Beloved for its vibrant, rainbow-colored flora and fauna, Otomi embroidery can be found gracing everything from headboards to ottomans to table runners in the design world. And while it’s gained popularity in recent years, this style of needlework has actually been around for generations.
“Otomi embroidery is a unique embroidered practice that has been passed down for generations to women of Otomi descent,” says Yvette Perez, a Mexican-American designer and founder of Finding Vettey, which sells Otomi-clad home decor, accessories, and children’s items. “Originally created in Tenango de Doria, Hidalgo, Mexico, Otomi embroidery is said to be inspired by the natural surroundings of Mexico.” It also bears hallmarks of Spanish and Aztec influence, a reflection of the history of Mexico as a country.
The style (which is named for its original creators, Mexico’s indigenous Otomi people) was largely popularized in the 1960s after drought in the region forced farming communities to turn to alternate work. But its roots go back much deeper: “Some say that it’s similar to the designs that have been found in caves thousands of years ago,” Perez says. The process of creating this embroidery is doubly intricate: It involves hand-drawn Otomi designs—done by artisans who are typically women—which are later hand-embroidered.
Perez sees her work as honoring her Mexican ancestors, including her grandmother, a seamstress who “made a living hand-making clothing and other textile products.” This inherited passion left Perez with a deep appreciation for the art of embroidery.
When it comes to decorating spaces with Otomi embroidery, interior stylist Soluna Paz—who is Mexican on her mother’s side, and German and Irish on her father’s side—does so often. “Whether incorporating a throw pillow here or a tapestry piece there, the intricate lively patterns and vibrant colors of Otomi embroidery instantly bring me to a “happy place,” says Paz. These designs keep her “connected to [her] Mother’s land, of what we Mexicans refer to as “Mexico lindo y querido,” which means “beautiful and beloved Mexico.”
Not only does Paz incorporate Otomi embroidery into her designs as a way of honoring her heritage, she also uses her creations “as a platform to further educate and explore endless possibilities to inspire and be inspired.” The interior stylist herself feels that there is still so much more that she wants “to learn and share about the culture.”
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Mexican artisan Alexa Topete continues the legacy of Otomi embroidery with her own home decor creations, which are available for purchase through her company, ByHandMexico. “I admired the artisan communities and the families working every day to preserve this wonderful Mexican tradition,” says Topete. “I wanted to take part in creating greater opportunities for these wonderful, artistic families.”
And while there may be many knockoffs of the handmade textiles on the market, these versions completely miss the mark of what makes Otomi so special: “So much goes into making each piece, from choosing the fabrics, to the drawing of the design by master artisans, to the hand-painted threads and the detailed embroidery work,” says Topete. “Each piece is meticulously hand-crafted and stitched with precision to depict its own unique story, which is tied to deep-rooted history and heritage”—and that attention to detail and the past is integral to the style.
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