The Tzutujil are located in the North West of Guatemala on Lake Atitlán. The women weavers live in towns located all around the lake, they weave on back looms made up of four wooden rods and fit weaving around their responsibilities looking for their families.
Many of these women are single mothers who rely on this work to support their families. Many are looking for a way to support themselves having left abusive relationships.
Atitlan Women Weavers was founded in 2014 by #femalefounder Anita with the aim of creating sustainable economic opportunities for local women living on Lake Atitlán in Guatemala. The cooperative originally started with just five women and has grown to now provide employment for 28 Tzutujil women all of whom live and work on the lake.
Through the Atitlán Women Weaver’s cooperative, these women are able to improve the quality of life for themselves and their families whilst also preserving their culture through the textiles that they produce and sell. All the products are made using materials that have been coloured and produced using natural colours, dyes and materials. The traditional hand-woven products you will find in their collection include our signature clutches, throws & bedspreads. All of the products in the Atitlan collection fulfill the core values behind TMAC and are made by hand or on a weaving loom by this community of indigenous women.
The Weaving Process
The process that goes into each of the pieces created by the Tzutujil women is complex. All the pieces made by the women weavers of Atilans are made of 100% cotton, which in Guatemala grows on trees, it must first be picked, the seeds removed and then beaten to remove all of the ‘polvo’ or dust that gets caught in it. The thread is then spun using a spindle and by hand, the ball of cotton is teased out, attached to the spindle and spun and spun and spun!
The thread then needs to be boiled for an hour in banana bark, this creates a waxy texture to the thread that will allow the colour to get firmly locked in. Every colour comes from a natural product, plants, flowers, shrubs even beetles! You can never get the exact same colour twice as nature is ever changing.
Next, you put the plant or shrub into boiling water to withdraw the colour, the time you boil it for will determine the deepness of the colour. Use a sieve to extract any of the natural sediment & particles.
You will now have a colourful liquid, dip the spun threads into the solution and within a matter of seconds, the cotton will start to take on the new colour. How long to leave it in the dye? It will depend again on how deep you want the colour to be. The best way to dry the cotton is out in the Guatemalan sun. The weaving loom needs to be prepared, figures of 8 form the base and the colours selected need to be placed on the larger weaving spindle.
The ‘base’ structure is then transferred to the back loom, a contraption you will find in women’s homes across Guatemala! Three ‘ramas’ or branches are used to carry out the weaving process; this part of the creation takes time, patience and dedication.
When finished the ends of the textile are rolled to create the tassels you will find at the end of each of your pieces.
Symbolism within the products of the Tzutujil Collection.
THE TREE represents the cotton, without which the women wouldn’t be able to make these products. In Guatemala, it grows on trees and in abundance around Lake Atitlán. The tree for the women of Lake Atitlan represents opportunities.
THE WOMAN is a reminder of the woman behind your IKAT products. The whole process behind each product is carried out by women; from preparing the cotton, dying the thread and weaving the designs on a weaving loom.
THE TURTLE is a symbol of nature and the importance of caring for the world and environment around us.
THE CORN symbolizes the most important crop in Guatemala, which many Guatemalans rely on for sustenance.
THE FISH & THE CRAB represents the beautiful lake and the richness that can be found within it.
Through the Atitlán Women Weaver’s cooperative, these women are able to improve the quality of life for themselves and their families whilst also preserving their culture through the textiles that they produce and sell.
“It is our mission to empower indigenous women through creating fair economic opportunities”