Molas (handcrafted blouses) are made from several layers of brightly colored cotton cloth. Kuna women create these works of art using a technique of cutting and sewing sometimes referred to as reverse appliqué. The way the cloth is cut reveals the layers beneath, which all go into creating the overall design.
Designs can be abstract or representational. The best designs are such works of art that mola-making has been described as painting with a needle.
What should you look for in a mola? Anthropologist Mari Lyn Salvador conducted a study in which she asked Kuna women themselves that question. A few of her findings:
For more information on Kuna arts and culture, see The Art of Being Kuna: Layers of Meaning Among the Kuna of Panama (UCLA Fowler Museum of Cultural History), edited by Mari Lyn Salvador.