The “Dances and Ceremonies” collection is designed for dance. The dresses are instruments that the body touches as it moves: the colored ribbons come alive and the metal bells mark its rhythm. These are the sounds of the carnival of Sahuayo, Michocán which invoke the rain, or those ringing out during the healing dances of North America’s indigenous Pow Wow. The pre- Hispanic spirits, cut from Amate paper made in San Pablito Pahuatlán, are also an offering to the earth to procure good harvests; these figures appear throughout the pieces of the collection.
Dye made with cochineal was, along with silver, one of the most valued and most exported materials of Mexico’s colonial period. As time passed, synthetic dyes came to displace natural dyes. We consider the return to these millenary practices a new luxury, as it is a sustainable method done at a small scale and in search of balance with the environment. The range of colors given by cochineal goes from pale pink to glowing fuchsia, with blood red along the middle. In Hueyapan, Puebla, the group of dye artisans called Mujeres Conservando Raíces (women preserving our roots) grows the cochineal on a farm and dyes fabric with these and other natural extracts, taken from various plants, as explained by Rosa Hernández Lucas:
“Pecan is the dye we use the most. It gives a brown color in many tones, dye bath after bath: with this first bath it’s a dark brown, almost black, but by the last bath it’s a light beige. Cempazuchitl flowers give several shades of yellow; green comes from Tezuath, a plant that grows in this region. We also use the bark of the Varangola tree that gives a copper color and the cochineal that gives us red. Indigo is bought from a man who brings it from Oaxaca.”
Part of what we have done in our workshops with the artisans was to create a visual game, using the Japanese folding technique of Shibori. The result is a pattern in which the presence of the dye appears in a camouflage of colors.
“Xutï” means “spirit” in the Otomí language.
Cutting spirits out of Amate paper from San Pablito Pahuatlán is a tradition and a belief that has been practiced since the pre-Hispanic era. At the beginning of 2015, a group of artisans from that region sought us out to develop new designs. When we arrived at the top of San Pablito mountain, we could begin to hear the pounding of the volcanic stones used to flatten the Amate pulp: “Nature gives us the resources so we can offer it our art,” says Don Juan Santos, a master artisan of this community.
Cutting out the spirits is an offering to the deities that gave life to men and to the earth to propitiate abundance for the harvests. The Lord of the Mountain and Mother Earth are the creators of life, thus they are the most important spirits; the spirits of corn, of peanuts, of pomegranates, chiles, pineapples, coffee, cacao, tamarind and others, also have great importance: “Every spirit is the guardian of something: the birds on the mountain, for example, care for the fields and the harvest. Mother Earth is the goddess venerated by the Otomí, and the Lord of the Mountain represents life on the earth. In one of his arms he carries a man, and in the other, an animal.” explains Don Juan Santos.
The Santos family continues the tradition:
“This is a practice that has passed from generation to generation, and we are the surrogates of this art.”
Few people are aware of the exquisite techniques that are used to produce Mexico’s signature garment, the rebozo. This technique is known as jaspe or ikat. It takes a month and a half to make a shawl, provided it does not rain (which delays the process). Each shawl involves three different and highly specialized artisans at each stage of the manufacturing process. These stories remain hidden in our country’s distant past; we have to make them part of our history and turn them into the business of the future, into traditions that are kept because they are beautiful, necessary and because they create objects that the world desires.
The Collection “Dances and Ceremonies: Spring Summer 2017” will be available in stores on March 13th