“What? You want me to go to a weaving museum in Antigua Guatemala? These were the words (more or less softened here) sputtered by Mr. Yolkobsen when I suggested a visit to the Museo Casa del Tejido (Antigua Guatemala).
Like many before him, Mr. Y, who has very little interest in things woven, knitted, sewn, macramé or whatever, quickly became deeply absorbed in this little gem of an overlooked museum.
Here you will find on display the blouses, shawls, skirts, hair adornments and more — all created in the distinctive indigenous weaving tradition of Guatemala. Many Maya communities throughout the country are represented through this permanent exhibit of true artisanal work.
Anyone who has spent even a day in Guatemala will know that there are many outlets, markets, stores etc. where woven articles are alleged to be on offer. A lot of it is machine made, mass produced stuff. Some is even made in China. The other problem with these so-called “artisan markets” is that people go around after you, urging you to buy. Tell me if you haven’t heard this one: ”Meester, good price.” My advice to you: be polite, say a correct and courteous “gracias,” and leave if the real thing is on your agenda.
Believe me, the Museo Casa de Tejido (Antigua Guatemala) is not the Chichi market. Nothing wrong with Chichi (it’s lots of fun) but if you want to look at authentic items at a leisurely and undisturbed pace this is the place to go. They have a gentle and extremely well-informed guide, dressed in traditional men’s pants and shirt, who can tell you everything about the history, colors, materials and weaving techniques. There’s a large loom at the back of the museum as well as staff on hand to show how a back strap loom works.
The central interior exhibit room was my favorite. It’s full of ceremonial clothing that would be worn for Maya ceremonies or Holy Week, for example. The star of the room is the bride’s ensemble, which features a beautifully woven and heavily embroidered headpiece that drapes around the bride’s face until after the ceremony.
Go to this museum for the beauty of the materials and to learn from informed staff about indigenous craft in this country. Go also, because a lot of the space is given over to the retail end. There are many good to excellent examples of Maya craft work for sale, some new, some old. Weaving is also sold by the meter for those of you with your own designs in mind.
The retail part of the museum does have some typical machined items, but staff is very honest and forthcoming about its origins.
Yolkobsens wound up bartering for and buying a beautiful blanket made by the fine weavers in San Camalapa. Proceeds from the museum help provide revenue to a co-operative of traditional Guatemalan weavers, which helps keep the authentic craft alive.
Cost of admission to the museum is minimal. A donation is also requested for those wishing to take photos.
Museo Casa del Tejido (Antigua Guatemala) is located at 1a Calle Poniente #51. It’s just a bit west of the Alameda Santa Lucia (the big market street), a few houses west of the San Jeronimo church ruins.