Monthly Archives: May 2012

Recipe: Squash Blossom Frittata — Garden Edibles Oaxaca Style

Squash Blossom Frittata on a Uriarte Talavera Plate

One of my favorite tastes in Oaxaca is fresh squash blossoms.  They are so beautiful, a delicious golden-yellow food taste that signals the beginning of summer. In Oaxaca, the markets will be filled with bunches of squash blossoms like edible bouquets.

I’m in North Carolina for a few more weeks before I return to Mexico in mid-June.  Stephen, my husband, has been cultivating our organic garden and we have a patch of volunteer squash plants.  We are also part of Granite Springs CSA in Pittsboro.  Each week we receive a bountiful basket of organic food grown by Meredith and her troupe.  This week, the special treat was baby zucchini and yellow crooknecks.  Along with our bumper crop of volunteer male (no fruit) squash blossoms, creativity was calling.

For our May 26 wedding anniversary, Stephen cooked us a delicious breakfast –this squash blossom frittata.  Here’s the recipe.


  • 3-4 blossoms, rinsed in vinegar water and patted dry
  • 1-2 small zucchini or yellow squash, sliced thinly
  • 4 eggs
  • 3 T. water
  • 3 T. olive oil
  • 3 T. butter
  • 1 small yellow onion, chopped
  • 1/4-1/2 cup Queso fresco or Ricotta cheese
  • Chopped parsley or cilantro (optional)
  • Salt and pepper to taste


  1. Beat eggs and water in a bowl until frothy. Add parsley or cilantro if you are using them. Add  salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.
  2. Pick 3 to 4 blossoms per person and 1 or 2 baby yellow or green summer squash. Rinse blossoms well and drain on paper towels.
  3. Melt butter  and olive oil.  Sauté the onions and zucchini or squash until soft. Add blossoms and sauté for about 30 minutes. Remove blossoms from pan.
  4. Pour egg mix into the same pan, and add onions, and squash to the pan – arranging evenly.  Lay blossoms out like a sunburst radiating from the center to denote 4 equal portions.
  5. Cook over medium-low heat in an 8″ omelet pan until almost set. Dab top with soft cheese in equal parts around top of frittata.  Most dairy sections of U.S. supermarkets now carry Queso fresco!  Thank you, Mexican immigrants.
  6. Finish under broiler about 3 minutes until lightly puffed and slightly browned.

Shop Mexico: Week 3–Day of the Dead Extravaganza

The Artisan Sisters offer, on this Memorial Weekend Monday, unusual pieces by noted Oaxaca artisans who playfully render clay and wood into fanciful Day of the Dead figures.  Today’s line-up:  Josefina Aguilar, ceramic artist, Bertha Cruz, alebrijes painter, and Miguel Diaz.

1.  First,  we introduce you to The Happy Couple: Ready for a Stroll Around Town.  By famous Ocotlan de Morelos folk artist Josefina Aguilar. The glittery female Catrina rests on her parasol while balancing a cigarette holder in her other hand.  She stands tall at 11-1/2″ high x 5″ wide.  Her male companion is 13″ high x 4″ wide, complete with bow tie and top hat.  These are substantial figures, larger that what is typical.  Note: both heads rest on wire springs — the better to see you with, my dear.  Sold as a pair.  Item #5312012.2.  $265.  Day of the Dead is just around the corner!


3. Catrina Roja Negra. Bertha Cruz, an amazing alebrije painter from Arrazola, outdid herself on this figure.  Bertha began selling independently out of her home about four years ago. She is not represented in galleries. Her brush details are eensy teensy and exquisite. Her husband, Alfonso Castellanos Ibañez, does the carving but insists that she sign her name because the beauty is in the painting, he says.  She is quite collectible. 14″ high x 5″ wide. Item #5312012.3.  $225.


Alebrijes-Mexico, a German art resource, notes that “Bertha is a famous painter. Every single one of her alebrijes is a unique work of art. None of her sculptures matches any of the others. Each of her sculptures represents a three dimensional painting of the highest standard. She predominantly uses Zapotec motifs in subdued colors. She is without restriction one of the best artists in Mexico.”

4.  Donkey Playing Keyboard is a whimsical musician lady, she’s got the  rhythm, she’s got the beat. Carved copal wood and painted alebrije figure by Arrazola folk artist Miguel Diaz (signed).  9-7/8″ high x 3-1/2″ wide.  Item #5211012.4.  $45.


Don’t forget to contact us first by email  to see if the item you are interested in is still available.  We will send you an invoice after we calculate shipping costs based on your Zip Code.  Many thanks, Norma and Barbara, The Artisan Sisters.

Come see Oaxaca for yourself during Day of the Dead and attend our Photography Expedition, October 28-November 4.


Art of the Rebozo: Painting on Silk Oaxaca Style with Costume Designer Hilary Simon

Oaxaca is the ideal location for this 8-night, 9-day silk painting workshop led by London, U.K. costume designer, artist and curator Hilary Simon from March 22-30, 2013.  Hilary will curate a London and Mexico exhibition on the rebozo in 2014, and we are fortunate to bring her to Oaxaca to give you this incredible experience to create a hand-painted silk rebozo based on Oaxaca motifs.

Inspiration for design is everywhere within the indigenous culture here and there is no shortage of topics to draw from: stunning scenery, food, flowers, textiles, archaeology and art.  Plus, this is Semana Santa Week, a perfect time for visual inspiration. During our time together, we will visit museums, markets and artisans to capture visual images that will become subjects for your rebozo.  If you have your own idea for a design, bring it! We’ll help you translate it to silk.

Silk painting is suitable for all levels, from total beginner to professional artists.  It is easy to grasp and execute.  Each participant will have a unique style that emerges in the class and this is a very enjoyable experience with exciting results.

We will use the French technique of gutta-serti on habutai silk.  The designs are outlined with gutta or water-based resists, which are applied to natural off-white silk that has been pre-washed, dried and stretched (on a stretcher).

The result will be a beautiful silk rebozo of your own creation                                   that measures at least 72″ long  x 24″ wide!

Hilary will demonstrate each step and walk you through the process.  First, we will practice on a small sampler before starting on the larger piece of silk that will become the rebozo.  This sampler can be made later into pillows and beautiful accessories.  You will see how the dyes react to the gutta and the fascinating effects that result.  Next, you will prepare a design to apply directly onto the silk with a soft pencil or paper stencil.  We will spend time exploring ideas and motifs, with sketches and photographs to stimulate your creativity.  You will also learn how to mix and dilute the dyes to expand the color palette.  The combinations are endless and the colors are rich and vibrant.

We will use Special Effects that include fine and coarse salt to give a mottled effect, alcohol to soften the dye intensity, and outliners to highlight designs at the final stages that yield iridescent, glittery, and metallic colors.  A Faux batik effect is achieved using hot wax that gives a crackle effect to the design.

Preliminary Daily Itinerary: This is Semana Santa Week in Oaxaca, an extraordinary time for visual inspiration.

Friday, March 22, Day 1:  Arrive and check in to your Oaxaca hotel.  If you arrive early enough, join us for a for a no-host dinner.  Overnight in Oaxaca city.

Saturday, March 23, Day 2:  Orientation and Exploration: After breakfast, we will explore Oaxaca on foot with sketchbook in-hand, visit galleries and museums, and soak in the Colonial architecture of this incredible city. Depart Oaxaca in late afternoon.  Check in to Teotitlan del Valle bed and breakfast.  (B, L, D)

Sunday, March 24, Day 3:  Talk and demonstration.  After exploring the famous regional tianguis (market) in Tlacolula in the morning, we gather in the afternoon to make the pipette to apply the gutta gum, practice on a piece of prepared stretched silk, learn how to control the gutta line which is the grounding for the development of the creative piece, then apply the dyes. (B, L, D)

Monday, March 25, Day 4:  Painting Demonstration.  Learn about the dyes and various dye application techniques: adding water alcohol, salts, painting wet on wet or wet on dry surfaces, layering.  Student work at their own pace, spending time on their personal interests.  Take a break to participate in the Lunes Monday processions. Don’t forget your sketchbook. Overnight in Teotitlan del Valle for the rest of the week. (B, L, D)

Tuesday, March 26, Day 5:   Faux Batik  Demonstration as a final application. Bringing all the techniques together, Day 5 is the time to play with all that you have learned.  Prepare to begin your major piece. Ideas and sketching for the Rebozo. (B, D)

Wednesday-Friday, March 27-29, Day 6/7/8:  During this time, Hilary is available to help students with ideas and developments.  She will demonstrate and coach each person individually to express her/himself fully through their design.  It takes time to carefully prepare for the finished piece and we know that participants will each work at a different pace. For those who are speedier, more silk can be painted!  We’ll take a break to join villagers for Maundy Thursday processions.  Good Friday evening reception and Rebozo Exhibition.  Local guests are invited. (B, D)

Saturday, March 30, Day 9: Depart after breakfast.

What is Included:

  • 21 hours of instruction
  • Unlimited coaching
  • Open studio workshop time
  • All lodging
  • 8 breakfasts, 3 lunches, 7 dinners
  • Guided visits as indicated in the itinerary
  • Transportation as indicated in the itinerary
  • Silk to practice on and for your long rebozo
  • All dyes, gutta-serti, and wood frames

What to Bring:

  • Your own watercolor brushes (we’ll send specifications)
  • A sketchbook and drawing pencil
  • Your inquisitiveness and enthusiasm
Meet Your Workshop Leader: Hilary Simon — Costume Designer, Artist, Curator.  Hilary is currently working on a textile exhibition of the Mexican Rebozo.  It will open in London at The Fashion and Textile Museum on February 2014.  In July 2014, the exhibition will travel to The Franz Mayer Museum in Mexico City and then in December open at The Textile Museum in Oaxaca, Mexico.  It will have work from the Robert Everts collection, contemporary Mexican and British textile designers, fashion designers and artists, pieces from private collections, and much more.
From 1993 to 2009, Hilary was Head of the Costume Department at GMTV Breakfast Television.  In addition, she worked on film television drama, light entertainment and the theatre as a freelance costume designer.
A specialist in silk painting, she offers workshops worldwide at The Eden Project in Cornwall, England, Wildfiber in Los Angeles, and Artguat in Guatemala.   Her work has been produced on greeting cards giftwrap, books and book covers. Her images can be seen on the Bridgeman Art Library website.Lodging/Accommodations and Cost.  To keep this program affordable, we have selected a lovely B&B in Oaxaca City and a clean and basic B&B posada in Teotitlan del Valle, where most of our workshop is held.  Local meals are prepared by excellent cooks from organic ingredients made from scratch. Vegetarian options are available.

Base Cost: $1,595 per person double occupancy with shared bath facilities. Single rooms with private bath are available with a $300 single supplement.  Please tell us your preference below.  Use the Registration Form.

[ ] Option 1: I will share a room, double occupancy with shared bath, $1,595 per person.

[ ] Option 2: I prefer a single room with private bath for a total of $1,895 per person.

[ ] Option A: One-hour massage scheduled during open times in the weekly schedule. Add: $50.

Most travel workshops of this type and length cost more than twice as much! The workshop does NOT include airfare, taxes, tips/gratuities, travel insurance, liquor or alcoholic beverages, some meals, and local transportation to and from Oaxaca city.  We will arrange taxi pick-up and return from/to the Oaxaca airport at your own expense.

Reservations and Cancellations.   A 50% deposit based on your preferred options is required to guarantee your spot. The final payment for the balance due (including any additional costs) shall be paid by January 15, 2013. Payment is requested or PayPal. We will  send you an itemized invoice when you tell us you are ready to register.

We strongly recommend that you take out trip cancellation, baggage, emergency evacuation and medical insurance before you begin your trip, since unforeseen circumstances are possible.

To get your questions answered and to register, contact:  Since we are in Oaxaca most of the year, we are happy to arrange a Skype conversation with you if you wish.

This retreat is produced by Norma Hawthorne, Oaxaca Cultural Navigator LLC. We reserve the right to make itinerary changes and substitutions as necessary.

Authenticating Oaxaca Pottery — A Dolores Porras Clay Sculpture

I received a question from a reader this week along with a photograph of a vintage Oaxaca ceramic figure for sale by a Southern California gallery, asking “Is it real?”  The California dealer is selling a Dolores Porras pottery figure measuring 28″ high x 14″ wide, and the price is $500.  Of course, the reader wanted to know if it was worth it!

She received a photo of the front of the figure along with this description from the dealer:

“Along with her family, Dolores Porras has been creating pottery for over 60 years. She lives in the village of Atzompa, Oaxaca, Mexico. She worked with renowned Mexican potter, Teodora Blanco.   In the early 1980s, she began exploring more colors beyond the traditional green that the area is known for. She developed a translucent white glaze that makes her pieces almost iridescent. She uses it as a background color behind details that are painted in rusts, cobalt blues and yellows.

She develops each piece, adding the raised elements such as flowers and decorates them with her distinctive glazes. Her production has been curtailed by the recent death of her husband, as well as her advancing age.”

I was skeptical since I know that Dolores died in November 2010, almost two years ago, something that the dealer was not aware of although there is plenty of information available on the Internet through good research.  I was not certain that Dolores worked with Teodora Blanco as the dealer suggested.  Folk art families tend not to cross-pollinate (so to speak).  In fact, in looking at the clay dress patterning, I thought the piece looked more like the style of Teodora Blanco or one of her children.  Although, I also know that once a new design is introduced in a village it can spread quickly and all the artisans begin using it. This is true for weaving, clay and carved and painted wood figures.

There was also no photo of the signature.  I have several Dolores’ pieces that I was fortunate to acquire in the last few years before she passed.  Her signature is very primitive.  I recommended that the reader ask the dealer to send her a photo of the signature, too.  For $500, the reader deserved to see the signature!

Here is the signature we received, and indeed, it looks like how Dolores signed her pots.  I am not an expert in Dolores Porras pottery by any means.  The best expert is Michael Peed, a ceramic artist and teacher, who made a documentary film about Dolores.  It is featured on this blog and if you haven’t seen it, I highly recommend you order a copy.  The proceeds go to Dolores’ surviving children.

My suggestion to the reader was to ask the dealer whether there was any negotiating room and to include the packing and shipping in the price of the piece, which IS a wonderful example of Dolores’ work.  It’s likely it was a piece done at the height of her creativity, since her late-life pieces are much simpler and more primitive.

How would you go about authenticating a piece like this?  Do you think it’s worth $500 USD?





Shop Mexico: Week 2 — Alebrijes + Animales

We are offering a weekly listing of handmade textiles, alebrijes, clothing, jewelry and other Mexican collectibles from Shop Mexico: The Artisan Sisters.

This week we feature hand-carved copal wood alebrijes, whimsical Oaxaca figures that are painstakingly hand-painted, plus a sweet Chiapas alligator made of hand-felted and embroidered wool.

Strike Up the Band.  3-figures, each approx, 6″ high x 2-1/4″ wide. $115. Signed by San Martin Tilcajete artist Pablo Vasquez Matias. Item #5212012.1 These whimsical animal musicians are playing cymbals, drums and saxophone.  Music is an essential part of Oaxaca village life, present at every festive occasion.  Toombalah. Toot.


El Nahual.  SOLD.  Approx. 5-3/4″ high x 5″ wide. $35. Item #5212012.2.  Signed by San Martin Tilcajete artist Inocencio Vasquez. The Nahual is an important part of Mesoamerican folk religion, a human with magical powers who can turn him/herself into an animal. This yellow nahual has horsehair whiskers and tail, with a sweet uplifted human face.  The three small brown spots are copal sap, which in no way detracts.  Copal sap is used for ritual incense in Oaxaca.  Price plus shipping and handling depending upon your location.


Alligator.  SOLD.  This wool felted character comes from Chiapas, Mexico, where alligators and crocodiles swim in wide, muddy rivers.  The felt is handmade from locally sheared wool and stuffed, then sewn and embellished by hand.  Approx. 14″ long x 5″ wide. $24. Item #5212012.3.

Shipping and handling for our items is additional.  Please send us your ZIP code and we will send you the cost to ship. Please contact me before sending your PayPal payment to be sure the item you want is available!

The Artisan Sisters are Norma Hawthorne and Barbara Beerstein.  Sisters in real life, we love Mexico, love to travel together, and shop to support artists and artisans.  We usually come home with much more than what we need.

That is to your advantage!  Our prices our reasonable.  We ship fast.  We have already made the purchase, paying the artist what they have asked for without bargaining.  We believe in compensating people fairly for the beauty they create.

Week 1: Shop Mexico: The Artisan Sisters, May 14, 2012