Simbiótica: An Exhibition of Modern Guatemalan Design

10.03.16 | By
Simbiótica: An Exhibition of Modern Guatemalan Design

We recently returned from Antigua, Guatemala where we checked out a first time exhibition called Simbiótica. Simbiótica was brought about to bring a connection between contemporary artists and traditional Guatemalan artisans as a way to expand job opportunities and to show a new approach to the country’s artistic endeavors. The eight artists worked with rural-based, master Guatemalan artisans on a collection that steered them towards more modern designs and the results were pretty incredible. Take a look.


Señores de Xibalbá (beaded mask photography)
Designed and photographed by Manny Rionda
Handmade by Association for Integral Development Buenos Aires – ADIBA

Rionda created a series of portraits, with the handmade masks, inspired by the Xibalbá Lords who ruled the Mayan underworld.




Carrete (wood with maguey tables) & Mazorca (flower vases & candleholders)
Designed by Lorena Velásquez and Ricardo Velásquez of Labrica
Handmade by Integral Development Association for Cotzal Ixil – ADIMIC, Ixil Family Pro-Development Association – APRODEFI, and HORIZONTES SIN LÍMITES IXIL

Taking inspiration from the Ixil region, Labrica created two projects, the Caret tables, which combine maguey, wicker, and tinted wood, and Mazorca, a series of vases and candlesticks that reference a deconstructed corn cob made with beads and wood.




Void (table with mirror structures)
Designed by Mauricio Contreras-Paredes
Handmade by Health and Integral Development for Momostenango – ASDIM

Void is made of plastic fibers and wood that take shape to reference black holes in the universe.



Apolonia (organic wool carpets), Mimbre Screen (wicker waving screen), & Risco (wicker waving lamp)
Designed by Gustavo Quintana and Estefania de Ros of Quintana Ros
Handmade by Asociación de Mujeres Maya Ixil – ADMI and Youth Network of Momostenango – RED JUVEM

Using wood, wicker, and wool, Quintana Ros focused on designing objects that were practical for modern, everyday spaces. The Mimbre pine wood folding screen adds a mirror and wicker woven elements, while the Apolonia begins as a useful rug for the floor and then extends up to become wall art with the addition of the geometric patterns that were inspired by Guatemala’s varying landscapes. And lastly, the Risco lamp displays a solid granite base, a curvy stem, and a wicker shade.



Photo courtesy of Simbiótica

Photo courtesy of Simbiótica

Labe (textile installation)
Designed by Sofía Contreras-Paredes
Handmade by Women’s Association – LAS ROSAS – from Concepción Chiquirichapa, Quetzaltenango

Fashion designer Contreras-Paredes was taken outside her comfort zone when participating in this challenge. Not only was she challenged, she wanted the viewers to be as well with how much they really knew about techniques using a loom.



Blanca (organic wool pieces) & Sarga (chairs with saga textile)
Designed by Luis Arrivillaga and Giulia Basile of Arrivillaga Basile
Handmade by Association of Weaving Women for Integral Development in Chiquirichapa – AMTEDICH and Youth Network of Momostenango – RED JUVEM

Both Arrivillaga and Basile were inspired by the techniques and materials and chose to create pieces that pushed the boundaries and possibilities of what the artisans can usually achieve. The wall textiles incorporate multiple types of stitches in singular pieces, which is normally not done. The artisans were also able to adapt their skills to develop the modern woven components on the Sarga chairs.



Ciudades Paralelas (bead canvas tryptic, coffee tables with resin tops, magazine racks with wool canvas, & organic wool carpet)
Designed by Bárbara Castañeda and Jimena Pons of Workaholic
Handmade by Women’s Association – LAS ROSAS – from Concepción Chiquirichapa, Quetzaltenango and Youth Network of Momostenango – RED JUVEM

After observing the artisan’s techniques using beads and wool, they decided to reinterpret six handmade aluminum structures to become magazine holders when woolen linens were added, and coffee tables when resin was used. In addition to those, they created three beaded linens that share the story between the artists themselves and the artisans.




Largarto (chaise lounge) & Tío Coyote Tío Conejo
Designed by Erick Boror
Handmade by Health and Integral Development for Momostenango – ASDIM and Youth Network of Momostenango – RED JUVEM

Boror designed a reptile-like chaise lounge with a metallic base and woven plastic threads that most would consider dangerous, but in Mayan cultures, it’s a fertility symbol. The wool hanging references magical animals of which Mayan cultures incorporate into various tales and legends.


Caroline Williamson is Editorial Director of Design Milk. She has a BFA in photography from SCAD and can usually be found searching for vintage wares, doing New York Times crossword puzzles in pen, or reworking playlists on Spotify.