Linda Ligon, publisher of Thrums Books, holds Maya Threads: A Woven History of Chiapas, which was the winner of the 2016 Benjamin Franklin Gold Award for excellence in editorial content, photography and design. Joel Blocker for BizWest

Thrums Books: Ligon finds the stories behind the art

Thrums Books is dedicated to preserving the narrative of traditional textiles and their makers. The content ranges from history and cultural anthropology to intimate personal stories. Joel Blocker / for BizWest
Thrums Books is dedicated to preserving the narrative of traditional textiles and their makers. The content ranges from history and cultural anthropology to intimate personal stories.
Joel Blocker / for BizWest

LOVELAND — Linda Ligon started Thrums Books in 2012 with a passion for textiles and the worlds they come from. She’s spent decades in the textile world — on the publishing side as well as the weaving, spinning, knitting and crocheting side.

With Thrums Books, she’s focused on publishing the stories of cultures as they’re expressed through traditional crafts.

Ligon’s publishing history began when she founded Interweave Press in 1975. The company started with a regional craft publication, Interweave. Although she sold the company, which now owns and operates more than 30 publications and 350 art and craft books, Ligon continues to work there in an advisory role.

She decided to take her love of textiles in yet another direction in 2011 by launching ClothRoads, a global textile marketplace. The company features collectible indigenous textiles, fabrics and fiber art materials from around the world.

ClothRoads provides the opportunity for people to own handcrafted art and for indigenous artisans, especially women and girls, to support themselves through their art.

A year later, Ligon started Thrums Books, the sister company of ClothRoads. Thrums publishes books that don’t have enough commercial potential for larger publishing houses such as Interweave to consider but Ligon sees the content as vital.

Thrums Books tell the stories behind the art. The mission is to preserve the narrative of traditional textiles and their makers.

“Textiles tell what a culture is about,” Ligon said. “My interest is in the textiles but also in the people who make them — the humanity behind the work.”

To find the stories, she seeks out opportunities to explore various cultures through their craftspeople in places such as Guatemala, Afghanistan, Mexico and Peru. The books document cultures such as Maya, Inca and Chiapas through artisans that carry on the traditional textile practices through their art.

“We look at parts of the world where people are still expressing their traditional culture,” Ligon said, “and we’re documenting and honoring that.”

She’s currently working with an author in Afghanistan to do just that.

“It’s one of the poorest countries in the world, and women have a really hard time there,” she said. “They have limited opportunities, but they can embroider, which is a very ancient textile tradition.”

The book will highlight the work these 300 women do together to preserve their culture. All revenue goes back to the women.

“We recently published a book called ‘Traditional Weavers of Guatemala.’ The author went into the homes of women and some men to make baskets and other traditional crafts,” Ligon said. “These people aren’t just making a living — they’re preserving their culture.”

Another book on the Thrums list is “Faces of Tradition: Weaving Elders of the Andes.” The book blends photos and personal stories from elder weavers in the Cusco region of the Peruvian Andes. The stories tell of lifetimes developing endurance, skill, fortitude and pride — all around the textile traditions of the region.

The word “thrums” is a weaving term that defines the threads left over when a piece of fabric is cut off a loom.

Thrums currently publishes two to four books a year with print runs of 3,000. Its first book, “Weaving in the Peruvian Highlands: Dreaming Patterns, Weaving Memories,” has sold close to 8,000 copies.

One of Ligon’s goals is to educate people about how cultures are kept alive through the continuation of traditional textile artisans.

“We’re documenting and getting these books into the hands of people who care about these things,” she said, “and we’re trying to increase knowledge about it.”

She’s always on the lookout for the next great book.

“I do a lot of networking to find authors who are embedded in the culture rather than who are anthropologists,” she said.

Ligon just came from meeting with a group called Weave a Real Peace (WARP). “They’re a loose organization of people who also work with indigenous cultures,” she said. “I met someone there who’s well connected.”

WARP offers a forum for individuals and groups that are interested in supporting longstanding textile traditions as a means for cultural preservation and economic development.

In other words, right up Ligon’s alley.

“When you see how important it is to these craftsmen to have the outside world recognize their work and treat it with respect,” she said, “that makes it all worthwhile.”


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