This was the first workshop run by the women from Ajkem’a Loy’a for the group from The New School. They taught us their techniques to make “fajas de mostacilla” (beaded belts that they commonly use to tie their skirts around their waist.) We worked in pairs starting off with a rectangular piece of wood with two rusty nails hammered into each of the ends. The first step was to carefully attach a wire to these two nails which would hold the threads in place. We each took a spool of thread and stretched it back and forth lengthwise between the two new wires we had attached.
Then, the beading began. Previously assorted colors were in styrofoam cups for us to use. The women initially suggested that we follow one of the designs they normally use, and copy over and over again – that of small birds. Most of us were quick to suggest coming up with our own designs. This unplanned change in the process was a real eye-opener for our collaborators who enjoyed watching us imagine new designs on the spot, or diagram them out in our notebooks, or even copy images from the garments we were wearing. We realize it is essential that we continue to learn the techniques they already master for the next two weeks during which we want to collaborate on new products. We also have a newfound respect for Guatemalan arts and crafts in general, now knowing the tedious nature of a lot of their work. (And personally, I am fascinated with the parallels between this technique of beading and digital media – each bead acting as a “pixel” in the material world.)