Textile Society of America


Date of this Version



Textile Narratives & Conversions: Proceedings of the 10th Biennial Symposium of the Textile Society of America, October 11–14, Toronto, Ontario


Copyright 2006 by the author.


Weaving Generations Together: Evolving Creativity in the Maya of Chiapas (2004) examines the impact of the economic transition from subsistence and agriculture to money and commerce on the transmission of weaving know-how, textile design, pattern representation, and the creative process of Zinacantec Maya weavers, following a large group of families in Chiapas, Mexico over a period of two decades. With the development of commerce, a relaxation of traditional "textile rules" and increasing innovation took place. Part of this process involved a shift in the definition of creativity from a community concept - in which the goal of clothing design was to demonstrate that the wearer was a member of the community - towards an individual concept - in which the goal of clothing design was also to identify the wearer as a unique individual. An intermediate step was a concept of family creativity in which clothing design identifies the wearer as a member of a family, with textile designs that differ from those of other families. Supporting this shift in the nature of creativity and textile design was a shift in the apprenticeship process. Learning to weave changed from a learning process carefully guided and modeled by the older generation, usually the mother, to one of more independent learning, trial-and-error experimentation, and peer input. While these changes took place in one small village, this analysis sheds light on changes taking place all over the world, as the global economy develops and spreads.

While the book covers the period through 2003, in this paper I extend the timeline forward to present a new case study of the creative process that occurred in 2004 and 2005. This case study illustrates that the transition previously identified in the book - the movement from a community concept of creativity towards an individual concept - continues and expands in new directions, even as the driving force for this transition - commerce continues to expand. This case study will constitute the third phase in a three-stage progression of changing creative processes in textile design. Phase 1 is community creativity, Phase 2 is family creativity, and Phase 3 is individual creativity.