Learning to Weave
I first knew Deborah Chandler in about 1976 when she and her former husband were running a yarn shop in Boulder, Colorado, and I was publishing a magazine for handweavers. I had never seen a word she had written, but somehow there was that spark, and I invited her to write a column for Handwoven: “Your Weaving Teacher.” It was such a hit I think we were both surprised.
The charm of the column was that Deborah (Debbie back then) spoke directly to the interests, needs, and insecurities of beginning weavers with unpretentious, no-nonsense humor. She had a way of cutting through the technicalities of a very complex craft to the heart of the process and making it fun. Our publisher-author relationship developed and resulted in a book, Learning to Weave (under the Interweave Press imprint), which has sold more than 150,000 copies—a record for books of its type, I believe
Long story short: Deborah gave me her dog, left the weaving world behind, joined the Peace Corps, worked in Honduras, then in Houston for the fair trade cooperative Pueblo to People that sold handmade products from Guatemala. Met Teresa Cordón, who was the field coordinator for Pueblo to People. Traveled in Guatemala. Eventually moved to Guatemala (I’m taking huge shortcuts—the full plot would be much more interesting) and became director of Mayan Hands which coordinates and supports the efforts of hundreds of Maya weavers. So I guess she didn’t really leave the weaving world behind at all.
Weaving a Book
In 2012, when I was working on Faces of Tradition: Weaving Elders of the Andes, the idea occurred to do a similar book to celebrate the weavers of Guatemala, who have sustained the finest textile traditions in Central America. Would Deborah do it? Sure. And she had the wisdom to invite Teresa to be her co-author.
What ensued was a three-year odyssey, literally. Deborah and Tere drove all over Guatemala seeking out the artisans, then drove all over the country again on two different occasions with Joe Coca and me and a pile of photo gear honing interviews and collecting images. Then Deborah drove up to a retreat in the cloud forest to write and write and write.
What I’ve just described doesn’t even touch on all the layers, nooks, and crannies of my near-forty-year friendship with Deborah, but I can tell you that doing a major creative project with someone who has been so much a part of your life is pretty fine. I feel lucky.
Join Deborah and Teresa on the amazing odyssey that is Traditional Weavers of Guatemala: Their Stories Their Lives. And be on the lookout for more inside stories and behind-the-scenes peeks from the authors themselves.