Process: Inspiring Collection 02
Anyone who knows me well knows I’m not one to gravitate toward color. Unless it’s a shade of blue, I’m all about the neutrals. I mostly wear black, white, or grey and decorate with just about the same color palette (plus some green plants). But I started curating this collection during my four months in Central America this spring, where their bold use of color seeped into my design process. A new sense of “this just needs a pop of color in it” developed in my interior design. Rich jewel tones in teal, purple, and deep blue emerged with frosty white and grey accents for balance and lightness.
This collection is full of texture. There’s so many interesting textures in Central America, from ancient ruins to lush forests to the layers worn by locals, and I wanted that to come through in the textiles. So we expanded our line of brocaded pillows and bags, each piece bearing traditional designs passed down to our artisans by their parents and grandparents. Brocading is often confused with embroidery but it’s an entirely different technique. Embroidery is done with needle and thread while brocading done on a backstrap loom. However, different from our at textiles woven on backstraps, brocading is a tedious process of threading small pieces of color, layer by layer, to create raised shapes and lines. The brocading techniques used by our artisans in Guatemala and Mexico are virtually the same yet the designs are vastly different. (Compare the San Andres Pillow (https://ara-collective.com/product/grey-san-andres-pillow/) from Chiapas to the Quiejel Pillow (https://ara-collective.com/product/teal-quiejel-pillow/) from Guatemala). Each brocaded panel takes 7-15 days to weave, making each item exquisite, one of a kind, and the highest quality.
We also added texture in our naturally dyed pieces. This dyeing process is becoming a rare skill in Central America and only three out of ten villages we work in still know how to do it. Adding to our line of indigo, our new teals and purples were organically dyed using a flowering tree called “logwood” and a mollusk from Nicaragua called “purpura patula”. Each woman can only weave panels, or “lienzos”, as wide as her hips so our larger naturally dyed pillows and throws are connected using a “ronda” stitch. This beautiful stitch, which takes one week to complete, is traditionally used to connect skirts. In America, we connect panels of fabric to make larger textiles using a basic, as-hidden-as-possbile stitching design. But I love how Mayan weavers have chosen to use this stitch as an opportunity to embellish the textile, making it all the most interesting and unique. (See the different ronda designs on the Del Lago Pillow (https://ara-collective.com/product/lilac-del-lago-pillow/) and the Solola Pillow. (https://ara-collective.com/product/teal- solola-pillow/))
in a world of mass industrial production and shiny newness, i love that these products are different. there are people and heritage behind them. and i think the opportunity to continue telling that story in a new era and a new market gives these artisans a great sense of pride and dignity. they are here, they are telling their stories, and they will not just fade into the past.