My name is Linda Ligon, and I’ve been involved in making books for more than 35 years. Longer than that, really, if you count the college literary journal, the high school yearbooks, the crude glued-together pages with line drawings that I made to amuse my baby brother when I was five years old. Did you do that, too? I meet so many people for whom making books seems to be almost a genetic imperative.
For me, the past 35 years at Interweave have been focused on making books to sell to textile enthusiasts – weavers, spinners, knitters, and so forth. And because it was my job, and the health of the company depended on it, the focus was on making books that would sell well. I’m still doing that – still working at Interweave, still working on books. At the moment, my project is a fine one on cotton spinning that will come out sometime next year. The manuscript is a joy to pore over, and spinners everywhere will want it.
There’s also joy in making books for the sake of simply celebrating amazing textiles and their makers and their traditions. Books like this are often a labor of love, not of commerce. So that’s what I do in my spare time.
Profession: making commercially successful books for textile junkies. Hobby: making off-the-beaten-path books for textile junkies. Do I sound a little obsessed? I’ve been pursuing this “hobby” for about five years, and so far have five titles to show for it, with several more in the pipeline. If you’re reading this, chances are that you would find some of these books very interesting. Here’s one:
A Textile Guide to the Highlands of Chiapas by Chip (Walter) Morris. Chip’s an interesting character, and you’ll hear more about him another time. (But check him out on Facebook in the meanwhile. Dig down and you’ll see the next book in progress there.) In this particular book, though, he focuses on the amazingly varied textile traditions of a score of villages in the highlands of southern Mexico.
Chiapas is not the top tourist destination that Oaxaca (just over the mountains) is, and it is full of surprises. The old ways are abundantly obvious. In Chamula, you see women wearing shaggy black wool skirts that look like they were fashioned from the pelt of a yeti (though it’s really local wool that has been spun, woven, dyed, felted, and vigorously brushed.).
A few miles away in Zinacantan, you see both men and women wearing vivid outfits of handspun, handwoven cloth completely covered in embroidered floral motifs. Not so far from there, you’ll find natural brown cotton spun fine and woven into sedate huipils often featuring such favorite motifs as the toad (sacred) or the dog’s paw (ubiquitous). And those are just a start.
Chip’s book is resplendent with great photographs, and spiced with intriguing Maya legends. It definitely makes you want to go there. And it will definitely open your eyes to worlds of weaving that are largely unknown. It’s available at ClothRoads along with some of the Chiapas textiles it features; you can also find it on Amazon, or at some independent retailers.