Before my recent trip to Mexico, I had never before seen yarn painting. I was mesmerized by the ancient process where each thread is applied in the same way a brushstroke of paint is applied to a canvas. I was introduced to this fascinating art form through Brittney Borjeson and her collection Evoke the Spirit. Brittney moved to Mexico from New York after falling in love with the local culture and lifestyle in her bohemian surfing village. She has focused on celebrating the handcrafts of indigenous local Huichol tribe in Nayarit, Mexico. She works with the artisans to combine their traditional handicraft with modern designs and coloration. Shortly after our trip, Brittney’s home was featured in Domino magazine. Click here to read about her stunning home overlooking the Pacific and her jewelry, fashion and interior collections.
The art form was originally intended to deepen the connection with the Spirit through visions conceived in shamanic medicine ceremonies. The artistic Huichol tribe live in such a remote region of the Sierra Madre mountains that Spanish and Franciscan conquistadors never discovered them. They are one of the few tribes that have survived into modern times. They preserve their history through their intricate yarn painting, beadwork and embroidery.
The first yarn paintings were intended to serve as offerings to their deities. They were also used as body ornamentation since they believed themselves to be mirrors of the gods. The sacred iconography found in the yarn paintings stems from dreams, peyote visions, mythology and religion. The paintings served as a way to interpret their visions and then left as an offering in caves, temples and streams. Through communication with their deities, they felt they could heal themselves and their communities.
The colors and designs are all identified with particular gods and meanings. The eagle symbol holds special significance because their feathers impart special powers to the shaman. Eagles are thought to be the embodiment of the goddess Mother Eagle, Mother of the Sky and Queen of Heavens. The eagle flies high and sees everything. Without the sacred prayer arrows of eagle feathers, the shaman has no power.
The deer is considered the lord of all animals. The Huichol believe that deer give their lives willingly to those who hunt them in a sacred manner to benefit the tribe. The deer hunter symbolized by the cross. The hunters would perform purifying rituals for many days to insure that the animals are properly thanked for giving their lives to benefit the people.
Snakes instruct the shaman to become healers and are also associated with the rain goddess. The Huichol believe that rain itself consists of millions of small snakes and they are valued for eating the rodents in the cornfields that are harmful to the harvest.
Brittney uses ceramic skulls as the base for the yarn paintings. In her shop, Santos is always working on another brilliant creation as seen in the first images. He first spreads beeswax on the skulls and then sketches a design into the wax. The design is carefully filled by pressing brightly colored yarns into the wax.
After watching Santos work his intricate magic yarn painting, I could not leave Mexico without getting one. The one he is working on in the first image now hangs in my entry hall as a talisman watching over our family. It is the perfect reminder of a perfect week in Mexico….