Textile Society of America


Date of this Version



In Approaching Textiles, Varying Viewpoints: Proceedings of the Seventh Biennial Symposium of the Textile Society of America, Santa Fe, New Mexico, 2000


Copyright © 2000 by the author(s).


To learn through an apprenticeship, in which the master sits beside you and guides you step by step through a complex process, is the oldest and most durable method through which the textile arts have passed from generation to generation and from culture to culture. Through the process of making, the meanings embedded in the objects are reveled.

Over the past five years I have had the privilege of studying weaving with three Trique weavers from San Andres Chicahuaxtla in the Sierra Madres Mountains of Oaxaca State, Mexico. The Trique huipil is a densely encoded cultural document. The registers of symbolic motifs which line this long wide over-garment, function as a text in Trique culture. Through variations in this code the separate Trique towns identify themselves. Motifs and variations of motifs passed down through generations are freely mixed with new and creatively imagined representations of the modem world and its events and objects. The garment itself is symbolic of womanhood in both obvious and subtle ways and the loom is an integral part of Trique mythology.

Through four study trips of three weeks each, my students and I have woven with our Trique teachers, all day, each day. We learn the motifs one at a time. The ingenious and individual method of the making of each motif provides clues to its understanding. Each year, learning through our fingers as well as through our eyes and ears, we delve deeper into both the meanings of the symbolic motifs in the huipils and of the meaning of weaving in their lives and in ours.