There are many threads to this story. First, there’s Mary Anne Wise, master hooked-rug artist, and her calling to do something to help a village in Guatemala that was covered by a mudslide during Hurricane Stan in 2006. There’s her friend and partner, Jody Slocum, who heads an NGO called Farmer to Farmer, fostering fair-trade coffee in Guatemala and Honduras. There’s Cultural Cloth which the two founded together to bring fine textiles from around the world to the U.S. market via web sales and a lovely retail store in Maiden Rock, Wisconsin.
There’s Friendship Bridge , which grants microloans to Guatemalan women, and for whom Mary Anne hosted some wildly successful trunk shows (and for which I helped publish a catalog, Guatemalan Woven Wealth.
But wait. There was that one short rug-hooking workshop Mary Anne taught in Panajachel in 2009, to give a few of the Maya women another way to express their textile expertise using recycled materials. It quickly grew into an extensive training program in technique and design, unlocking artistic talents most of the women hadn’t dreamed they possessed. Then, there more trainings, with Maya women learning how to pass their skills on to their peers. Now scores of women from a number of communities have become qualified to produce rugs of high quality.
In 2014, Multicolores was born. Under its umbrella, Guatemalan hookers (okay, stop snickering. Not that kind of hooker) brought their splendid rugs to the International Folk Art Market in Santa Fe, to much acclaim and wildly successful sales. President of the organization is Reyna Pretzantzin, an indigenous Maya who worked alongside Mary Anne during the workshops.
Another thread: the Avenir Museum of Colorado State University, just up the road from Thrums Books, has mounted a stunning exhibit of Multicolores rugs, The Power of Maya Women’s Artistry; it will be on display until May 20. And here’s how the threads came together:
I recently had the privilege of hosting a party to celebrate Multicolores and the work it does. Mary Anne and Jody were there; Reyna was there, along with Development Director Cheryl Conway. They brought Yessika Calgua Morales, one of the star hookers. Marilyn Murphy, Linda Stark, and Judy Newland, our dear comrades from ClothRoads were there. As were friends from Friendship Bridge, from the Avenir Museum, from the Mayan Hands natural dye project, from CSU, and more. Yessika spoke movingly about how Multicolores has affected her life and that of other women in the program, and Reyna translated ably. There were spectacular rugs on view.
Meanwhile, in the back room, there was talk about a book—a book to showcase the work and the women. After all, that’s what we do here at Thrums Books.
Visit the ClothRoads retail shop in Loveland to check out these vibrant and festive rugs in person–you just might want to take one home with you!