Art House Arpilleras

Story telling with foam, felt, fabric scraps and trims.


According to Wikipedia, an arpillera, (which means burlap in Spanish,) is a brightly colored patchwork picture made predominantly by groups of women. Arpilleras originated in Chile as an expression of protest against political and economic injustices during a dictatorship that started in 1973. The sale of these quilted, appliquéd-scenes helped the women who created them earn money from their artistry at a time when there were few other employment opportunities.


Many of the colorful arpilleras that are made today come from Peru or other South American countries that have experienced similar oppression. They are very colorful, and reflect tranquil pastoral scenes of rural life in the Andes mountains. Artists use layering and texture in their designs, with paint and fabrics, to tell their stories by quilting and appliqué work into large, beautiful quilts.

My friend had purchased one from Columbia, where she has family. When I saw it in person, I knew I had to incorporate a similar type of project into my Folk Art session this past Winter. My friend graciously volunteered to the bring the arpillera to my Lunch Bunch of K-2nd grade artists, where they were able to get a close-up look at its beauty and detail.


What's going on in this image? One of the first things my little artists noticed was the number of little pictures on this material that looked like a blanket. They talked about the colors and shapes they could see. They listed the animals, people, buildings, vehicles and natural elements like weather, trees, grass, a pond and mountains. They were able to infer what was happening with the people, whether they were driving, planting, farming, or playing. They also began to identify with the tiny people in the arpillera and compare similar experiences. It was a wonderful lesson, where everyone was energized by what they were seeing and got inspired to make their own arpillera. Check out what they created:

I didn't get pictures of all of them, unfortunately. Their canvas size was 12 x 15" and the landscapes were boldly painted with acrylics. Foam, felt, and fabric were used to illustrate houses, trees, and anything else they could think of to depict their own neighborhoods. They embellished their masterpieces with buttons, ribbons and trims.









My 2nd and 3rd Grade Artists also worked on Arpilleras, but at a larger size of 18 x 18". The few that were able to finish were stunning. But unfortunately, my older students ran out of time in the session. Then Corvid-19 hit...













Overall, I thought this lesson was a huge success. Thank you to my friend, Johanna, for taking the time to show your beautiful Columbian Arpillera to my students. Also, thanks to the folks at https://www.smallhandsbigart.com for inspiring me with a similar project you did with your students a while back. The kids enjoyed this, almost as much as I enjoyed watching each one come to life.








103 Westgate Road

Wellesley, MA 02481

kellisacher@arthouse103.com

A Process-Based Art Studio For Kids

Tel: 781-235-1505

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