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Manuela Gomez

Artisan Organization: Manuela Gomez

Country: Mexico

"In the small Maya town in Mexico where I was born, my family weaves beautiful brocade fabrics on the backstrap loom. As is the custom, my mother began teaching me to weave when I was quite young.

"Every day after school, I helped her with simple tasks such as putting the yarns in order or choosing the colors to combine.

"It was common to see me weaving with my sisters on the backstrap loom, Each day, we'd practice with different colors, especially when it was time to create the heddles. At first, we constantly made mistakes but, with practice, we became able to create new brocade patterns ourselves.

"I especially like color combinations that you can weave in a straightforward way. My mother taught me that the most important thing is to set your imagination free and all the rest comes naturally.

"Our greatest influence comes from our Maya culture. I love our traditional clothing, especially the colors, the pompoms and hair adornments.

"For our regional dress, men wear a white shirt and pants woven of wool. The sleeves are red and are sewn to the torso of the shirt. The pants, or vex in the Tzotzil language, reach to just below the knee. Today, huaraches o caites — from the Nahuatl word, catli — are part of the formal traditional dress although earlier the wearer always went barefoot.

"Men who hold a civic or religious position in the community add a black wool poncho, a shoulder bag made of rope or nuti, a white kerchief or pok, and an impressive hat or pixol with ribbons of different colors hanging from the brim.

"Women wear a white blouse woven of wool with red or purple embroidery around the neck. They combine it with a dark blue wool shirt tied around the waist with a red band.

"At the beginning, I must confess it was difficult to create my own brocade designs, especially as far as feeling sure of myself. I learned to trust my ideas and my imagination. I also accepted the responsibility of finishing the weavings that I design, as I'm the only one who can do it.

"I always use synthetic felt fabric and wool yarn, always stitching it very meticulously so that my work is worthy of being purchased.

"Each one of my designs is crafted completely by hand. In the family, we all take great care with our work and choose the tasks according to each person's expertise.

"More than anything, I want you to see my work and, in this way, encourage my family even more to continue with this wonderful art that preserves our ancestral traditions.""