San Cristobal de las Casas is one of the most beautiful cities in Mexico. Its urban composition and artisanal details have earned it the title of “Pueblo Mágico”, or “Magic City”. Every part of this wonderful town has something to admire, but, in my opinion, the most impressive part of San Cristobal is the textiles that are created here. There is an endless range of shapes, colors, embroideries, and designs featured on these pieces of art.
One of the most representative textiles for San Cristobal is produced from the pedal weaving loom. This method of weaving is an ancestral technique, pioneered by the indigenous peoples from Los Altos de Chiapas. It requires a very skilled operator and is physically demanding, but the results obtained by the artisan’s hard work are mesmerizing.
At Indie Gen, a lot of the textiles we use are created with the pedal weaving loom. It is a fundamental theme featured in nearly all of our collections that brings life and energy to the shoulders, neck, and sleeves of our pieces. It’s not hard to identify these textiles- their geometric patterns and colors bursting with energy are impossible to miss. The weaving is done with such perfection that it’s difficult to recognize that they are handmade pieces.
The factory that produces Indie Gen’s pedal loom textiles is the only one still using this type of loom. It has been passed down from generation to generation, and the owner is a man that has a remarkable passion for Mexican textiles. It’s something I have never seen before. Each one of his designs are created with true dedication and an amazing amount of creativity. Each thread is counted, and every color is carefully considered. Truly, it is a work of art.
The actual pedal loom has a large wood base, made up of pulleys, meshes, the comb, and pedals that the operator uses to work the machine. Tools such as the lathe, the distaff, the pitchers with cannulas, and the tensioner all work together to keep the machine working smoothly. A movement of the hands and feet of the operator orchestrates all parts of the loom and weaves each textile (primarily wool or cotton).
Perhaps the most difficult task in operating the loom involves keeping rigorous account of the knots that are added or subtracted to the “warp” (base strings) of the loom. These knots, called the “weft”, create the unique designs. As you can imagine, the possibilities are endless. This laborious work takes around six to eight hours each day. You’ll know the pedal loom is working to create something beautiful when you hear the peculiar rhythm from the pedal and shuttle weaving together. It’s a magical sound like no other.
To bring color to the textiles, a wool dye is made. These natural dye’s typically have an animal, vegetable, or mineral origin. The process of creating the dyes is done with great caution. Each color, design, and application has great sentiment and history for the artisan and must be executed perfectly to reflect this. From start to finish, the entire process of creating a textile with the pedal loom technique can take up to fifteen days.
Indie Gen has allowed me to discover how each technique of textile creation is executed. The artisans never cease to surprise me with their dedication, creativity, and talent. Each of the textiles created by them has a history reflected in their work. The effort, time, and love that is put into their pieces is truly remarkable. Being in constant collaboration with Mexican artisans inspires us at Indie Gen to continue sharing the stories of our textiles, and to put as much love, effort, and creativity into our pieces as the artisans put into theirs.