A large scale exhibition of my work is scheduled for Sept 2010 at MACLA, Movimiento de Arte y Cultura Latinoamericana, in San Jose during the Zero1 Biennial. MACLA has allowed me to use the exhibition to showcase (and kickstart) collaborative works with artisans—and for the first time in my art career, allow me to become a catalyst for social change through the creation of craft.
The Chiapas Project, shown below, will serve as Phase 1 of a longer-planned relationship with artisans worldwide, helping to provide dignified wages and setting up new modes of sustaining traditions—the creation of Artists Helping Artisans (AHA!).

For more information on the Chiapas Project and the creation of AHA! please see bottom "Project Info" section.

Tanya AguiƱiga

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Collaborators 1

After looking and looking, we found a few families and artisans that were open to collaborations. Some of the collaborators were limited by the time they had to work on additional pieces because they work morning to night in their booth at the Santo Domingo market. Their work stood out though, and they were very interested in working with us, so we made it happen! Other very talented craftspeople were unable to produce any more pieces than they already had, or we were unable to communicate with them (because their native language is Tzotszil or Tzetzal) in Spanish. Many of these people that were unable to work with us had incredible craftsmanship and under extreme need, so we have purchased some of their items to sell as part of a fundraiser to keep the AHA project alive. These items will be on sale at the Los Angeles Renegade Craft Fair July 24-25, http://www.renegadecraft.com/los-angeles
Any proceeds from the sale of these items will provide additional support for our current Chiapas project and help fund future projects in other regions.

We are also looking to connect some of these artisans with any stores that would be interested in carrying some of their goods, so if any of you have any suggestions, please send them our way!

Here are images an introductions of some of the women that we are currently working with:

Marta and Family
Marta Hernandez Santiz and Family
We first found Marta and her family selling their work in front of the main church on the corner of Guadalupe Victoria and Miguel Hidalgo. They set up their display of goods on the floor from 10-12pm every night that isn’t raining and the whole courtyard turns onto a nighttime market. Their family specializes in embroidery and they sell different types of embroidered shirts. We were drawn to them by their huge smiles and super friendly attitude. We were quickly introduced to Marta’s husband, and all of her children and grandchildren. We purchased some of their shirts to show our support of their work and after visiting the family on the market a second time, we told them of our collaborative project and where invited to their home.

They are originally from Chamula, speak Tzotzil and Spanish fluently, and live in San Cristobal. The two daughters Rosa and Ceci are excellent embroiderers and help Marta make all of the work they sell. They were excited to be part of our AHA project to embroider transparent panels with design details from traditional clothing of surrounding communities. Marta, Rosa and Ceci are each making a panel. They were really into identifying the clothing from the communities and were inspired by working with design motifs that they do not usually use in their own work.

Rosa Reynalda Perez Gonzales
On a super stormy day, during our first visit to Zinacantan, as we sat in the car waiting for the rain to die down, we were approached by Lucia –a young girl asking if we wanted to come over to their family’s house to see their work. She was in her full Zinacantan traditional outfit, a backstrap woven skirt, shirt and shawl all covered in embroidered flowers. We went up the hill with her to her family’s workshop/home/store, Artesanias Alcatraz on Calle Jose Maria Morelos S/N. They immediately greeted us with smiles and offered us posh (a homemade Mayan sugar cane liquor) and made us fresh tortillas, which were served with an amazing salsa, cheese and ground up sunflower seeds.
We were in love.
The family weaves on backstrap and makes scarves, shawls, tablecloths, and clothing. Some of the work is decorated with complicated patterns inserted in the warp while weaving, while others are heavily embroidered with animals and flowers. Lucia, who is 16, has been weaving since she was 14, and the other girls in the family, Reyna 10, Carolina 7 and Paola 3 are also learning textile handcrafts.
Having been to impressed by their hospitality and work, we visited the family a second time and asked Rosa if she would be willing to teach us how to weave on a backstrap loom and she happily agreed!

Micaela and her sister live in Chamula. They set up their work on the corner next to town hall. They are wonderful craftswomen who are both deaf and super cheerful and welcoming to tourists. They spin their own yarn and weave their own wool textiles to make little Chamula dolls that wear the traditional Chamulan women’s outfit. Because of their age, and because its difficult for us to communicate with them (not knowing Tzotzil or sign language) we had to commission existing work in order to support them. When we bought the first 5, Micaela was soooo happy she jumped up from the floor hugged and kissed me and continuously touched her heart and extended her hands out to me! It was an incredible feeling, knowing that doing such a small thing could help someone so much, and that you can so easily make someone’s day. We ended up with 20 beautiful Chamulan lady dolls. We visit Micaela and her sister regularly and are always greeted with a smile and giant hug.


Pascuala is a wonderful older woman who is from Chamula and sells at San Cristobal’s Santo Domingo Market. We were drawn to her booth by these amazing little embroidered and slightly rough owls. She is really really good at making these little guys that are unique to her. We really wanted to collaborate with her, and due to the fact that she works alone in her booth from 8am to 8pm everyday except Sunday, we had to come up with a project that working ladies could do at their own booth. These projects needed to be similar in process to what they already knew how to do, since they did not have time to learn new techniques while manning their booth and attending to their potential clients. They also had to be visible enough that passers by could see what new exciting and different work they were doing to help bring attention to their booth and differentiate them from other vendors—helping them sell more.
So, this project ended up being a “Large Animal Collaboration”, were we would select an animal that they excel at, and help them choose color schemes and commission a large version of it.
Pascuala was asked to do large owls.

Foto aqui de Ana

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