Category Archives: Textiles, Tapestries & Weaving

Telling Stories: Art Huipil Mixed Media Workshop

The Art Huipil Workshop in Teotitlan del Valle, Oaxaca, Mexico just ended. Our instructor Lena Bartula says, Textile is text, which is why she incorporates stories, messages, poems and other writing into the mixed media art workshop she teaches.  Textile is also cultural subtext, telling personal stories of the makers through pattern and design.

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Exquisite Corpse Huipil — Group Collaboration

The huipil is the oldest Mesoamerican clothing form worn by women. Each woman who weaves a piece of cloth on a back-strap loom has to tell that is incorporated into the cloth.  No two garments are alike.  They may incorporate similar materials and patterns, but they are arranged differently, reflecting our distinctiveness.

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Each woman uses symbols that reflect her personal and village history, and place in the world.  Each chooses yarn and thread colors important to her, mother, grandmother and village tradition. The way the symbols flow through the garment is a message about life. Our instructor La Huipilista Lena Bartula, guides along the creative pathway.

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Arrepentimientos by Vicki Solot

We take this Mexican tradition and use the huipil concept to create our own stories. We bring cloth, scissors, thread, canvas, handmade paper, ribbons, photographs, paints, drawing pens, glue, memorabilia and our imaginations.

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We take field trips to local markets to collect paraphernalia.  We look down on street pavement and in gardens to incorporate found objects. We determine what to edit, what is more or less, what is meaningful. We make art.

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We laugh. Dance. Eat. Sing. Rest and renew. We make an altar to bless each other and our work.  We celebrate the creativity and spirit within.

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We celebrate the completion of our work and time together with a spirited exhibition of our work, followed by a fiesta dinner complete with handmade chilis rellenos, roast chicken, tortillas, salsa verde, potato empañadas and a divine dessert called Pastel Imposible — chocolate cake topped with flan.

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As we say goodbye, we lay out our huipils. The sun is shining. The air is clear and warm. The days have sped by quickly and each participant takes away an art piece to display, a memory of an unparalleled experience in Teotitlan del Valle, Oaxaca, Mexico.

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Here is our work:

Workshop participants and their art.

Workshop participants and our collage of huipils.

I Love Mexico by Carol Egan

I Love Mexico by Carol Egan

Quierdos -- Dear Ones, by Ellen Benson

Quierdos — Dear Ones, by Ellen Benson

XXX by Sherry Bone Peel

Finding Teotitlan by Sherry Bone Peel

Bad Girl by Ellen Benson

Bad Girl by Ellen Benson

XXXX, by Vicki Solot

Natural Grace by Vicki Solot

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Gracias a la Vida/Yin by Ruth Greenberger

XXXX by Sherry Bone Peel

Let It Be by Sherry Bone Peel

XXX by Ruth Greenberger

Gracias a la Vida/Yang by Ruth Greenberger

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More or Less by Norma Hawthorne

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Let me know by email if you are interested in participating next year. I am starting an early notification list.

 

Looking for Secundino and His Textiles, Teotitlan del Valle, Oaxaca

On Monday around noon, I pick up Ester at her brick bungalow nestled under the shadow of Picacho, Teotitlan’s holy mountain.  We drive down the cobbled hill, across the small bridge over the Rio Grande, now a trickle in the dry season, to get Janet, an expat friend who lives here during the winter months.

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We are on our way to visit Secundino, Ester’s eighty-seven year old father who still weaves cloth in the old serape style.  His blanket weight wool is soft, very soft, not suitable for rug use. He uses undyed sheep wool that he cards, cleans and spins himself. His is a lost art.

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Ester says he has a couple of textiles finished and for sale, so we are eager to see them.  Secundino only produces about six pieces a year.

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We arrive midday to discover that the rugs are gone, bought up by an exporter. Secundino is not at home. He is out in the countryside in his fields of corn. Though we are disappointed, we make the best of it, stay to visit with Ester’s mother, sisters and nephew with his pet chicken.

This is another opportunity to use my just acquired used wide-angle Tokina 11-16mm lens. I’m liking the results!

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Secundino was the drum major in the village band for decades leading the way in all the processions.  His drums hang like trophies on the wall above his bed. Ester tells us that he joined the village band this year at Las Cuevitas and the family was so happy he could take part again.  A mended broken hip and advanced age doesn’t hold him back.

Secundino's House

We hope Secundino will keep weaving and we’ve put in our order for another one of his wonderful textiles.

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Two years ago, Secudino was the subject for our portrait photography workshop. We have space this year for you, starting January 30, 2015.

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Handmade in Oaxaca Group Sale, December 19 + 20, 2014

This Friday and Saturday, December 19 and 20, the plaza at the corner of Calle Rufino Tamayo #800-C and Xolotl across from the Stone Cross — Cruz de la Piedra — will come alive with an exhibition and sale representing some of Oaxaca’s most talented young artist designers. Here you will find all handmade textiles, clothing, furniture, jewelry and ceramics. Artist list below. Don’t miss it!

 @ La Tiendita del Barro by 1050 Degrados

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Pop-Up Show + Sale — Huipils from San Felipe Usila, October 28, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.

  • Pop-Up Huipil Show and Sale from San Felipe Usila
  • at Restaurante La Olla, Calle Reforma #402, Oaxaca, Centro Historico in front of Las Bugambilias B&B
  • Tuesday, October 28, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. — One day only

I must confess that I left two great huipiles behind in San Felipe Usila and I’ve been ruminating for three days, since I returned to Oaxaca last Friday afternoon, about how to get them to me!

So, this morning I created a Pop-Up Huipil Show and Sale to make the trip worthwhile for two families who live in this remote mountain village in the Papaloapan Region of the Sierra Madre de Oaxaca. I spent a couple of hours hunting them down and then making the arrangements!

Please come and support these incredible weavers whose work you will recognize from the Guelaguetza Dance of the Flor de Piña. Prices start at about 1,500 pesos for pieces made on a back strap loom with intricate designs incorporated into the weft.

Meet the Longino Tenorio Mendoza family and the Hermalinda Inocente Isidro family. Together, they will bring about 40 pieces with them for you to see and describe their work.

I will need a fluent Spanish-English speaker to volunteer to translate, please! We will ask them to talk about their work, their lives and the designs they create.

Just a few examples of what you may see:

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Tuxtepec, Oaxaca: Huipils, Dance of the Pineapple Flower and Guelaguetza

Oaxaca’s July Guelaguetza features some of the most glorious traje — indigenous dress — throughout the state. But few, if any, surpass the beauty from the state of Tuxtepec.

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I am on a textile tour to discover the artistry of some of Oaxaca’s most remote villages. The evening our group arrives in Tuxtepec from Veracruz, we are treated to a fashion parade. Featured are the region’s woven and embroidered garments that we will see over the next several days. It’s like attending a sneak preview!

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They varied from the more simple daily wear of traditional women to those that are more elaborate and reserved for special occasions.

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The presentation is organized by Jose de Jesus Hernandez, known as Chucho. He teaches dance and has a collection of authentic dresses. Chucho explains that fifty-eight years ago there was a movement to return to the roots of the region by the younger generation. That’s why the Flor de Piña dance was created.

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I realize that all the different huipil designs in this one dance at the Guelaguetza is a compilation to express the diverse weaving and embroidery styles of Mazateco and Chinanteco communities that are part of Tuxtepec.

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As our week together comes to a close, we return to Tuxtepec one last time. Dance master Hector Arturo Hernandez meets us at the hotel, teaches us the Flor de Piña dance steps and brings huipils from his collection to show and tell. I would say we were not equal to the task of keeping up with the strenuous foot work of the dance!

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More than one hundred and eighty young women audition to represent these Chinanteco and Mazateco villages. Only thirty-six are selected, says Don Hector Arturo, who has been teaching the Danza Flor de Piña for the past thirty-five years.

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He recruits and selects the dancers, and serves as the narrative voice for the Tuxtepec delegation at the Guelaguetza. As soon as I hear him speak, I recognize him. Our models for Don Arturo’s collection are women on the tour.

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In 1958, the governor of Tuxtepec decided that the jarocho music and dance presentation at the Guelaguetza did not fully integrate Tuxtepec with Oaxaca, since jarocho is a part of Veracruz identity. So, the Danza Flor de Piña was choreographed and orchestrated to the poem of native son Felipe Matias Velasco.

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By doing this, the back strap loom weaving and embroidery of these remote Oaxaca villages became a distinguishing feature of the Guelaguetza, something that we all identify with its pageantry and with Oaxaca.

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Those who study Oaxaca culture and communities know that the term guelaguetza is NOT about this annual tourist attraction that is a dance interpretation of the word. It is a way of life, the foundation for maintaining community and mutual support in indigenous pre-Hispanic Mexican villages.

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Note: These finest quality huipiles range in price from 1,500 pesos to over 6,500 pesos. Some take more than three or four months to make. The current exchange rate is about 13 pesos to the dollar. The average wage of an agricultural or hourly wage worker in Mexico is 100 pesos or eight dollars a day. Tourism is Oaxaca’s economic engine.

How To Get There

If you are more inclined to travel independently rather than taking a tour, take a bus or collectivo from town to town, or rent a car and drive from Oaxaca city on Mexico 175 to Tuxtepec. Get a Guia Roji Mapa 20 for the Estado de Oaxaca.

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You may want to stop and spend the night in Pueblo Magico Capulalpam de Mendez or continue on until you reach Valle Nacional. There are several lovely hotels in Capulalpam and a few small hostals in Valle Nacional. From there, you can get to the pueblos in the Papaloapan Region that we visited: Valle Nacional, Rancho Grande, San Pedro Soyaltepec and San Lucas Ojitlan, bypassing the entry through Veracruz.

This route will take six to eight hours of driving from Oaxaca to Valle Nacional over winding mountain roads! You might also consider establishing a base in one of the villages if you don’t mind sleeping in a hammock or a basic, no frills room with only cold running water.