Tag Archives: Chiapas

The Passing of Walter “Chip” Morris, Chiapas Textile Icon

Chip Morris was one of those iconic figures who is largely responsible for the development of textile education in Chiapas, Mexico. He is known for preserving and promoting Maya highland weaving. He was there for a lifetime, co-creating the famed weaving cooperative Sna Jolobil and establishing San Cristobal de las Casas as a textile lover’s travel destination.

I got news of his passing yesterday from my pal Sheri Brautigam while I was in transit from my Durham home to Mexico City.

Walter “Chip” Morris, 1953-2019, RIP

From Kiki Suarez, founder of Kikimundo, famed folk art gallery in the San Cristobal de las Casas historic center:

When I arrived in San Cristobal in 1977, the Maya fabric here was already in decline, and neither I nor any tourists knew much about quality and we bought mediocre embroidery; we did not know about the quality of what was possible. The weavers themselves followed the tradition but many did not know the meaning of their patterns. A young gringo Hippie arrived, settled in San Andres Larrainzar, learned Tzotzil (and probably spoke it better than Spanish), and rescued the meanings in the ancient textiles, which were already at the point of disintegrating.

This man was Walter F. Morris, who we called Chip. I learned a lot with him. Together with Luis Contreras and Pedro Meza, he formed the Sna Jolobil cooperative in the city, still known today as the sourced for the highest quality Maya fabric. He took the Maya textiles to the great museums. He wrote his book, Living Maya, with Carol Karasik, that included the extraordinary photographs taken by Jeffrey J. Foxx, and then translated into Spanish.

Then, other books followed, always with the faithful and capable Carol: about how the Maya fabric here in many remote communities in the Maya highlands continues to develop instead of disappearing, how Maya women and men are preserving their dress instead of giving over to western styles — a rare phenomenon in the world.

The tours and talks by Chip that I attended were wonderful. I remember the first years here when I saw women walking from village to village, carrying their textiles on their heads. I remember how Chip was looking for, discovering, teaching the weavers themselves the meaning of their patterns, rescuing old huipil designs. I remember an old huipil from Chamula that had designs that were taken from the murals at Bonampak. Chip helped them appreciate the value of their own art that they often sold for nothing or almost nothing.

Then, he joined the fabulous Pellizzi Collection for a small salary. The Maya textile was his life and his passion and his destiny and vocation, and perhaps everything else in life could not compete with this. If today there are so many cooperatives and young people who play with new designs of the traditional Maya textile, I think this is why Chip Morris started — to leave this legacy. Unfortunately, for many years, for personal reasons, he began to withdraw from social spaces, and today many who work in the same field do not even know about him.

That’s why I write this: Let them know! This is the heritage he leaves in San Cristobal, and with many weavers and people in many communities.

Chip transcends his personal struggles for his great effort and work to rescue and recognize the Maya fabric, another textile artist, Olga Reiche, from Guatemala, wrote to me today. And, so it is …

I did not know Chip personally. I met him a couple of times in Tenejapa during my tours with Patrick Murphy, when he was guiding tourists to the cooperative operated by Maria Meza across from the zocalo. I knew that he was ailing. Most of us did. As Kiki says, we honor the contribution he made to Maya textile knowledge. We go to Chiapas because of what he accomplished. Descansé bien.

We recommend Chip’s book, Maya Threads: A Woven History published by Thrum’s Books, for our Chiapas textile study tour participants. I hope you have a chance to read it.

I’m taking a wait list for the February 25-March 4, 2020 Chiapas Textile Study Tour. Let me know if you want to go.

Announcing Mano del Sur by Shuko Clouse — Curated Goods

Shuko Clouse just opened her online shop Mano del Sur. She is a friend and I want to help give her a boost.

Shuko is from Japan. She loves Mexico and particularly Oaxaca. She combines her aesthetic for quality and simplicity with all unique, one-of-a-kind pieces she finds along the way during her travels south-of-the-border.

Beach mat textile on Mano del Sur

Shuko is dedicated to learning Spanish. She recently came to Oaxaca for a language immersion program. In her generous, kind and insightful multicultural approach, she communicates directly with artisans to identify and buy the best home goods and fashion accessories to pass along to discerning buyers via her new website.

Huipil woodblock print on Mano del Sur

Our textile study tours offer people like Shuko a guided opportunity to seek out some of the most outstanding artisans in a region. Shuko came with us to Chiapas and she is now returning for the Oaxaca Coast Textile Study Tour. She comes to Oaxaca city, too, where I take her to villages to meet some of the best artisans to buy their craft.

I am happy to work with Shuko, designers and retailers to introduce them to artisans. The makers appreciate being able to sell direct with no middleman and the buyers know they support artisans directly and pay a fair price for their quality workmanship.

We are filled for the Oaxaca Coast Tour, but we have space for

Contact me for more information at norma.schafer@icloud.com

Mercado brown bag on Mano del Sur

More … My Oaxaca Tienda Sale

I’m leaving for the USA on July 10 and I’ve made a second loop through my collection to offer a few more pieces for sale here. I’m now a size small-petite and most of these artisan made clothes are size large and extra large. Most are new, never worn, bought directly from artisans who asked me to help them. Personally curated!

Purchase must be made by Monday, July 8 to get into my luggage. I will mail from USA.

How to Buy: I have numbered each garment with price. Please send me an email norma.schafer@icloud.com and tell me which piece you want by number. Include your mailing address. I will send you an invoice and then bring the piece with me to mail to you after July 11. Mailing cost of $8 USD per package will be added. For Canada shipments, add $30 USD.

#1. Las Sanjuaneras, San Juan Colorado huipil, soft hand-spun native creamy white and coyuchi cotton woven on the back-strap loom, $325 USD
#2. Blusa, Pinotepa Nacional, Oaxaca, hand-embroidered collar, back-strap loomed, $115
#3. San Andres Larrainzar, Chiapas, blusa, $85
#4. SOLD. Magdalena Aldama, Chiapas Gala Blusa, $225 USD, finely woven
#5. Michoacan, needlepoint cross-stitch, $185
#6. SOLD. Xochistlahuaca, Guerrero, white on white gauze weave. Small head opening. $95.
#7. SOLD. Isthmus of Tehuantepec, Oaxaca. Hand-embroidered, $125
#8. SOLD. Amusgo, Oaxaca, $75 USD
#9. Amusgo, Oaxaca. Gauze weave with supplementary weft, $145.
#9. Khadi Oaxaca Quechquemitl, native coyuchi brown cotton, handwoven, $95

UK’s Selvedge Magazine Includes Chiapas Textile Article by Norma Schafer

While I was traveling in Japan this spring, I received an email from Selvedge Magazine editor Laura Gray inviting me to contribute an article to the June 15, 2019 publication. Topic: Anything you want to write about Chiapas textiles, she said.

As I thought about the Maya women in Chiapas villages who weave, the most impact they have on me is how they choose to incorporate the designs of their beliefs and everyday life into the cloth. Cloth has meaning which gives it life and longevity. So, the article is about what these designs mean and their significance to the weavers.

Preview of the article about woven identity in Maya textiles of Chiapas. Gala huipil is woven with naturally dyed wool with supplementary weft technique, Tenejapa, Chiapas

You may have difficulty reading the text of the article I wrote above. I reformatted it from PDF to JPG so I could publish it here. I encourage you to purchase the issue that will be published on June 15, 2019. It contains an compendium of information by other contributors, too, including Marcella Echavarria, Anne Menke and Ana Elena Mallet who live and work in Mexico, collect and study the indigenous textiles woven and embroidered here.

I will be leading a Chiapas Textile Study Tour during winter 2020 with Textile Fiestas of Mexico author Sheri Brautigam. Dates are February 25 to March 4, 2020. There are a few spaces open. Please send an email to norma.schafer@icloud.com if you want to join us.

Gala huipil, cotton, San Andres Larrainzar, Chiapas
A woman’s signature is figurative, woven into the bottom line of the cloth

Selvedge, Magazine organizing and hosting a World Fair in London, July 2020. I’d like to go and have applied to do a presentation with my goddaughter, Zapotec linguist Janet Chavez Santiago. If accepted, our talk will be about cultural appreciation, cultural appropriation, identity and the politics of indigenous cloth. I’ll keep you posted about whether it will come to pass!

Mexico Monday: Clothing and Bags for Sale

Here is a selection of hand-woven agave fiber market bags and totes, a few woven purses and shoulder bags perfect for carrying cell phones and coin purses. I’ve added tops and a poncho cover-up, too. All from Oaxaca and Chiapas. Don’t miss anything: there are 14 pieces, so scroll down to the end!

To buy, please send me an email: norma.schafer@icloud.com Include your name, mailing address with city, state and ZIP code, along with the ITEM NUMBER. I will send you an invoice and add on an $8 charge to mail USPS Priority Mail. As soon as I receive payment, I will ship.

NOTE: ALL PAYMENTS MUST BE RECEIVED BY MAY 9, 2019. The last day I can mail is May 10. I return to Oaxaca on May 11. Thanks very much.

#7, Extra-Large, Finest Agave Fiber Hand-woven Market Bag, $85

This is the finest quality hand-woven cactus fiber bag made in Chiapas. This is an original to the village of Magdalena Aldama where the men weave these and use them for field bags — to carry feed for the animals, food and water for themselves. They cut, soak, strip, and weave the agave leaves all by hand. The finest ones take three-months to make. They are strong, durable and functional. Comes with adjustable leather straps. They are works of artistry. The coffee color of the bags comes from the smoke over the wood cooking fires. Each one is different.

Detail, #7
#1, Chiapas densely embroidered blouse, finest cotton from Sna Jolobil, $145

#1 is from the famed Sna Jolobil cooperative. Measures 26″ wide by 28″ long. The fine cotton cloth is woven on a back-strap loom. The bodice is hand-embroidered in the tiniest stitches. Moss green against cream, light and comfy for summer. They will be at the Santa Fe Folk Art Market this summer and you can bet the prices will be double.

#2, from Magdalena Aldama, Chiapas, dazzling back-strap loomed daily blouse, $165

#2 is from the small family cooperative operated by Rosa and Cristobal in Magdalena Aldama. This is what the women wear for their daily attire. Each year that I go, the designs become even more elaborate. I hand-picked this piece based on quality of weaving and the density of the supplementary weft — the threads added during the weaving process to create the patterns. It takes hours to make a piece like this. Piece is 26″ wide by 24″ long.

#2 detail, Magdalena Aldama blouse
#3, from Oxchuc, Chiapas, great beach cover-up or use it for layering, $145

#3 From Oxchuc, Chiapas, and woven by Cristina on a back-strap loom. This is a wonderful, soft cotton poncho in a graphic black and white. It took Cristina 38 hours to weave this and it measures 32” wide x 28” long, $145

Detail, #3
#4, San Juan Chamula, Chiapas, small shoulder bag, wool $25
SOLD. #5, Magdalena Aldama, large hand-woven agave fiber market bag, $65

#5 (above) and #6 (below) and #7 (third) are hand-woven market bags — best quality. They are originals to the village of Magdalena Aldama where the men weave these and use them for field bags — to carry feed for the animals, food and water for themselves. They cut, soak, strip, and weave the agave leaves all by hand. The finest ones take three-months to make. They are strong, durable and functional. Comes with adjustable leather straps. They are works of artistry. The coffee color of the bags comes from the smoke over the wood cooking fires. Each one is different.

SOLD. #6, Magdalena Aldama, Chiapas, medium size agave fiber market bag, $65
SOLD. #8, Tenejapa back-strap loomed small shoulder bag, $45

#8 comes from Tenejapa, Chiapas and is woven on a back-strap loom using the supplementary weft (added threads to the warp) technique to create the beautiful pattern. Use it for cell phone and coin purse or an evening bag,

SOLD. #9, Teotitlan del Valle, Oaxaca, woven wool shoulder bag, $25

#9 is a well-crafted wool bag, lined, from Teotitlan del Valle. It has a zipper. Priced at less than what I paid for it.

#10, handbag, Teotitlan del Valle, cochineal natural dyes, $50

#10 is wool dyed with cochineal red from the Bii Dauu cooperative in Teotitlan del Valle who does some of the finest work in the village. It is lined and has a zipper. Priced at less than what I paid for it.

SOLD. #11, Tenejapa, Chiapas, small shoulder bag, hand-woven, $45

#11 is a unique bag with a lively color combination. I bought it in the weekly market directly from the maker. The village is an hour and a world away from San Cristobal de las Casas.

SOLD. #12, San Juan Chamula, Chiapas, PomPom Chal (shawl) or Throw, $125

#12 is a soft, soft, grey and cream stripe wool woven on a back-strap loom in the village of San Juan Chamula, Chiapas, where women raise their own sheep, then card, spin and weave. Use this for a winter wrap or drape it over a chair, sofa, ottoman or bed for Bo-Ho style.

#13, hand-woven 100% cotton bag from Pinotepa de Don Luis, Chiapas, $45
SOLD. #14, shoulder bag from Oxchuc, Chiapas, braided strap and fringes, $45

#14 is woven on a back-strap loom in a small Chiapas village. I love the color combo. It comes from Jolom Mayatik Cooperative. The braided strap is a work of art in itself and is of highest quality. Use for evening, cell phone, coin purse and cosmetics.