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Molas! January 10, 2011

Molas are a type of folk art from Panama!

I knew when I started this planning I wanted sort of a Central American, Latino feel to my wedding.  I’m serving Mexican food.  I plan to play Buena Vista Social Club and other Cuban music during the cocktail hour and dinner.  I picked out bright, bold colors.  My signature drink is going to be margaritas.

But I didn’t want to do a Dia De Los Muertos thing (even though I LOVE Dia De Los Muertos) because I see that done SOOOO much lately.  So I wasn’t really sure how to tie the whole thing together.  I’ve been feeling like no one understood my vision (except my co – maid of honor, who, upon hearing my colors – and no other details – said, “Are you going for a Mexican theme?”).  My mom, who is doing my invitations, had this idea about pressed flower invitations since before Jeremy even proposed.  I keep saying that it sounds too stuffy, formal and girly, but she wouldn’t let it go.  She’d say “flowers aren’t formal” (no, fresh ones aren’t, but to me, pressed flowers say dusty old Victorian stuff) or “weddings are formal”.  Well, not mine.  My wedding is going to be fun.

The other night, my mom asked me again, “What do you want to do with your invitations?”.  My mom has been a graphic designer for over 20 years.  She’s won tons of national awards, and she’s done an amazing job at designing paper stuff for our family in the past.  She’s done wedding invitations, baby shower invitations, birth announcements, funeral programs, you name it.  I have every confidence in her abilities to make some kick ass wedding invitations.  I just haven’t liked her vision so far.  She brought up pressed flowers again, which I shot down, and she looked disappointed.  I tried explaining “Look, I’m wanting to do a sort of Mexican theme.  We’re doing Mexican food and margaritas.  I want to stick to that one theme, and not be mixing stuff up too much.”

She looked perturbed, but un-muted the tv and stared at it for a few seconds.  Then she pressed mute again and laughed “I just got an idea!  What if we did molas?”

Molas are a type of folk art created by the peoples of the region from Panama to Columbia.  My family is familiar with molas because my father grew up in Panama, and my grandmother and grandfather have a great deal of mola artwork around their house.  I loved my grandmother’s mola pillows as I was growing up, and her mola jewelry.  This seemed like a marvelous idea to me!

Molas aren’t Mexican, but I don’t feel the need to stick to one country.  It’s the entire culture of Central America that intrigues me, and what I’d like to showcase during my wedding, even though neither myself nor my fiance has a drop of Latino blood in us (my father grew up in the Panama Canal Zone because his father piloted ships through the canal as a Merchant Marine, not because he’s Panamanian.  The Stones are very likely Irish, though we don’t know for sure – that’s a whole other story for another day).  All my life, I have felt drawn towards that world, I can’t say why.  But I spent a year in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and I grew up hearing stories of Panama in the 60’s, and I was born and raised in a state with a huge Mexican influence, so maybe it’s natural.

Of course, mola invitations would be hard to make, we’ll be doing a lot of paper cutting, but I think it’s well worth the work.  I love the mola idea so much, I think I’m going to use it throughout my decorating.  Maybe a mola ring bearer pillow?  Mola placemats at the tables?  Mola purses for my bridesmaids?

Now, traditional molas are quilted.  It’s very intricate quilting done with little strips of fabric, which I don’t think I could do (especially not with my old sewing machine), and I don’t think I’d want to take the time to do if I could.  I can purchase molas pre made on fabric, which I might do for my ring bearer pillow, but that would get pricey if I did that over and over again for all the placemats, fabric, etc., that I might want to use a mola on.  However, I think I could easily paint or batik molas onto paper or fabric.  Though they wouldn’t be a true mola, I think that they would still be beautiful and compelling.

My mom really is a great visionary when it comes to creative stuff.  I’m very excited about this new development.

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