Friday, July 23, 2010

Me vs. Mosquito

I lost.

Get in My Head


An excerpt from my final paper for my class:

... And I got to witness the handing down of a tradition. I got to witness it between Juanita and Candace, and between José and his dad Lucas, when we were learning about making Maguey fiber.

And then it got me thinking ... what happened to tradition in the United States? It's SO not a part of our lives. We are so quick to develop new technology. Let go of things old, as if old things are bad. As if the tradition is somehow meaningless. Have we lost ourselves? Our identities? Is that why we are so quick to redefine ourselves - new hair, new nails, new clothes, new technology, new noses, new boobs, new 'things' ... is that why we are terminally looking for something else? Looking for something outside of ourselves? Consuming, consuming. With nothing found. Maybe we need to look to the past. Look to our hands, and let go of the machines. Stop for a moment. Slow down. Listen and breath. Take out the headphones from our ears, and really hear what's around us. Look at each other in the eyes. Say hi. Say good morning.

On our final day, in my meeting with Mimi, I was asked what I would change about the design process here in Guatemala. I couldn't think of a thing. Instead, I said I wanted to bring Guatemala back to the United Sates. Slow it down, Work with my hands. Connect. And all while having faith that I can be successful in an industry defined by quickness and change.

I see happiness in the eyes of the artisans that I've met. I see depth. I see pureness and God. I see groundedness. I see selflessness. They have monetarily less, but they have so much more. They are rich. So much richer than so many of us in the United States. I want to be rich like them.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Guatemalan Artist Rogelio Barillas: Well-Rounded Fun

I am so in love with Guatemalan artist Rogelio Barillas. But it's a little hard to not love an artist who makes extreme obesity look jovial and fun. And he does a killer job rendering fabric.

Find more here.

When Noise Becomes Music

While sitting in a church in Solala:

Looming voices, swirling to the sky. No rhythm. Different songs. Different prayers. Difference voices. Separate beats. Beats? Sometimes completely unified. High. Low. In. Out. Stop. Start. Sob. Sob. Sob.

Me: tears rolling down my cheeks as it's the most beautiful music I've ever heard.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

An Absence of Disruption

Today I went to Juanita and Candace’s home in Santiago to learn embroidery. It was a perfectly lovely experience, marked by very little “noise.”

We don’t speak the same language [Candace knows some Spanish, but for the most part they both speak the local dialect], so we were sitting there in silence as I worked, and they watched me, and instructed me with their fingers. There was no music playing. There was nothing on the gray walls, except a hand-made sign that said “Happy Birthday Dad” in Spanish. There was no television. No pets. The only bit of print media in the room was the magazines that I brought for Candace. Even when their brother Santiago quietly came into the room, he stayed awhile, watching me tentatively as I worked.

The absence of disruption exposed quickly the sheer difficulty of what I was doing, and the discomfort and confusion I was feeling about learning something new from people that I couldn’t speak to. It also allowed me to fully be present and appreciate that after 6 hours I not only had a little birdie sitting in my lap, but I had also developed a special bond with these women without sharing words.

And in such synchronicity, I happened to read this right after my experience:
“Everything is usually so masked or perfumed or disguised in the world, and it’s so touching when you get to see something real and human.” P 215, Traveling Mercies, Thoughts on Faith, Anne Lamott

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Gaining the Willingness to Cross Over the Learning Edge

Yesterday we went over Atun's house [Atun is a weaver that works at Cojolya], and we met his wife Juanita and his daughter Candace, who are both embroiders.

As I walked in the door, I saw the two sitting on the couch, and my eyes danced around their house ... looking for something more - more light, more music, ... But at the moment I saw her work, I knew that this was it - I was bearing witness to the work of a master embroiderer and fantastic artist. Her work was nothing short of unbelievable.

I felt connected to this woman's work. I wanted to work with her. But I couldn't. It was too far away from Antigua. Where was I going to stay? I already paid for my room in Antigua. It would cost too much. The transportation back to the lake would be annoying. A classmate suggested asking Atun if his wife would teach me, and I snapped at her. She obviously needed to mind her own business. This was my life, and I didn't need her stupid ideas.

My resistance and my discomfort started to become blatantly obvious at that moment. In speaking to my instructor about this later, she noted that it was having the willingness to break through the learning edge.

So I stopped listening to the "can't" voices, and started to embrace the "can" voices. I started asking simple questions about the possibility of working with Juanita ... and in a few short minutes [literally], I had transportation to Antigua, and a free place to stay for a few days. And a special embroiderer teacher.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

I Thought That You Might Be Wondering ...

... about Guatemalan strip clubs! I mean - how could I have a complete artistic and cultural Guatemalan experience without happening to walk into a strip club?

Upon entering a Guatemalan strip club, you might:
- Be greeted with "La Lesbianas!" by the guy on the microphone
- See the old man who sells large bags of nuts on the street happen to walk in, and sit down - and put his bags of nuts on the table
- Get told by the bartender that the girls cost 1000 quetzals/night ($125 U.S.) when you asked him [in broken Spanish] if they get paid tips or hourly
- See the strippers incredibly bored, sitting in plastic chairs against the wall, slouching
- Watch a group of 16 year olds walk in

Heard this Cypress Hill song their tonight ... so good:

Weaving Through the Discomfort

Back-strap weaving at Cojolya Assocation of Mayan Women Weavers in San Lucas, at Lake Atitlan:

I might look like I'm having fun in these photos ... but I'm not. It took me about a full day and a lot of breaks to actually get into this [we spent a day and a half total at Cojolya]. It was pretty hard for me to get the hang of this type of weaving - and to just get into it.

But once I worked through that discomfort - and once I began to take a little design initiative [see use of maguey below] - I was able to let go of my whirling thoughts, and get lost in the little loom.

PS - I don't know how these weavers do it.