler and Teresa Cordón’s life experiences—weaving, teaching, mentoring, wholesaling, and retailing—undergird their seminal account of Guatemalan artisans. Taking the reader into twenty master artisans’ homes, we learn of childhoods spent in extended households, families splintered during civil violence, parents’ sacrifices for educating their children, and aging artisans’ declining health. Yet, across the individual stories, a larger picture emerges of the artisans’ pride in their intricate textiles, love for the creative process, and joy in passing on textile traditions. Joe Coca’s photography masterfully illustrates the artisans’ complex textiles and illuminates the proud faces of the weavers and their families. Sidebar sections on Maya life add cultural context to the artisans’ stories. In Traditional Weavers of Guatemala, the authors present a sensitive, detailed, and much-needed holistic interpretation of how textiles and life inseparably intertwine.”–Mary A. Littrell, co-author of Artisans and Fair Trade: Crafting Development
“Traditional Weavers of Guatemala is a book to be savored, read slowly, perused visually, contemplated thoughtfully. It could only have been written by two women who know their Maya subjects through heart and soul, home and family. Each written page presents an intensely personal account that comes only from mutual trust. The authors have expertly woven knowledge of artisan crafts with the enduring beauty of the Guatemalan landscape and the grisly history of ethnic cleansing by the country’s Army and Police during the recent civil war. The reader benefits on all counts.”–Kathleen Vitale, Endangered Threads Documentaries
“When you read this book, you step into Guatemala as though you were being welcomed into the homes of weavers in every area of the country and, in their own languages, able to ask them about their textile techniques and life histories. Their love of beauty and color as well as strength of character glow in every magnificent photo and personal story. Weavers will especially love the detailed information about textile techniques, but every reader will love this tour of Guatemala and introduction to its people.”–Madelyn van der Hoogt, editor emerita, Handwoven magazine
“Deborah Chandler and Teresa Cordón weave a tale as rich and textured as the cloth they describe. It is a triumphant tale of personal artistry and innovation. I could not put it down for although I have traveled to Guatemala many, many times, each page taught me something new, luring me to turn the page and read the next poignant profile. The authors’ respectful approach is a must-read for anyone working to help artisans earn a better living anywhere.”–Mary Anne Wise, president and co-founder of Cultural Cloth
“Modern life conspires against finding meaning in doing work in slow, old-fashioned ways and often blunts people’s sense of the beauty of the handmade. Globalization and free trade treaties have resulted in migration out of Guatemala and the formation of more factory production establishments there. Many in Guatemala, including the weavers in this book, live with the aftermath of the brutal armed conflict of the 1980s. The courage and creativity of those who survived to continue their participation in their remarkable arts traditions inspires honor and respect. Authors Deborah Chandler and Teresa Cordón and photographer Joe Coca carry us to a new level of appreciation for the achievement of Guatemala’s artists. The authors’ deep knowledge and love of their subjects shine on every page.”–Marilyn Anderson, author of Guatemalan Textiles Today
“I enjoyed reading every page of Traditional Weavers of Guatemala, Their Stories, Their Lives in which Deborah Chandler and Teresa Cordón present a vivid and compelling narrative of the efforts and struggles of twenty artisans, nineteen Mayas and one Ladino who strive to keep alive their crafts. The reader will learn about the technical intricacies, lifestyles, passion, and love for work of 13 weavers as well as embroiderers, spinners, a netter/looper, and a basket maker. In spite of the poverty and limitations of these artisans, their pride and desire to be acknowledged stand out. In addition, the human aspects highlighted by the authors are beautifully complemented by the photographs by Joe Coca. I personally know Susana, one of the artisans presented but I was moved when I read about all the hardships she has encountered in life, but in spite of them, her self-worth is high. When I finished reading about Catarina, the 84-year-old spinner and weaver, I found her enthusiasm for life contagious and admirable. I thus highly recommend this book.”–Barbara Knoke de Arathoon, Cultural Anthropologist