A couple of weeks ago, Celina, my assistant in Oaxaca, informed me that a shipment of blouses we had been waiting for from Chiapas, Mexico had arrived. This was exciting for two reasons:
First, the women who make them live in a very remote pueblo where there are no phones and so our contact with them is difficult.
Second, we had asked them to make the blouses in a special way for us.
By “special” I mean we asked for them to NOT sew certain parts of the blouses together. I know that sounds odd but we
had been having such challenges with consistency in the construction of the blouses that we had decided it would be easier to finish them in Oaxaca with women we trained.
So, these blouses were to have the basic box shape, neck hole, and embroidered front with sides unsewn. Well, the blouses did come in as we had ordered with a little “bonus”…..what looked to be a large bite taken out of the sides of each blouse (maybe done with a knife?). When asked, it turns out they were trying to “help” us in determining where to stitch the arm hole…..sigh…..
That little added “detail” to the blouse altered the way we had to finish it, but in the end, we came up with something beautiful.
Consistency in sizing and patterning remains a huge challenge in these regions. In reality, these concepts are very foreign to indigenous artisans in Oaxaca and Chiapas, which seems especially odd considering how textile traditions have dominated these cultures for centuries.
So, we take the hard part out of the equation and deliver blouses that are sized and well adapted to our American bodies for them to embroider. Easy, RIGHT?