Innovating the Legacy of Indigenous Silk

 

Mulberry tree 

Indigenous silk production in Oaxaca, Mexico started more than 460 years ago with the arrival of the Spanish. Thousands of acres of land were cultivated for mulberry tree plantations.  The natives harvested soft, lustrous silk that were praised by historians as "none other in the world could compete." 

By the end of the 16th century, the indigenous silk industry began to wane as the direct importation of Asian silk followed the opening of sea trade with the Far East.  It was not until the 1940s, when representatives of the Mexican government arrived in towns in the Sierra Juarez with seedlings of mulberry trees and returning with silk worms later, that the craft of weaving silk was revived in the vicinity.  

For decades, the family of Esperanza has raised silkworms, spun silk from the cocoons, woven silk rebozos, and worked for months to create a single, extraordinary piece.  As a child, Esperanza collected the cast-off cocoons that were unsuitable for weaving and fashioned whimsical animals.  Currently, out of these same cocoons, she creates jewelry and other objects of incredible intricacy and breadth.  

Silk cocoon jewelry by Esperanza

Silk cocoon necklace by Esperanza

During a workshop with Oax-i-fornia, an academic project aiming to broaden creative opportunities for local artisans, the explorations of Esperanza centered around the luminescence in the material.  She collaborated with her siblings through work that brings harmony to weaving, macramé and cocoons.  From these experiments emerge diaphanous, seemingly impermanent pieces, embodiments of subtle memories crafted from her prodigious hands and impeccably trained eye, pushing the boundaries of the material and its qualities.

The last two photos and paragraphs of this post are courtesy of Oax-i-fornia.

 

Shop Jewelry by Esperanza >

 

 





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