Amy with SMU-in-Oaxaca

Amy spent winter break 2007-08 in Oaxaca, Mexico, where she and other SMU students explored culture, art and anthropology – visiting villages, churches and museums; participating in festivals; and working alongside the indigenous people of Oaxaca.
Amy is a junior from Austin majoring in studio art with minors in art history and women’s studies.

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Backstrap Weaving

Excerpts from Amy’s blog:

On the agenda: weaving workshop with a backstrap loom and lunch.

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We visited a small village in Teotitilan, again situated a few miles outside Oaxaca City. The backstrap loom is ubiquitious in Oaxaca, Guatamala, Veracruz and Latin America. Unlike a traditional floor loom, the backstrap loom is portable and considerably smaller. It also is constructed through simple materials, essentially pieces of wood, rope and a small leather strap that is utilized as a belt to wrap the heart of the loom around the waist. The remaining rope forms an acute angle with its ends tied to a tree or post several feet ahead.

The individual weaving either is seated on a low stool (pictured) or standing, their body pulling back to keep the rope and thread taut. This method of weaving produces much narrower textiles: rebosos (bands of material used to wrap and carry babies or worn around women’s heads), fajas (types of belts), huipiles (indigenous blouses) and skirts.

But more interestingly the backstrap loom provides a more direct relation to the hand and to the body. The postion of the body in which it is focused upon is one’s center, or the waist/abdomen. The center of one’s waist is considered to be the center of one’s body … The backstrap loom is also in direct contact with the body, in a kind of collaboration with the body – that becomes both a mental and physical collaboration.

Our group was allowed to join in and participate in weaving. The process was tedious but suprisingly easier than I thought. The simplicity of the tools juxtaposed with the complexity of the resulting pieces is astonishing. The backstrap loom is deeply rooted in Latin American culture, and I think it is absolutely fascinating to watch and engage in. I plan to bring a backstrap loom home with me from this trip, as I would like to further push its potental and experiment with the loom in aspects to performance art and time-based processes of multiple-exposure photography, video, etc….

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