Camelia Ramos Zamora
Camelia Ramos Zamora's father, Don Isaac Ramos Padilla passed away in 2010. This true maestro of Mexican weaving will be missed by all who have marveled over the years at his unbelievable creations. Camelia and her husband José, have given their lives to continuing the work of Don Isaac - his story is their story.
The photo above right is the latest of many awards received by Don Isaac Ramos Padilla during his lifetime. It is the Grand Premio (Grand Prize) for the 2008 32nd National Arte Popular Judged Art Show. There are few weavers in Mexico who have achieved this level of fame.
Camelia and José live and work in the pueblo of Malinalco, one of Mexico's most important weaving centers for elaborate and elegant rebozos. What sets the rebozos from Malinalco, Mexico apart from shawls found in other countries is the very fine work of the endings called flecos, puntas or rapacejos.
The finished rebozo is removed from the loom with a few feet of threads hanging from each end. The threads, 1,800 to over 5,000, are imaginatively and intricately worked into knotted patterns according to ancient designs. The most typical patterns are those with dolls, flowers, ducks, deer, or geometric designs. The work is almost exclusively done by women known as empuntadoras, and can take weeks or even months to complete.
The final touch comes with the knot work that makes the fringe of the rebozo. The loose threads on the ends of the woven piece are tied and knotted into intricate designs. Camelia then lovingly folds the rebozo when it is complete and places it in a hand-woven basket that is presented to the buyer of the rebozo.
There are only a handful of rebozo weavers left who use the ancient back-strap loom called a telar de cintura or telar de otate. Since they can only make one rebozo at a time, the work is costly and time consuming. But, it allows for originality in patterns and your rebozo is always one-of-a-kind when woven this way. The Ramos' use ancient designs and weave only on a pre-Hispanic back-strap loom. Their art has been carried on through five generations.
Many of the Ramos' rebozos are done in a technique called ikat - a dying technique that allows the warp to be selectively colored before it is woven. A shrinking market and competition with industrially woven cloth has forced many weavers to stop their production of ikat rebozos as they are very time-consuming and therefore, the prices are higher than other rebozos.
The ikat process (see the series of photos below): The weaver pulls up several cotton threads of the warp, then taking thread, he/she winds the thread around the warp (about 1/4" to 1/2"). This is done over and over again in different locations of the warp until the entire warp has been "knotted" and is ready for dying.
After dying, the knots are removed, leaving undyed white areas. Several different ikat patterns are used. The location of the knots and the position of the warp on the loom determines the pattern.
The warp is then soaked in water for 20 minutes, after which, the water is wrung out. The damp warp is dyed by repeatedly submerging it in a hot dye bath for 20 minutes. Excess dye is removed by twisting a stick that has been inserted in the end of the warp. The ikat-dyed warp is stretched out to dry. Ikat threads alternate with solid threads on the loom. The warp must be frequently adjusted to assure that the ikat - dyed threads form the correct motif as it is being woven.