This project was inspired by the community of St. Joan of Arc in Minneapolis, Minnesota, where the community creates an Easter alfombra (or sawdust carpet) every year. Their partner community in Tierra Nueva II creates one as well, so it is a way to raise awareness and share cultural and religious traditions. Carpets are a Guatemalan tradition during which Catholics find common ground by laying carpets throughout Lent, for Christ’s entry into the Holy City, his violent end on the cross and the celebration of his Resurrection.
We have included below basic instructions for creating a carpet with your community. Please contact us if you would like to make a carpet and need more guidance. We can put you in contact with the experts! For more alfombra pictures visit our Flickr site and for more awareness raising ideas, see our Fundraising and Awareness Packet.
One month ahead
Start with People. Gather a group of about 6-8 people to share ideas for your alfombra as a temporary art installation that both symbolizes the beauty and celebration of the season, and the spirit of community coming together and sharing an experience that is transformative. The alfombra is a group activity for all ages. At the end, it will be walked on and swept away afterwards. Encourage folks to photograph the process as well as the product.
3 weeks ahead
Create an Image. Use symbols of your church, symbols of your lives, nature, your faith, and your relationships, highlighting the values of your church community. Repeat small symbols along the sides or in small spaces around the central larger images. Smaller symbols can be easily made into cut out stencils and repeated from year to year as well. Discuss what colors would look good in each part of the image. Share the image with your congregation as a way to invite them into the process!
Gather Materials. You will need the following materials and people to help out.
1. Large butcher paper or plywood to your preferred dimensions for the basic sketch of the image.
2. A frame (2×4 lumber) around the entire carpet to prevent spilling when walking through it.
3. Plastic sheeting or other floor covering that will make clean-up easier (especially if you are doing your carpet inside).
4. One or two large garbage bags of sawdust – coarse or fine depends on availability and preference. this can be found at a lumber yard or school woodshop. Fine sawdust will provide a softer look in the end. Coarse sawdust doesn’t clump as much when you dye it and it is easy to hand “paint” when filling in images with colored sawdust.
5. Buckets or bags to transport sawdust in smaller amounts.
6. Latex paint, food coloring, fabric dyes or natural dyes. Experiment with what you have at home. Practice with some dyes ahead so you can tell others how much of what colors to use for the desired hues. This is not an exact science so experimentation can be fun and surprisingly successful.
7. Cardboard to cut out and use as stencils for images that are hard to color by hand.
Two weeks ahead
Hand out Materials.
Plywood, image, frame: A few people should be assigned to draw the image on large paper or plywood. If you are doing it outside you might also try drawing it directly on the pavement with sidewalk chalk. Someone should take the task of building the frame. If you use plywood as the image surface, the frame also serves to hold multiple pieces together.
Sawdust and dyes: Delegate dyeing to people. They should take home a bucket or a bag of sawdust with an assigned color or dye. If one central person can hand out dyes or record what colors have been given out then you can be assured of having the colors you want on the finished carpet.
Palm Sunday (one week out)
Color the Image! Finally you are ready to start bringing your artwork to life. Folks who dyed sawdust will bring it to church so following worship a gathering of people will come help “paint” the carpet. Discuss or indicate what colors should go where on the large drawing. you may want to lay down a thin background layer of one color and buid on top of it, or you may leave spaces on the drawing and come back to fill them in later. If you use course sawdust, you can easily push it around to the lines of your image and fill in other colors around it.
Pre-cut cardboard stencils can make coloring much easier. For a large image you can lay a ladder across the frame and reach the middle without walking on the image. If you are doing your carpet outside on a windy day, you can use a gentle mister on a hose to hold the colored sawdust in place, or cover it for the night.
Take this chance to talk about your partnership with your sister community or with Sister Parish. Walking in solidarity with people in Central America and the traditions they hold sacred at this holy time of year.
Share stories, post pictures and sing songs!
Above all, enjoy!