One of my favorite aspects of working in close proximity to Andean textiles over the last two months has been getting to spend so much time staring at the iconography, or pallay, that's worked into most designs. Pallay, a Quechua word meaning "to pick up" (in reference to the actual act of weaving), generally take the forms of aspects of daily life - animals, lakes, flowers and celestial figures.
Maybe it's because I stare at pallay for hours while working in the Fair Trade shop, but I really like them:
Some are easy to identify, like this bird.
Others... not so much.
This guy's confused too. (Actually, this guy is probably Incan hero Tupac Aymaru?)
One of the weavers I photographed said that frogs were among her least favorite pallay, but I think they're kind of cute.
And of course, llamas! So many llamas.
Like I said, maybe it's because I stare at these for hours on end, but I find pallay to be kind of amazing - Many of these designs have been around for hundreds of years, and often different regions have their own distinct pallay. Though I can really only identify the most basic and literal pallay myself (I *think* those diamonds in the photo below are lakes, flowers, or possibly stars - but I wouldn't put money on it), I love the way the iconography has transformed the way I look at textiles here, from something that's merely decorative to something that tells a story.
above: a band of hummingbirds along the green tapestry in the top of this photo symbolize reciprocity.