Guatemala: Daring Together

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I’m watching the fog out of the corner of my eye as it starts rolling in over the mountains. “Please, we must go,” my usually relaxed taxi driver says for the fifth time in an hour. It’s the coldest and most rainy time of year in Guatemala right now and that means fog. Thick and swirling over mountaintops, swirling up the valleys and lake areas. Although most roads between the towns are paved, there are few streetlights or road reflectors so fog means no driving.

We were supposed to leave two hours ago but I’m with a group in the highlands that weaves vibrant brocade designs on backstrap looms and it’s all so beautiful I can’t seem to walk away. I want to apply their gorgeous story-telling traditions to everything, to show it to everyone, to wrap myself up in it. Inspiration doesn’t care about fog. Sometimes it seems to flourish in those final minutes when you’re supposed to wrap things up.

above all, watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you

because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely

places. those who don’t believe in magic will never find it. | roald dahl

I’ve been in Guatemala for a week following up with a few groups of weaving cooperatives I met in the spring. The first time I was here I met them in marketplaces, admiring their products and asking how it was done. I’m endlessly curious about creative processes, especially when the techniques and designs have been passed down for generations. People love talking about their work and their heritage. Despite my limited (awful) Spanish, we still find ways to stitched together conversations with Spanish, English, hand motions, sighs and laughter. It made my heart light, so grateful for strangers’ kindness and warmth to this wandering little American girl.


For the last couple months, we’ve been working on merging their designs and techniques with my ideas of new color palettes, applications and blends of patterns. Now I’m getting to return to friends and see the first set of samples. It’s been a mix of delight and disappointment. Some blends are stunning; some are disasters. And such is the creative process when you try something new. There’s a lot of laughter all around.

I love this daring exploration we’re doing together. The creative collaboration is pushing all our ideas and cultural definitions of possible and impossible design. It humbles me that these artisans are willing to open themselves up and try new twists on designs they’ve been perfecting for hundreds of years, designs that define what village and region they come from. It’s so personal. Such a gift.

You know that feeling of wonder when you walk through buildings that were built hundreds of years ago? All those people that have treaded on those stones, all the history that building has withstood. There’s something almost holy about it. That’s how I feel when I look at these designs woven around the waists of these women. The same designs, the same techniques, the same backstrap looms as their mothers and grandmothers who went before them. Feeling of wonder.