It was my great fortune to come away from Antigua with many beautiful examples of Guatemalan textiles. I was quite eager to begin The Project. As it turned out, we ended up staying at a hotel in Guatemala City for two days directly following our trip to Antigua. So, while my husband attended to company business, the textiles and I got to know each other better.
As you recall, my intent was to use these items on my walls. I planned to stretch them over paint canvases and hang them like pieces of artwork. As I was new to understanding their structure, especially the huipiles, the first thing I decided to do was photograph, analyze and then mentally “desconstruct” them. One of the main things I had to keep in mind was the fact that half an inch on all sides of any pieces I came up with, was going to be stretched over the four sides of the canvas and stapled.
As looked them over, I realized that they were made up of either 2 or 3 sections. The sections were either connected together by hand or machine in the form of a regular seam (see #1 above, for example) or a decorative “randa” [RAHN-dah] (see #2 below, for example).
Another important consideration was that I wanted to make sure I was going to be able to keep as much of the design as possible from each huipil while at the same time creating pieces of varying sizes, so the wall would be interesting and not dominated by huge hangings. This proved to be a bit like dissassembling a puzzle. Each huipil had its own unique quirks and areas of interest.
For instance, the turquoise one (#3 below) had beautiful buillion roses hand embroidered around the neck opening and at the sleeve caps. I didn’t really want to lose the embroidery so I ended up isolating these areas by doing some strategic cutting.
On this purple huipil, the shoulder caps were hand embroidered and the designs across the front and back were brocade. I had to make the decision to cut through parts of the brocade design in order to retain the shoulder caps. Since the neck opening had cut into that top row of birds already, I just decided that was part of the design I was going to have to sacrifice. Easy to say, hard to do!
In addition to the huipiles (5 total – you’ll see the 5th in the next article) I had purchased some long scarves, 2 belts and 2 table covers. I decided to leave all of these intact until I actually assembled the wall layout. I did measure them in order to get an idea of possible canvas sizes I’d need to buy.
My excitement was building!