THE TECHNIQUE : WEAVING
The Little Market is proud to work with talented artisans at GAIA, in the United States, Kara Weaves in India, and Luchometik, in Mexico.
GAIA is one of our artisan partners based out of the United States, and the organization employs marginalized refugee women who are rebuilding their lives in Dallas, Texas. These women have survived hardships in life, such as violence and oppression in their home countries, and have faced new challenges as they’ve started over in a country that is foreign to them. At GAIA, the women engage in personal connections and can work toward earning financial independence and taking care of themselves and their families. The Dallas team creates designs that are based on the artisans’ skills. For example, some of the women have sewing skills, and they can often sew from home with smaller machines. Other women will work on making jewelry based on GAIA’s designs. Most of the vintage and recycled textiles come from throughout the world, such as Africa, Guatemala, Mexico, and Thailand, while GAIA’s exclusive designs are hand-woven by artisans who are located in India.
Each region of Mexico specializes in its own style of weaving. This map shows where some of those unique styles originated from.
Luchometik is a Tzotzil word meaning women brocading on a waist loom. The women of Luchometik masterfully weave textiles while following traditional techniques in Chiapas, a state in southern Mexico that is covered in mountainous highlands and lush rainforest. Chiapas is known for its beautiful weaving, created using traditional Maya methods that have been passed down for centuries. Weaving in Chiapas is more than just a means to earn an income — Maya weavers believe that their designs have a deeply spiritual meaning. Traditional Maya culture believes that all beings on the earth are intertwined, and these beliefs are often encoded within the patterns in the weave. The textiles are sewn on a backstrap loom using a method called brocade. As they weave, intricate patterns emerge in the colorful fabric. The weavers memorize countless patterns, each one a unique work of art. The patterns can have great significance in Mexican culture, representing the weaver’s heritage, marital status, religion, personality, and the village she is from. Backstrap weaving is part of the culture of the Chiapas highlands. Young girls begin to learn weaving techniques from their elders at a young age, and many women are able to support themselves and their families with their skills. A woman’s family proudly wears her weaving to show solidarity with the village and respect for the technique that was passed from their ancestors. These intricate products tell a rich cultural story and help to preserve Chiapas’ unique history, traditions, and language.
At Kara Weaves in India, artisans take ancient local fabrics, which are made using traditional wooden looms, and turn them into beautiful goods such as handmade towels and napkins. Pure cotton is used to make these products, and co-operatives source cotton from the yarn bank, the Indian government’s centralized cotton procurement system. Two textiles are used, and they are the thorthu and mendu fabrics of Kerala; people in Kerala relied on and wore these textiles for hundreds of years. To make the table linens and towels from Kara Weaves that we offer at The Little Market, the artisans first prepare the yarn by sourcing, washing, dyeing, softening, bleaching, drying the yarn, and also applying any specific treatments as needed. Next are the pre-looming processes, which includes spinning the yarn and setting up the loom. Then the skilled artisans start the weaving process. After that is the quality check, which happens in-house, and the stitching into products. The production process will vary based on how much fabric is required, customizations that may be involved, and techniques, such as motifs and prints, that are used. The artisans at Kara Weaves are members of local weaving co-operatives created by the Indian government in the 1960s in order to help support and promote local forms of art. At Kara Weaves, artisans design products using traditional techniques and market them on a global basis. Promoting the work helps to bring awareness and much-needed payment and income for the disappearing craft. After the co-operatives started to work with Kara Weaves, the wages increased by as much as 127 percent, and the number of weavers has tripled. One of the partner co-ops has also received a government grant from the Indian government, and this grant has allowed the co-op to purchase sewing equipment and train weavers with new types of skills.
LEARN MORE ABOUT THE ARTISANS
Luchometik is a Tzotzil word meaning women brocading on a waist loom. It comes from a Mayan language spoken by the indigenous Tzotzil Mayan people in the Mexican state of Chiapas. Six women artisans founded Luchometik in 2013 after realizing that they all had the same desire to learn and were in search of opportunities improve their lives. They seek to learn about quality of product, color and design combinations, as well as sales and finance of their products. Since they began, more women have joined with the intention of learning every day.
GAIA’s mission is to empower marginalized refugee women living in Dallas, Texas through employment, encouragement, and dedication to their long-term success here in the US The refugee women transform vintage and artisan-made textiles into home and and personal accessories, with a focus on sustainability and quality design. Through a living wage and continued training and development, GAIA’s goal is to help lead these resilient women to financial independence and self-sufficiency.
Kara Weaves is a social enterprise that is based out of Kerala, India and supports artisan weavers who are members of weaving cooperatives and who design contemporary home textiles. All of the hand-woven products, from coasters to napkins, are made from ancient and local fabrics, and these fair trade products are handmade at traditional wooden looms. Since February of 2013, Kara Weaves has been a member of the Fair Trade Forum of India, which is the country network of the World Fair Trade Organization and WFTO-Asia.