ABOUT MONTES & CLARK
Montes & Clark make inspiring contemporary pieces for the home from handcrafted Mexican textiles.
It is a partnership between two friends; Lucy Montes de Oca and Kate Clark.
Lucy discovered her love for Mexican textiles when she married her Mexican husband. She shared this passion with her friend Kate, a highly experienced embroidery expert and artist. Together they decided to bring this original artisanal work to European homes.
For three months in 2014, Lucy travelled around Mexico with her husband and small baby, sourcing the finest textiles and visiting the cooperatives they now work with. Kate used her textile experience to turn the embroidery into contemporary designs for the home.
We work directly with women-led cooperatives in Mexico, ensuring traditional crafts can thrive in a modern world. Where cooperatives are not yet established we buy directly from individual women with a fair trade price.
One amazing cooperative in Chiapas, Mexico is made up of some 250 indigenous artisan women. Jolom Mayaetik provide the next generation of craftwomen with training and support in dress making, natural die, design and accounting.
The cooperative ensures the makers are paid a good wage and supports women’s rights issues. We love working with this cooperative to collaborate on our woven collections.
Sourcing the finest quality designs in Mexico we handmake the textiles into cushions and throws in our workshop in Wiltshire.
The papercuts are commissioned from Sergio in his family workshop in Metepec, Mexico.
The lampshades are handmade by women in a Dorset studio, and our furniture is upholstered by Nicki in Wiltshire (a multitalented soprano and mother).
The photography for our website was by Martin Coceres and the styling by Alex Lewis.
Sergio, Papercut Artist
The paper-cuts are made by the wonderful Sergio, one of the finest paper-cut artists in Mexico, who works from his family run studio in Metepec. Originally trained as a professional jazz musician, Sergio applies that improvisation to skillfully carve out pictures with his chisel. Lucy, of Montes&Clark was lucky enough to have a two week apprentiship with Sergio in Mexico, where she could appreciate the quality and skill of his designs.
He creates his own original designs for Montes & Clark. And he works with us to develop specially commissioned bunting for parties, weddings and as framed artwork. Here is one example of some bunting commissioned by the restaurant chain Wahaca to celebrate Day of the Dead:
Jolom weavers' cooperative, Chiapas
Our woven products are made on a backstrap loom by women living around San Cristobal de las Casas, in Chiapas, to the south of Mexico.
A backstrap loom is a traditional technique. A low cost and portable loom which is tied around a weaver’s waist and then around a tree or post to achieve tension. This enables women to work at home without having to travel to cities. The width of the cloth is thus limited by the width of the weavers arm. Our table cloths which are made from backstrap loom cloth is made up of strips that have been neatly sewn together to make a wider cloth.
We work with an inspiring cooperative just outside San Cristobal, called Jolom Mayaetik. They coordinate large orders sharing the work between the local women, ensure they are paid a fair price, and provide support needed. This might mean purchasing the thread and cloth for the women or teaching new techniques.
Jolom Cooperative describe how the colours, symbolism and weaving have preserved the ancient Mayan culture. “The cosmology and history of Mayan culture is expressed in every weaving and serves as a communion between mortals and deities. The diamond or zigzag designs representing a snake, symbols of a universe in harmony, or the maize plant, a symbol of mother earth with its multiple arms with which it embraces her children.
Otomi embroidery women
The amazing ‘Otomi’ embroidery has been made by indigenous Otomi women living in the mountains in central Mexico, to the east of Mexico City. Most of the women we buy from make the embroidery while looking after their families. One of our throws can take over three months to make.
The design originated after a drought in the 1960s, which devastated the local agricultural economy. The women adapted their traditional embroidery techniques into a design that could be produced relatively quickly to be taken to market. The embroidery design quickly became popular and enabled the women the contribute to the household income.
There tend to be some women who specialise in the design, drawing the images onto the cloth. Other women specialise in the embroidery, taking the drawn designs to work with. They are very proud of their craft and design.
When we visited Pahuatlan del Valle to meet some of these embroidery women, we were told of a local cave which inspired the designs. The caves feature paintings of mythical creatures. One of the caves in particular is only allowed to be visited by women, who go there to pray for the health of their eyesight so they can continue to embroider.
The Otomi designs are recognisable for their striking mythical creatures and symbolic floral imagery. The designs are ever evolving to incorporate modern family scenes and concepts, ensuring the tradition stays relevant to new generations.
Kate Clark is a highly experienced embroidery expert and artist. She studied and taught at the Royal School of Needlework at Hampton Court Palace, has written books, taught and led workshops including managing the workshop at St Paul’s Cathedral in London. Kate taught Mexican embroidery at the British Museum and the London Fashion and Textile Museum in Bermondsey.
She lives in Wiltshire with her husband, a stained glass maker and art teacher, and two young children. She leads on the design, development and quality of the products.
Lucy Montes de Oca
Lucy Montes de Oca is an environmentalist and writer with a passion for social enterprise. Lucy previously set up a social enterprise for community based renewable energy, and used to work for UNICEF as an environmental advisor. She now undertakes freelance consultancy while running this new venture.
Lucy lives in London with her husband and daughter, and spends time in Mexico sourcing fabric and planning further developments to support the cooperatives. She also enjoyed learning the art of paper-cut making from Sergio in Mexico.