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NOVICA Artisan Ecological Weavers from San Juan de la Laguna

Ecological Weavers from San Juan de la Laguna

My name is Elizabeth Perez Ixtamer and I grew up near Lake Atitlan in Guatemala. My mother has woven on a backstrap loom since she was young and, to continue with her legacy, she taught me as a child. It's important for us girls to learn to weave as children because we have open minds and absorb knowledge very quickly.

My mother, a strong and hard-working women, learned to weave on a floor loom out of curiosity and also to be able to earn more. In those days, the floor loom was used only by men but my mom put all of her efforts into learning. She taught me this weaving skill along with the backstrap loom. Together, we began selling our weavings to tourists and visitors. But my mother always sought to be better and looked for new things to learn.

"She began exploring natural dyes. My sister-in-law, Maria Cecilia, also became interested. We all learned and put a lot of effort into this art. My grandparents always said that their clothes and textiles used natural dyes from the forests and orchards. We knew this was a way to not harm our beloved Lake Atitlan because artificial dyes get in the water and contaminate it. The plants give us lots of colors and we also learn about them and appreciate Mother Earth.

"We use cotton, which we dye in many colors. Each plant, bark, fiber and seed provides a range of colors and it takes patience to discover them. You need to experiment and let the plants reveal their magic. Our process of dyeing, requires only a fire, a pot, water and plants.

"The plants give off their colors when we boil them. The final color of the thread depends on how long the thread stays in the dye, how many times it's dyed and the dye's concentration. We use the stem of the banana plant to fix the colors.

"The natural dyes have been nature's blessing. When we close our eyes, we see a better planet, a cleaner lake, a more developed town and a home full of love. That's why we call ourselves the Ecological Weavers from San Juan de la Laguna.

"We perform the entire process at home, where we all live — my mom, my sister-in-law, her baby, my baby and me. We all take care of each other and help out with the kids and the housework. For me, it's been a bit tough lately. Because of the lack of money from weaving, I had to find a job. I'm a cop and sometimes I have to work out of town. In the afternoons and during my breaks, I weave. I hope our weaving can help us prosper, so I can go back to being at home with my daughter and family."