Monthly Archives: October 2011

Lila Downs Concert in Oaxaca on November 5, 2011

Lucky us! Lila Downs is performing at the Auditorio Guelaguetza on Saturday, November 5. The concert starts at 7 p.m. and you can purchase tickets at Ahorra Farmacia in Oaxaca or online at Ticketmaster.  I bought two tickets on-line and can’t wait.  Lila Downs is one of my favorite singer-songwriters and her Oaxaca roots make her very special.  From time to time, as friends point out, she will do a free concert on the Zocalo but I haven’t heard any inkling of this and didn’t want to miss the chance to hear and see her perform.

I have this one favorite photo I captured of Lila Downs a couple of years ago when she appeared at the Las Cuevitas celebration in Teotitlan del Valle.  I treasure it.  She is wearing a hand-woven sarape created by Erasto “Tito” Mendoza.

Lila Downs at Las Cuevitas, Teotitlan del Valle

What I love about her music are both the lyrics and the vocals.  She sings in Spanish, English and Zapotec, reflecting the complexity of her origins.  Her songs are lilting as well as socially and politically relevant.  She sings about what touches the hearts of Mexicans with a universality that speaks to all of us.

If you live in Oaxaca or you are here for Los Muertos (Day of the Dead) don’t miss this opportunity to experience this live concert with Lila Downs.


A Passport Travel Wallet Designed by a Traveler

That “traveler” would be me!

My friend, Asheville, NC, artist Gwen Diehn, is at it again.  This time, in addition to writing books about art journaling, and making hand-made art books and book binding,  she is delving into the world of creative, recycled wallets and related paraphernalia — called Piece Work Wallets & Things.

We met up last weekend in Asheville over a great dinner with mutual friends Natalie and Paul.  I admired (and coveted) her whimsical wallets and ordered one custom-made to hold money, credit cards, and a travel notebook.  THEN, I thought, what about a Passport holder that would hang around my neck so I wouldn’t have to fumble for it going through airport security.  I described it and she sketched it on the spot.

Gwen knew I was leaving tomorrow for Oaxaca, so she immediately manufactured what I described (using her “new” treadle sewing machine and recycled found materials).  Lo and behold, there it appeared on my front doorstep less than two days later.

See Gwen’s Website/Blog call Piece Work Wallets & Things:  Click here on the link  to see (and order) a whimsical wallet or Passport holder for yourself.

From Lark Books, Real Life Journals: Designing and Using Hand Made Books by Gwen Diehn.









Weekly Photo Challenge: Opportunity

Woman in Ocotlan Market. I was shopping for  a Tenancingo ikat shawl and this woman stepped into the stall to find a new head covering.  She was so beautiful and I didn’t want to let the opportunity to capture her pass.  I asked if I could take her photo.  The friend with her said, “she is hungry, can you give her a few pesos.”  I looked at her feet (below), and agreed. It was an opportunity for both of us! and, I am grateful to her for letting me into her life for this moment.


Hand-Forged Knives and Swords in Oaxaca–Apolinar Aguilar Keeps the Tradition Alive

The famed Oaxaca knife maker Angel Aguilar died several years ago and his brother Apolinar carries on the craftsman tradition by making forging Toledo steel swords and knives in the Angel Aguilar Studio in Ocotlan de Morales, Oaxaca.  I wanted to update all the mis-information floating about that Angel is still at his forge!

Someone recently wrote to me to suggest that.  So, I thought I would add a small insert here to the contrary to keep accurate information circulating on the Internet.

I want to refer you to the very brief Oaxaca Times story about Apolinar Aguilar Velasco written in August 2011.

Friends of Oaxaca Folk Art features Apolinar in their fine book on Oaxaca Folk Art and on their website where you can see a photo of him and his fantastic work.  You can find Apolinar at Callejón Victoria S/N, Ocotlan de Morales, Oaxaca.

As a sidebar: What is fascinating about all the information available online is that it can quickly become outdated and unreliable!  So, it’s important to check facts before referring people to a website or blog that might have come down years ago 🙂  Which is why I am not going to approve the comment about how to find Angel Aguilar and reference to an article written in 2006!


Oaxaca Weaving Workshop: Dancing on the Loom + Cooking Class

Imagine! A 4-day hands-on weaving workshop in Teotitlan del Valle, Oaxaca, Mexico, with the family of master weaver Federico Chavez Sosa. From Wednesday-Saturday.  For beginners and experienced weavers!

  • W-Sa, March 14-17, 2012 OR
  •  July 11-14, 2012

PLUS a traditional Zapotec cooking class with one of Oaxaca’s premiere cooking teachers — fun, flavorful and hands-on!

  • Tuesday, March 12 OR
  •  July 10.

Workshop Option 1:  Arrive March 12 and depart on March 18, 2012

Workshop Option 2:  Arrive July 9 and depart on July 15, 2012

Federico Chavez Sosa at the loom

“The workshop was an incredible program. I have enjoyed the process! Thank you very much for your hospitality and for sharing your talent, knowledge and wonderful teaching.  I would recommend this program to any friend.  This has been an unforgettable week.” –Giovanna Balarezo, New York City

Reyna at the Metate

Workshop tuition is $995 per person, including lodging (double occupancy), most meals, and cooking class.  Workshop is limited to 6 participants.

Includes 22 hours of instruction, 6 nights lodging, 6 breakfasts, AND a traditional Zapotec cooking class with lunch.  Perfect for fiber artists, weavers, knitters, natural dye aficionados, artists, teachers.  A great shared experience for parents and children.  

Cultivating Cochineal — The Red Dye From the Insect

Dancing on the Loom” was a marvelous experience; not only did I learn the essentials of weaving and dyeing, but I have the opportunity to see people engaging in the building of a sustainable production.” — Akilah Zuberi, Philadelphia

Not only will you learn the way Zapotecs have been weaving for over 500 years, and dyeing for millenia, you will be experiencing village life through a very unique and personal perspective.

The Federico Chavez Sosa family has traveled and exhibited throughout the United States, are in the permanent collections of galleries, museums and artists, including the Snite Museum of Art at the University of Notre Dame. They have exhibited and lectured widely, including at the National Museum of Mexican Art (Chicago), the San Jose (CA) Quilt and Textile Museum, the American Tapestry Alliance, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Purdue University, and the University of California at Santa Cruz.

Cochineal Colors 

Who Should Attend: Weavers, artists, knitters, textile designers, teachers, university students, anyone interested in weaving and natural dyeing techniques, and sustaining indigenous art forms using traditional methods.

Level of Experience Necessary: These are small group, hands-on workshops that can accommodate varying levels of ability, from beginner to advanced student. Because the size of each group is limited, you will receive individualized instruction and coaching from the master weaving family of Federico Chavez Sosa. More experienced weavers can create more complex projects.

Participants will have a personal loom for the session. The loom will be dressed (warped) and ready for you to begin weaving upon arrival. Materials include your choice of naturally dyed wool yarn from which you will weave a sampler textile that can be used as a wall hanging, pillow cover, or form the body of a purse or shoulder bag. You will select the wool from colors dyed with pomegranates, pecans, mosses, indigo, and cochineal.  Our participants have created amazing textiles that range from 18 inches to 30 inches in length.

What You Will Learn:

  • Traditional Zapotec weaving techniques, patterns and motifs that produce squares, stripes, diagonals, circles and color gradations;
  • Use of the two-harness pedal loom and shuttles;
  • Practice weaving simple or more complex patterns, depending upon your level of experience;
  • The cultural history of rug weaving in Teotitlan, ancient wool preparation techniques, natural dyeing methods, and how to discern synthetic dye use
  • Participate in natural dyeing demonstrations to see how the range and variety of color comes from native plant materials;
  • Complete a finished textile: cut the sample tapestry from the loom, clean the wool tapestry, twist and tie the fringes; and
  • Work under the expert guidance of weavers who have created extraordinary textiles for generations.

Participants with Federico at the tapestry loom

Day 1:  Arrive and settle in to your Bed and Breakfast lodge.

Weaving Workshop: Days 2-5, 9:00 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.

Day 2: Arrive at the Chavez Family Studio for an orientation and demonstration of Zapotec weaving patterns and techniques to create squares, stripes, diagonals and circles. Choose your loom and select the colors for your tapestry. Prepare the bobbins. Begin your project.

Days 3-4-5: Participate in demonstrations and then practice using the two-harness pedal loom using a variety of shuttles to make more complex patterns and greater variety of colors, experiment with using the equipment on your own, learn dyeing techniques using cochineal, indigo, wild marigold (pericone) and moss. Learn how to count threads to create a circle or square within the overall design. Finish off your piece by cutting it off the loom, rolling and tying fringes.

Day 6:  After breakfast, walk around the block to the kitchen of the famed cooking teacher.  You’ll go to the market with her, select the food you will prepare, join her in her kitchen for all the preparations, then enjoy what you have cooked for comida!

Day 7:  Depart for the airport and home after breakfast.

What Is Included:

  • All weaving equipment and supplies to create a finished wool tapestry sampler that is approximately 18” wide by 24” long
  • 22+ hours of supervised instruction in English
  • An educational reference notebook of workshop materials
  • 6 nights lodging (double occupancy) with daily breakfast in Teotitlan del Valle at a lovely and comfortable bed and breakfast within easy walking distance of the weaving studio

Cost for the 6 Night/7-Day Program is $995 USD per person, double occupancy.  Additional nights lodging can be arranged at $55 per night per person in Teotitlan del Valle.  Oaxaca city extension can be arranged at $125 per night (includes breakfast).

How to Register: A $500 USD deposit is required to reserve your space.

Final payment of the balance is due 45 days before the start day of the workshop. If the final balance is not paid by then, we reserve the right to treat the reservation as cancelled and no refunds are offered. Any registrations made within 60 days of the workshop start date must be paid in full at the time of registration.

Mountains and Rains Zapotec Rug Pattern

Cancellations and Refunds

If cancellation is necessary, deposits are refundable, as follows:

Cancellations must be made in writing by email.

Deposits may be refunded:

  • up to 60 days before the workshop start date, 50% of the deposit will be refunded.
  • After that, deposits are not refundable.
  • If cancellation is necessary, you may apply the deposit to a future workshop scheduled in the same calendar year or transfer your registration to another person.
  • We reserve the right to cancel or reschedule workshops, in which case you may choose a 100% refund or to apply the tuition to a future workshop.

We prefer payment with PayPal.  See “Register Today” for form and procedures.

What Is NOT Included:

  • Transportation in/to Mexico, Oaxaca and Teotitlan
  • Local transportation costs (bus, taxi, collectivo)
  • Gratuities and fees
  • Trip insurance, medical expenses, hospitalization, and other fees
  • Lunches and dinners (unless noted in the itinerary), snacks, liquor/alcoholic beverages
  • Optional afternoon side trips and excursions

Upon registration for the workshop, we will provide you with:

  • Transportation options to get from the Oaxaca airport to Teotitlan del Valle and your bed and breakfast
  • A self-guided tour map of Teotitlan del Valle
  • How to get from the airport to the village
  • A seasonal packing list, and travel tips to make your journey easier and fun

Note: Zapotec weavers use the pedal loom, which they stand at to work. People who have difficulty standing for any period of time, or who have back problems are discouraged from attending. Many of Teotitlan’s streets and alleyways are cobblestone and/or dirt, with many uneven surfaces. It is a several block walk between lodging options and the weaving workshop. Please bring appropriate walking shoes.


U.S. Citizens traveling to Mexico are required to carry a current passport, valid for at least three months after your re-entry to the U.S. It is your responsibility to obtain proper documentation. If you are not a U.S. Citizen, contact the Mexican embassy, consulate or national airline of Mexico for entry requirements.

Trip Insurance

Please consider purchasing travel insurance. Unforeseen circumstances of getting to Teotitlan del Valle could cost you more than you expected. In the event of an emergency or natural disaster caused beyond our control, trip insurance will cover any unexpected expenses.

Questions? Contact