Friday, July 23, 2010

Friday Inspiration - Molas

 We worked with layered felt this week, so I think you'll have a good appreciation for the molas constructed by the Kuna of Panama's San Blas Islands.  The bird mola above and the sea turtle mola below are from my personal art collection.

Molas are made from layers of cotton fabric that has mainly been reverse appliqued to form designs.  Instead of layering pieces of fabric on top of each other to form a design (as we did in Monday's project), two or more layers of fabric are sewn together.  Beginning with the top layer, shapes are cut out of each layer to reveal the layer below.  Tiny stitches are used to sew the fabric under around the shape that was just cut out to prevent fraying.  The stitching on the ones I have is beautiful.  I'm assuming the artists have better eyesight than I do!

detail of back

mola details

Traditionally, molas are worked into blouses worn by the women, but they have become artworks in themselves and are now often made for sale as art.  The National Museum of the American Indian website has a nice on-line exhibit of molas in their original blouse form.

If you're interested in finding out more about molas, the Kuna, or the San Blas Islands, has a lot of information, examples, and molas for sale.

For any teachers out there, I came across a great lesson plan by Ellen Sears using layered fabric to create self-portraits.  This would be a great activity to use after studying molas!  If you haven't checked out The Incredible @rt Department, there are hundreds of high quality lesson plans and ideas for art related subjects.


  1. I love this work, the patterns, the colours, the technique. Is this something you create yourself? It'd be great to see a tutorial on this technique, and great to see some examples of your work in general!

  2. I love the beautiful colors and layers of molas too! I haven't ever made one before - the closest I get is layered felt. But who knows - maybe one of these days!

    Deborah :)