Cochineal is the insect that produces carminic acid (think Campari, lipstick, yogurt), that tantalizing RED that the Aztecs, then Spanish adored.
Tapestry-loomed rugs hand-made with 100% natural dyes
Indigo blue dyed wool scarves and shawls in time for winter
Gorgeous hand-bags and totes, all with natural dyes
From October 27 to November 6, Omar is traveling to Philadelphia, Pa, and New York, NY, to exhibit, demonstrate and sell beautiful tapestry rugs at various locations. I’ll be posting the schedule soon. If you live in the NE Corridor, stay tuned!
I’ve been in North Carolina for a week, arriving safely on the tail of Hurricane Florence. In some parts here, it is still treacherous, but not where I live when I’m here in Durham, NC. My two pieces of luggage each weighed in at 49 pounds and some ounces. Maximum is 50 pounds without penalty.
SOLD. #1. All Naturals Lightening Rug. 57-1/2″ long x 31″ wide. $350 USD
#1 is all natural sheep wool in tones of grey, cream and brown, with traditional fringes. A complex design to weave. Shipping to anywhere in the USA is $8.
I stuffed them with what-nots and rugs, aprons (flouncy and more simple), stylish market tote bags, and a selection of Zayzelle dresses and pullover scarves. Some were pre-sold. Many were not. I guess this is what I do when I come to this part of home! Make Oaxaca available to you.
#2 Butterflies. All natural. 58-1/2″ long x 29-1/2″ wide. $260 USD
#2 is a butterfly motif accented with the mountains and rain pattern. $8 mailing to anywhere in USA.
Catching up with friends, keeping routine medical appointments for check-ups, walking and sewing is what I do here. Not much different from life in Teotitlan del Valle in terms of activities, but lifestyle worlds apart.
SOLD. #3 Runner. 116″ long x 30″ wide. All natural wool. $385.
#3 is part of my collection, unused but stored for a couple of years. I’d like it to go out the door! It is large, so will weigh more and mailing is $26 USD to anywhere in the USA.
#4. B&W Large Market Tote. Woven plastic. 20x13x5″ $55. Two available.
#4 is a snazzy, elegant tote, sturdy and functional with double straps. I use mine to carry an umbrella, farmer’s market produce, an extra wrap. I sling it over my shoulder and it goes along with me everywhere. Mailing is $8 to anywhere in USA.
Here in NC there are no barking dogs, no corn fields, no mountains, no patio or terrace, no hand-made blue corn tortillas. Here, I get uninterrupted sleep. Here, there is the pulse of urban life in a country that continues to need my attention. I will not give up my voice. Usually everyday I make a call or send a text to my U.S. Senator. Remember John McCain, I want to tell him. He would do the right thing.
SOLD. #5. All natural zigzag rug. 42″long x 28″ wide. $265.
#5 is a sawtooth zigzag rug in all the natural sheep colors. Note that fringes are tucked in for easy vacuuming. $8 to mail anywhere in the USA.
I brought a few rugs back woven by friends in Teotitlan del Valle who need the money. One family just had a new baby. The other has two daughters pursuing college educations — costly on a rug-weaver’s income. Another is by a woman who weaves for a family enterprise and wants a bit of her own money.
SOLD. #6 Zapotec Diamond with Feathers. 58-1/2″ long x 31″ wide. $295.
#6 is tones of gray sheep wool, accented with dark brown and hints of gold and cream. $8 to ship anywhere in USA.
These weavers are not famous and their prices are modest in comparison to others. The quality is very good. I bought them outright at the asking prices to help and passing these savings on to you.
One dress. One size fits most. Many fabrics, textures. Affordable fashion.
Three years ago I cut a pattern and started sewing a simple dress that would take me through the day and into the evening here in Oaxaca, in North Carolina and wherever else I traveled. I chose linen and cotton. Pure cloth with fabric slubs and wrinkles that are part of the design. No ironing needed. Easy to wash by hand. Will line dry quickly.
I took them with me to remote areas in Mexico, to Spain and then to India.
I layer the dress with local color: accessories, shawls, scarves, capelets, aprons, ponchos, vest or topcoat. You get the idea. Simple dressing that can take on a unique flavor of place. Layering for warmth and comfort. Lightweight and versatile to beat the heat.
Wherever I go, women ask me, Where did you get that dress? I want one.
I love to wear this dress. I love to sew this dress. I made several. Then several more. I bought linen in San Francisco, hand-spun and natural dyed cotton yardage in Oaxaca, and ikat cotton in India. I found a small boutique fabric shop in downtown Oaxaca with Made in Mexico cotton. I sewed it in mid-calf and tunic versions. Pretty soon, I had too many dresses. Duh!
Zayzelle. Dress Simply. In pumpkin linen. One size fits most.
When the dresses started to show wear, I transitioned them to wear-around-the-house and nightgowns.
Back to Where did you get that dress? and employment for women friends who live in my village.
Some women here sew and have machines. They want and need extra income. I thought, perhaps I could create more of these hand-made dresses, employ women to make them, pay them more than a fair and just wage, and offer the dress for sale to the universe via an online store.
How to Shop. We have a small inventory. Go to the website. Make your selection and buy online. I will bring your piece with me to NC and ship from there after September 18, 2018.
Modify the Dress to a Tunic. If you prefer the tunic style, let me know which dress you want and I will make it shorter!
This is slow-fashion and slow production. Dresses are one-of-a-kind based on fabric I personally choose. We can make about two or three dresses a week. All the garments made here in Oaxaca by me or by women I work with. I inspect each one for quality. Enclosed and finished French seams guarantee there are no raw edges that will ravel or fray.
I invite you to meet Zayzelle and let me know what you think!
Zayzelle. Dress Simply. Mustard linen pullover capelet-shawl with hand-stitching.
Zayzelle. Dress Simply. The brand is inspired by a friend’s North Carolina family name. I like this name. It is unique. Uncommon. It evokes taste and elegance. Has zing and pizzaz. Sings of sizzle. Evokes memory and imagination. Harkens to a time when there was time to sit and visit, sip fresh-squeezed lemonade in the afternoon and add a little zest to the mix as the sun sets.
Of course, this does not imply that I have forsaken my Oaxaca and Mexico traje (indigenous, hand-made clothing). I just like to mix it up and mix-and-match! I will often wear this Zayzelle dress with a Oaxaca over-the-shoulder textile that is woven on the back strap loom and dyed with natural colors. For a more Asian look, wear the dress over loose and comfy linen pants.
Today, Sarah Resnick from Gist Yarn & Fiber, talks with Patrice Perillie, an immigration attorney based in Puerto Escondido, Oaxaca, and Mixtec weaver Amada Sanchez Cruz from Pinotepa de Don Luis. She also interviews Norma Schafer at the end of the segment.
Indigo, cochineal and caracol purpura huipil, Pinotepa de Don Luis
Patrice started the non-profit Tixinda Dreamweavers Cooperative twelve years ago. Her goal was to keep very talented artisans in Mexico instead of migrating to the USA where jobs are limited to cleaning houses and washing dishes in restaurants.
Tixinda Dreamweavers ethically harvests the endangered sea snail that gives the rare purple dye. The group grows pre-Hispanic native cotton. They use the malacate — drop spindle — to make the thread. They weave extraordinary clothing using the back-strap loom.
Weaving designs, Pinotepa de Don Luis, with cochineal
Oaxaca Cultural Navigator sponsored this Podcast. At the end of the segment, I talk about why we take textile lovers to the Coast of Oaxaca to explore the weaving, natural dyeing and hand-spinning culture.
Spinning and cleaning cotton in San Juan Colorado
Pinotepa de Don Luis is one of five villages we will visit on our January 11-21, 2019 textile study tour on the Oaxaca coast. For our Grand Finale, we attend the Tixinda Dreamweavers Exposition and Sale. A noted cultural anthropologist will travel with us. We go deep into the textile culture of the region. You meet extraordinary artisans where they live and create.
Yes, I went on a tour! Envia Foundation offers half-day excursions out to villages where their borrowers live and work. I say borrowers because Envia’s primary goal is to offer microfinancing — interest-free loans — to women entrepreneurs who want to start or expand a small business. Responsible tourism is part of that.
San Miguel del Valle weaver and Envia tour-goer with a tree-of-life tapete
We visit borrowers to see the improvements they have been able to make with Envia’s financial help and to hear their personal stories about how funds and educational support programs have made a difference.
San Miguel del Valle’s Bordado Mary with her magnificent aprons
To qualify for an Envia loan, you must form a group of at least three women and promise to make weekly repayments of at least 20 pesos and on time. Each woman is committed to each other to make this happen. The first loan is for 1,500 pesos, which translates now to about $80 USD. Once this is repaid, the women can qualify for the next level loan. The largest loan is 7,500 pesos, or about $400 USD.
La Alma de la Casa! Our lunch stop in San Miguel del Valle
Envia lends to women because data show they will keep the funds in the family and they are more accountable for repayment. There is a 99.8% repayment rate. In Mexico, the cost to borrow money (interest rates) ranges from 75% and 200%. People are never able to get out of debt if they follow this path.
My tlayuda. More than I could ever eat. Delicious organic corn.
The women present a simple budget to Envia to apply. For most, Spanish is their second language. They speak Zapotec. They don’t need to speak Spanish, though, to receive a loan. They must attend a basic business education course before the funds are given. About 10% of the borrowers have completed middle school (8th grade), and 60% have completed elementary school to the second grade. The loan gives them a leg up to buy materials and supply such as yarn if they are weavers, thread or a sewing machine if they are embroiderers, a stove if they run a small diner (comedor).
Winn and me trying on aprons. Of course, we bought one!
We might think these needs are simple. To many, a small loan can make a big difference.
Young girls start wearing aprons early — part of their identity
We started the day at Envia headquarters at Instituto Cultural Oaxaca, boarded a van and headed out to San Miguel del Valle, a village in the hills above Tlacolula de Matamoros on the way to the Sierra Norte. Here they are known for both their elaborate embroidery and weaving.
Through the screen door at the comedor, San Miguel del Valle
We first had a fantastic homemade lunch at Comedor Teresa. She calls herself the Alma de la Casa, the Soul of the House. We had a choice of chicken or vegetarian dishes: chile relleno, tlayuda or tacos dorados. All delicious.
Weaver sisters in San Miguel del Valle, and husband who also weaves
We then walked to the house of a 25-year-old embroiderer who makes elaborate aprons that must pair with a matching or contrasting under-dress. She gave us a demonstration and we were in awe of her handiwork. She does not sell at the Tlacolula Market. All her customers come to her house.
We next walked uphill to a house near the church, then climbed down a steep stairway to the courtyard of weavers Petronia and Minerva, who now buy their own dyed wool instead of being supplied with a piecework order from a big house in Teotitlan. This gives them more independence, a bit more profit, and saves materials and travel costs. Every little bit helps.
Array of colorful beeswax candles, handmade, some with natural dyes
We arrived in Teotitlan del Valle in late afternoon to visit the house of Sofia and her sister Sara who make traditional beeswax candles, some dyed with natural plant materials and cochineal. Just stunning work.
Sofia starting a candle, 365 layers of wax
Candles dyed with indigo and cochineal, artful to hang
In the same courtyard, we meet family member Ludivina Vasquez Gutierrez who dyes wool with natural plants and cochineal. Her husband is the weaver. They do the entire process by hand, carding, spinning and weaving the Churro wool they buy from the Mixteca region of Oaxaca. We were taken with the quality and very reasonable prices. Perhaps only a dozen weavers work in natural dyes here, though most can give tourists a dye demonstration using cochineal.
A stack of beautiful rugs, all made with natural dyes, Teotitlan del Valle
The tour, which began at 1 p.m. returned the group to Oaxaca after 7 p.m. The cost is 850 pesos which includes transportation and lunch.
Hand-carding wool to spin. Two days labor to fill a basket.
Being a tourist on this tour can’t be beat!
Thanks to Jacki and Ida for being the best tour leaders and translators of language and culture.
Zayzelle: Dress Simply is our new clothing line, one dress, one-of-a-kind, one size fits many, imaginative cloth. Plus, jewelry and an easy-to-wear pullover scarf. Keep checking back for What’s New.
Norma Contributes Two Chapters!
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Norma Schafer and Oaxaca Cultural Navigator LLC has offered programs in Mexico since 2006. We have over 30 years of university program development experience. See my resume.
Study Tours + Study Abroad are personally curated and introduce you to Mexico's greatest artisans. They are off-the-beaten path, internationally recognized. We give you access to where people live and work. Yes, it is safe and secure to travel. Groups are limited in size for the most personal experience.
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