Monthly Archives: September 2012

Shop Mexico: The Artisan Sisters Week 12 — In Honor of El Grito de Dolores, Two Majolica Plates

First, a beautiful, hand-painted and lead-free plate from the village of Dolores in the State of Guanajuato.  Home of Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla, the Roman Catholic priest who first cried the El Grito de Dolores, the town is now famous for its brightly colored, hand-painted ceramics.   Hidalgo’s famous cry for Mexican independence from Spain is marked by celebration throughout the country on September 16, commemorating the first cry in 1825.  The town changed its name to  Dolores Hidalgo to honor the man who rallied the people to determine their own destiny.  Viva Mexico!


SOLD.  An incredible, bold royal blue, lead-free, hand-painted dinner plate from Dolores Hidalgo.  I bought this beauty at a lovely shop directly across the street from the church where Hidalgo sounded his famous cry. Measures 10″ in diameter. Has holes in the foot of the plate to hang it on a wall.  $35 USD includes shipping to anywhere in the continental USA.

The Battle of Guanajuato occurred four days after Hidalgo’s famous cry.  Nearby is the village of Santa Rosa where another pottery makes lovely hand-painted majolica.  The painting is delicate, subtle and Italian in style.  Here, rich, warmly painted plate is decorated with a pear, mango, peach and lemon on a blue/green background.   Measures 10-1/2″ in diameter.  Suitable for hanging.  $48 USD includes shipping to anywhere in the continental USA.

Please send me an email first if you are interested in making a purchase.  I’ll let you know if they are still available and I’ll send you a PayPal invoice.

   Left is mark for the Santa Rosa Majolica plate with fruit. Right is Lead Free mark for blue Dolores Hidalgo plate.

Easter in Oaxaca, Mexico: Semana Santa Photography Workshop

Wednesday, March 27 to Wednesday, April 4, 2013 – 8 days, 7 nights

Discover Oaxaca, use your camera to document the culture and traditions of this most important annual ritual, and immerse yourself in Zapotec village life.  Our expeditions are learning workshops designed to develop your photography skills while you have fun during a global travel experience!

Semana Santa – Holy Week – in Oaxaca, Mexico offers you a rich experience to explore and capture rituals that are practiced today much as they were 500 years ago in Medieval Europe.   They are somber, serious and spiritual, recreating the Last Supper, the Via Doloroso procession to the crucifixion, and the resurrection of Christ.   We arrive in time to take part in the processions of Maundy Thursday and Good Friday, and Easter Sunday mass.


Then, on the Monday following Easter Sunday, we will observe the local Zapotec tradition of Baile de los Viejos – Dance of the Old Men.   This is an 8,000 year-old indigenous village practice that ensures cultural continuity, rededication to community values and meeting the collective needs of all, and a mechanism to provide feedback to leaders about their performance as elected officials.  It is visually stunning and participatory.

We will be based in the Zapotec rug weaving village of Teotitlan del Valle, where we will be welcomed into a family-owned and operated bed and breakfast inn, with delicious food and an intimate look into daily life.


Expedition Workshop Leader/Instructor is Leah Sobsey, MFA

Leah Sobsey is a nationally recognized, award-winning photographer.  She is also a photography program faculty member at the University of North Carolina—Greensboro (since 2003) and the Duke University Center for Documentary Studies (since 2002).  We selected Leah because of her exceptional teaching experience, her acumen and wide-ranging versatility as a photographer, her recognition as exhibiting artist, and because her work is held in private collections and museums throughout the United States.

Southern Photography blogger/photographer John N. Wall, says “… Sobsey is a first-class photographer, one of the Southern Photographers We Watch Out For, who makes hauntingly beautiful images while she is engaging in thoughtful and complex projects that never fail to enhance our perception of the world around us.  She shows an exceptional range in her work, from documentary work that involves it subjects in the production of their own images to straightforward images characterized by wit and ingenuity to alternative process work that reminds of us of the ways the act of photography transforms our perception of the world.


Leah received the MFA from the San Francisco Art Institute (where she has taught) and the BA in anthropology and sociology from Guilford College.  To her credit, Leah was a teaching assistant to Mary Ellen Mark, Amy Arbus, Bob Sacha, and others while attending the Maine Photographic Workshops, where she graduated from and now teaches.  With visual artist Lynn Bregman Blass, Sobsey created the Visual History Collaborative.  VHC works with individuals, families, communities and organizations to create custom art through stories and artifacts — memories and mementos. This is a participatory and inclusive process that invites contributors to build history together.

About the Workshop/Expedition:  Experiential Learning

This is an educational program for beginners as well as more experienced photographers who want to learn more about the technical and creative aspects of their camera, and the art of making a compelling photograph.   Our groups are very small, limited to 10 people.  We are dedicated to giving you personal attention and coaching.  Whatever your skill level, you will gain the knowledge to do more with your camera and reflect what you see with greater creativity. Experimentation is encouraged as participants are expected to stretch, explore and test new ideas. Failures and mistakes are applauded as participants explore new territories and make exciting discoveries.

Build Your Photography Skills!  You Will Learn:

  • The fundamentals of your camera in order to create compelling photographs.
  • The Elements of Time and Perspective – manipulate camera shutter and aperture settings to give emotion to your images.
  • To see the light, the photographer’s basic tool.  Develop a greater appreciation and understanding for the quality of light.
  • The fundamentals of framing, composition and angle of view to create striking images- Work with form, line, light, shadow, shape and space.
  • The “Decisive moment” to capture the world in all its wonderment.
  • How the art of editing and sequencing to can create narrative and tell beautiful compelling stories.
  • To ask hard questions — The ethical and philosophical questions that come up for documentary photographers.

Preliminary 8-Day Itinerary

Day 1, Wednesday, March 27:  Travel to Oaxaca, check into our Teotitlan del Valle Bed and Breakfast Inn.  (Dinner on your own.)

Day 2, Thursday, March 28: Orientation, learning session, Maundy Thursday photography assignment, best of day photography review and critique. (Breakfast, lunch, dinner.)

Day 3, Friday, March 29: Learning session, Good Friday photography assignment, best of day photography review and critique. (Breakfast, dinner.)

Day 4, Saturday, March 30: Learning session, day in Oaxaca city.  Oaxaca city photography assignment.  Travel to/from Oaxaca by shared taxi.   (Breakfast included.  Lunch and dinner on your own.)

Day 5,  Sunday, April 1: Learning session, Easter Sunday photography assignment, best of day photography review and critique.  (Breakfast, lunch and dinner included.)

Day 6, Monday, April 2: Learning session, Dance of the Old Men photography assignment.  (Breakfast, dinner included.  Lunch on your own.)

Day 7, Tuesday, April 3: Learning session: editing and selection for final presentation.  Best of prior day review and critique.  Prepare for final Best of Week evening photo presentation. (Breakfast and dinner included.  Lunch on your own.)

Day 8, Wednesday, April 4:  Depart.

A Cultural Immersion Experience of a Lifetime That Includes:
  • 7 breakfasts, 2 lunches, 5 dinners
  • Teotitlan lodging in a family operated guest house
  • All instruction with one private coaching session
  • Transportation associated with the itinerary
  • Comprehensive travel insurance as a partner with the Council on International Educational Exchange that includes $250,000 accident and sickness medical expense. Yes, we include this for all participants as part of your registration fee!
  • Optional for an added cost of $110 per person: Natural Disaster and Political Evacuation as well as Trip Cancellation and Interruption
What You Should Bring

  • Your energy and enthusiasm
  • Digital SLR camera
  • Laptop computer
  • Software for organizing and presenting images (such as Lightroom)
  • Batteries and battery charger
  • Camera Memory card(s) and data stick
  • Pen and notepad
  • Sturdy, comfortable walking shoes, sun protection, sun hat
(Upon registration, you will receive a complete packet and information guide with suggested packing list and other useful information.)
Cost: The basic cost for the trip is $1,495. USD per person. Deposit of $750 to reserve. This includes six nights lodging double occupancy with shared bath. Most travel workshops of this type and length cost more than twice as much! It does NOT include airfare, taxes, tips/gratuities, liquor/alcoholic beverages, some meals as specified in the itinerary, site entry fees, and transportation.
Four Add-on Options
  • Option 1: Shared room/double occupancy with private bath. $1,695. Deposit to reserve: $850.
  • Option 2: Single Supplement, private room with private bath; $1,995. Deposit to reserve: $1,000.
  • Option 3: Add more nights lodging in Oaxaca City either before or after the workshop. Please specify dates. $145 per night.
  • Option 4:  Supplemental trip cancellation insurance, $110.

Reservations and Cancellations. A 50% deposit is required to guarantee your spot. The final payment for the balance due (including any supplemental costs) shall be made by November 16, 2012. Payment is accepted with PayPal. We will send you an itemized invoice.

Please understand that we make lodging and transportation arrangements months in advance of the program. Deposits or payments in full are often required by our hosts. If cancellation is necessary, please notify us in writing by email. After November 16, 2012, no refunds are possible; however, we will make every possible effort to fill your reserved space or you may send a substitute. If you cancel on or before November 16, 2012, we will refund 50% of your deposit.

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 register, contact: We accept payment with PayPal only. As soon as you tell us you are ready to register, we will send you a PayPal invoice. Thank you.

This workshop is produced by Norma Hawthorne, Oaxaca Cultural Navigator LLC. We reserve the right to alter the itinerary and make instructor substitutions without notice.

Shop Mexico–The Artisan Sisters Week 12: Majolica Pitcher and Plate

Beyond the city of Guanajuato, just outside the mining town of Valenciana, is the village of Santa Rosa where a local family has created majolica ceramics for generations. One of the styles is similar to Italian pottery that one can find in the Siena hills outside of Florence, with soft, muted colors and subtle paintings of fruit and wildlife. The workshop and display are filled with dishes, platters, bowls, every type of dinnerware imaginable, plus beautiful urns and planters.

Already packed to the seams of my luggage, I managed to get away with two stunning, small pieces that I could cram in and bring back to the U.S. They are offered for sale here. These are high-fire and lead-free!

Prices include shipping to anywhere in the continental U.S. Please contact me directly with your interest in purchasing and I will send you a PayPal invoice.

SOLD. Small jug for milk or juice, hand-painted with fruit assortment–blue grapes, lemon, mango, pomegranate, and peaches. Stands about 7″ high. $58 USD.

Small salad or butter plate (above, right), about 6″ in diameter. Has holes on the back to make this lovely piece suitable for wall hanging. $23 USD.


Dilemma: Separating the blog from my personal life — gaps and overlaps

This post is not so much about life and travel to, in, and around Oaxaca and Mexico,  as it is an update about where I’ve been over the last few weeks and where I am now — both in the physical and existential sense. It isn’t easy to write about this since it means going beyond the usual and revealing more about what I’m feeling. An emotional essay is not my standard, and presents a dilemma about how much I should talk about online that personal. While Oaxaca Cultural Navigator is my personal perspective, it focuses on travel, culture, art, and history, etc.  Lately, I haven’t been writing as regularly because my attention is elsewhere and I feel like I want to explain this.

My 96-1/2-year-old mother is nearing the end of her life.  Yet, we don’t know when her life will end.  She has had a long life. Her life has been long enough to realize her dreams, though she has fulfilled only a few of them. Often, the yearnings of women of her generation were suppressed in order to support home and family. She has been my role model for how to live otherwise with more independence and intention.

In the past four weeks I have been to Northern California twice, making round trips from Mexico City each time to have time with her and to give my caretaker sister some time for herself. But, it’s never enough time when you know that time is finite and the person who you love and who gave you life is strugglng to sustain her own. I am sad, and feel that however much time I’ve had with her still won’t fill the gap — for her and for me. In the last few days my mom has told her children and grandchildren how much she loves us and how proud she is of us. The messages are by email with copies to us all.  (This is a perfect  goodbye from my mom who has used the Internet for over 10 years.) I know she is getting ready, and in this way she is preparing us. I think I’m prepared, but ….

Last week, I flew from San Francisco to Boston, arriving in the middle of the night, staying with friends, and then driving to Portland, Maine, to meet up with my husband. We hadn’t seen each other in two months because of all this back and forth. Now, I am with him in a little cabin at the edge of a beautiful Maine lake where there is no WiFi connection. A blessing for us. We are here on vacation for another 10 days.

This morning, at the end of our yoga class, our instructor asked us to continue cool down by going into the fetal position. As I curled up and the tears came, I felt for a moment the sensation of birth and death. Beginning and ending of life. Thinking of my mother and her journey, and exit. This is what preoccupies me now.

This means not as many blog posts. And, because I’m not in Oaxaca right now, I am unable to give you daily updates of life there as I know it. An information gap for me and for you. And, because of my frame of mind, I’m not able to write as often right now.

Hopefully, more will come soon. I wanted you to know, and appreciate your patience and understanding.


Oaxaca Day of the Dead Photography Exhibit at Duke University Set: Chavez Family to Participate

On Tuesday, October 2, 2012, 5:30-7:30 p.m., an opening reception will be held at Duke University Friedl Building Jameson gallery for “Days of the Dead: From Mexican Roots to Present Day Practice in the United States,” in honor of National Hispanic Heritage Month. Included will be 25 photographs taken in 2011 by participants* in the Day of the Dead Photography Expedition, produced by Oaxaca Cultural Navigator. The exhibition is organized by the Program in Latino/a Studies in the Global South at Duke University, whose executive director Jenny Snead Williams participated in 2011. The exhibition is curated by Bill Bamberger, award-winning faculty member in the Duke University Center for Documentary Studies and expedition leader/instructor, and Jenny Snead Williams.

*Participants in the 2011 expedition whose work will be exhibited are:  Cheryl Cross (Towson, Maryland), Liz Bryan (British Columbia), Nick Eckert (Washington, DC), Wayne Kubal (Tucson, Arizona), Jenny Snead Williams (Durham, NC), Norma Hawthorne (Pittsboro, NC), Jenny Haynes (British Columbia) and instructor Bill Bamberger (Durham, NC).

Eric Chavez Santiago, education director at the Museo Textil de Oaxaca, and his sister Janet Chavez Santiago, a linguist and coordinator of the Centro Academico y Cultural San Pablo educational programs, are invited by Duke University to participate in the opening activities. They will talk about Day of the Dead traditions in their family home and village of Teotitlan del Valle and work with students to build a traditional Oaxaca Day of the Dead altar.

Chavez Santiago family rugs will also be on exhibition and offered for sale during the opening reception. The family produces extraordinary textiles woven with 100% churro sheep whose wool is hand-spun and then dyed with natural plant materials (wild marigold, indigo, moss, pomegranates, nuts) and cochineal (the bug of the prickly pear cactus that produces natural, color-fast and intense shades of reds, purples, oranges, and pinks).

The altar offerings include wild marigold (cempasuchitl), photographs of deceased loved ones, pan de muerto (special egg bread), papel picado (cut out paper decorations), the favorite fruits, foods, and beverages of loved ones, Oaxaca chocolate, sugar skulls, tamales, candles, and incense. An essential part of the Oaxaca altar is also religious and spiritual — an image of the Virgin of Guadalupe and of the Crucifixion.

Jenny Snead Williams tells me that area elementary school students will be creating another part of the exhibit with Duke students and faculty, and that Duke students will also be working on a third project that relates to the US celebrations of Days of the Dead. “Overall, it’s a rather complex exhibit because it will include so many constituents from local school children and teachers, to the general community, to students and professors.

Eric, Janet and Norma will be in Atlanta on October 3 and 4, where we will be hosted by Robin and Ted Blocker, and Lauren Waits and Art Gambill, for two evening rug exhibitions and sales. If you live in Atlanta or know anyone there, let me know and we’ll send them an invitation!