“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


New Maya Life Exhibition Nov 26, 2012-Mar 3, 2013 Museo para la Identidad Nacional @fridalarios @tylerorsburn

Art, Copan, Design, Fashion design, Frida Larios, Graphic Design, Jewellery Design, Language, New Maya Language, Photography, Photojournalism, Tegucigalpa, Tyler Orsburn

Our first husband and wife collaboration: NEW MAYA LIFE [Nueva Vida Maya] photo, paintings and fashion exhibition, is being hosted by Museo para la Identidad Nacional from November 26, 2012 – March 3, 2013. NEW MAYA LIFE highlights the more than 2000-year-old indigenous Maya culture. Their contemporary art, craft and daily life is celebrated through our picto-graphic interpretations.



2012: The Maya Era + New Maya Life Exhibitions | 2012: El Tiempo de los Mayas y Nueva Vida Maya por @FridaLarios y @TylerOrsburn

Art, Copan, Frida Larios, Graphic Design, Jewellery Design, New Maya Language, Photography, Photojournalism, Sustainable Design, Tegucigalpa

Museo para la Identidad Nacional


El Museo para la Identidad Nacional en coordinación con el Instituto Hondureño de Antropología e Historia, IHAH y la Secretaría de Cultura, Artes y Deportes, organiza la exposición 2012:  EL TIEMPO DE LOS MAYAS.

La exhibición reúne una colección de piezas importantes producto de investigaciones realizadas en el Parque Arqueológico de Copán y que por primera vez se muestran al público; durante el recorrido los visitantes podrán apreciar estas significativas piezas arqueológicas, conocer sobre los secretos del calendario maya vinculado al año 2012 y completar el recorrido con una sala dedicada a una visión moderna y contemporánea del arte maya a través de las pinturas de la artista Frida Larios y las fotografías sobre la cultura y vida cotidiana de los actuales mayas de Tyler Orsburn; esta exhibición integrada se titula: NUEVA VIDA MAYA.

Los principales temas que se abordan en el proyecto expositivo son los siguientes:


El investigador William Fash, en su introducción a la historia de las investigaciones arqueológicas en las Ruinas de Copán, hace referencia al primer informe acerca del sitio arqueológico escrito por Diego García de Palacio en 1576 para el rey español Felipe II. En su relato constata haber visto en pie seis de las estelas de la Gran Plaza que años después, en 1839, John Lloyd Stephens, alcanzó a vislumbrar en medio de la exuberante selva tropical del Occidente de Honduras.


Los antiguos mayas construyeron una de las civilizaciones más enigmáticas y atractivas del mundo antiguo. Cuando los conquistadores españoles “descubrieron” a los mayas hace más de 500 años, muchos no podían creer que nativos americanos pudieran haber desarrollado ciudades, arte, escritura y otros sellos que indicaran alto grado de civilización. Por consecuencia, los europeos del siglo XVI fácilmente aceptaron el mito que los mayas y otras civilizaciones indígenas fueron trasladadas a las Américas por migraciones del mundo antiguo “perdido” antes de 1492, quienes les trasladaron sus conocimientos. Sin embargo no existen evidencias arqueológicas que sustenten lo anterior.


Entre las obras arquitectónicas de Copán se encuentra un monumento único del mundo antiguo: la Escalinata de los Jeroglíficos de la Estructura 10L-26, completadas en 755 d.C.  Cada bloque está tallado con inscripciones jeroglíficas que suman 2,200 glifos en total, el más extenso texto precolombino conocido en las Américas.

Copán se hizo famosa en 1841 gracias a la publicación del libro de John Lloyd Stephens y Frederick Catherwood  Incidentes del Viaje a Centro América, Chiapas y Yucatán, pero no fue hasta en 1885 cuando la Escalinata fue encontrada por el pionero arqueólogo británico Alfred P. Maudslay, quien la nombró apropiadamente.  El arqueólogo Sylvanus Morley la llamó la Atenas del Nuevo Mundo.

Los bloques con jeroglíficos fueron limpiados, fotografiados, enumerados y luego trasladados a la plaza. Ahí, fueron puestos en soporte de piedra y fotografiados. Luego, se hicieron moldes de muchas de las piezas, una tarea laboriosa. No fue hasta en 1930 que la Escalinata fue reconstruida a la manera en que podemos apreciarla hoy mediante un convenio con la Institución Carnegie de Washington.

Este enorme texto tallado en piedra, fue uno de los motivos para que la UNESCO incluyera a Copán en la lista de sitios culturales patrimonio de la humanidad.


Los mayas son el único pueblo centroamericano que ha legado al mundo conocimientos de matemáticas y astronomía. Estos saberes precolombinos han sido escritos (tallados) en piedra y en libros de papel amate llamados “códices”.

Los conocimientos matemáticos y astronómicos son la base del calendario maya que les permitió calcular con anticipación acontecimientos importantes y saber que omnipresente ser natural dominaría una fecha determinada con sus atributos positivos o negativos.

Los sacerdotes del calendario, llamados “Señores de los días” (aj k’ inob ) podían hacer sus pronósticos y preparar las ceremonias para influir en las fuerzas sobrenaturales, sobre los individuos y las comunidades.


Los textos mayas antiguos nos hablan de la destrucción y reconstrucción del mundo, un proceso que puede tener similitud con el apocalipsis cristiano.  La esencia de esto es que hay que destruir la tierra antigua para hacer una nueva tierra, más productiva.

Los orígenes y relevancia del fenómeno maya 2012, lo encontramos en los misterios de la Cuenta Larga. La historia comienza el 13 de agosto de 3,114 a.C. cuando los textos describen el fin del 13 Baktun, esta fecha se registra retrospectivamente en textos como el Código de Dresde.

El  21 de diciembre de 2012 de nuestra era, será el final del décimo tercer ciclo Baktún 5,125 años después del ciclo anterior en 3,114 a.C. Mucha gente cree que este aniversario es de gran importancia cósmica y que significará el amanecer de una nueva era o un catastrófico colapso del mundo o el fin del mismo. Sin embargo los mayas no predijeron que pasaría exactamente con la llegada del decimo tercer Baktún. La fecha 2012 es mencionada sólo una vez en un fragmento de un monumento del sitio conocido como Tortuguero en México. Es simplemente usado como una fecha “ancla”, algo común en los textos mayas que enlazan eventos presentes.


El territorio maya continúa abarcando cinco países: México, Belice, Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador. En Guatemala existen alrededor de seis millones que pertenecen a este grupo étnico que tienen como idioma materno 29 lenguas mayas. En Belice constituyen alrededor de un 20% de su población.

Una serie de factores adversos se registran desde el colapso inicial en 850/900 d.C del orden político-religioso maya: la fragmentación de su cultura durante el periodo postclásico;  la destrucción causada por los españoles y las nuevas enfermedades; la conversión forzada  al catolicismo.

A la llegada de los españoles muchos grupos maya-chortí se encontraban en el Sudeste de Honduras y en Copán. Los indígenas de habla chortí pertenecen cultural y lingüísticamente a los grupos mayas meridionales ubicados en las zonas altas de México y Guatemala. Copán está ubicado en el área chortí del mundo maya quienes presentaron férrea resistencia a los españoles encabezados por su cacique Copán Galel.

Actualmente habitan principalmente en el Departamento de Copán y su municipio Copán Ruinas. La población chortí ubicada del lado hondureño en la frontera entre Guatemala y Honduras, no conserva la lengua ni su traje tradicional. Constituyen una población de entre 3,500 y 4,000 habitantes y tienen apariencia ladina (persona no indígena) que conservan rasgos culturales de los antiguos mayas y que se suman a la diversidad cultural de Honduras.

3 pensamientos en “2012: EL TIEMPO DE LOS MAYAS”

  1. Tienen ustedes conocimiento del programa que se desarrollara en Copan para el 21 de Diciembre? o podria sugerirme un correo electronico o # telefonico donde pueda informarme?
    Muchas gracias,

Guest Artist at the Museo para la Identidad Nacional 2012 Auction

Art, Design, Frida Larios, Language, New Maya Language, Tegucigalpa

Have just received an invitation by the Museo para la Identidad Nacional (Museum for the National Identity) in Tegucigalpa, Honduras to be a Guest Artist for the 2012 IDEARTE International Art Auction. The exhibition will take place from the 9 – 30th of November, 2012. The auction night is on October 18th.

I will be participating with two pieces: My New Maya Language art book and Green Child gouaché painting.


Me acaban de para participar que seré Artista Invitada en la Subasta Internacional de Arte IDEARTE por el Museo para la Identidad Nacional en Tegucigalpa, Honduras. La exhibición será del 9 al 30 de Noviembre del 2012. La noche de la subasta es el 18 de Octubre.

Estaré participando con dos piezas: mi libro de colección Nuevo Lenguaje Maya y la pintura Niño Verde en tempera.

Buen día Frida – 9/4/11

We visited La Hacienda today with the new US Ambassador. Our group had an amasing time – of course – but I was PLEASANTLY surprised to find such wonderful art here. Your new Mayan interpretations are stunning! I used to be an artist myself, but decided to be a diplomat instead 🙂 I hope to see more of your art and I wish you the most success! I can’t wait to purchase one of your designs!

Danielle Maniscalco

Danielle's Testimonial

Copan, Frida Larios, New Maya Language, Washington DC

My art at Vesta in Tegucigalpa, Honduras

Art, Frida Larios, Graphic Design, Tegucigalpa

Vesta is a leading logistics company in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, with branches across Central America.  Vesta means the fire of the home or the community, which inspired the flame image that I came up with as their brand identity.

Vesta Logo

Logo design

Their owners liked my New Maya Language art and decided to use it for their offices.

To learn more about Vesta, have a look at their website, designed by Tyler and Frida (formerly known as SapoSerpiente):


From left to right: Family at Home, To Build. Crop Harvesting, To Eat

From left to right: Family at Home, To Build, Crop Harvesting, To Eat

National Identity Museum exhibition

Frida Larios

Here are some photographs of how the works looked up at the Museo para la Identidad Nacional MIN (National Identity Museum) last night in Tegucigalpa, Honduras.

Burning Village

Burning Village by Frida. Common Maya homes buried under volcanic ash and preserved for study by archaeologists today.


Artisan. Copán Ruinas, Honduras by Tyler Orsburn. Ignacia Ramos, 40, has been working with the yarn for five years.

Tyler & Frida Artworks’ Auction and Exhibition

Art, Copan, Frida Larios, New Maya Language, Photography, Photojournalism, Tegucigalpa

An exhibition of the auctioned artists previews today and will remain open until the 12th of October–-culminating in the auction on the night of the 14th, at the Museo de la Identidad Nacional MIN (National Identity Musem), Tegucigalpa, Honduras.
Los invito a la primera subasta de arte que promueve el coleccionismo en Honduras en donde las obras de Tyler (mi esposo) y mía, han sido seleccionadas por el jurado para ser subastadas.

Día: Jueves 14 de octubre
Hora: 7:00p.m
Lugar: Museo para la Identidad Nacional, Centro Histórico de Tegucigalpa
120 obras de artistas internacionales se subastarán.

Las obras a subastar serán exhibidas del 1 al 12 de Octubre en el MIN.

Tyler Orsburn's auction photograph

Artisan by Tyler

Frida Larios' Auction Painting

Burning Village by Frida

Museo del Hombre Hondureño

Art, Copan, Frida Larios, Language, Tegucigalpa

Tyler y Frida, SapoSerpiente, tendrán su primera exhibición conjunta titulada NUEVA VIDA MAYA en la Fundación Museo del Hombre Hondureño en Tegucigalpa el 8 de Junio de 2010. Para aquellos que no conocen el trabajo de Tyler los invito a ver su blog.

NUEVA VIDA MAYA realza el valor a la cultura maya de más de 2000 años de antigüedad. Su ancestral escritura es resucitada a través de las nuevas composiciones picto / gráficas de Frida Larios y a su vez reinterpretadas a través de las fotografías de la vida rural contemporánea en Copán Ruinas de Tyler Orsburn.  Estas creaciones de esta pareja de esposos busca inspiración en la sencillez de vida de los Maya-chortí, sus evolución de jeroglíficos y su sensible de imagen se identifican uno a otra en armonía.


Tyler & Frida, will have their first exhibition together titled NEW MAYA LIFE at the Fundación Museo del Hombre Hondureño in Tegucigalpa on the 8th of June 2010. For those who don’t know Tyler‘s work I invite you to check out his blog.

NEW MAYA LIFE highlights the more than 2000-year-old native Maya culture value. Their ancient script is resuscitated through the new picto / graphic compositions by Frida Larios and in turn re-interpreted through Tyler Orsburn’s contemporary Copán Ruinas rural life photographs.  These husband and wife creations look for inspiration in common Maya-chortí simplicity of life, her evolved hieroglyphs and his powerful images complement and echoe each other.


Museum of the Honduran Man

Restored home of Ramón Rosa

Restored home of Ramón Rosa in the Tegucigalpa historic centre

With Yax

My son Yax checking out the space


Discussing exhibition