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A new Maya textile tradition

Multicolores, or many-colored, is about as fitting a name as possible for this artist cooperative from central Guatemala. Ecstatically-hued hooked rugs are transformed into pillows, footstools, baskets, and bags, lending an eye-catching pop of color and pattern to any room or outfit. Their hooked rugs are handmade from recycled t-shirts from the United States. Each rug contains approximately 75-125 t-shirts, and if you look closely, you can see bits of texture and pattern: stripes, florals, camouflage, etc. In 2020, Multicolores recycled a total of 6,626 garments otherwise destined for landfills.

The hooked rugs from Multicolores have their origins in the Semana Santa (Easter week) rugs which have adorned the streets of Guatemala for hundreds of years. In their designs, artists blend ancestral Mayan motifs, inspiration from the natural world, and their own imaginations. Each unique rug is designed by an individual artist. Deciphering the artist’s use of lines, geometric shapes, organic forms, and figures can reveal stories, myths, and ancient Mayan ritual practices. For example, zigzags represent mountains and volcanoes; stars reference the importance of astrology in the Mayan belief system; diamonds symbolize the four corners of the universe or the sun’s path through the sky; a two-headed bird (kot or kab-awil) represents life’s dualities, such as looking both into the future and the past, at good and evil, or up to the sky and down to the earth. 

In addition to creating dazzling home and fashion accessories, Multicolores contributes to positive social change within the communities they serve, through economic opportunities and programs that promote leadership, active citizenship, and healthy communities. Most of their artists have become the top income earners in their families. This increased economic independence means they can invest in schooling for themselves and their children, home improvements, quality nutrition, healthcare, and more.