BACKSTRAP WEAVING


Loom  / Telar Jacaltenango
Guatemala
Santa Maria del Rio /
Santa María del Río, Mexico
Morelia, Mexico


Tenganan, Bali
Sideman, Bali


$30 in the United States
For a closer look, you might enjoy Maya Hair Sashes Backstrap Woven in Jacaltenango / Cintas mayas tejidas con el telar de cintura en Jacaltenango, Guatemala, a bilingual book that features the Jakaltek backstrap loom, backstrap weaving, and the beautiful hair sashes of the Jakaltek women, from both anthropological and artistic perspectives. The 176 page paperback book includes 38 illustrations, 116 black and white photographs, and 15 color photographs. (ISBN 0-9721253-1-0). Maya Hair Sashes . . . is available from Amazon.com or you may order a signed copy with a credit card by clicking the "buy now" button on the left (in the US only) or on the right (outside the US). These prices include free postage.

$40 outside the United States

Maya Hair Sashes . . . Book Reviews:
Journal of Latin American Anthropology, November 2005

. . . The precise documentation of the tools and techniques of the weaving process of the hair sash in Carol Ventura’s bilingual work is a propos here since it deals with the preservation of knowledge of the tradition. For Ventura, the artist and art historian, 1986 was the culmination of four and one-half years of working with the Jakaltek weavers in Guatemala. Her view of the learning process at that time, which included learning by observation and use of the toy loom, accords with Greenfield. Ventura returned in 1996 and in 2002. Although in 1986 weaving was an important activity that established group identity and social cohesiveness, by 2002 weaving was rapidly disappearing. The weaving cooperative had become a general store and there was less foreign demand for hair sashes and wall hangings. The hair sash designs had evolved from simple geometric patterns to elaborate designs appropriated from German silk ribbons. It was the only item of local dress still woven in 2002 in Jacaltenango. This and the fact that Jakaltek textiles are still a commodity will, in Ventura’s opinion, keep weaving alive in the near future. The picture given by Ventura of the changes between 1986 and 2002 is very much in keeping with those mentioned in the previous two books. Communication and contact via a road system and technology – the telephone, television, and the Internet – provide contact with the broader world. More schools and a university branch have widened horizons. A cash economy and the remittances sent by emigrants have enabled economic life will beyond subsistence levels, much as the commoditization of textiles has empowered women. . . Virginia Davis

Choice, November 2004
Contemporary Mayan material culture has received cursory attention from scholars outside of its relevance to ancient Mesoamerica studies. Textile production and trade have been intrinsic to the life of Mayan peoples since before the Common Era, but much about their history remains unknowable. Ventura (Tennessee Technological Univ.), a compassionate historian and skilled weaver, documents in detail the history, method, style, and patterns in the backstrap-woven hair sashes worn and sold by Jakaltek women living in a remote area of modern Guatemala. Sections on Mesoamerican religion and mythology and pre-Columbian symbolism of weaving, in conjunction with a useful bibliography in English and Spanish, makes this a key resource for historians, anthropologists, and practitioners. Ventura contributes the first comprehensive account of the backstrap looming method and the conservation and transformation of traditional patterns and their meanings, including templates and step-by-step instructions for weavers. All documented areas are supported by carefully composed photographs of Jakaltek people and places, especially women working at their looms, and legible close-ups of many specific sashes. Unfortunately, very few illustrations are in color; color is significant to several designs that, in some cases, have revealed for generations the social status of individual Jakaltek women. Summing Up: Highly recommended. General readers; lower-division undergraduates through professionals. M. R. Vendryes, York College, CUNY

Handwoven Magazine, May/June 2004
Carol Ventura, also the author of books on tapestry crochet under the name Carol Norton, learned to weave Jakaltek hair sashes while serving as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Guatemala in the late 1970's. She learned to speak Spanish and the local language, Popti', and spent several years working with the Jakaltek weavers of Jacaltenango. Her doctoral dissertation on hair sashes was published in 1989. The first edition of this book was published in 1996 by Yax Te' Press.
     The Jakalteks have lived in the highlands of northwest Guatemala since pre-Columbian times. The women maintain their traditional clothing style. The hair sash is the only item that is still locally woven. It is an important trade item and is exported worldwide.
     While the designs on the sashes may appear to be embroidered, they are actually created as the fabric is woven. Jakalteks use a double-faced supplementary-weft brocade technique to create a variety of geometric and pictorial motifs on a warp-faced fabric.
     This is more than a book documenting hair sashes. The technical information includes a valuable analysis and comparison of forty-five hair sashes collected between 1927 and 1989. In addition, a wealth of historical background is presented in a very readable style. One chapter summarizes the development of weaving in the area, beginning with the first evidence of pre-Columbian textiles. The fibers and the tools used to create the hair sash, as well as the double-sided brocading technique used by the weavers, are all well documented. Black-and-white photos show the steps involved in using the warping frame and the loom - there is even a photo showing a blind man making a ply-split backstrap from 2-ply sisal. Another chapter documents the physical and spiritual importance of weaving and clothing to the Jakalteks that includes sections on pre-Columbian cosmology, weaving deities, and the symbolism of huipiles, hair sashes, colors, and motifs.
     Many interesting footnotes supplement the text, along with charming photographs of women warping and weaving. The four pages of color photographs show over fifty sashes, and the instructions will enable readers to reproduce the designs. Anyone interested in weaving should enjoy this book, especially those who want to know more about Guatemalan Textiles. Linda Hendrickson

Links:
Toba Sashes of Argentina Pickup Technique
Foot-Loom Weaving in Central Mexico
Ikat Shawls of Uriangato and Moroleon, Mexico
Gobelin Tapestry Weaving in Dolores Hidalgo, Mexico
Haida cedar bark hat maker, Gladys Vandal
Mexican Cane Baskets
Los Leñateros Papermaking, Printmaking, and Book Arts Studio
Shibori in Kyoto, Japan  
Katazome (stencil dying) in Kyoto, Japan
Tapestry Crochet
Carol Ventura's Home Page
Carol Ventura's Publications

Last updated on October 31, 2014

This web page is maintained by Carol Ventura