Almost every ancient culture has a unique way of storytelling, teaching and recording cultural events. Narratives that portray the intricacies and details of everyday life, spiritual teachings and important historical events can be seen on colorful, decorative rugs and cloths- from the artful Thangkas created in places like Tibet, Northeast China and Russia (Kalmykia, Buryatia, and Tuva), pandau created by the Hmong of Laos - to the Mexican story cloths created by the indigenous people of Michoacán, known as the Purépecha.
The Purépecha story cloths are vibrant, handmade portrayals of events such as fiestas, religious holidays, weddings, baptisms and the Mexican holiday, Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead). The women of the Tzintzantzun area also make Mexican story cloths to reflect the sociologies of everyday village life. Depictions of rural farming and fishing life are commonly displayed on many of the Purépecha story cloths.
Decorative Mexican story cloths are made on a rough-textured cotton fabric that is called manta. The fabric is 100% natural unbleached cotton, also known as “cotton crudo", “wild cotton” or organic cotton. Typically it is used in the production of men’s shirts, called guayaberas. The cotton fiber is sturdier, more loosely woven and cool. The women of the Tzintzantzun area wash the manta in order to bring a softness to the very rigid material. Since natural dye does not adhere favorably to the manta, this cotton is dyed commercially and can be found in a plethora of color options such as black, red, blue, yellow, pink and white.
The talented artists who create these embroidered story cloths utilize mercerized thread in very bright colors, and hand needles of different lengths and levels of thickness. Wooden embroidery hoops are used to keep the thread taut while the artist is skillfully at work. Traditionally, the methods of back, single, double cross and double chain stitching is utilized to create the cloth. Yarn is alternately used when decorating the fabric. The motifs are completely boundless and follow no special pattern at all. It is up to the imagination and creativity of the maker to deliver a unique work of art.
Folk art tradition is very important to the creators of this medium. The development of Mexican story cloths has been handed down from generation to generation among the women of Tzintzantzun, Michoacán. Some women have even chosen to enter concursos (judged shows) where they can win prizes for their craft work. The pride and skill in their workmanship can easily be seen within the details and vibrancy of their art.
Michoacán story cloth textiles have a very practical and aesthetically appealing use in every day contemporary home design. They come available in a variety of different sizes, shapes and colors that can be framed to create the perfect, unique conversational wall piece for your home. Mexican story cloths can also be made into decorative throw pillows that will boldly brighten and pair with any design or space. They are great way to bring the beauty of the Purépecha culture into your home. For our current selection of story cloths, look here.