They say you can do it with a nail tapped into a tree. Anywhere, really. Do what you ask? An ancient form of Mayan art called back-strap weaving. What could be lovelier than to be outside feeling the breeze while the colorful thread beams in the sunlight? Entranced with the loom you might be making a scarf, a placemat, a table runner, a tapestry. No matter what the object, something decorative is in the works.
Concepcion Tharin, DFAC’s own teacher of Mayan back-strap weaving enjoys creating delicate patterns and clothing.
“I love the feeling of the thread in my fingers,” she says. Plus, it takes her mind off cleaning. “I want to weave all the time because it’s so relaxing and I love making progress on whatever project I have on the loom.”
Let’s learn more about her passion and how it feels to share it…
How did you personally learn this form of art?
My mom and sister taught me to weave when I was eight years old. I learned the traditional back-strap weaving style of pik’bil—a fine gauze-like cotton weave.
What do you love about it most?
Traditional back-strap weaving is one of the few sources of income for the woman in my village, though each blouse takes a month to weave. I sold my weaving to fund a couple years of my education, enough to understand some Spanish as I go through my life and represent women weavers of my village.
How does it make you feel to teach this artform to students?
I love teaching the Mayan back-strap weaving because it’s slowly disappearing. If I don’t try to share it with the world it will be lost with me one day. Our ancestors left us a wonderful gift. I feel like need to share it with people who are interested. Yes, there is still a lot of the weavers in Guatemala which is great but if you can’t travel to Guatemala and put your hand on a Mayan loom it is great you can find one near you.
Concepcion shares the meaning of symbols featured in the artwork. Ducks represent nature and harps represent music, for example. The thread colors aren’t necessarily meaningful but in her “very small town” the most traditional is white on white (pik’bil).
When asked what she wants people to know about Mayan back-strap weaving, Concepcion cautions that it is time consuming and requires patience to learn “many little things as you go” but mostly she celebrates it.
“You feel amazing after completing a placemat and thinking how did I do that?”
The next Mayan back-strap weaving class with Concepcion Tharin begins on September 13—a great time of year to also sit outdoors with your loom nailed to a tree. Cue the breeze.
Story & Photography by Leslie Joy Ickowitz
DFAC Fall I Class Session Starts the Week of September 13… There is SO much available!