During my first day in the Arts&Crafts village Toyomi and Polly had mentioned that one of the people working at the Arts&Crafts was a Japanese weaver who had lived in Bolivia for a couple of years before coming back to Japan. The idea of finally speaking Spanish again was almost as exciting of the idea of hearing about her adventures in Bolivia. As soon as I met with Maiko, it was clear that she also was also excited to be able to speak her beloved Spanish again.
Maiko was such an interesting person to talk to, she has so much love for her craft and was very willing to share her impressive knowledge. I was incredibly lucky to learn from Maiko and to share many lovely and meaningful moments with her that week. During our casual conversations she would always come up with things she wanted to show me. Like a lovely book of friends of her where they would use simple and brilliant Scandinavian techniques for textiles.
From all the days that we spent together, the moment that I saw her shine the most was when she was leading a workshop on Bolivian traditional back strap weaving.
After spending some time teaching conventional weaving techniques in Bolivia, Maiko decided to go deeper into the traditional indigenous techniques as they were so appealing and mysterious to her. However being able to contact somebody who was willing to teach her the traditional craft of back strap weaving wasn't easy. First Maiko had to learn the indigenous language and be present until somebody finally accepted her and would share their knowledge with her.
This back strap weaving technique is as simple as it is complex. All you need is your body, some thread, a piece of wood and a small pole as tools. That's all. With these tools you can make such intricate patterns, patterns that in Bolivia all have different meanings which change from region to region. There would be symbols from their culture or things they would dream about. I specially remember one pattern which had scary looking figures. Maiko told me about its origin and if I remember well it has its roots in a ritual of transitioning from childhood to adulthood where kids are left to endure a night on their own. During this night the kids will see all sorts of monsters in the dark that will the be woven into the pattern.
Maiko blended in completely in Bolivia, in the photos she showed me she even looked indigenous Bolivian! I could feel everyday that her melancholic heart was still in that far away country which she had to leave not that long ago.
Another place where Maiko blended in perfectly was when we all went to karaoke and I finally found myself a partner to sing the Spanish version of “Livin’ la vida loca” by Ricky Martin. Thinking back to that night and hearing Maiko sing “Yesterday” by The Beatles continues to bring a smile to my face.
As the week was coming to an end our bond was stronger, I could read easily read Maiko's emotions and felt so much tenderness. She is a craftswoman with a pure, sensitive soul.
Just yesterday Maiko told me that she will soon move from the Art&Crafts Village to start focusing again on traditional Bolivian weaving, which made me very happy and I am sure it will make her too. All the best in your new adventure dear Maiko.