A company that supports traditional Mexican craft by nurturing the tradition of weaving and investing back into communities.
British shoppers, meet Mexican craftsmen
Chilpa is an online store that is bringing well-crafted North American goods to Britain. Fed by a love of design and a desire to be socially responsible, they work closely with artisan communities in Mexico to provide them with sustainable employment and fair pay for their work.
Arturo Hernandez is one of the artisans that Chilpa works with. From his workshop in Oaxaca he creates beautiful rebozo scarves with his wife and other weavers.
This is Arturo
Arturo has been mastering his craft all his life, spending his childhood assisting his grandmother at her Spanish foot treadle loom. Although it is traditional for weavers to learn their skills from their families, being taught by a female relative is rare because weaving is an almost exclusively male profession.
Like most weavers in Mexico, his main obstacle is finding enough people to work on the looms. Creating a rebozo is a labour intensive process – a single scarf can take 10 weavers up to 30 days to make – and it’s an ageing craft, with younger generations taking little interest in carrying it on.
And these are his materials
Arturo works with cotton and wool that is sourced from within Mexico. The wool is organic and untreated, produced in the neighbouring state of Tlaxcala. He prepares his own wool dyes, using a metate – a traditional grinding stone used since pre-hispanic times – to grind down indigo, pomegranate, tree bark, cochineal, sapote and other natural colourings. The cotton comes from Monterrey in Northern Mexico and treated with an is aniline dye that Arturo prepares in the workshop.
Once the rebozo is woven, he hand-washes each one on a stone with a mild soap. This process softens the wool and prepares the rebozo for dyeing. The dyeing then takes place on a wood-fired stove in an aluminum, steel or copper container, depending on what type of dye is being used.
When dyed, each rebozo is hung from a bar with a heavy stone to weigh it down. The rebozos are dried naturally in the sun so that the wool or cotton can stretch back to its natural dimensions. The final steps are to remove any twigs or impurities from the finished throws and to hand tie or knot the ends together.
Chilpa and Arturo
Chilpa works with artisans to champion traditional Mexican craft and reinvests half of their company sales profits back into these communities. So Arturo and his workers are fairly paid and the tradition of weaving is being both protected and nurtured.