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Handmade Belts from Guatemala are a Hit

Guatemalan beltThough it shouldn’t be surprising, it is, a little bit.  Our humble little handmade belts from Guatemala have been selling like hotcakes for months now.  They are colorful, versatile, and just right for oh-so many things.  Not only that, they are wonderful, traditional folk art items with a distinctive place in Guatemalan cultural history.

The ancient Mayans, whose ancestors compose a great deal of Guatemala’s current population, placed a high value on the weaving skills of their women.  Over a thousand years ago, the Mayans cultivated cotton for textile production. Vegetable dyes were concocted by the men, who also dyed the cotton fibers,  but from there the women took over. Spinning and then weaving the threads, they formed in intricate patterns on simple backstrap looms. Women of royalty were taught to a supremely high level of skill and used cotton fiber of the highest quality to create textiles of great complexity.  The peasantry did not, of course have access to the finest cottons, and the garments they made were often simpler, but in both cases the ability to weave was a measure of a woman’s worth.

Interestingly, ancient Mayan steles have been discovered by archaeologists who have identified the goddess of weaving, Ix Chel, busy at her work.  She is depicted as sitting with her backstrap loom, one end tied to a tree and the other affixed around her waist.  The Cosmic Weaver holds the shuttle in her left hand, poised to pass the warp threads through the weft, as generations of mortal women have ever since.

Today, Rosa creates our woven belts in exactly the same manner.  We have been buying her handcrafted textiles for years and always, the pride of her family, village, and culture is worked painstakingly into every piece.  We call them belts or hatbands, and in fact they can be used either way.  But that’s not all!  We have seen them affixed to mortar boards at graduations, used as trim on pants and jackets, and as curtain ties – all with great result!  They can be used to tie up packages, or to add color and Latin flair to small holiday trees and wreaths.  Though the origins of handwoven Mayan textiles go back millennia, the look is hot, hot, HOT today!

hatband from GuatemalaBlue hand-woven belt

 

Contributed by Linda for It’s Cactus


Creativity is the best part of Holiday Decorating

Aguilar and Ortega figuresIf you are like me, the minute the Thanksgiving dishes are cleared, you shift into heavy holiday mode.  I take inventory of items to be given as gifts that for months have been stashed in the “gift closet,” I have grocery lists for cookie baking in process, while wrapping and packing gifts to be mailed are on the “to do” list for next week, as is deconflicting the family schedule to shop for the holiday tree. This week, it is ALL ABOUT decorating.

This year, I undertook my decorating with a determination to be creative and group things together in ways I hadn’t tried before.  It turned out to be a fun experiment, with which, I will say with very little modesty, I got good results. Starting with the mantle, I arranged the Ortega Wise Men I collected years ago with my more recently acquired Aguilar market women. (See our wonderful selection of Aguilar figures here. http://www.itscactus.com/catalog/Aguilar_Family-35-1.html ) Who said the Wise Men travelled alone?! They now process splendidly together following yonder star. Then I had a brainstorm regarding Guatemalan belts.  How terrific they look as bows on a wreathOaxacan tin and Guatemalan belt trimmed with Oaxacan tin ornaments!  In truth, I have the wreath hanging in my window, but the backlighting was so horrible,  I opted to photograph it on the door instead. Good either way, says I! (Yes!  We have Guatelmalan belts here: http://www.itscactus.com/catalog/Traditional_Belts_and_Hair_Ties-58-1.html  and Oaxacan tin ornaments here: http://www.itscactus.com/catalog/TIn_Art-70-1.html  Call the shop at 831-998-8993 for an even greater selection.)

Haitian metal sculptureMy greatest decorating inspiration, however, came when I spotted our new Haitian metal signs that say “Peace on Earth.”  Oh!  I though, “that might look pretty great attached to a wreath.”  See what you think.  And by all means, do some experimenting on your own. The best part of holiday decorating is the creative part.  If it wasn’t for the creative aspect, decorating would just be work.  Bah-HUMBUG!

Contributed by Linda for It’s Cactus

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