My favorite thing about spending time with Ilene is listening to her powerful story-telling. One tale that almost always comes to mind when people ask me about the history of some of her pieces is one of a Guatemalan-style Romeo and Juliet. The tunic you see below symbolizes the story through its motifs. Ilene heard the story firsthand from Guatemalan natives when she was purchasing textiles there years ago and then she passed it along to me. Here’s how it goes:
There were two young lovers who lived on opposite sides of a mountain in Guatemala. Though they were madly in love, their villages disliked each other and therefore, the match was viewed as unsuitable. The two defied their families and friends however, and sent secret letters back and forth via birds. They would also sneakily cross the mountains that separated their villages to be with each other. How their story ended (this version at least) I’m not sure- this is all that Ilene told me about the tunic and the story.
Luckily for us, there are other versions of the story that give us some insight into how things went down for these ill-fated lovers. Check out this article where the boy and girl had to cross a lake instead of a mountain and this bizarre version involving a circus performer, someone getting sent off to Spain for college, and a death from a broken heart. (Ps- Nicholas Sparks- If you’re interested in a collaboration, give me a call.)
I’d like to think that this star-crossed Guatemalan couple’s story is a combination of all three versions. Of course, that’s the beauty of old, oral story-telling- lots of versions, varying details, and colorful language.
We treasure this piece from the Baxter Mill Archive for its craftsmanship, its aesthetic beauty, and for the people who crafted it.
Stay tuned for more from the Baxter Mill Archive!
PS- Here are some more Guatemalan goodies!