Kristen Tourtillotte; portrait: grain
n a high-country village in western Guatemala where locals still keep time according to the 260-day Mayan calendar, a group of women send wooden shuttles racing through old-fashioned foot looms. The artisans move their hands and feet rhythmically to produce the woolen textiles, made with yarn sourced from village sheep, for which Momostenango is famed. Elsewhere in Guatemala, cotton weavers brew flowers and herbs to dye skeins of soft cotton in muted hues, attributing slight variations in color to a dry growing season or to the angle of the moonlight on the night before the plants were harvested. For designers Chelsea and James Minola, of Grain on Bainbridge Island, Washington, these myths and materials are part of the beauty of collaborating with traditional artisans. The couple met nine years ago in a Rhode Island School of Design class that toured Guatemala, which sparked a romance that bloomed into marriage and a successful design studio. It also marked the beginning of many long-term collaborations with textile makers in Guatemala, which Chelsea and James continue to foster today. The Minolas’ other designs—furniture, lighting, jewelry, and ceramics—are produced exclusively in the Pacific Northwest. But despite the challenges of working across cultures, long »
TOP LEFT AND RIGHT: Weavers in a studio in Antigua, Guatemala, prepare spools of cotton thread from skeins that have been washed and dried. Washing the thread before weaving helps to strengthen the fiber and keeps it from shrinking or warping once woven. ABOVE: James and Chelsea Minola in San Antonio Palopó, Guatemala. RIGHT: Steam from pots of boiling water fills the room in Grain’s natural-dye workshop in San Juan La Laguna. Artisans use natural plants and herbs to dye the thread.
GRAY ISSUE No. TWENTY-TWO
The DESIGN MAGAZINE for the Pacific Northwest.