Tag Archives: backstrap loom

Oaxaca expoVENTA: San Felipe Usila Textiles for Muertos

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Pop-Up expoVENTA coming Oct. 29-30, from the land of the Dance of the Flor de Piña (of Guelaguetza fame) and those exquisite huipiles of San Felipe Usila, a remote village high in Oaxaca’s Papaloapan region near Tuxtepec, 8 hours from Oaxaca City.

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Jose Isidro and his mama, will come from their village with hand-woven textiles at various prices and sizes, from complex to simple, from daily wear (diario) to fancy, schmancy gala traje (special occasion dress). They represent the weaving of their extended family cooperative.

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Big thanks to Casa de las Bugambilias B&B-Adryana Zavala, and El Diablo y La Sandia Boca del MonteMaria Crespo for their generous hospitality.

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All sales go directly to the family weaving cooperative. Please share widely. Thank you.

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Evaristo Borboa, Tenancingo, Mexico Rebozos on the Backstrap Loom

Evaristo-16-2Evaristo Borboa Casas is an 89 year old weaver from Tenancingo de Degollado in the Estado de Mexico (state of Mexico). I met him on Saturday during a whirlwind visit to four rebozo makers, most of whom work on the flying shuttle loom. Except for Evaristo! He said when he was a six-year old boy learning to weave there were over 240 back-strap loom weavers in the village. Now there are only two or three.

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Evaristo is a Grand Master of Mexico Folk Art. His work is recognized and collected throughout the world. Most consider him the best and the last of the traditional jaspe weavers in Mexico. Jaspe, or ikat, is a laborious process that requires a month of yarn tying and dyeing preparation before it can be put on the loom. Putting it on the loom takes another week. Then, it can take a month or two to weave the rebozo.Evaristo-21-2An intricate rebozo can sell for 12,000 to 20,000 pesos. When you convert that to dollars, a top-notch weaver might make $900 at today’s current exchange rate for the finest handmade shawl. The best rebozo weavers in Tenancingo use fine cotton thread made and dyed in Puebla, Mexico.

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Evaristo does this for love, for culture and for commitment to the cloth as do the other weavers we met on our first day traveling with Los Amigos del Arte Popular de Mexico:  Fermin Escobar, Fito Garcia Diaz and Jesus Zarate.

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Process to Make Ikat in Tenancingo

Evaristo tells us there are fourteen steps he uses to making a fine rebozo. I’m not sure I captured all that he explained, but I will do my best here.  First he mounts the thread on a warping board and decides the length and width of the piece of cloth. Then, he separates the threads, called pepinado, with his fingers, tying each section.

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Maestro Evaristo then soaks them in atole de masa (corn paste) so the threads dry to a secure hardness. He then draws the ikat (jaspe) design he wants to use on the thread. He ties and dyes the threads at the markings. With a smooth stone, he beats the threads in water to rinse out the atole paste. As each section loosens he dunks it in water 30 times.

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Then, he unties the knots with a special knife and removes them from the cloth. He ties knots on the back strap loom to keep the loom threads even so they don’t move. This keeps the pattern registered, even. When on the loom, he fist makes the base and then starts the field design.

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Evaristo uses 5,400 threads for the width of the rebozo. They are very fine! This is the highest number I heard during our visits to the four masters on the first day. It takes him five weeks to weave one rebozo.

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Then, the cloth goes to the puntadora who ties the elaborates fringes. The more costly the cloth, the longer and finer quality the punta (fringe). Making the fringe can take two to four more months of work.  A punta represents about 30% of the cost of the rebozo.

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Los Amigos board member John Waddell organized this study trip. Members propose their travel idea to the board who approves the plan and a budget. The members organize trips as a membership benefit. Travelers fund their own cost to get to the destination, most meals, lodging and incidentals. The fee to LADAP includes a donation to help support Mexico’s folk artisans and special in-country projects.

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Mexico Textiles Brief: In Transit to Tenancingo

MEXICO CITY, Thursday, September 3, 2015–Today is an interlude in Mexico City as I travel between Oaxaca and Tenancingo, the ikat rebozo capital of Mexico. I’m joining Los Amigos de los Artes Populares de Mexico, a group collectors and appreciators of Mexican Folk Art.  We are traveling together to meet the grand masters of Mexican rebozo weaving in Tenancingo this week before the feria (fair, exhibition and sale) begins.10983127_1048672688498825_5904886409732194178_n

Most of these rebozos, or shawls, are made on the pedal floor loom or are machine woven now. Only a few weavers, like Don Evaristo Borboa, remain who work on the traditional back strap loom. This is an endangered art and on this trip we will meet Maestro Evaristo in his studio for a demonstration. Rebozo prices can range from 500 to 20,000 pesos depending on quality.

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The Mexican jaspe version of the ikat design involves tying the warp threads, then dyeing the threads, so the tied area doesn’t take the color, before dressing the loom. Then, the weft threads, also tie-dyed, are woven into intricate, repetitive geometric patterns. Sometimes, the cloth looks like it takes on the shimmer of water or a contemporary Agam lithograph.

Men are the weavers of the rebozo cloth. Women, the puntadoras, specialize in making the elaborate hand-tied punta or fringes. This can often take up to four months, depending on complexity. It may take six months to complete the cloth and fringe.

Click here to see my post on El Rebozo, Made in Mexico, the comprehensive exhibition that just closed at Mexico City’s Franz Mayer Museum.

 

Pop-up Expoventa San Felipe Usila Saturday Only

Textile show and sale from San Felipe Usila
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When: 1:30-4:30 pm, Saturday, March 7, 2015

Where:  Las Granadas B&B, Avenida 2 de Abril #9, Teotitlan del Valle, Oaxaca

What:  think Danza de la Pina — Dance of the Pineapple– at The Guelaguetza to picture what these garments look like

San Felipe Usila is a remote mountain village near Tuxtepec, about an eight-hour drive from Oaxaca. The women weave extraordinary textiles on back strap looms. I was there last October and met a talented family.

Jorge Isidro is coming with his mother, an accomplished weaver, and bringing excellent quality pieces to show our Women’s Creative Writing and Yoga Retreat participants. Because he is making such a long trip, I want to open up the opportunity to you to see and buy the work.

The sales go directly to the weaving families.  Prices are reasonable because you are buying direct.

Please invite your friends and share this post to support fine indigenous Oaxaca textile culture.  Thank you.

Norma H-Shafer

 

Zinacantan Textile Flowers, San Cristobal de Las Casas, Chiapas

They speak Tzotzil here in the Maya highlands of Chiapas, Mexico.  San Lorenzo Zinacantan is a village nestled in a beautiful valley about thirty minutes from San San Cristobal de Las Casas.  It is a popular Sunday tourist destination combined with a visit to the mystical church at San Juan Chamula (which I will write about in another post), just ten minutes apart.

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Zinacantan people yielded to the Spanish during the conquest.  They enjoyed more favors and received fertile land in exchange for their loyalty. Today, the Zinacantan hillside is dotted with greenhouses where flowers grow in abundance to decorate church and home altars, and are a key part of festivals.

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The village replicates these flowers in their embroidery that embellish cloth created on back strap looms.  Over the years we have seen the patterns change from simple red and white striped cloth to sparkly textiles that incorporate synthetic glitzy threads of gold and silver.  Much of the embroidery is now machine stitched, though the designs are guided by expert hands.

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I’ve been coming to San Cristobal de Las Casas for years searching for a chal embroidered by hand to no avail. This time, Patrick, our guide took us to the home of Antonia, one of Zinacantan’s most accomplished weavers and embroiderers.  Among the hundred chals (shawl or tzute) available for purchase, I found a blue one all hand embroidered. Technology is winning out over the made by hand ethos.

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Identity is defined externally by the indigenous garment.  Some say the Spanish imposed this upon local people in order to know where they came from and to keep them in their place. Others say the design of the garment endures because of cultural pride.  The young woman above is from the village of Chenalho.  I can tell because of the design of her beautiful huipil.

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She is the tortilla maker at Antonia’s home, who keeps the fire going, makes us a fresh quesadilla of local cheese, cured chorizo, avocado and homemade salsa to remember the visit. Food is memory, too.

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Nothing is wasted, not even the smoke. It curls up from the comal to cure the meats that hang above it. The corn is criollo, locally grown and ground by hand, pure and wholesome. Here in the shadowy adobe kitchen there is magic.

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It is impossible to take photographs inside the church at Zinacantan. It is forbidden and cameras can be confiscated if you are found to violate this. Can you imagine a church altar spilling over with flowers from ceiling to floor, fresh, with an aroma of lilies, roses, gardenias and lilacs. The swirl of scent is like an infusion of incense, designed perhaps to bring one closer to god.

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I organized this art and archeology study tour for Penland School of Crafts in North Carolina.  If you have a small group interested in coming to Oaxaca or Chiapas, please contact me.  I have over 35 years experience organizing award-winning educational programs for some of America’s most respected universities.