The Mayan artisans of Guatemala have in their blood and memories an entire millennia of culture surrounding textiles, passed down from their ancestors, who had to learn the art of weaving from watching their mothers day in and out, in order to create their woven pieces of art the traditional way.
Before beginning the process of weaving using a technique that is called “backstrap weaving”, the weaver has to get all the necessary materials gathered in order to start weaving everything by hand. The first tool that is needed is called la Urdidora (warper). It is a simple wooden piece shaped like a tablet with nails on it where one can place the strings of cotton for weaving before getting the loom in place. It is the base of all weaving and art design of textiles in Guatemala taken to their fullest expression. In this part of the process there can be no errors or else the finished piece will never be perfect.
A large spool made of wood is then taken to prepare the strings of thread for easy weaving – creating skeins out of the individual threads and spooling them so they can be easily pulled and woven into the textile piece. This “winder” (la devanadera) gets its name from its shape: a wooden instrument made of crossing wooden pieces that helps guide the threads into one large circle which eventually forms the skein for weaving. This is an artisanal instrument driven by hand or foot and is absolutely necessary to prepare the material needed for weaving.
Once you have the design that you want to weave and have set up the skein of thread (using the devanadera) and the base for your weaving (urdidora), you are now ready to begin. The process will continue by placing the components for the backstrap loom in place, which is of the most ancient and authentic forms of weaving by hand in Guatemala.
After this point in time, once the weaver sits down and is ready to start weaving, only she knows what the end result will be; everything she has hoped for, her dreams, her days on end working the thread into patterns, symbols, designs, her emotions, all of that will eventually turn into a product that she will sell to a stranger who has come to Guatemala and who will become fascinated by the textile culture, the history, and what it really means to make something “by hand.”