One of my favorite initial projects that I requested from Elvia was a pillow cover. We had a few versions with used corte I had bought from the market, and the most recent is the design using the handwoven textiles from the Corazon del Lago Weaving Cooperative at Lake Atitlan. The coop is a group of 33 talented women in San Juan la Laguna. They are committed to maintaining traditional weaving practices and use plant-based dyes. Read on for a glimpse of the collaboration and production steps that went into elaborating these vibrant pillow covers.
Rarely do projects turn out exactly as you envision them. That’s definitely true of these pillow covers, but I wouldn’t change the end result and journey along the way. It first started with the initial design. I wanted both fun colors and patterns with a mix of more traditional San Juan designs and different motifs. The colors got tweaked once I got my official color booklet from the cooperative via Kakaw Designs. To reflect these colors in my electronic designs I used an app to identify the colors in the booklet and transferred that into CMYK color scales. Then it was time to send the files and dimensions to Francisca, the co-op president, for her to review and get the go ahead. Now it was a matter of being patient and waiting for them to be ready in person.
Three weeks later the textiles were ready to be picked up at the cooperative. This was the first time seeing them, and I was excited but also a little nervous how they were going to turn out. My first reaction was that of mixed feelings; some of the fabric turned out a bit different from what I had imagined – transformed from paper and electronic designs into their true form, I was amazed by the textures impossible to capture in 2D, but also a little unsure of the designs that held hints of variations and richer colors in real life. Take for example, the pineapple pattern. Francisca explained that pericón (Mexican marigold, often prepared as a tea) is used to achieve the orange color, but the color can be influenced by when and where it is grown. This is why the Piña Niña pattern came out more striped, as the vat used for dying the jaspe style pineapples was different from the remaining background. It’s these little pieces that make up the story behind handmade products and demonstrate the knowledge and work that goes into producing them, and making them one of a kind. The next morning when I hung the fabrics out to see them in the sunlight, I was truly pleased with how they turned out and loved them even more than the initial design.
Now that the textiles were ready, it was time to get to work with Elvia. In talking through the design with her, we ran into a few challenges. We had several decisions to make: should we line the pillows, how were we going to finish the edges, what’s the best method regarding time, resources and material? One factor was the equipment available. Elvia’s multi-stitch sewing machine became too expensive to repair after several parts continued to break, so this meant she was left with a straight stitch machine, meaning she couldn’t simply finish the edges with an overcast or zig zag stitch. We wanted to be sure the cut seams were finished so we decided on binding them with corte, the traditional skirt used by indigenous women. I like to call it un toque de corte, a touch of corte. It gives it a little surprise on the inside 🙂 The other challenge was that the lienzo (literally translates to canvas, but in this case it’s a sheet or bolt) of textiles ended up being a little wider than expected, but we didn’t want to trim the beautifully finished edges, so we elected to leave them be – now you can get a fun pop of color from the corte but see how the backstrap weaving technique produces nice, finished edges.
These pillow covers are up in the shop and ready for new homes!