(photo by Manny Rionda)

A Maya backstrap weaver (all photos by Manny Rionda)

Weaving with the help of backstrap or belt looms is a Maya textile tradition dating back centuries that endures to this day in parts of Central America. In parts of Guatemala, Maya women continue this ancient practice and have adapted it to the creation of less traditional clothes and accessories by incorporating contemporary design elements. One of the people who has helped popularize this fusion of styles and aesthetics is Alida Boer, a former Miss Guatemala who in 2012 founded the handbag company Marias.

A Mayan backstrap weaver

A Maya backstrap weaver

On Thursday, Boer along with Marias creative director Edgar Navarro, Guatemalan textile artists Indri Paola Reanda Vásquez and José Isaias Tiney Sisay, and former Women’s Wear Daily editor Mayte Allende will discuss the unique challenges of melding historical textile techniques with contemporary production methods, and how today’s fashion industry can help to preserve and nurture traditional artisan communities. Hosted by the Americas Society / Council of the Americas, the talk will be followed by a walkthrough of both traditional Maya weaving techniques and handcrafted handbag creation, and a ritual performance.

When: Thursday, May 17, 6–8:30pm
Where: Americas Society / Council of the Americas (680 Park Avenue, Upper East Side, Manhattan)

More info at the Americas Society.

Benjamin Sutton is an art critic, journalist, and curator who lives in Park Slope, Brooklyn. His articles on public art, artist documentaries, the tedium of art fairs, James Franco's obsession with Cindy...