Category Archives: Textiles, Tapestries & Weaving

Tenancingo Mi Tierra: Evaristo Borboa Casas Weaves Ikat Rebozos

It was our last day of nine days in Tenancingo de Degollado, Estado de Mexico, studying the ikat rebozo of Mexico. It was a free day when our ten textile study tour participants could return to visit a weaver they met earlier in the week if they wished or roam the town market.

On the backstrap loom, a stunning red, black and white ikat rebozo by Evaristo Borboa

On the backstrap loom, a stunning red, black + white ikat rebozo by Evaristo Borboa, sold to one of our participants when it is finished in six months.

Britt and I went back to visit grand master of Mexican folk art Evaristo Borboa Casas. Britt had a particular ikat (also called jaspe) rebozo on her mind all week and wanted to see if it was still available for sale. It is a difficult task to write any words in cloth using ikat technique, but Evaristo did it with a border on each side that says, Tenancingo Mi Tierra (translated to Tenancingo My Land).

 

After several searches through his humble home, the 90 year-old rebozero (rebozo maker) took a hike to his sister’s house fifteen minutes away, where he keeps his stash safe. But, when he got back, the ikat rebozo woven with the words Tenancingo Mi Tierra wasn’t in that pile either. We started to panic. Then, one more hunt into a dark, secret room off the bedroom and Evaristo returned with his masterpiece!

 

Evaristo stands upright to weave. A leather strap connects around his hips to the loom. The other end is secured to a hook on a vertical (sort of) piece of wood secured to wall and ceiling beams. He tilts back to tighten the warp threads. The warp, or the threads running through the cloth vertically, have been pre-dyed to form a pattern before the loom is dressed.

A tedious process, Evaristo only weaves 2-hours a day now instead of eleven.

A tedious process, Evaristo only weaves 2-hours a day now instead of eleven.

A master weaver like Evaristo has perfect registration and can work many colors into the cloth if he wishes. Each weaver marks the threads with an inked pattern and everyone has their own variation on the ikat design. People around town can tell who made the cloth by its particular pattern.

 

The rebozo is an iconic emblem of Mexico. It is used as a protection from the sun, for evening warmth, to carry babies and transport food from the market. In the past, depending on color, one could tell whether a woman came from the country or a town or was working class or upper class or a woman of disrepute.

This Evaristo rebozo is so fine, it can be pulled through a wedding band!

This Evaristo rebozo is so fine, it can be pulled through a wedding band!

It is the men who weave here because rebozos are wider than the typical Oaxaca back strap loom used by women and the wood parts are much heavier. Below is an old loom used by Evaristo. We notice in Mexico nothing is ever discarded. There might be a use for it someday.

 

During the 1910 Mexican Revolution the rebozo was worn like an X-shaped halter, criss-crossed over the front by women fighters who used it to carry bullets.

 

Photos above: Evaristo dyes and dries his warp threads next to the chicken coop where the rooster stands watch over his hens. The threads are tied to resist the dye, which creates the pattern.

Evaristo Borboa Casas, 90 year old rebozo weaver, Tenancingo, EdoMex

Evaristo Borboa Casas, 90 year old rebozo weaver, Tenancingo, EdoMex

Today, Evaristo is only one of 27 rebozo weavers continue to create these amazing ikat cotton textiles in Tenancingo. In the 1960’s there were over 200 rebozeros. We are told there are about 1,500 women who hand-tie the repacejos or punta or fringes of the rebozo.

Puntadora Amalia shows how to tie the finest knots during our study tour

Puntadora Amalia shows how to tie the finest knots during our study tour

They do this part-time for a few hours  day, in-between cooking, laundry, tending children, gardens and animals. They sit on low chairs, lean over a narrow table, painstakingly knotting the threads at the end of the cloth. Sometimes, depending on the intricacy, like the one above, this will take seven months!

A puntadora always has a long left thumbnail to help her secure the knots.

A selection of Evaristo's rebozos

A selection of Evaristo’s rebozos

Evaristo does not say who makes the puntas on his rebozos. They are straight and very tight, which means there is a lot of work and time that goes into making the fringes. Based on designs, tightness of knots, and length of the punta, a rebozo’s cost is based on the time to weave the cloth (about two to three-months) and the time to tie the punta (at least three or four months).

Evaristo bending over the back strap loom

Evaristo bending over the back strap loom

I will be organizing this rebozo study tour for either the end of September 2016 to coincide with the Tenancingo rebozo fair or in winter, mid-February 2017. There will be a few modifications in the itinerary we just completed. Please tell me if you are interested and which time of year you prefer. Get on the notification list!

 

Oaxaca, Mexico: Source for Natural Dye Textiles

It’s an ongoing discovery. Finding the weavers who work with natural dyes. They live and work in humble homes or grander casas, on back alleys, dirt streets, cobbled avenues, main highways, hillsides and flat-lands. Their studios are filled with the aroma and sights of natural materials — stinky indigo dye vats, wood burning fires, prickly pear nopal cactus studded with insects that yield intense red.

All photos © Norma Schafer, Oaxaca Cultural Navigator LLC

JuanaGutierrez TreeMoss

In this photo, above left, dyer/weaver Juana prepares ground cochineal on the traditional metate, grinding the dried insect by hand until it is a fine powder, ready to make a dye bath for wool that will be used for rugs. Above right, tree moss waits for the dye pot.

That’s why I’ve organized one-day natural dye textile study tours to explore this artisanal process.

ArturoRebozo2 CochinealIndigoYarn

Above left, ikat rebozo with natural dyes of wild marigold, cochineal and indigo from San Pablo Villa de Mitla. Right, wool on the loom.

Cleaning a rug woven with naturally dyed wool

Cleaning a rug woven with naturally dyed wool

You know how committed I am to the artisans who work with natural dyes. It is a laborious and vertical process — winding the yarn, preparing the dye baths, dyeing the yarn, then weaving it. To create textiles using natural dyes takes time and is a many-step process. I believe the people who work this way deserve special attention and support.

Nopal Cactus and Indigo, copyright 2016 Norma Schafer, Oaxaca Cultural Navigator LLC

Nopal Cactus and Indigo, copyright 2016 Norma Schafer, Oaxaca Cultural Navigator

They start with the natural wool that comes from the mountains surrounding the Oaxaca valley. The best wool is hand-spun for strength and has no additives, like nylon or polyester, to lower cost.

IMG_6963 IndigoDyePot

Then, indigo and cochineal is bought from local Oaxaca sources. Both are expensive, now about 1,800 MXN pesos per kilo. Synthetic dyes are a fraction of this cost and only requires one-step to produce colored yarn.

DryPomegranates FedericoNuez

Other dye sources are wild marigold, pecan leaves and shells, pomegranate fruit, tree moss, eucalyptus bark, black zapote fruit and much more.  The wool needs to be washed of lanolin and mordanted to absorb and fix the natural dye so it will not fade. To get a full range of color, local weavers and dyers use over dyes, too.

IndigoPericoneOverdye Yellow2Green

When the yarns are colored they are then ready to weave. Depending on size and material density, a piece can take from one week to several months.

CochinealHands2 ArturoRebozo1

It takes a special person who understands quality of materials and finished product to work this way. The process is organic, sustainable and environmentally sound.

CochinealHand SteamyDyePot

Handmade Basket Fair, San Juan Guelavia, January 31-February 7, 2016

Each year, the traditional Zapotec village of San Juan Guelavia showcases its handmade baskets made from strips of river reed, called carrizo in Spanish. (Thanks, Christopher Hodge for this tidbit of clarification. Carrizo is not bamboo!) This is another artisanal weaving tradition in the Tlacolula valley. If you are on your way to the Tlacolula market this Sunday, making a stop off the Pan-American Highway-MEX 190 is well-worth your time to explore the 5th Annual Basket Fair or Feria del Carrizo. 

BasketFair

You might even want to stay awhile. The food is delicious. This is homemade, home-cooked food done with local flair. Barbecue, quesadillas, roasted chicken, tortillas made on the comal griddle, atole and mezcal tasting makes this a very special event.  There are even mezcal bottles (empty) covered in basketry.

And, you’ll drive along a beautiful curving road lined with maturing agave fields to get there.

The handmade baskets take center stage. They come in all shapes and sizes. Some are plain, coarse and used as storage containers. Others are finely woven and decorated with mini-baskets, which the local Zapotec ladies love for gathering fresh food at the daily markets. Last year there were bamboo fish traps, lamp bases, bird cages, floor mats, and also very pretty flowers made from corn husks. I love these baskets to use around the house for storage and to give as house gifts filled with fresh fruit. The handles are wrapped in palm leaves.

This basket making from San Juan Guelavia is a long-standing tradition. Help preserve it. The way of the world is giving over to plastic and we have a chance to make a difference and buy directly from the makers — usually the generation of grandfathers and grandmothers who are trying to keep the tradition alive.

But to do that, we know that there has to be customers!

San Juan Guelavia is just before you get to Teotitlan del Valle on the right (west) side of the Carretera Nacional as you are heading toward Tlacolula from Oaxaca city. Enjoy. Maybe I’ll see you there!

 

 

Visiting India Artist Ruchin Soni Shows Work, Thursday, January 28

For one night only, Thursday, January 28, 2016, visiting India artist Ruchin Soni will present his work at an art opening to be held at  La Curtiduria studio, Barrio Jalatlaco, at 7:00 PM.  The public is invited.

RuchinInvitation

La Curtiduria is a graphic arts incubator studio space, whose director, Oaxaca printmaker Demian Flores, was mentor to Ruchin during his three-month cultural arts exchange program between Mexico and India, sponsored by the Mexican government. Ruchin competed and won support for this artist-in-residence program.

Ruchin worked in the studio to create woodcuts and other art pieces that represent his view of Oaxaca. Also a prolific muralist, painter and illustrator, Ruchin designed and painted street murals that bridge the intersection between popular art in Mexico and India.

Open Studio, Saturday, January 30, with Visiting India Textile Artist Nidhi Khurana and Ruchin Soni, 6 PM, at El Diablo y La Sandia Boca del Monte

Nidhi

Open Studio with Visiting India Artists, January 30, 6-8 PM

Textile artist Nidhi Khurana and artist/painter Ruchin Soni are wrapping up their three-month Oaxaca residency, sponsored by the Mexican government as part of a Mexico-India cultural exchange program.

Nidhi

Both are well-known in Delhi, India, for their innovative approach to large format art installations. Nidhi came here to experiment with natural dyes, and especially cochineal which is not sourced in India. She dyed cloth that is becoming textile maps of Oaxaca.

Ruchin completed a larger-than-life wall art mural on the highway to Ocotlan, portraits, sketches, and woodcut prints. Their tiny apartment in Oaxaca served as laboratory and design space, too.

Ruchin

They are leaving Oaxaca in early February. We hope you have a chance to drop by to see their work and wish them good journeys.  Gracias, Maria Crespo for opening your space for this exhibition.

 

I had the pleasure of mentoring Nidhi and Ruchin during their stay, helping Nidhi complete her competitive application to the Mexican government, and introducing her to textile artists and artisans to make her experience more complete. They arrived at the time my mom was dying, so my sincerest thanks to friends Martha Sorensen and Hayley Samuel for stepping in for me during my absence from Oaxaca to make key introductions.