Mary Anne Wise, Co-Founder of Cultural Cloth, is traveling in Guatemala this week. As always, she is multi-tasking. She is teaching an embroidery workshop. She is working on a "yet to be revealed project" (stay tuned for the announcement). And she is checking in with her rug hooking artisan friends. These connections go back years. The women know her and she knows them. Mary Anne has watched these ladies grow up, raise kids of their own and in some cases even welcome grandchildren.
Mary Anne feels privileged on this trip to be able to visit the villages and homes of some of the artisans who are part of Multicolores, the Guatemalan nonprofit that develops, nurtures and promotes these artisans. Multicolores divides their artisans into small groups that each have an artisan group leader. Pictured here are the artisans near the village of Chichi, with their group leader Yolanda. (Yolanda is pictured seated in the middle.)
“Yolanda is a great group leader, not only is she an impressive textile artist but she is great at mentoring the new women in the group,” said Mary Anne. Recently, Yolanda’s daughter started rug hooking and she is learning fast.
The women gathered to welcome Mary Anne and her group of visitors but it was also a great opportunity for the women to get together. They welcomed the visitors with a traditional alfombra, or carpet of flowers.
Later, the women had a chance to hook rugs together and to share with each other what they have been working on. “We call it a ‘throw down’”, said Mary Anne. “We go around the room and give feedback on the rugs that they are working on. The first time you participate in a group like this, it is scary, but you soon realize this is one of the best ways to learn. Sometimes I see women make design changes to the rugs that they are working on. These changes can really make a difference.”
“During this visit, we also got to see Yolanda’s new studio which was built by her husband over the last two years. It is a great place to be inspired and to work.”
“We also got to visit Bartola and her young daughter Marjorie in her home. She lives in a small village. We agreed to meet in this village at the church and then she directed us to her home just a few twists and turns away. “I often see Marjorie when I come to visit since it is customary that the artisans bring their young children with to workshops and training sessions. Marjorie quietly sits on Bartola’s back taking in the whole training,” said Wise.
“We visited the room that Bartola uses as her rug hooking studio. I noticed that we textile fanatics are the same everywhere. We love all the colors and we want them all around us. Color and texture inspires us,” explained Mary Anne.
“This visit has been wonderful. I see the artisans developing. Each generation of their rugs gets more beautiful. I also see that the women are more able to take care of themselves and their families. I see cement floors where there once was dirt. I see kids going to school. These women are using their earnings to make a difference in their families. It is inspiring,” summarized Mary Anne.
And then there is the next generation of artisans who are establishing themselves. Pictured below is Petronilla, who is only 17, and already and impressive artist. She has also learned a lot about life in a short time. Earlier this year, she left the group and went to Guatemala City because she thought she could earn more money. She found life in Guatemala City to be very difficult, so she came back to her village and the rug hooking group. She now believes that making rugs is a much better way to make money.