INTERNATIONAL AMBASSADOR ENCOURAGES STUDENTS TO EXPRESS THEMSELVES WITH MAYAN GLYPHS

Anthrodesign, Children, Design, El Salvador, Graphic Design, New Maya Language, Washington DC

POSTED ON OCTOBER 7, 2015

INTERNATIONAL AMBASSADOR ENCOURAGES STUDENTS TO EXPRESS THEMSELVES WITH MAYAN GLYPHS

Milagros Reyes, a 13-year-old from Buck Lodge Middle School in Hyattsville, was fascinated when she learned about a “mini version” of Pompeii in El Salvador.

She had been creating a story using Mayan glyphs, which she learned from Frida Larios, an award-winning typographic artist from El Salvador

Larios works as an artist and ambassador for the International Indigenous Design Network. She collaborates with cultural institutions in El Salvador, as well as at the Salvadoran embassy in Washington, where she facilitates workshops that encourage young Salvadorans in the U.S. to embrace their native culture through art.

She brought this knowledge to campus Tuesday as a part of “Imaging Homeland and Belonging.” The event took place in Stamp Student Union’s Art and Learning Center.

The workshop attracted a large and diverse group of students.

For those of Latino/a heritage, and it provided an opportunity for them to reflect on [part of] their cultural roots and their idea of home.

For Frankie Jovel, a senior and a member of Lambda Theta Phi, a Latino fraternity on campus, this event helped him get closer to his Salvadoran heritage.

“This motivates me to look into my culture,” Jovel said. He was using the glyphs to write a sentence about corn tamales, which he said he loves to eat.

As an introduction to the event, Larios presented on Mayan culture and history, in which she discussed the meaning of the ancient glyphs and distributed a colorful guide that showed the various designs along with their English meanings.

“The Mayas were such thinkers. They are the ones who invented the number zero. They had a whole cosmology with constellations and stars. They domesticated corn and they invented chocolate. We owe a lot of things to the Maya. So we need to learn about them like we learn about the Greeks,” Rodríguez said.

Larios said she wants to show that Mayan glyphs are deeply rooted within people of Central American origin.

“We are genetically drawn to these forms due to the fact that the [Mesoamerican Indigenous] lived 2,000 years—maybe less—but the time we were colonized was even shorter. We belong to the region. We are natives. By exposing young people to the language, there is greater capacity for learning, because there’s empathy,” Larios said.

With the help of archaeological experts, Larios is working to [preserve] Mayan script. She is illustrating in bright, contemporary style that is immediately attractive.

One of her projects is a children’s book titled, The Village that was Buried by an Erupting Volcano, which she wrote and illustrated using Mayan glyphs. The book tells the story of an indigenous Mayan village in El Salvador preserved under volcanic ash for nearly 1,500 years.

Known as the Joya de Cerén Archaeological Park, this village is now an UNESCO World Heritage Site.

“That’s my mission—to transmit cultural heritage in a ludic, interpretative manner, using design as a tool,” Larios said.

She also designed the uniforms that the Salvadoran team wore to the 2015 pan-American games in Toronto. The uniforms, which were inspired by traditional Salvadoran costumes, were white and blue and adorned with ancient Mayan symbols.

However, Larios says it isn’t easy to encourage people in El Salvador to wear traditional costumes.

“It was a challenge because of the lack of attachment to traditional costumes. It’s a stigma. It’s persecution against indigenous peoples because they represent the peasant class, the class that [historically started] upheavals,” Larios said.

Featured Photo Credit: Belqui Ríos, a senior family science major taking a course called “Great Themes of the Hispanic Literatures; Home, Homeland and Be/longings in U.S. Latina/o Texts.” For students like Ríos, the workshop provided an opportunity to reflect on their cultural roots and the idea of home. (Gabriela Martinez/For The Bloc)

Gabriela Martinez is a communications graduate assistant at the College of Arts and Humanities and may be reached at gcmdavila@gmail.com

Talk: Ancient glyphs inspiring new Maya design at the Smithsonian Latino Center

Anthrodesign, Art, El Salvador, Guatemala, Talk, Washington DC

Published by Hola Cultura, Washington, DC, June, 2015

A Maya-inspired design by Frida Larios. Photo by Oliver Garretson

A Maya-inspired design by Frida Larios. Photo by Tyler Orsburn

At the Smithsonian Latino Center recently, two designers decked out in colorful Central American outfits discussed how the ancient art of their Mayan ancestors influences their work; a design methodology that goes beyond  artistic endeavor.

Frida Larios, an ambassador for the International Design Network, is the creator of the New Maya Language; a multimedia design project. She is an author, lecturer, facilitator, typography consultant and educational product designer. Originally from El Salvador, she sported a contemporary tunic styled with modernized indigenous symbols at the May 28 talk.

Manuel León is a multimedia graphic designer originally from Chichicastenago, Guatemala. He is the owner of the design studio Potencial Puro and the art director and website designer for the United States Institute of Peace.León was dressed head-to-toe in traditional Maya clothing.

While the indigenous regalia looked a bit out of place in the conference room of the Center’s Southwest Washington D.C. office building, they had the full attention of the small audience of Smithsonian staffers and others who take special interest in Latino or indigenous cultures.

Larios and León are in the midst of creating a Maya design collective dedicated to Maya knowledge, symbolism, and preservation of their identity as indigenous people.

Their similar methodologies and values brought them together. They draw a deep influence from the Maya to inspire new art forms, while using ancient symbolism as a means to inspire people of Mayan descent to take an interest in their rich cultural heritage. They look to inspire others to take an interest in their heritage as Mayans and build a common understanding of its relevance. It’s a design methodology that could be used with other indigenous cultures to help people discover aspects of their identity in the same way it helped Larios delve more deeply into her identity as a Salvadorian, she said.

By reinterpreting ancient symbols they aim to breath new life into them. Larios said they envision their Maya design collective will “preserve our heritage and make it relevant to today’s citizens, using design as a bridge.”

In other words, design is the medium through which they connect the past and the present by adapting the Mayan visual language in a way that is understood in today’s world. These changes could be seen as the changes any language goes through over the course of time. Likewise, adaptation prevents Mayan hieroglyphics from becoming merely the subject material for history books.

For Larios, pictograms are stories. In some of her work she utilizes pictograms everyone knows, like a skull and crossbones. Then, integrates this common symbol into modern symbols to create a new idea—a new Maya language. These symbols are incorporated into her various mediums such as clothing, jewelry, and art prints.

Manuel León, Awakening Ocelote

Manuel León, Awakening Ocelote

For León, his work is much more than art; philosophy inspires the story behind his visual designs. He said the book “Ensueños Cosmovisión Del Maiz” by Daniel Matul is a particularly guiding aspect with regard to his philosophy. Of the designs he presented, an image of an ocelot with four points stands out; a traditional glyph of an ocelot reinterpreted in mid-yawn. León named this visual interpretation “Awakening Ocelot”.

When asked how their work is perceived by the natives and community, they agreed it was welcomed, particularly children thoroughly enjoy it. Despite the interest children show in their work, they noted that there is certain competition when it comes inspiring children to take an interest in their cultural heritage. This competition comes from pop-culture phenomena, such the booming superhero movie franchises.

What is known of the Maya glyphs is largely from Archeological study. Larios’ and León’s reinterpretations often begin from these archeological interpretations. The Spanish Conquest was a breaking point in Maya culture; their language and the related knowledge of hieroglyphs were lost. Larios and León are trying to construct a conceptual bridge between the past and the
present.

“What you see here is not even the tip of the iceberg,” said Larios, referring to an entire lexicon of glyphs waiting to be integrated into a modern symbolism.

—Oliver Garretson

Celebrate #HispanicHeritageMonth with author @FridaLarios. Join us today at 2pm!

Anthrodesign, Archaeological Site, Book, Children, El Salvador, Joya de Cerén, Reading, Washington DC

Published on Wednesday, September 17, 2014 – 9:49am

Celebre el Mes de la Herencia Hispana con la autora Frida Larios
Frida Larios

puzzle

Join us Saturday, Sept. 20 at 2 p.m. as author Frida Larios presents her book, The Village That Was Buried by an Erupting Volcano along with a workshop on the New Maya Language with the Green Child wooden puzzle.

Acompáñenos el sábado 20 de septiembre a las 2 p.m. donde la autora Frida Larios presentara su libro, La Aldea que fue Sepultada por un Volcán en Erupción, con un taller del Nuevo Lenguaje Maya.

Frida Larios — “The Village That Was Buried by an Erupting Volcano” #Boulder Book Store signing

Anthropology, Colorado, Design, El Salvador, Graphic Design, Joya de Ceren, Maya, New Maya Language

Start: 10/02/2014 6:30 pm

Frida Larios will speak about and sign her new book, The Village That Was Buried by an Erupting Volcano, on Thursday, October 2nd at *6:30pm*, Boulder Book Store.

Frida Larios will speak about and sign her new book, The Village That Was Buried by an Erupting Volcano, on Thursday, October 2nd at *6:30pm*.

Frida Larios will speak about and sign her new book, The Village That Was Buried by an Erupting Volcano, on Thursday, October 2nd at *6:30pm*.

About the Book:
The Village that was Buried by an Erupting Volcano, written in Spanish and English, is the real story about a community of Maya Indigenous peoples buried and preserved under volcanic ash for nearly 1500 years. This children’s picture book opens with a foreword by the site’s archaeologist, Dr. Payson Sheets from University of Colorado Boulder.

Vouchers to attend are $5 and are good for $5 off the author’s featured book or a purchase the day of the event. Vouchers can be purchased in advance, over the phone, or at the door. Readers Guild Members can reserve seats for any in-store event.

Location:
1107 Pearl St
Boulder, Colorado
80302
United States

Event Image:

Frida Larios -- "The Village That Was Buried by an Erupting Volcano"

Frida, Maya Language and Joya de Cerén [English version]

Art, Design, Frida Larios, Graphic Design, Indigenous, Language, New Maya Language, Sustainable Design
SAMSUNG CSC

Frida Larios’s murals at the Joya de Cerén Archaeological Park

Note: This article was originally published in Spanish on the blogs of El Faro newspaper in San Salvador, El Salvador.

Thank you, HondurasWeekly.com for translating to a wider audience./

Written by  Miguel Huezo Mixco

Ancestral heritage needs to reinvent itself, or die. Design, with its ability to synthesize and develop, interpret and create realities, is a powerful tool for representing and reviving our past. For these purposes, Frida Larios has created a “new Maya language.” The past is not a “sacred” place. The gods did not inspire the creators of the Temple of the Great Jaguar in Tikal, and the sculptors of the stelae at Copán. Neither artisans at Joya de Cerén. The “sacred” becomes untouchable and just an elected group possesses the power to change it. Such ideas produce arbitrary behavior.

The demolition of Fernando Llort’s mural, in 2011, was attempted to be justified by saying it contained signs outside the Catholic tradition, and the artist was accused of commercially promoting himself, as if that was sin. You have to be alert when there is pontification in the name of religion or science…

It is worth remembering these sad events, because now some sustain that the mural of Frida Larios in Joya de Ceren Archaeological Park in San Juan Ópico, El Salvador, is a kind of profanation to the spirit of the ancestors. Many of us do not think alike, and believe that the mural has given a new shine to that extraordinary place.

Because in El Salvador there has not been a constructive debate on the social uses of heritage, the idea prevails that the valuation of the past is an exclusive power of historians, archaeologists and restorers. But we must not forget that artists have a central role in this task. In this case, design in its many branches, is crucial so that more people appreciate and preserve their patrimonial heritage; as García Canclini says so that “the past has a future”.

The mural offers a version of the destruction of the ancient settlement of Joya de Ceren by a volcanic eruption, which occurred in the seventh century AC, with iconography sustained on the graph of the old village artisans. The enhancement of Joya de Ceren’s World Heritage, happens, among other reasons, for the need of the historian and archaeologist’s account to intersect and be combined with the artist’s.

El Salvador has a rich cultural heritage that is still undervalued and under enhanced. In part, because the matter has been addressed with a conservationist strategy. Cultural policy has a huge challenge to be linked conceptually to other networks, such as tourism, mass communication, entertainment, and with the social context of inequality and poverty that serves as a framework. This will open to us the possibilities offered by new languages, including art, so that the past matters to us, so that it becomes actual. (8/30/14)

Children’s book: The Village that was Buried by an Erupting Volcano by @fridalarios

Design, El Salvador, Frida Larios, Language, New Maya Language, Washington DC

Publicado para los niños y niñas de mesoamérica el 6 de marzo de 2014 por la Dirección Nacional de Patrimonio Cultural, Secretaría de Cultura de la Presidencia, con el apoyo de Boquitas DIANA de Centroamérica./Published for all Mesoamerican boys and girls on march 6, 2014 by the Dirección Nacional de Patrimonio Cultural, Secretaría de Cultura de la Presidencia, with the support of DIANA de Centroamérica.

Versión trilingüe: español, inglés y pictoglifos© del Nuevo Lenguaje Maya©. Con una actividad de cortar, pegar y crear pictoglifos©/Trilingual version: English, Spanish and New Maya Language© pictoglyphs©. With a cut, paste and pictoglyph© creation activity.

La Aldea que fue Sepultada por un Volcán en Erupción es la verdadera historia acerca de una comunidad de población Indígena maya que fue sepultada y preservada por ceniza volcánica por casi 1500 años. Abriendo con un prefacio del Dr. Payson Sheets, arqueólogo del sitio, fue escrita e ilustrada por Larios. La narrativa fue inspirada en su primer hijo Yax (el Niño Verde) y el sitio arqueológico Patrimonio de la Humanidad de UNESCO: Joya de Cerén. 

The Village that was Buried by an Erupting Volcano is the real story about a community of Maya Indigenous peoples buried and preserved under volcanic ash for nearly 1500 years. Opening with a foreword by the site’s archaeologist, Payson Sheets, PhD, it was written and illustrated by Larios. The narrative was inpired by her first son Yax (the Green Child) and the UNESCO World Heritage Joya de Cerén archaeological site. 
PREFACIO

Estoy contento y honrado de escribir un prefacio al maravilloso libro de niños de Frida Larios sobre el antiguo pueblo maya de Joya de Cerén. Debido a que personas de todas la edades vivían y jugaban en su pueblo Maya hace unos 1400 años, desde bebés y niños hasta los adultos y las personas mayores, es oportuno que la información sobre la vida en la aldea se difunda a los salvadoreños y de todas las edades. Estoy profundamente satisfecho de que Frida Larios ha escrito e ilustrado este libro para que los niños pueden aprender sobre su herencia profunda desde hace tantos siglos. En Joya de Cerén vemos las raíces de las familias salvadoreñas de hoy. Y las necesidades básicas
de las familias de hoy en día son muy parecidas a las de ayer, ya que los padres necesitan alimentar y vestirse a ellos mismos y sus hijos, y proporcionar refugio. Ellos necesitan almacenar y procesar los alimentos, y tienen que cooperar con sus vecinos para el mejoramiento de todos. Es mi esperanza que este cautivante libro sea ampliamente disponible para los salvadoreños y otros que visitan el sitio arqueológico, y en muchos otros lugares en todo el país. Todos tenemos una deuda de gratitud con Frida Larios.

Payson Sheets, PhD
Profesor del Departamento de Antropología Universidad de Colorado, Boulder, EE. UU.

FOREWORD

I am pleased and honored to write a foreword to Frida Larios’ wonderful child’s book about the ancient Maya village of Joya de Ceren. Because all ages of people lived and played in their Maya village about 1400 years ago, from babies and children to adults and the elderly, it is appropriate that information about life in the village be disseminated to Salvadorans of all ages today. I am deeply gratified that Frida Larios has written and illustrated this book so children can learn about their deep heritage from so many centuries ago. At Joya de Ceren we see the roots of Salvadoran families of today. And the basic needs of today’s families are much like those of today, as parents need to feed and clothe themselves and their children, and provide shelter. They need to store and process food, and they need to cooperate with their neighbors for the betterment of all. It is my hope that this compelling book be widely available to Salvadorans and others that visit the archaeological site, and in many other venues all across the country. We all owe a debt of gratitude to Frida Larios.

Payson Sheets, Phd
Professor, Department of Anthropology University of Colorado, Boulder, USA 

Front Cover

Front Cover

End paper

End paper

Foreword

Foreword

Story page 1

Story page 1

Bio and summary

Bio and summary

End paper

End paper

Taller en el sitio

Taller en el exterior del Centro de Interpretación del parque arqueológico de Joya de Cerén con niños del Colegio Alfonsina Storni del Sitio del Niño

Taller en el sitio

Taller en el exterior del Centro de Interpretación del parque arqueológico de Joya de Cerén con niños del Colegio Alfonsina Storni del Sitio del Niño

Edición

Edición

My blog’s 2013 in review

Design, Frida Larios, Honduras, Tegucigalpa, Washington DC

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A New York City subway train holds 1,200 people. This blog was viewed about 7,600 times in 2013. If it were a NYC subway train, it would take about 6 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

Mandela en Xibalbá: una visión gráfica de Frida Larios

Africa, Art, Design, El Salvador, Frida Larios, Graphic Design, Honduras, Language, New Maya Language, South Africa, Tegucigalpa, Tyler Orsburn

95 years, 95 posters: Frida Larios poster selected for the #Mandela Poster Project Collection

Africa, Art, El Salvador, Frida Larios, Graphic Design, Honduras, Language, New Maya Language, South Africa, Tegucigalpa, Tyler Orsburn

Emerging-Underworld-Serpent-2-OUT-01  Photo courtesy of Eyescape 976336_486329781451007_1499123082_o 1072602_486329108117741_528142740_o Luis Yañez (Mexico) 1074829_485817071502278_842916305_o Alexis Tapia (Mexico) University of Pretoria  Photo courtesy of University of Pretoria  Photo courtesy of Ben Curtis.  Photo courtesy of Ben Curtis.  Photo courtesy of Ben Curtis.  Judge Yvonne Mokgoro, chairwoman  of the Nelson Mandela Children's Fund  Photo courtesy of Eyescape© 057444

Pretoria, South Africa – In May 2013, a group of South African designers came up with than idea to celebrate the life of Nelson Mandela by collecting 95 exceptional posters from around the world, honouring Madiba’s lifelong contribution to humanity.

The independent team of volunteers, now known as the Mandela Poster Project Collective, gave freely of their time and expertise to make the exceptional happen: In 60 days more than 700 posters were submitted by designers from more than 70 countries. The collection was curated and 95 posters (representing 95 years of Madiba’s life) will be exhibited around the world and will eventually be auctioned by the Nelson Mandela Children’s Hospital Trust to raise funds. In lieu of the high calibre of works received, it was felt more works needed to be showcased than the original 95. Plans are underway for a limited edition publication showcasing 500 of the posters submissions. The collective echoes the sentiments of South Africa’s beloved former president when he said “a good head and a good heart are always a formidable combination.”

Selected designers for the Mandela Poster Project 95 exhibition collection:

Abbas Majidi (Iran)
Aimilios Galipis (Greece)
Alan Grobler (South Africa)
Albina Aleksiunaite (Lithuania)
Alessandro Di Sessa (Italy)
Alexis Tapia (Mexico)
Ana Ivette Valenzuela (Mexico)
Ana Paula Caldas (Brazil)
Anton Odhiambo (Kenya)
Aubin A Sadiki (Democratic Republic of the Congo/South Africa)
Bibi Seck (USA)
Bradley Kirshenbaum (South Africa)
Brenda Sanderson (Canada)
Bruno Porto (Brazil)
Byoung il Sun (South Korea)
Carlos Andrade (Venezuela)
Celesté Burger (South Africa)
Charis Tsevis (Greece)
Claudia Tello (Mexico)
COP Youth Congress (Trinidad and Tobago)
Cristina Chiappini (Italy)
David Copestakes (USA)
David Iker Sanchez (USA)
David Tartakover (Israel)
David Teveth (Israel)
Derek Flynn (Canada)
Diego Giovanni Bermúdez Aguirre (Colombia)
Dominic Evans (South Africa)
Don Ryun Chang (South Korea)
Eduard Čehovin (Slovinia)
Elizabeth Resnick (USA)
Ellen Shapiro (USA)
Fabio Do Prado (UK)
Fabio Testa (Brazil)
Félix Beltrán (Mexico)
Fernando Andreazi (Brazil)
Frances Frylinck (South Africa)
Francesco Mazzenga (Italy)
Frida Larios (Honduras/El Salvador)
Gareth Steele (South Africa)
Garth Walker (South Africa)
Germán Jiménez Pinilla (Colombia)
Gyula Gefin (Canada)
Hervé Matine (France)
Hon Bing-wah (China)
Interbrand Shanghai (Sijing Chen, Hung Hsiang, Miaojie Li, Chuan Jiang) (China)
Interbrand New York (USA) (Craig Stout, Ross Clugston, Jessica Vernick)
Interbrand New York (USA) (Annalisa Van Den Bergh, Kristin Labahn)
Ithateng Mokgoro (South Africa)
Jacques Lange (South Africa)
Jacqui Morris (South Africa)
Jasveer Sidhu (Malaysia)
Javier Bulacio (Argentina)
Jeffrey Rikhotso (South Africa)
Jimmy Ball (USA)
Joël Guenoun (France)
José Luis Hernández “Chepe” (Mexico)
Juan Madriz (Venezuela)
Kyosuke Nishiada (Canada)
Lauriel Coscia (South Africa)
Lavanya Asthana (India)
Levente Szabo (Belgium)
Lin You Ting (Taiwan)
Lola Coudignac (France)
Luis Yañez (Mexico)
Majid Abbasi (Iran)
Marcelo Aflalo (Brazil)
Marco Cannata (South Africa)
Marco Tóxico (Bolivia)
Maria Papaefstathiou (Greece)
Marian Bantjes (Canada)
Martin Joel (Botswana)
Mervyn Kurlansky (Denmark/UK/South Africa)
Mohammed Jogie (South Africa)
Najeeb Mahmood (India)
Onica Lekuntwane (Botswana)
Onur Kuran (Turkey)
Pepe Menéndez (Cuba)
Rafael Nascimento (Brazil)
Rafiq Elmansy (Egypt)
Robert L. Peters (Canada)
Roberto Vilchis (China)
Roy Villalobos (USA)
Russell Kennedy (Australia)
Sally Chambers (South Africa)
Sindiso Nyoni (aka R!OT) (Zimbabwe/South Africa)
Sophia SHIH (Taiwan)
Steve Rayner (South Africa)
Sulet Jansen (South Africa)
Theo Kontaxis (Greece)
Thomas Blankschøn (Germany)
Travis Kennedy (Australia)
Unnikrishna Menon Damodaran (Bahrain)
Vesna Brekalo (Slovenia)
Vitor Andrade (Brazil)
Wessel Matthews (South Africa)
William Taylor (South Africa)
Zarina Mendoza (USA)

Mandela Poster Project collection traveling exhibitions:

– University of Pretoria, Department of Visual Arts, Main Campus, 18–26 July 2013

– The exhibition is at HP head office in Johannesburg until 10 August (printed version – viewing by invitation only)

– TEDxJohannesburg, 15 August (digital version – only accessible to registered delegates)

– Open Design Expo, Cape Town City Hall, 21-31 August (printed version – open to the public)

– SA Innovation Summit, IDC Johannesburg, 27-28 August (digital version – only accessible to registered delegates)

– Johannesburg City Library, 1-30 September (printed version – open to the public)

– Arts Alive 2013, Zoo Lake & Mary Fitzgerald Square, Johannesburg, 1-7 September (digital version – open to the public)

More international venues and dates to be announced soon.

Website: mandelaposterproject.org
Facebook: Mandela Poster Project

“Frida Larios: Businesswoman, Artisan, Preservationist” #NewMayaLanguage Interview by Hat Trick Magazine, UK

Art, Copan, Design, El Salvador, Fashion design, Frida Larios, Graphic Design, Guatemala, Jewellery Design, Kuching, Language, London, New Maya Language, Sustainable Design, Tyler Orsburn

I had previously published an excerpt of this interview; this is the editable full text version. You can see spreads and access the original interview here. Minor up-dates have been made to the text.

Frida Larios, International Indigenous Design Network (INDIGO) Ambassador, designer and creator of a new pictographic language.

1. Tell us a little bit about yourself?
I think it is safe to say that I am a multi-tasker extraordinaire. I went to a private German School (odd thing I know, but it was only a block away from my parents house) in San Salvador where I was raised. My peers in school always remember me painting with a full set of large-format paper, brushes and temperas displayed on my desk while paying attention and participating in a lesson about heavy German, Bertolt Brecht-type literature–all at the same time. I was attracted to both: art and sports since I was a little girl. From five until fifteen I was a gymnast representing my country at international level. I then moved on to indoor volleyball where I was part of the national team for five years and finally settled with beach volleyball. From 1996 until 2003 me and my partner were reigning Central American champions traveling in the FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour across Europe and South America. Beach volleyball was my passion, but design was equally as inspiring and important to me, I had learned that since my school days, so I never ceased to do either. It wasn’t easy as it meant waking up at 5am every day for practice so that I could have a full day of study, while I was finishing college, or designing, while I was managing my design studio. Then in 2003 I moved to London to study a masters degree in communication design in one of the most prestigious design schools in the world: Central Saint Martins College of Art & Design sponsored by the government of El Salvador through a sister Fulbright scholarship programme by FANTEL/LASPAU/Harvard. I had already lived on and off in London and the west coast of England while I was completing a bachelors degree in Graphic Design at University College Falmouth.

2. What was the inspiration behind your New Mayan Language Art Project?
Being far away from my home country while living in London, but at the same time being so close to one of the mecca’s of contemporary art and culture brought me close to my own roots. Central Saint Martins College of Art & Design was two blocks away from the British Museum in Holborn, which holds the most beautiful carved lintels in the Maya world from the Yaxchilán site. Being in touch with both: thousands of years old and at the same time the most contemporary art expressions sparked the idea of reviving the dead Maya hieroglyphic language.

There were other important motivations too. As an educator to first year Graphic Design students in San Salvador in what was my first Professor position at the young age of 26, I discovered that they were tending to imitate northern graphic styles. Like in many design disciplines the norm is to look to what is fashionable in the western world, rather than sourcing from your own native background. Au contraire, natives have been discriminated in the Mesoamerican region (modern Central America) for centuries since Spanish colonial times. When a teenager wants to say to another that they are being “uncool” they say: “No seas indio! (don’t be an indigenous.)” This says us a lot of the inner sentiments towards our native ancestors. I am hoping my project is a humble inspiration to those young designers so that they too start looking inside their local heritage for innovation.

3. When did you know that you wanted to be an artist? Ever since I was in middle school. I would sell hand-crafted cards for valentines and mothers day to my school mates. I knew I wanted to become a graphic designer then, but never knew I would be taken beyond that initial call and become so passionate about my culture and its application in different disciplines. Some people take time to find out their intent in life, some people never find out, and I feel incredibly grateful that I have always been guided to do what I love.

My mother has been a flower designer and artist, she has always had an eye for what is aesthetically enhancing in her environment and a love for nature. My father is a master in fito pathology (study of plant diseases) who researched the natural balance between insects and crops. I think this is why I have a systematic and organic way of approaching design. I can actually say I do come from a family of artists and sporties. Gabriela Larios the sister who follows me, is an illustrator and surface designer living in London. She is also a former national El Salvador team representative in cycling. My “little” sister Andrea Jeffcoat lives in Nashville, Tennessee. She studied ceramic jewellery art and is a fab Zumba instructor.

4. What was your discipline in Art School? My bachelors degree was in Graphic Design; my thesis at University College Falmouth was also a culturally rooted project. My masters degree was in Communication Design with an emphasis in typography and historically relevant wayshowing. My masters thesis was my New Maya Language project which was originally inspired by the content of a UNESCO World Heritage archaeological site in El Salvador buried under volcanic ash for 1500 years and unearthed in the 1970’s–similar to the Pompeii in Italy archaeological park.

After our Central Saint Martins masters exhibition at the Mall Galleries in London, I continued to evolve my project–like many of my talented peers who have also been commended for their own unique projects.

It’s been nearly ten years now since I conceived the New Maya Language and it has certainly developed into a multiple avenues project that has life in: sign, typography, surface, fashion, accessory, and educational toy design. It even has the potential to become an iPhone app to teach children about the Maya language.

In my vision: It has no limits. I am willing to expand it as far as my imagination takes it with the intent of making my culture (or a part of it) known to the world, to my fellow Mesoamerican citizens, and to the living Maya themselves.

5. What kind of classes did you teach at the London College of Fashion?
I taught Digital Surface Design for Textiles as part of different fashion related courses. Because of my graphics background and Adobe Creative Suite software knowledge I was able to guide their digital creative process. I was always impressed by their innate ability to express patterns using crafted or digitally generated visual resources. You can see some of my students surface designs outcome in this video on my YouTube channel.

6. How do you currently define the relationship between art & fashion?
All the art and design fields are blending these days, there are no boundaries as brands look to provide their audiences with unusual ideas. Collaborations between bloggers and fashion designers or between actors and musicians, for example, are at the order of day. It would be nice to see even less common collaborations that brought awareness about cultural, social, health and environmental issues to the mainstream public. Only major brands have the power to access a truly worldwide audience and they need to be even more conscious of their role and how they influence even the youngest minds these days.

7. Where can we find your book on the New Maya Language?
The 115-page, 100% hand-bound New Maya Language book is printed on thick 160 gsm water-colour paper, and translated in four languages: English, Spanish, Maya, and visually. It beautifully compiles and decodes the New Maya Language project. The first chapter explains the complex original Maya hieroglyphic language. The second chapter’s large illustrations provide the formula for each New Maya Language pictogram. And finally, the third chapter showcases various design applications used by governmental and private entities.

Renowned Peabody Museum, Harvard epigrapher Alexandre Tokovinine describes the works in my book with these words:

“Even though there has been a growing body of scholarly works devoted to the subject of Maya calligraphy, few artists systematically sought their inspiration in Maya letters beyond mere reproduction of certain glyphs and glyphic patterns, usually in the context of contemporary indigenous art.  Frida’s project stands apart as an attempt to explore and reinvent Maya calligraphy as a symbolic and aesthetic system from an artist’s viewpoint.  The New Maya Language creates its own world that blends Maya imagery and symbolism with Frida’s unique vision in a series of artworks which would make an ancient calligrapher proud.”

The book can be found at the Centre for Typographic Research at the Central Academy of Fine Arts in Beijing; at the White House in Washington DC, at the Embassy of El Salvador in The Hague and Paris; at the Museum of National Identity in Tegucigalpa; and in the hands of private collectors in Chicago, Paris, London, etc. It was the only Latin American typo-work selected for exhibition with 80 other from around the world, at Beijing Typography 2009 at the Central Academy of Fine Art in Beijing, China.

It can be purchased at Hacienda San Lucas in the Copan Maya archaeological site in Honduras and be custom ordered online through my website: http://www.fridalarios.com

Do you have artist that you look up to? If so, please tell us? Frida Kahlo, and not because of the name! But because she developed a visual surrealist movement that has indirectly influenced Latin American literature (Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Isabel Allende et. al) to date.

And of course: the Maya artists. They were renaissance men. Surely comparable to Leonardo, Rafael, Michelangelo, who were not only fine artists, they were architects, sculptors, interior designers, poets, and even engineers. In other words: liberal innovators. And so were the Maya artists who were Royal scribes and book keepers. In being so they held the knowledge of what they had to write about: history, politics, astronomy, mathematics, and art in general. Their beautiful calligraphic works are quite unknown to a non-Mayanist audience. No artist today can claim to master all these disciplines.

9. How can people learn more about you and your artwork and where to purchase?
The homepage on my website showcases the whole collection of picto-glyphs©. This is the series applied to paintings, prints, fashion, accessories and toy products.

We have a permanent gallery and Frida Larios boutique with my original artworks at Hacienda San Lucas located in the major Maya archaological site of Copán Ruinas, Honduras. Online, Pinterest is becoming a good place to view and purchase my paintings and products too: http://pinterest.com/fridalarios. Here you can also view photos of artworks displayed on collectors’ homes around the world. When you want to order people contact us directly through the contact form on my website.

10. Tell us more about the INDIGO group?
INDIGO is the International Indigenous Design Network a branch of ICOGRADA the International Council of Communication Design. INDIGO is an open platform that connects both Indigenous and non Indigenous designers worldwide in an effort to explore traditional design and its contemporary interpretations. INDIGO facilitates discussion, initiates collaborative projects, exhibitions and conferences but also showcases other relevant initiatives from all over the world. It seeks to understand design that is inspired by or rooted in Indigenous culture, traditions, imagery, lifestyle, etc.

We believe indigenous design should be a present and future innovation reference to designers who look to produce sustainable design concepts. Contemporary designers need to consider his or her local heritage at the time of designing–INDIGO encourages and reinforces this notion.

My role as an Advisor for INDIGO is to create an environment for the exchange of knowledge and ideas. I offer the network local access and insights, help shape projects and initiatives. I am very active within the network of Ambassadors. I am currently a member of the Sarawak, Malaysia International Design Week 2012 programming committee and other committees key to shaping the vision and future of INDIGO.

11. When did you know that you wanted to use your art to help people?
My projects, not only New Maya Language, have always had a cultural component. We used to run a design agency in San Salvador and London with my sister and our projects were used as case studies in various publications because they represented the Central American graphic spirit and style.

12. What are you future project plans? Any more language projects?
As always, I am multi-tasking galore. I just had a baby (two months old today!) and I have another wonderful four-year old. That would be enough for anyone, but not for Frida. I spent 2011 coming up with nine (yes only nine, but each one could be a whole thesis) new picto-glyphs© inspired by the Maya concept of the universe: the sky, the earth, and the underground. That is all I can say about them because they are still confidential and under a special key locked website. From this series I am working on a collaboration with Pattern People to create surface designs. Potential clients interested in this collection should contact us. I am also working on prototypes for a new jewellery collection.

One of the most exciting projects coming up is a collaboration with my sister Gabriela Larios and Miguel Hernández with Latinotype.com to release two new Central American typefaces.

We have a series of exhibition engagements with my talented photographer,husband Tyler Orsburn. The exhibition is called New Maya Life and shows both his intimate portraits of living Maya people and my New Maya hieroglyphics. New Maya Life was shown from November 2012 – February 2013 at the Honduran Museum for National Identity (Museo para la Identidad Nacional) accompanying a major University of Pennsylvania archaeological Maya exhibition called Maya 2012: Lords of Time; at the prestigious Centro Cultural Luis Cardoza y Aragón, part of the Embassy of Mexico in Guatemala; and at the John James Audubon Museum in Kentucky, USA in 2014.

And lastly, yes, I worked on a new language project in collaboration with a fellow INDIGO Ambassador. We hosted a workshop titled: Reinterpreting Malay Iconography into Contemporary Craft and Design during the ICOGRADA international Design Week in Sarawak, Malaysia from October 15 -21, 2012. See: sarawak.icograda.org/speakers

Thank you Frida for taking the time to let us know all about yourself!

Be sure to follow Frida and all her ventures via the following sites:

Browse: http://www.fridalarios.com
Subscribe: https://fridalarios.wordpress.com
Follow: http://twitter.com/fridalarios
Like: http://facebook.com/LariosFrida
Interest: http://pinterest.com/fridalarios