Co-op teaches art techniques through making mola designs 

co-op xochitl-uma1

Five girls snipped, arranged and glued colorful pieces of paper together to make designs for art projects last week at the Central Minnesota Art Co-op in Princeton, their focus on molas.

Mola is a Kuna word for blouse, but mola has also come to mean the elaborately embroidered panels that make up the front and back of a Kuna woman’s blouse.

The Kuna are the native people who live on small islands in the San Blas Archipelago along the Atlantic coast of Panama and Columbia. Molas have become desirable by folk art collectors and other just appreciating their beauty.

Amanda Loidolt, the teacher of the class last week for children ages 8-11, explained how geometric patterns, some symmetrical and some not, are widely used in designing the molas. Loidolt said the common practice in making the molas is a reverse applique. Many of the scenes on molas reflect nature – animals, flowers and plants, for example. Multiple layers of cloth are hand sewn together in the process. The designs are formed by cutting away parts of layers and the edges of each layer is turned down and stitched.

Making a mola textile is very time consuming and Loidolt said she plans to make one. When she does, she expects it will take her at least a year. Loidolt called the mola art “very intricate,” and “world famous.”

Because of the difficulty of making fabric molas, Loidolt had the children in her class (it ran two hours per day, for five days) make designs in paper as if they were making designs for cloth molas.

They made two paper mola designs – one with an animal theme and one with flowers.

Loidolt and her students first made a master stencil (a different one for each child) for each of their projects. They would then use a pencil to follow around the stencil to transfer the design to a sheet of colored paper. They could make their design larger or smaller than the stencil, as long as they drew their lines parallel to the stencil border.

The students then cut out their pieces of paper and applied them as layers, using glue. Loidolt also had each student make a border for their paper mola design.

“I came across the (mola) idea as a student teacher,” Loidolt said. “It’s great to see all the (art) elements (being done).”

She explained that through the project the children were learning sketching, how different colors work together and about overlapping elements. Some colors complement each other and when certain colors are next to each other they “pop” in intensity, she added.