Category Archives: Oaxaca Mexico art and culture

Mexican Impressions: Oaxaca Printmaking Workshop

Sunday to Friday, January 10-15, 2016, 6 workshop days. Starts Sunday morning and ends Friday evening with a gallery show and reception. Anyone with an interest, including beginners as well as emerging and established artists who want to build their portfolio and add a gallery show to their resume, is welcome. $995 per person.

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Oaxaca is a vibrant center for the arts with a rich tradition in the graphic arts. There are more than 20 active printmaking studios here and many more galleries where artists and their work are featured. We invite you to learn more about Oaxaca’s graphic arts scene and take part in an in-depth, hands-on workshop to apply the printmaking traditions of Oaxaca and Mexico. You will make your own carved relief prints using wood and multi-density fiber board (MDF), professional carving tools and a traditional press.

Who Should Attend: Anyone with an arts interest, emerging and established artists, and mixed media artists will want to incorporate this medium into their work.

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Your Workshop Leaders: THREE Amazing Professionals

Complete instructor bios are included below.

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Before we go to work in the studio on Monday, we take you on Sunday to museums, markets and Monte Alban archeological site to examine historical objects, fine art and popular crafts. Take a closer look at indigenous and vernacular design motifs, then use your sketchbook and/or camera to record your impressions and create a starting point from which to develop your relief print – an impression of Mexico.

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Our workshop is held at a fully equipped graphic arts studio located in the historic center of Oaxaca. During the course, you will make an artist’s proof and a small edition of six or more 18″x 24″ black and white prints. Then, you will carve an additional block to introduce color into the print. This is called a two-plate relief system.

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To ensure a quality hands-on experience, this workshop is limited to 10 participants.

During the week, you will receive group and individualized instruction, coaching, constructive feedback and review. Our final day will culminate in a gallery opening and reception with a group exhibition open to the public. You are welcome to invite guests.

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Before the workshop begins, we will send you suggested readings and materials to prepare you, including essays on the artwork of printmakers Jose Guadalupe Posada, the Taller Grafica Popular and artists currently working in Oaxaca. Our packet includes travel and packing tips, restaurants, shopping guide and more!

  • Sunday: Starts 10 a.m. with field trips to Monte Alban, markets and museums (shared taxis to/from Monte Alban)
  • Monday through Friday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Studio workshop time with lunch break) to develop designs, carve and print.
  • Friday Evening: Gala reception and Gallery Exhibition.

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About Kevin McCloskey

Kevin McCloskey, professor of Communication Design, Kutztown University of Pennsylvania, has been visiting Oaxaca for over 30 years. In 2007, he was awarded a National Endowment for the Humanities fellowship to study the visual arts of Oaxaca. He has written extensively about Mexican political prints and has curated eight exhibitions of Mexican prints across the U.S, notably at the Fowler Museum, University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA). In 2012, he was invited to Princeton University to lecture on Mexican prints at the Woodrow Wilson School of International Studies.

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McCloskey holds an MFA in illustration from the School of Visual Arts, New York. His humorous illustrations have appeared in magazines and newspapers, including the Village Voice, New York Times, New York Daily News and Philadelphia Inquirer. His prints and illustrations have been exhibited widely and his has published numerous books.

Articles on the Oaxaca art scene by Kevin McCloskey:

About Miles DeCoster

While Miles DeCoster teaches interactive design in the Communications Design Department at Kutztown University of Pennsylvania, he is also a painter, photographer, printmaker, book artist, web artist and designer. He received formal training at the Washington University School of Fine Arts in St. Louis (BFA 1972) and the Art Institute of Chicago (MFA 1979). His work is in numerous collections, including the Museum of Modern Art, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, the California Museum of Photography, the Minneapolis Institute of Art, Washington University Rare Books and Special Collections and private collections.

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DeCoster has received grants and fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Illinois Arts Council, Post-Newsweek Stations, Nexus Press and the Chicago Arts Council. His studio is at the GoggleWorks arts center in Reading, PA, one of the largest facilities of its kind in the USA. His work is included in exhibitions at the Museum of Modern Art, The Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago, The Walker, and many regional exhibitions.

As a professional designer, DeCoster served as art director for In These Times, a national news magazine published in Chicago, from 1983 to 1993, and has designed many print projects and web sites for clients including the American Heart Association, the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Freedman Gallery at Albright College, Harcros Pigments, Trattoria Mario in Florence, FESTA, First Books, Yellow Press and others.

About Alan Altamirano

Printmaker/artist Alan Altamirano is one of Oaxaca’s young, up-and-coming artists whose work is collected around the world. His professional nickname is MK Kabrito! You will have to ask him what that means.

Alan is the founder of Taller de Grafica La Chicharra in Oaxaca, Mexico. He attended the Escuela de Bellas Artes, Universidad Autonoma Benito Juarez de Oaxaca (UABJO) and graduated in 2010 in fine and visual arts.

10848710_10206212116119828_1018688424988371677_oAlan has studied with noted printmakers Shinzaburo Takeda, Suzanne Simpson, Tamana Araki, Per Anderson, Raul Herrera. He his work is recognized and exhibited in Mexico, Spain, Italy, The United States of America, Rumania, Brazil and Argentina.

His resume includes a long list of expositions and seasoned printmakers recognize Alan as an important contributor to the Oaxaca art scene. At the end of March 2015, Alan traveled to University of California at Davis where he had an exposition of his work and gave a week-long printmaking workshop. He was in California for three weeks to explore the printmaking and contemporary art scene in the San Francisco Bay Area.

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The workshop includes

  • all instruction, coaching and review sessions
  • personal attention from three practicing, exhibited artists who are also expert teachers,
  • all printmaking materials (except sketchbook, pencils)
  • dedicated use of a professional graphic arts studio
  • gallery exhibition of group work at the end of the week

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The workshop does not include airfare, lodging and meals, taxis and admission to museums and archeological sites, alcoholic beverages, tips, travel insurance, optional transportation and incidentals. When you register, we will send you a list of suggested hotels and B&Bs.

About Suggested Accommodations: We are based in Oaxaca city for this workshop. To keep this workshop affordable, we are not including lodging and meals. We will suggest a range of hotels and B&B’s where you may choose to stay, complete with contact information and estimated pricing. You can also check TripAdvisor and BookingDotCom or other online agencies for best prices. All reservations for lodging are to be made and paid for by you directly with the hotel. You are free to choose any accommodation you prefer, from luxury to basic hostel. We will send you a list of recommended hotels after you register and make your deposit.

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Reservations and Cancellations: A 50% deposit will reserve your space. The final payment for the balance due shall be made on or before November 1, 2015. We accept PayPal for payment only. We will send you an invoice for your deposit to reserve when you tell us by email that you are ready to register.

If cancellation is necessary, please notify us in writing by email. After November 1, 2015, no refunds are possible. However, we will make every effort to fill your reserved space or you may send a substitute. If you cancel before November 1, 2015, we will refund 50% of your deposit.

International Travel Insurance Required. We require that you take out trip cancellation, baggage loss and at least $50,000 of emergency evacuation and medical insurance before you begin your trip. We will ask for documentation. We know unforeseen circumstances are possible.

To register, email us at oaxacaculture@me.com We accept payment with PayPal only. Thank you.

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Ready to register? Send us an email and we’ll send you an invoice to make your $550 deposit. This guarantees your space.

2015 Day of the Dead Photography Workshop in Oaxaca, Mexico

Oaxaca, Mexico, is the place to be for Day of the Dead  and you will capture it with your camera: parades, cemeteries, family traditions, special food and decor, markets, fiestas and faces. Follow the copal incense and marigold trail. Starts Sunday morning, October 30 and ends Thursday night, November 3.

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Cost:  $995 per person. Price includes all instruction, feedback sessions, personal coaching and transportation to and from Xoxocotlan and Teotitlan del Valle cemeteries. Does not include food or lodging.  We will provide you with a list of hotels and B&B’s to choose the level of accommodation you prefer after you register. Then, make your own reservations directly. Come early or stay later, too.  We will recommend sightseeing and other activities!

  • Limited to 10 participants. Small Group. Personal Attention.
  • Beginners and more experienced photographers welcome.
  • Bring any camera: DSLR, iPhone or Point and Shoot!
  • Registration is now open!

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This is a hands-on photography workshop for learning and improving technique while you experience Oaxaca’s famed Day of the Dead rituals.  By the end of the week, you will better use your camera for visual storytelling, photojournalism, portraiture and cultural discovery.

Your Workshop Leader is Matt Nager

Matt Nager is a Denver, Colorado, based portrait and editorial photographer. We invited him back to teach this workshop after rave reviews for teaching the People of Oaxaca Portrait Photography Workshop.

His clients include: DISCOVER Magazine, Fast Company Magazine, Mother Jones Magazine, The New York Times, Smithsonian Magazine, and the Wall Street Journal. Matt speaks English and Spanish.  His work is at: www.mattnager.com

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His love for nature and the outdoors, as well as his interest in people and culture, is central to his photography. Before starting his own photography business, Matt worked with the Dallas Morning News and the Rocky Mountain News.

In addition to photography, Matt also regularly shoots video and recently completed his first documentary titled: Campania In-Felix (Unhappy Country) which looks into the rise of health issues in Southern Italy as a result of illegal waste disposal. 6_Zapotecs-7

This cultural immersion workshop tour offers you a deeper appreciation for the food, religious symbols, rituals and family celebrations both in Oaxaca city and in the rural Zapotec village of Teotitlan del Valle.

You will learn to:

  • Use natural light and respond to different lighting situations
  • Include portraits in your travel photography
  • Direct your subject through varying body positions
  • Identify your own photographic style
  • Find and execute portraits “on the fly”
  • Practice street photography
  • Use skills you learn through daily assignments
  • Learn more with one-on-one coaching sessions with Matt
  • Contribute to a gift for subject families — included in your workshop fee

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During our week together, we will review each other’s work, give feedback, and offer supportive critiques.  The workshop includes a mix of class instruction and being out on the streets to capture the action.

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Technical topics covered include natural light, exposure, manual camera settings and night photography. We will offer optional editing sessions using Lightroom photo editing software.  13_Sunset@Xoxo1a Xoxocotlan2014-14

Preliminary Itinerary (subject to change) 

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Day 1, Saturday, October 30:  Meet after breakfast at a central location in Oaxaca City where we will have a welcome and learning session, with a review of camera settings, exposure and using natural light. Then, we’ll hit the streets and local markets! Option is to meet up for a group dinner at your own expense. 2014DOTDTeoti-28

Day 2, Sunday, October 31:  We meet after breakfast. After showing your best work of Day 1, with review and feedback, we will have a learning session on night photography.  At 3:30 p.m. we depart for the famed Xoxocotlan cemetery for an extraordinary Day of the Dead extravaganza.  Matt is with us every step of the way for coaching and technical support. This could be a late night, so be prepared!  We will stay until at least 10 p.m., maybe later! Includes transportation to/from Xoxocotlan.

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Day 3, Monday, November 1:  You will have the morning on your own to prepare your best of the Xoxocotlan cemetery. We will meet midday to share our work with a feedback and learning session, then get back on the streets to catch the calendas and other processions. Some may want to share an optional taxi to San Pablo Villa de Mitla for their Day of the Dead festivities that start mid-afternoon

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Day 4, Tuesday, November 2:  We leave for an afternoon and evening in Teotitlan del Valle after our morning learning and photo feedback session.  You are paired with another workshop participant to share a traditional meal with a local host family and go with them to the village cemetery. To be embedded with a local family is an amazing cultural immersion experience to learn more about indigenous customs and traditions.  We return to Oaxaca city mid-evening. Includes transportation and lunch.

Day 5, Wednesday, November 3:  We meet after breakfast to share experiences and photos of the day. You’ll have the rest of the day on your own to meander and prepare your Best of Week photo presentation.  We get together in early evening for a Best of Week photo presentation followed by goodbyes. Please feel free to invite guests! Then, we’ll meet for an optional group supper (expense on your own).

What You Should Bring

  1. Camera, either Digital SLR camera with lens(es) — wide angle, zoom, and/or fixed focal point 50mm, or iPhone or Point and Shoot
  2. Optional tripod for night photography
  3. Laptop computer for photo editing
  4. External hard drive
  5. External card reader
  6. Extra batteries (2) and battery charger
  7. Memory cards (at least 2) and jump drive
  8. Pen and notepad
  9. Sturdy, comfortable walking shoes, sun protection, sun hat

(Before the workshop starts, we will send you a complete packet and information guide with suggested packing list, and other useful information.)

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Cost:  $995 USD.  Deposit to reserve your space is $500. Workshop includes:

  • All instruction and coaching
  • 1 lunch as specified in the itinerary
  • Transportation to villages included in the itinerary
  • Gift to local Teotitlan del Valle host family
  • Comprehensive pre-trip planning packet (via email)

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Not Included:  The expedition does NOT include lodging, meals that are not specified in the itinerary, airfare, taxes, tips/gratuities, travel insurance, liquor/alcoholic beverages and optional transportation.

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About Recommended Accommodations: We will be based in Oaxaca city for this workshop. We will recommend several outstanding hotels and B&B’s where you may choose to stay, complete with contact information and estimated pricing. You can also check TripAdvisor and BookingDotCom.  All reservations for lodging will be made and paid for by you directly with the hotel.  You are free to choose any accommodation you prefer, from luxury to basic hostel.  We will send you a list of recommended hotels after you register and make your deposit.

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Reservations and Cancellations

A 50% deposit will reserve your space.   The final payment for the balance due shall be made on or before August 1, 2014.  We accept PayPal for payment only. We will send you an invoice for your deposit to reserve when you tell us you are ready to register.

If cancellation is necessary, please notify us in writing by email.   After August 1, no refunds are possible; however, we will make every effort to fill your reserved space or you may send a substitute.  If you cancel on or before August 1, we will refund 50% of your deposit.

We require that you take out trip cancellation, baggage, and at least $50,000 USD of emergency evacuation and medical insurance before you begin your trip. We know unforeseen circumstances are possible.

To register, email us at oaxacaculture@me.com  We accept payment with PayPal only. Thank you.

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This workshop is produced by Norma H-Shafer, Oaxaca Cultural Navigator LLC.  We reserve the right to alter the itinerary and substitute instructors without notice.

Don’t let this workshop pass you by!

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Women’s Words, Creative Writing and Yoga Retreat Closes for Another Year

Our fifth annual Oaxaca Women’s Creative Writing Retreat just ended.  After an intensive week of writing, listening to each other’s words and offering feedback, our participants dispersed to upstate New York, Denver, Manhattan, North Carolina, the north coast of British Columbia. We are a diverse group.  Our words resonate, are distinctive and universal.

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I have been able to do not much more than organize and actively participate, which I do each year.  This time, I wrote, rewrote and rewrote a poem that was finally ready to submit to Minerva Rising literary magazine where I am a monthly contributor. It was hard and satisfying work. I started a creative non-fiction piece that could likely become the foothold for a memoir. Then, I wrote another about the Aztec goddess Tonantzin, mother earth. I had no time to take many photos or write a blog post.

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This sense of place inspires us.  Others wrote poetry, memoir, creative non-fiction.  Some wrote fiction. Mostly they wrote about relationships between mother and daughter, with husbands and boyfriends, childhood memories, Christmas and grandchildren, the meaning of food, the slipping away of time, death, aging, youthful exuberance and misguided decisions, the strength of being a woman. This is important stuff however trivial it may seem.  We listen. We say what works and what doesn’t work, what we understand or don’t.

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Each morning began with yoga, a refreshing and cleansing way to begin a writing practice. One afternoon, we took the practice to Yagul archeological site where DNA testing of cave corn remnants confirmed that corn was first cultivated here about 8,000 years ago. It is a magical place high above the valley floor where the wind speaks.

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We ate great local Zapotec food, strolled the Sunday Tlacolula market, wrote about these experiences, savored the deliciousness of culture and community in Teotitlan del Valle, and directed this energy into our writing.

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We celebrated the upcoming wedding of Becky with flowers, flan, lots of tamales with yellow mole and chicken, and Magadelena’s handmade chocolate with almonds.  She roasts her own cacao beans!

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Hermalinda and her daughter-in-law came from San Felipe Usila to give us a private expoventa show and sale of the Chinanteco region’s fantastic textiles, woven on back strap looms and then intricately embroidered in cross-stitch.

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The end of the week culminated with a public reading followed by a fiesta dinner. Many will return again next year, March 4-12, 2016, and we hope there will be space for you. Interested in participating?  Contact us.

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The Journey Begins: San Cristobal de Las Casas, Chiapas, Mexico

Most of our Penland School of Crafts travelers continued on with me from Oaxaca to explore Chiapas. Our journey began at the ADO bus station where we boarded an overnight luxury bus called the Platino with twenty-five reclining seats, leaving at 8:30 p.m. and arriving in San Cristobal de Las Casas at 7:30 a.m. the next day.   ChiapasBest45-16

Our destination, La Joya Hotel, is our base for exploring the art and archeology of the region. It’s a long and winding road! I recommend taking ginger drops in water, eating some crystallized ginger and taking a sleep aid! Hosts Ann Conway and John Do prepare a spectacular first night Thai welcome dinner after we visit Sergio Castro and his museum. Next, bed!

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Chiapas vies for the title of Mexico’s poorest state along with Oaxaca.  It is a sorry competition.  Both states are filled with isolated mountain communities that have little access to health care, education, nutrition and employment. Rural life is tied to the land where people cultivate corn, squash and beans and weave on backstrap looms. The result is the creation of magnificent textiles, a tourist draw. Isolation has preserved tradition at a huge cost and the politics are complex.

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Chiapas is rich in Maya culture filled with pre-Hispanic, indigenous folk practices blended with Spanish-introduced Catholic beliefs.  Known as syncretism, we can see this in every corner of life ranging from food to textiles to religious celebrations today.  The Mayan world spans southern Mexico, Guatemala, Belize and Honduras and her political borders are artificial and seamless.

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Our expert first day guide is Patrick, fluent in English, who studied archeology and history at University of California at Berkeley, son of a Mexican mother and Irish father. His uncle was the famed Bishop Samuel Ruiz Garcia, who mediated the peace treaty with the Zapatistas and the PRI.

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We learned much from Patrick about Spanish colonialism, the cultural and political history and the life of indigenous people. One cannot visit Chiapas without putting the textiles into the context of the people who make them.

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That’s why we include a visit to the Sergio Castro Museum as an introduction to Chiapas life on the first day, after a walking tour of the great pedestrian avenues of San Cristobal de Las Casas with Patrick.  Much has been written about Sergio.

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Sergio Castro is a hero, folk legend and medicine man who treats indigenous people who have suffered burn injuries at no cost.  Donations from visitors like us help fund medicines and supplies. He has won many humanitarian awards.

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We see everyday and ritual clothing. We see the skull rattle and string instrument made from gourds. We learn about the Maya language variations and the Lancandon tribe in the forest who escaped Spanish colonization.

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The photos on this post include our walking tour around San Cristobal de Las Casas, and our visit with Sergio Castro to see his textile collection of the region and understand his work.

We are not guides but educators. Norma Hawthorne Shafer has spent over 35 years at major universities organizing and delivering award winning educational programs for adults. When you travel with us you can rely on getting an in-depth experience from local experts who are most knowledgeable in their fields. We can include hands-on workshops to enrich the learning experience. Our forte is developing customized programs for arts and cultural organizations like we did for Penland School of Crafts. 

 

 

 

 

Penland School of Crafts in Ocotlan de Morales, Oaxaca

Our Penland School of Crafts group travels through Oaxaca arts and artisan villages this week.  One destination is the regional town of Ocotlan de Morales where we met artist Rodolfo Morales through the murals he painted in the municipal building during the mid-century. These frescoes depict the rich agricultural tradition of the Ocotlan valley and honors the labor of the campesinos — the people who till, plant and harvest.

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The Morales home is a treasure trove of 1930’s and 1940’s collectibles and folk art. It includes a traditional tile kitchen with walls adorned in tiny clay cooking vessels. Every room opens to a central, plant-filled patio.PenlandBest91-3

The primary caretaker of the home is nephew Alberto Morales, who greeted us at the front gate and let us inside. He is also the head of the Morales Foundation that keeps the house renovated and open to the public. On our request, he generously opened the private bedroom and studio where his uncle slept and worked.

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With more than an hour to explore the always diverse and culturally delicious Friday Ocotlan market tianguis …

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we went off to San Antonino Castillo Velasco to visit folk art potter Jose Garcia Antonio.  Jose and his family work in red clay sculpture and he is recognized as a Grand Master of Oaxaca Folk Art.

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Next, a quick stop to the women’s embroidery cooperative.  The quick stop became an hour-long shopping forage through the piles of gorgeous Oaxaca wedding dress style blouses and shirts, preceded by a demonstration about pattern making and stitching techniques. This coop is excellent quality with affordable prices!

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Fortified by a delicious lunch at Azucenas Zapotecas at the San Martin Tilcajete crossroads, we backtracked to Santo Tomas Jalieza for a visit with Grand Master of Oaxaca Folk Art weaving family of Abigail Mendoza.

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A long day, but not too long to return to enjoy a lovely dinner at Casa Crespo. I put together a tasting menu with Oscar Carrizosa made up of  an array of first courses.  It was just perfect.

Oaxaca Cultural Navigator organizes arts workshop study tours for groups of up to ten people. Please contact us for more information.  Norma Hawthorne Shafer has over 30 years experience developing award-winning university programs.