When Angela Damman and her husband moved from America to Mexico in 2008 they were hoping to build a life that was meaningfully connected to the land. By 2012, Damman, artist turned entrepreneur, had set up a business designing and making bags, cushions and rugs, with every process, from growing the plants, extracting their fibres, drying, dyeing, spinning and weaving, all within a 50-mile radius of her home in Yucatán.
For everything she designs and makes, Damman mainly uses two materials, Henequén ( similar to sisal but not as strong) and sansevieria (often known as mother-in-law’s tongue). Henequén, Mexico’s green gold, yields a fibre ideal for rope and twine. It was used by the Mayans to make string, hammocks, and rugs - all present in Angela Damman’s lexicon. The nineteenth century boom in henequén production made Yucatán, which was producing almost all of the rope used in the world at that time, one of the richest states in Mexico. But the industry all but disappeared with the introduction of synthetic fibres. Sansevieria, the other plant Damman uses, has a reputation as an almost indestructible houseplant. Not native to Mexico, it was cultivated because of its strong and resilient fibres which are softer and finer than the native henequén, making it ideal for thread making. Damman’s Brujar bucket bag, made with spun sansevieria fibre, nicely plays on this sense of fineness, and with unapologetic show is lavishly layered with 1500 fringes.
A combination of skilled labour, imagination, and appreciation of Mexican style and contemporary design aesthetics are what gives Angela Damman’s tactile accessories their appeal. This cultural hybridity, found in Mexico’s cuisine, agriculture, architecture and visual culture, is central to her designs. From hammocks made from handspun sansevieria thread, to pom-pom like fringed bags, her sense of luxury, style and personality, as well as a sense of the place she now calls home, is writ large across her pieces.
This issue, we are offering Selvedge readers the chance to win an Angela Damman luxury hangbag, worth £365. To enter, please click here.