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Learn how to make a decorative fabric piece made by the women of panama, using colored paper, ex-acto knife and glue in the ...
first installment of this how to video
Tags:How to Make a Mola Part 1,art projects,crafts,folk art,how to make a mola,indigenous art,jumbobaystudios,mola,traditional art,traditional dress
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These wonderfully colored fabric pieces are called Molas. They’re made by the women of the San Blas Islands, off the coast of Panama. Typically what they do when they make these reverse appliqués is they’ll either be used for front piece on a dress or they will sell them to the tourist. It’s an interesting culture. The Cuna, they’ve been on those Islands for centuries and it’s basically a matriarchal society which means that the women are the ones that kind of control everything. The women are allowed to own property and the men aren’t. The women get to choose who they want to marry instead of the man getting to choose his wife. And the reason for this is because these Molas brings so much money to their economy and basically their economy is based on the selling of this Molas.
What we’re going to so is in the style of the Molas; we’re actually going to make a Mola out of paper. So what you’re going to need for this project is a variety of colored pieces of paper, a pencil, some sketch paper, some transfer paper which you’ll need, after you do your sketch, you’re going to need to transfer it on to the top sheet of colored paper when we start the Mola. You’re going to an Exacto knife for the cutting because it’s really hard to use a scissors and some glue.
Okay, let’s get started with the planning of our Mola. Subject matter—it can be almost anything, Cuna women will do plants, they’ll do animals, they’ll do kind of abstract designs, they’ll do sea images because they’re an island people, they’ll do birds, so you’ve got a pretty wide range of subject matter to choose from.
What you want to do is when you start this, as you need to think simply when you’re just doing your basic outline because the detail comes as you start to cut out each layer and what you’ll be doing is you’ll have the top layer is the one that we’re going to work on first and it becomes sort of the guide for the rest of the layers serving that are going to be cut out. So it’s like a grid work.
And then that layer would be placed on top of the next color and then we would continue to cut so you want to keep things simple, simple animal, okay or flower, or bird or whatever you choose to do and then their backgrounds are usually lines going vertically in rows. They can be, they also use this kind of maze-like design and their backgrounds, and they do a variation of the vertical lines, they’ll so vertical line and then horizontal lines and then vertical lines and horizontal lines. And there’s one other background pattern that they also use and that’s triangles, just random triangles all placed around in the background, around the main subject matter of the Mola. They also leave a border so when we start our drawing. We’re going to have to make sure we leave a border.
So I think I’m going to ahead and start with a, some kind of a bird. So I always like to start out light so it’s easy to erase if I make a mistake when I’m doing my sketching, okay. Now just keep in mind that the images are the image that you choose to draw doesn’t have to be particularly realistic looking. They will do kind of, their version of what or particular animal might look like. This one is some sort of a sea monster with the pinchers and the face and then there’s a star in the middle and it’s got some kind of a legs but they also look like leaves, so don’t worry about you know, things looking realistic and get caught up in how good your drawing is because the Mola’s about the bright colors and the designs and the background and the patterns within a Mola.
So, let me get back to my bird here, okay. Now, so there we’ve just got the basic bird down on the page and now, I’m going to start on the background designs and I think I’m going to do a combination of a vertical and the horizontal lines, so I’ll so a section of a vertical lines and then I’ll switch to horizontal lines.
Now this part gets a little tricky; what you want to do is you want to start right next to the line that you sketch for your border, okay. And each of these vertical fat lines that you’re making touches your border, okay. So you’ll notice that these three so far have touched my border. And I’m making them kind of fat because we want to be able to—when we cut the top layer out, we want to be able to have enough so that when we put the second color down, when we go and cut that out, we’ll be able to see three colors and you’ll understand that better once we start cutting.
So now I’m going to switch directions here and this one’s going to go right along the edge of the border and then I’m going to do the next one and if it comes close to your animal, you’ll notice how I leave some space between the outline of the animal and the shape that I’ve just drawn, okay. Because all of these get cut out, okay. This part’s really important because this is your top grid and it’s going to determine how everything else works out. I’ll just do some short verticals here. And there we go, okay.
Next step is going to be to pick out the colors that you would like to start with. I’ve got a whole stack of different colored paper here; all really bright colors because typically the Molas are very bright colors and on this one I’ve, on the first one I did, the paper, I used black but they don’t always have to be black, you can pick any colors you want. But I think I’m going to start with the darkest color on top, so I think I’ll start with purple. And you’re going to need a transfer paper or carbon paper. You can still get carbon paper, the transfer paper, actually I bought in the art store and it looks more like pencil when you do the drawing, then carbon looks more like ink and I think it’s easier to erase.
So I’m going to take my sketch and I put my transfer paper on with the dark side down because this is the side that’s going to, when you apply pressure to this side, it’s going to come through.
I’m going to start right there and the reason I started with this one is that sometimes if your paper isn’t exactly the same size, you may end up with, you may have to leave one of your little background shapes out so I sort of anticipated that. But don’t forget you can always erase something, if the shape gets too close to the border, you can fix that when you’re cutting or when you’re drawing and you’ll see what I mean, okay. So I’m going to go over all these and you’ll notice I’m pressing hard.
Now I’m used to doing this but if you’re concerned that the paper might move, I suggest you get some paper clips and just paper clip the three pieces of paper together, that’s all. I just want to give a little peek. Okay, now we get to start the cutting part, that’s the fun part using the Exacto knifes. When you’re cutting, you want to hold the knife just like you would hold your pencil and you want to angle it down towards the table, okay. If you do it like this, you’re going to end up tearing the paper because you’re not really cutting with the blade, you’re cutting with the tip and you’re going to tear the paper. You want it so that this part of the blade is just about resting on the piece of paper so you get these nice, clean cuts, okay.
So, actually I have a piece of card board here, I’m going to place underneath where I’m cutting. So it doesn’t really matter where I start, I think I’ll start with my background. First I’m going to do all the vertical lines and then I’ll come in and do the ones that are horizontal. Cut these and you’ll notice that I turned my paper, okay. This is a really important thing you want to remember to do because it’s much easier to cut from top to bottom than it is to kind of turn your arm because you’re not going to get a good cut, okay. So we can see how we’ve got the first four cuts. It didn’t take that long to get them out of there.
So now I’m going to do some more verticals, work one more vertical, okay. And then I’m going to turn it. See there’s our background, looks pretty cool.