At ten years old, Julio Laja Chichicaxtle’s grandmother taught him how to make manteles, a type of traditional Mexican tablecloth with ancient roots in the region of Puebla, Mexico, where he was born. “When I was little,” says Chichicaxtle, “I knew this type of craftsmanship was going to influence my life in the future because it has always been what I have known.” Over the years, he fine-tuned his creative practice, and when he married, his wife joined him in determining design and layout, and also in making textiles. Today, his children are learning the family tradition, which has long-standing roots in Puebla. Chichicaxtle also mentions, “in the future, my family will have knowledge of this work, my daughter is learning to work it.”
Design influences range from fish and birds, flowers, the moon and sun, and any number of abstracted designs and symbols. Sometimes these are actualized in ecstatic, vivid rainbow-hues across a single mantele, while in other cases, a single color of sunshine yellow or turquoise, for example, is the only hue. Fabric used is high-quality, 100% cotton, purchased from various regional purveyors. Embroidery thread, used to formulate patterns and other motifs, is also cotton. Chichicaxtle uses a tool called a drum, wose wood or plastic base helps steady the fabric and allows the embroidery needle to pass through more easily.
In Puebla, mantiles are used for various things besides table coverings. Chichicaxtle produces a range of both functional and decorative items, including bedcoverings, wall décor, and placemats. In producing consistently high-quality textiles which incorporate traditional techniques, Julio Laja Chichicaxtle has ensured that his work and his reputation will endure for years to come.