Over the past 6 months I have been knee deep in Otomi embroidery and have never been happier. With our business, Montes&Clark soon to be launched, fairs and pop up shops imminent, my workroom has been filled with embroidered cloth in all colours of the rainbow. The graphic foral and animal patterns peer back at me from the ironing board, ready to be made into throws, cushions and lampshades. Every cloth tells its own story and I feel fascinated by each craftwoman and her story.
This particular embroidery design came about after a drought in the 1960’s devastated the agricultural economy of these Otomi communities in central Mexico. The women needed to find an additional source of income with a design that used thread resourcefully. A bold and distinctive embroidery style arose out of this economic necessity, because of the women’s inate sense of design and understanding of cloth, skills practiced by Mexican women for centuries.
In a recent delivery from Mexico, and opened up an exquisitly stitched yellow cloth that tells such a touching story of parenthood and general day to day life that I am reluctant to let it go. As a fellow embroiderer I completely appreciate the time and artistry that goes into each piece of cloth and I have a huge amount of respect for the woman that make them.
My own passion for Otomi embroidery started nearly 10 years ago when I worked with Chloe Sayer, a well known author and lecturer on Mexican Textiles at the Bermondsey Fashion and Textiles Museum. At that time I was working at the Royal School of Needlework in Hampton Court Palace and was asked to run a short embroidey workshop to accompany Chloe’s lecture on Mexican costume. Chloe has a deep knowledge of Mexican culture and history and her lecture, as well as the many examples of textiles that she brought along was inspiring. Within the workshop we looked at and studied several different types of Mexican techniques; woven, counted and freehand – but it was the work of the Otomi women in Tenango de Doria and San Pablito that really fired my imagination.
And now after a few twists of fate I feel incredibly lucky to handle and work with this cloth every day. I can’t wait to see others discovering and enjoying this amazing work in their homes.