Deborah Kruger

The Making of Huipil

I have just finished my first huipil-inspired piece titled Huipil Blanco. Many of my pieces gestate for a long time and Huipil Blanco was no exception. Like in my piece Kimono, I used the huipil, a traditional women’s blouse, as my inspiration. The references included images of Frida Kahlo’s clothing that are now on view at her museum in Mexico City.

Frida Kahlo outfit
Huipil reference materials
Huipil Blanco, full view

An Inspirational trip to Chiapas...

In April 2019, I visited Chiapas for the first time. San Cristóbal de las Casas (also known by its Tzotzil name, Jovel), a Spanish colonial city, is the center of this colorful textile region.

San Cristobal street view

The highlight of the trip was visiting the Textile Museum, which houses thousands of garments and hundreds of huipils woven and embroidered in Chiapas and Oaxaca, Mexico and also nearby Guatemala.

Textile Museum of Chiapas, huipil view 1
Textile Museum of Chiapas, huipil view 2

The indigenous population of Chiapas is largely Mayan and many Mayan languages are still spoken.  The women wear furry black skirts and colorful huipil blouses. During the trip, I met a linguist moon-lighting as as tour guide. He taught at the University of Chiapas and ended up helping me collect four Mayan languages for my text: Tzotzil, Zoque, Cho’lol and Yakme (look for an upcoming blog about our calligraphy!).

Mayan girl in traditional fur skirt

And Huipil Blanco was born...

I wasn’t as confident about my ability to handle white as I am with strong colors, so I decided to make a smaller piece as an experiment. My interest in making a smaller piece coincided with my musings about huipils and thus Huipil Blanco was born! 

In order to create a large white piece, I realized I needed a big inventory of feathers. Beginning this summer, my screen-printing team began producing hundreds of sheets of primarily white feathers. Although I love working with saturated colors, every few pieces I take a break and create a white piece. Kansai, Abandon and Vortex all fall into this ongoing series of largely white pieces.

Artist working on piece
Screen prints on wall
Assistants working on piece

I decided to sew a wrapped cord onto the top of the piece to define the edge as I had done with Accidentals. I also echoed the vertical stripes that frequently appear in the weaving of traditional huipils.

As Huipil Blanco was taking shape, I was contacted by a gallery in Madrid that wants to represent my work at art fairs in Europe. The first fair will be in Paris in late January. They wanted smaller work and chose two pieces from my Cambodia series. Since they wanted a third piece, I will add Huipil Blanco to the crate going to Madrid in early January. I’m curious to see how my work will be received in Spain and France.

Wrapped cord before sewing onto the piece

I definitely see Huipil Blanco as the beginning of new series, so stay tuned for more Huipils!