Category Archives: Folk Art

Folk Art Makers in Oaxaca Artisan Villages: Kinship, Work and Compensation

I subscribe to a website named academia.edu that recently published a paper by Alanna Cant, an academic from Kent University, United Kingdom. Dr. Cant spent almost a decade studying and writing about the relationship between the owners of a large, successful wood carving and painting workshop in San Martin Tilcajete and the people who are employed there making alebrijes.

The article is important because it expands understanding about how folk art gets made and marketed, who gets recognition for the work, and a different form of compensation. It emphasizes how the importance of family relationships and kinship take priority over economic independence and personal recognition for artisan work.

Read it here: ‘Making’ Labour in Mexican Artisanal Workshops

We learn from this that making a name for oneself and making money is not the primary driver for most people who live in community.

It’s very important for us not to judge by our own standards, but to observe and understand the differences and similarities between cultures.

In many small villages throughout Oaxaca, in fact throughout Mexico, safety, security and economic well-being depends on mutual support. These practices are ancient and deep, embedded in tribal relationships rooted in loyalty and commitment. It is far more important for many talented crafts-people to support strong family relationships than it is for them to break away and start their own enterprise.

I’m not a cultural anthropologist, yet I extrapolate that this may be the norm in many villages of weavers, potters and embroiderers. Cooperatives are usually extensions of family units of parents, children, aunts, uncles and cousins — a social organization that differs in practice from co-ops in the USA. Producing quantities of artisan-made work depends on more than a few pairs of hands.

If you are a collector or appreciator of Mexican craft, this article may interest you. It will give you insight into the making of Mexican folk art and how indigenous communities are able to survive and support each other over 8,000 years of existence.

Their experience is very different from ours. Entrepreneurship and commercial success, too, comes at a cost as television and the internet make the world of things more important than the world of people.

 

North Carolina Hosts Teotitlan del Valle, Oaxaca, Weaver with Two Trunk Shows

Omar Chavez Santiago is a fifth generation weaver from Teotitlan del Valle who works in natural dyes. His family operates Galeria Fe y Lola in Oaxaca city. I asked my Congressman G.K. Butterfield (D-NC) to alert the U.S. Embassy in Mexico City that Omar was coming on March 1, 2018,  for his visa interview. Few are successful. Omar received a 10-year visitor visa. He is here and we are excited.

Omar Chavez Santiago explains natural dyes in Oaxaca, Mexico

Wendy Sease, owner of INDIO Durham, will host Omar this weekend for a Mexico Art & Textile Trunk Show. Thank you, Wendy. Please come!

FIRST TRUNK SHOW — INDIO DURHAM

SECOND TRUNK SHOW — ECHOVIEW FIBER MILL, WEAVERVILLE

Thanks to Judi Jetson from Local Cloth and Grace Casey-Gouin from Echoview Fiber Mill, for hosting us in the Asheville area. Please let your NC mountain friends know!

Preparing the cochineal dye bath, Teotitlan del Valle

Getting the most intense red possible! Straining the bugs.

Bamboo bobbins with natural dyed wool, ready to weave

 

Mexico in Durham, North Carolina: Art & Textiles Trunk Show

INDIO owner Wendy Sease recently traveled with me to Chiapas. She bought up beautiful treasures for her shop. I’ve just returned to my apartment in Durham, North Carolina, for a couple of months with three suitcases filled with textiles and jewelry. We decided to collaborate.

YOU ARE INVITED. Bring a friend.

Plus, the BIG news is that my godson, twenty-three year old Omar Chavez Santiago, a recent industrial engineering university graduate, just received his FIRST 10-year visa to visit the USA. This is a really big deal, since the U.S. Embassy in Mexico City is pretty thrifty in giving visas.

Omar plans to talk about the 100% natural dyes used to color the pure churro sheep wool his family at Galeria Fe y Lola uses in the rugs they weave and give demonstrations. He will have beautiful tapestry rugs for sale, too. They come in all sizes.

Where is INDIO? Historic Brightleaf Square, Downtown Durham

Brick and mortar sales are hard for people who live far away. I know that. Look for a few pieces I’ll be offering online in the next few weeks, too.

 

Say Your Prayers. Mexico’s Retablos – Ex-Votos Folk Art For Sale

Mexico’s Ex-Votos are naive folk art that tell a story of thanksgiving for being saved from near-death or disaster. Yes, it was a miracle to survive.  Usually, the person who escaped tragedy would hire a local artist to paint a tin square depicting the scene. The message of thanks may have included many misspellings, as the painters were not educated. They often include depictions of the saint to whom the supplicant is sending prayers of thanks.

Original, vintage ex-votos were taken to a nearby shrine where the person, with hammer and nail, would affix the small painting to a tree or post or altar.  Hence vintage ex-votos usually always have a crude hole in the top center of the plaque.

Today, I am offering six ex-votos for sale. One is a vintage piece from the 1930’s.  The others are reproductions recently painted by Mexico City folk artisan Rafael Rodriguez. I acquired these from a Mexico City collector.

Below, by the miracle of faith, Lupema Lora Rosales is saved. We even see her photo in the ex-voto.

SOLD. #1. A prodigious miracle Lupema Lora Rosales, Zacatecas. Vintage, 1930’s.                                  6-3/4″high x 10″wide. $195 USD.

To Buy: Please send me an email tell me which one you want. Please identify it by the NUMBER and include your mailing address. I will send you a PayPal invoice for the piece plus shipping cost based on your location. I will ship to the USA and Canada. Thank you very much.

#2. Pascual Ortiz climbed on the locomotive, didn’t look and almost broke his head. October 1937. 9-3/4″ high x 19-3/4″ wide. New. $95 USD

Below, a Franciscan friar gives his blessing when the four-headed monster is vanquished.

SOLD. #3. Carlota Gonzalez thanks me for getting rid of a monster who attacked her because he has many heads. Oaxaca 18 de Mallo (May) 1939. New. $125 USD.

Below, the Virgin of Guadalupe is watching over Aristarco Lima!

SOLD. #4. Aristarco Lima gives thanks with this ex-voto because the cactus gave a little worm for sale. Otumvo de 2 Agosto 1937. New. 9-1/2″ h x 8-1/2″ w. $85 USD.

Below, a duel NOT to the death, thanks to the Virgin of Soledad.

SOLD. #5. Timateo Vargas and another man both have machetes and gives thanks that both did not lose their life. San Miguel de Allende 1940. New. 8-1/2″ h x 10″ w. $85 USD

Ex-votos are often exaggerations with larger-than-life figures illustrating the peril that was dodged.

SOLD. #6. A horrible socorpion attacked and grabbed Anastasio Valencia as he ascended from the pit well.  San Jose, May 11, 1939. New. 9″h x 9-1/2″ w. $85 USD.

Getting Ready for Day of the Dead in Durham, NC

Durham, North Carolina is a long way from Oaxaca, Mexico — or so it seems. So many Latino families live in our region that while it is not as easy to construct a traditional Day of the Dead altar, it is not impossible.

Dia de los Muertos paper goods ordered from Amazon

Recently, I discovered La Superior Super Tienda Y Taqueria in the Braggtown section of Durham, about two miles north of downtown on Roxboro Road. This supermarket is filled with almost every Mexican branded food you can think of. The fresh meat market stocks chicken, pork, beef and chorizo, plus chicharrones and other parts that Mexicans use in their cooking.

Sugar skulls from Dulceria Estrellita, Durham

The bakery is filled with Pan de Muertos (Day of the Dead bread), as well as concha rolls and other treats we only see in Mexico. The shelves hold Mexican chocolate (though not as good as Ernestina’s homemade Teotitlan del Valle, Oaxaca chocolate), and fresh and dried chilis and spices.

Catrina sculpture by Josefina Aguilar to adorn my altar

It is heaven for someone like me.

Oaxaca: The Day of the Dead from Bob Krist on Vimeo.

Almost every town in the USA has some Latino people living there or nearby. Hunt down the grocery store near you to get ready for Muertos.

Mezcal and oranges are a necessity.

In the neighborhood, while making at stop at La Monarca Michoacana for a traditional Mexican ice cream cone, I found the sweet shop next door, Dulceria Estrellitas.

And, amaranth honey bars called Alegria, from Dulceria Estrellita

There, I was able to find sugar skulls and cacahuates Japoneses — Japanese style peanuts coated in a crunchy, spicy sugar-coating that Mexicans love. The dulceria is filled with party treats and everything Mexican kids love for stuffing birthday piñatas. After hunting around, I also found amaranth honey bars called Dulce de Alegria (or Alegrias), too.

Arkansas Red apples from Laura and Bryan’s East Asheville farm

Then, I had to get onto Amazon to find skull design napkins, plates, and cups. Easy and fast delivery.

To the altar, I’ll add fresh marigolds and small squash that I’ll get at the Raleigh farmer’s market tomorrow afternoon, plus photos of my mom and dad, my dad’s favorite beverage — a beer, my mom’s favorite beverage — tea.  I’ll light the Teotitlan del Valle beeswax candles to illuminate the path to return for the visit, offer copal incense to guide them here.

Papel picado, cut out tissue paper flags, add a festive touch to home

Muertos is a harvest holiday, a memory holiday, a time of honoring our ancestors. It’s pre-Hispanic roots harken back to a time before photos, when people slept on petate mats on the floor and altars were at ground level.

Muertos is not Halloween, although the Spanish attempted to meld it into All Saints and All Souls Day. It is not to be feared. Death is a circle, part of life, and all Zapotecs I know embrace it.

A couple, united in death, as in life, by Josefina Aguilar

On November 2, when everyone is assembled at the Teotitlan del Valle panteon (cemetery), I’ll be here in Durham, raising a toast to life and its continuity. This is why I believe that Dia de los Muertos is universal, to be appreciated.

Kali’s 2017 altar to my parents in Teotitlan del Valle, Oaxaca