Master Weaver Julia Francisca Cholotío Toc
Julia Francisca is an amazing woman. When she was an infant her mother brought Julia with her to the coast to pick cotton and coffee, carrying her in a sling on her back as she worked. At 8 months old she became infected with a mosquito-born virus which left her ill for the next 12 years. She became deaf in one ear, lost all her teeth from daily penicillin injections and was often covered in boils. Unable to go to school, she can neither read nor write and learned to speak Spanish from her children. She still has aches and pains at night, but not, she informed me, when she weaves!
Julia began weaving at 8 years old which gives her 46 years of textile experience. At that age she would work with her mama and when a weaving was completed she would walk, by herself, to San Pedro from San Juan, take a canoe across the lake to Santiago where she would meet her older sister who would later sell the weaving. Back then if they didn't have money to purchase the thread for weaving, they would spin it by hand from cotton, a very time-consuming process which resulted in thread that was not as smooth for weaving.
She married when she was 23 years old and, as she told me, because she married so late she only had 7 children. Cristina Cumes, the coordinator of Cooperativa Quetzalli is one of her daughters.
Julia generally weaves about 5 hours a day and prefers to weave at night when nobody bothers her. She's been a part of the coop since it's inception, but her niche was to make napkins - which she says can get pretty dull. I immediately noticed her shawls when they first started popping up at the Coop and grabbed them for MayaWeavings.
Her weavings are stunning and often employ reverse ikat (jaspe). Normally ikat is formed from figures that have been wrapped to resist the dye and are the color of the underlying thread, often white. In reverse ikat, the wrapping is done on everything except the figure, and the color of the figure becomes the dye color, often indigo.
Once she has designed a weaving and chosen the colors, she asks the Mendozas to create her particular jaspe figures. I asked her if she ever wove anything that came out as a surprise because creating a reverse ikat weaving is akin to playing chess, you must think several steps ahead. In her case, no. But Cristina laughed and said that it certainly had happened to her. Julia Francisca has an incredible eye for color combinations and her weaving is impeccable.
I'm very happy to welcome Julia Francisca as a MayaWeavings Partner.