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Taller Maya Brings Traditional Mexican Crafts to 21st Century Homes

Taller Maya Brings Traditional Mexican Crafts to 21st Century Homes

“Tradition isn’t a dead, static concept. It’s moving and we want to move with it.”

Mexican non-profit Taller Maya’s mission comes through loud and clear in their innovative collections, which blend traditional materials and techniques from the ancient Mayan culture into modern home decor that will send any Millennial’s head spinning.

Since its inception in 2002, Taller Maya has been working with artisan collectives and family-run businesses around Yucatán and other Mexican states to develop sustainable work practices, while preserving their ancestral Mayan heritage.

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“Because we’ve been working with most artisans for almost twenty years now, we know them very well, know their families, know what they like to do most and what craft or technique they excel at,” José, E-commerce & PR Manager, explains over a Zoom chat.

This is reflected in their intrinsically collaborative approach to design: every item is sketched and developed hand in hand with the artisans and embodies Taller Maya’s unique blend of millennial craftsmanship with modern design.

Join us in an exploration of their featured collections on The Nopo and don’t forget to pay a visit to their shop after!

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Esencial Collection

All the products in the Esencial Collection come from a community-based in Granada, about an hour away from Taller Maya’s offices in Mérida.

As is common with the backstrap loom technique, all the workers are women, and a lot of them are actually Guatemalan refugees. As a matter of fact, backstrap loom weaving dates back to pre-hispanic times, when the Mayan Empire stretched for much of modern-day Mexico and Guatemala.

The technique is so-called because the loom, made of two perpendicular wooden sticks that hold the threads taught, is tied around a tree on one side, and around the back of the weaver on the other. Women spend hours every day passing a big wooden needle through the thousands of threads of finest Yucatán cotton needed to make a cushion cover or a table runner.

Taller Maya took this ancestral technique and stripped it to its bare minimum in this collection, favoring clean lines and a calming, subtle palette of whites, creams, and pastels with small color accents in the minimally designed decorations. This results in cushion covers that will fit any decor and be suitable for indoors and outdoors alike.

ETÉRO, MAM & TROMPO Collections

Similar to the Esencial Collection, these beautiful cushion covers, placemats, table & bed runners are made with the backstrap loom technique by a different community in Quetzal.
While this technique can be trying due to the long hours spent sitting upright, it is often a moment of sharing, conviviality, and community building for the women artisans that have been passing it down for generations from mothers to daughters.
“With these items, we wanted to work collaboratively with the artisans to come up with something different from the Esencial Collection,” José remembers, “so for example we helped them join backstrap loom panels, which would be too narrow in their standard size, to make larger pieces.”
The asymmetric patterns on the Etéro runner and mats and the unusual color palette on the Trompo cushion covers and table & bed runners bring an element of freshness that immediately draws the eye and enriches any room they’re placed in.

Hand Woven Hammocks

Made by rural communities in Santa Rosa and Yaxunah, these hammocks are entirely handwoven using the finest cotton or sansevieria fibers. The latter is extracted from an agave-looking plant endemic to Yucatán with a laborious process that can last days.
“The leaves are shredded and broken down into strings, which are whipped in bunches against a table studded with nails to clean the strings of the fluffier fibers,” José explains.
Each string is then obtained of several threads spun together to get a thick, resistant fiber. Expert artisans spend anywhere up to a month and a half knotting, threading, and weaving the hammocks, which are enriched by macramé details.
While you may not be able to hear the ocean waves when you swing on one of these hammocks in your garden, we bet you’ll be able to feel the labor and ancient history that runs through each and every knot.

Henequen Place Mats & Tortilla Holders

Henequen is a fiber obtained from a different kind of agave plant, which has traditionally been used in Yucatán to make strong ropes. The technique is very common, and the tortilla holder and table mat shapes have been around for a long time, so Taller Maya decided to try something different.
For their most recent commission project in collaboration with Design Week Mexico, Ensamble Artesano, worked closely with the community in Santa Rosa to develop a line of henequen sculptures.
“At first it was quite strange for the artisans to work with molds and casts to make such different shapes, but you could see how they got into the process with time, and the pride in their eyes was obvious when we presented the final piece.”
By giving artisans the safety to experiment, helped by their in-house designers, Taller Maya gives them a chance to develop new products and gain a competitive advantage on the crafts markets.
We fell in love with these amazing collections and hope you will too. Head over to Taller Maya’s shop to browse their beautiful crafts and bring a corner of traditional Mexico home with you.

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