Monthly Archives: November 2013

Silver Jewelry Makers to Leave Oaxaca

Silversmiths Brigitte Huet and her husband Ivan Campant are making their last sterling silver jewelry castings in December 2013.  They will dismantle their Oaxaca Kand-art studio in early January 2014 to prepare for a permanent move to Brittany, France in early spring.  For over twenty years, Brigitte and Ivan have been carving intricate, traditional  Mexican designs derived from Azetc, Mixtec and Zapotec symbology using the ancient lost wax casting method.   Sadness does not begin to express how I feel about this.  It is a creative loss for Oaxaca.

Here is a message from Brigitte and Ivan to share with you:

Dear Friends,

I write because we may have met in Oaxaca, during one of our trips to the United States, or in a jewelry making workshop you attended.  Perhaps you collected and wear one of our jewelry creations.  I write to share this news with you.  

My husband Ivan and I are returning to France in March 2014 where we will live permanently.  It has been a difficult decision since Oaxaca has been our home for over 20 years and we have met many wonderful people like you during the time we have lived and worked here.

We want to stay connected to you and hope you will join our Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100005496314184where we post photographs and the process of how we work.   There will be new designs to come, too.  We will create these after we settle into our new home in France.  My Facebook email is brigittes.huet@gmail.com or kandamex@yahoo.com

Who knows ?  Perhaps you will come to visit us there or we will see you again somewhere else!  Maybe even in Oaxaca!  Thank you for your interest and support of our work.  We appreciate it.

Con besos y abrazos – with kisses and hugs – a bientôt – until we meet again,

Brigitte Huet and Ivan Campant

***

Their work can be found at El Nahual Gallery, 5 de Mayo, Central Historico, Oaxaca.  They are also accepting special orders which they will cast and make before they leave.  For any of you who know their work, you know how finely detailed it is, the quality of the workmanship, and the love and caring that goes into each piece.  For those of us who love Mexico, Kandart work represents a contemporary interpretation of pre-Hispanic life and reverence for the forces of nature:  earth, wind, fire, water, sun and moon, soaring eagle, grecas and caracols.  The codices become wearable art.

Yesterday, Brigitte and Ivan came to the casita for lunch.  They brought with them treasured plants to entrust in my care.  I promise to care for them well.  We talk about their future and leaving Oaxaca.  We talk about how everything they own must fit into one small shipping container.  We talk about how tourism has changed since the 2006 APPO demonstrations, fear of drug violence, and the economic crash of 2009.

I am reading Going to Pieces Without Falling Apart by Mark Epstein, M.D., a Buddhist psychiatrist-therapist.  He talks about transience and letting go.  He reminds me of the impermanence of all things.  He tells  me to be mindful of each moment and the beauty therein.  To be is more important than to do.

This is a perfect lesson for me as I begin to say goodbye to Brigitte and Ivan.  They are leaving Oaxaca but they are not leaving my life.  A bientot.  Until the next time.  Perhaps in Bretagne.

A Car for Oaxaca, Mexico: Searching for a Honda with the Right VIN

What’s a VIN?  Vehicle Identification Number, for the uninitiated.  The VIN indicates where the car was assembled, the manufacturer, the year of assembly, and lots of other fine details.  Critical, when thinking about buy a car to use in Mexico. (Critical any other time to be certain there were no accidents or the car was salvaged.)

Three years ago I bought a terrific 2003 Honda CRV with the intention of driving it to and using it in Oaxaca.  Despite our best intentions, the plan went awry two days before departure, when I discovered quite by accident that the VIN number indicated that car was assembled in the United Kingdom. Because of NAFTA rules, it could not be brought into Mexico.

I recently sold that car, and now I’m looking for another Honda to buy and bring here.  Seems I can’t find a CRV in the model year 2003-2005 that was made in the USA.  How can I tell?  The VIN number has to start with a numeric — like a 1, 2, 3, 4, or 5 to indicate it was assembled in either the U.S., Canada, or Mexico.  All the CRVs I’ve looked at online have VIN numbers that begin with J (for made in Japan) and S (for made in the United Kingdom).  You won’t believe how many sellers I’ve queried to send me the VIN number.  They want to know Why? I explain. All the CRVs in this model year range that I have found start with J or S.  If anyone knows anything differently, please share. Please! ‘Cause I’d really like another CRV. 

Lots of myths circulate among the ex-pat community about bringing cars to Mexico and keeping them here.  Someone recently told me the car has to be exactly 10 years old.  Not true!

My trusted friend in Austin, Texas, who is originally from the village I live in, is my car advisor.  He tells me that cars up to model year 2007 can be legalized at the border and ready for Mexican registration.

To register a car in Mexico, an expat must have a permanent resident visa. Otherwise, it has to be registered to a local.

Right now, I’m looking at what may be the next best thing to the Honda CRV — the Honda Element EX.  Looking for model years 2003-2005, with a manual transmission, 4WD, in good condition, under 130,000 miles.  Anyone out there have one they want to sell?  Of course, VIN number is the most important element.  It must start with a number!

As the car saga continues, I will be writing more about whether I buy a car in North Carolina and take a road trip to Austin with the right Honda.  Stay tuned.

Oaxaca Photography Workshop Tour: Dance of the Feather, Festival & Traditions

Come to Oaxaca, explore indigenous culture, cuisine and traditions, and use your digital SLR camera to capture, record and document it all, including the amazing Dance of the Feather — Danza de la Pluma,   This is cultural immersion at its best!

July 5-13, 2014 — 8 nights, 9 days

The annual Dance of the Feather takes place in Teotitlan del Valle in July.  It is an ancient pre-Hispanic ritual rooted in Zapotec tradition.   Adapted and changed by the Spanish conquerors  to pay homage to the church, dancers today interpret the story of Cortes and the Spanish conquest of Moctezuma and Mexico.  They dance in full regalia for up to ten hours a day for several days before an audience of villagers and visitors.  They do not consider this a performance!  It is a sacred honor to dance — a commitment to church and community.  Two young women are part of the group, representing the duality of Mexican women:  La Malinche and Doña Marina.  You will see it all, along with the Parade of the Canastas and other related festivities.

Beginners to intermediate level photographers welcome.

Each day, we will meet in a morning learning session,  then go out “on location” to practice what you’ve learned.  You need little or no experience with a digital camera to take part.   What you do need is a willingness and desire to immerse yourself in the experience, and be open to exploring new ways of seeing the world.

  

You will join art photographers Tom and Sam Robbins, our husband-wife team from Columbus, Ohio, who guide our expedition.  The Robbins’ are versatile, experienced teachers and coaches whose work appears in national photography magazines.

    

Throughout the week, we give you access to private homes and artist studios to enrich and personalize your photographic experience.

  

You will take a cooking class (included) to learn more about regional indigenous foods and their preparation, plus have a tasty dining experience including the famed mole sauce and mezcal if you wish.  Photography welcomed!

The cooking class was great and it provided wonderful photo opportunities. The instructors are exceptional, and there are endless picture subjects here. I also learned the different functions of my digital camera. -Kellie Fitzgerald

  

We’ll roam the huge regional Tlacolula market where vendors sell everything from live turkeys, handmade chocolate, woven hammocks, and the kitchen sink.   On market days, people come from remote mountain villages to buy and sell dressed in traditional indigenous clothing–a feast for the photographer’s eye.

  

We’ll also visit a local archeological site where corn was first cultivated over 8,000 years ago before it spread around the world.

Most valuable for me was learning how to use the manual controls of my camera, learning about depth of field and the macro settings.  Norma’s community connections provided unusual access to artisans. –Dan O’Brien

Topics Covered:

  • Using manual camera settings
  • Understanding composition
  • Capturing light, shadow and reflection
  • Knowing more about aperture and shutter speed
  • Experimenting with black and white, and sepia
  • Exploring the essentials of landscape and portraiture
  • Using Lightroom photo editing software
  • Getting feedback for steady improvement

During the workshop, you will review each other’s work and give each other supportive feedback, with expert guidance and coaching from Tom and Sam. A group presentation at the end of the week will give you an opportunity to showcase your best work and select a theme, if you choose.

  

This is a walking expedition!  Instruction will include both formal group discussion and a learn-as-you-go organic, flexible format.

  

Preliminary Itinerary (subject to change)

Day One,  Saturday, July 5:  Teotitlan del Valle.   This is your travel day. Arrive and settle in to our village bed and breakfast. (Light supper)

Day Two, Sunday, July 6:  Breakfast and learning session. Explore the regional tianguis (outdoor) Tlacolula market. Group lunch at the market.   Afternoon on your own. Early evening “Best of the Day” show and tell.  Group dinner. (B,L,D)

Day Three, Monday, July 7: Breakfast, cooking class, lunch.  Afternoon on your own.  Group dinner.  (B, L, D)

Day Four, Tuesday, July 8:  Breakfast, learning session, best of day presentation.  Lunch on your own. Visit homes where young women prepare for the procession of the baskets. Meet in the church square and join the village procession. Group dinner.  (B, D)

Day Five, Wednesday, July 9:  Breakfast, learning session, best of day presentation. Lunch on your own.  Dance of the Feather begins. Group dinner.  (B, D)

Day Six, Thursday, July 10:  Breakfast, learning session. visit Yagul archeological site.  Dance of the Feather continues into the evening.  Group dinner.  (B, D)

Day Seven, Friday, July 11:  Breakfast.  Travel to Oaxaca city.  Afternoon on your own. Early evening learning session and best of day show. Overnight in Oaxaca. Lunch and dinner on your own. (B)

Day Eight, Saturday, July 12:  Breakfast, learning session, Oaxaca street photography. Lunch on your own.  Gala group dinner and best of week presentation.  Overnight in Oaxaca.  (B, D)

Day Nine, Sunday, July 13:  Depart. 

Optional Additional Days:  We are happy to pre-arrange lodging for you to come early and/or stay later in either Teotitlan del Valle or Oaxaca city.  See the registration form and prices for this option.

About Husband and Wife Photographers Tom and Sam Robbins, Your Expedition Guides and Workshop Leaders

Tom Robbins, a photographer for more than 40 years, retired as professor of architecture at Columbus (Ohio) State Community College.  His careers in architecture and education have deepened his love for, and understanding of design, composition and visual impact.  Tom and his wife, Sam, have exhibited widely and their work is published in “Black and White Magazine.”  In the last five years, Tom and Sam have made Mexico the primary subject of their photography and have visited Oaxaca and the surrounding villages many times.

A serious photographer for over 20 years, Sam Robbins calls herself a “photographic hunter.”  Like her husband, Tom, she is most comfortable walking and wandering with her camera at the ready. While she has done studio portrait work, she is happiest allowing photographs to present themselves.  Before retirement, Sam taught art, English and photography.  Sharing her passion for photography with others is one of the most rewarding experiences of her life.  Though most of her work has been with a 35 mm SLR, she also has shot with medium format and really enjoys using a plastic, toy camera.  Recently, Sam taught and exhibited at the Museo Textil de Oaxaca, where English and Spanish-speaking participants applauded her thoughtful, supportive style.  See their work at   www.robbinsx2.com

  

Dance of the Feather, Danza de la Pluma

What You Should Bring

1)     Your energy and enthusiasm

2)     Digital SLR camera

3)     Laptop computer

4)     Lightroom on your computer ready for photo editing

5)     Batteries and battery charger

6)     Memory card(s) and card reader

7)     Pen and notepad

8)    Memory stick/jump drive

Plus, 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.)

Lodging/Accommodations are basic, clean and simple in the village.  In Oaxaca city we will stay at a well-known, highly rated bed and breakfast.

Cost:  The base cost for the trip is $1,795.00 USD.  This is for a shared room and shared bath.  Add on $300 per person for single room and private bath.

What the Workshop Includes

  • 8 nights lodging double occupancy
  • 8 breakfasts
  • 2 lunches
  • 7 dinners
  • Cooking class with famed local chef
  • Transportation to market towns
  • Transportation and admission to archeological sites
  • All instruction

It does NOT include airfare, taxes,  gratuities, travel insurance, liquor and alcoholic beverages, some meals and some transportation.

Costs, 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 postmarked by May 1, 2014.  We request Payment with PayPal.  When you email us and tell us you are ready to register, we will send you a PayPal  invoice.

If cancellation is necessary, please notify us in writing by email.   After May 1, no refunds are possible.  However, we will make every possible effort to fill your reserved space.  If you cancel before May 1, 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 or for questions, contact:  normahawthorne@mac.com

This workshop is produced by Norma Hawthorne, Oaxaca Cultural Navigator LLC.  For more information, see:  http://oaxacaculture.com

Day of the Dead Best of Week Photos: Norma Hawthorne

How do you go through over 2,000 photos and select the best 20? Each day, Day of the Dead Photography Expedition participants culled through and selected their best 10 to 15, which we presented for review and discussion.  By the end of the week, we had about 100 photos from which to choose the best 20.  A difficult task.  If we wanted feedback about choice, instructor Frank Hunter was there to help.

This was a breakthrough week for me. I thought I was doing pretty well using the aperture priority setting on my camera. From the first day, Frank said, This is a week to experiment.  I want everyone to use manual mode at least part of the time.  I confess, I struggled with this.  But, the more I practiced, the more I understood how to control for light, shutter speed and “film” speed.  There is no actual film in a DSLR, but the camera operates like there is with the ISO setting. (I still have a lot to learn!)  Practice, practice became my mantra. Frank’s expertise and  gentle coaching style was something I appreciated and he was always accessible to answer questions.

I loved the night photography in the cemetery, taking portraits of village friends, and experimenting by taking photos of people through glass display cases in markets and at private homes.

Let me know if you are interested in next year’s expedition.

Here are Norma Hawthorne’s Best of Week photos.

1_Fruit Through Glass-9 2_Chocolate Shop 20a_Josefina at the Altar 13a_Man@Xoxo 13_Sunset@Xoxo 6_Zapotecs-7 21_Lupe 25_Sister 12_Illuminated Grave 7_Comparsa Niña 24_Abuela At Gravesite 16_BicycleRider 4_Masked Woman 21_Ernestina 14_XoxoMourners 20_Mother&Son 2a_XoxoBicycle 3_House in the Campo 3a_ForSale 26_Reflection

A few key concepts that Frank taught us:

  • Turn the auto focus off and focus manually as best as you can for night photography
  • Take five frames of the same subject using the same aperture and ISO with a different F-stop for each to see the light variables
  • Experiment and don’t be afraid to make a mistake — this is an art form not a science
  • Look up and look down, there are photos everywhere

Day of the Dead Best of Week Photos: Frank Hunter

Frank Hunter is photographer/instructor for our Day of the Dead Photography Expedition (DOTD).  In addition to daily learning sessions that Frank led, he was right along with us shooting photos.  By seeing his work on a daily basis, we were able to identify his photographic style and learn from his technique, as well as getting great advice all along the way.

Frank’s teaches in a low-key, easy-going way that is more personal coaching than “do it this way” direction.  He says there are many different ways to get a good photo and photography requires experimentation as well as the basic fundamentals.  It was a joy to work with and learn from him.

Just before the workshop started, five of Frank’s photographs were published in the New York Times.  That called for a TMM (tamarind mezcal margarita) and a toast to a great upcoming photography week experience. Yes!

Taking a list for 2014 DOTD photo expedition.  Contact me.

Here are Frank Hunter’s best of the week photographs to share with you.

DSC_7335 DSC_7081 DSC_6746 DSC_6854  DSC_7200 DSC_6691DSC_7446 DSC_7439 DSC_6904 DSC_7033 DSC_7061 DSC_6733  DSC_7068 A DSC_6418 DSC_6160  DSC_7106