Tag Archives: Embroidery

San Juan del Rio, Oaxaca: Mezcal on the Mountain

We didn’t start out planning a trip to San Juan del Rio, Oaxaca. It just happened as we moved into the day. Friend Sheri Brautigam, textile designer, collector and Living Textiles of Mexico blogger, is visiting me. After a roundabout through the Teotitlan del Valle morning market, we headed out to San Pablo Villa de Mitla to visit master flying shuttle loom weaver Arturo Hernandez.

San Juan del Rio_2-2

Don Arturo creates fine ikat wool shawls and scarves colored with natural dyes, including cochineal, indigo, wild marigold and zapote negro (wild black persimmon).  Sheri knew him from the Santa Fe International Folk Art Market where he exhibited in summer 2014.  I’ve known him for years through my friend Eric Chavez Santiago, education director at the Museo Textil de Oaxaca. So, of course, we couldn’t help ourselves and new rebozos made it into our collections.

San Juan del Rio_2-11

It was only eleven in the morning. I asked Don Arturo if he knew the village of San Juan del Rio, where some of Oaxaca’s finest mezcal is produced and sold under private label. He said, Yes, it’s only about forty-five minutes from here.

San Juan del Rio_2-13

I looked at Sheri, she looked at me. We said, Let’s go. I invited Don Arturo to come with us and he said Yes, once more. A native Zapotec speaker, we were lucky to have him with us. He helped find our way!

About Mezcal: The agave piña or pineapple is dug up out of the ground at maturity (seven to twelves years of field growth) and taken to the distillery, where it is roasted over a wood fired, rock-lined pit.  That’s what gives it a smokey flavor. It’s then crushed to yield the liquid that becomes mezcal. Good mezcal goes through two distillations.

San Juan del Rio_2-23 San Juan del Rio_2-37

Years ago, Sheri  worked with a seamstress embroiderer Alma Teresa who lives in San Juan del Rio. Sheri designs gorgeous quechquemitls and Teresa crochets the pieces together. To reconnect with her was another reason to go.  Notice Teresa’s blouse and jacket, with the elaborate crochet trim. Seems like some of the most fun days in Oaxaca start with no particular plan.

San Juan del Rio_2-36

We headed out toward Hierve del Agua but made a left turn onto a winding road that soon became unpaved dirt, rough from recent rains. It took a good hour plus to get there from Mitla.  The road ends at the picturesque village, tucked away in a river valley. Houses are built on hillsides.  Other hillsides are terraced with mezcal palenques and maize crops. The stills are at river level.  They use the water to cool the distillation process. This is not yet a tourist destination.

San Juan del Rio_2-5 San Juan del Rio_2-30

This village is known for small production, artesenal mezcal. I was on a hunt for reposado. What I found was an extraordinary reposado at a third the price of what I usually pay in Oaxaca city, plus a wild agave (silvestre) mezcal called Tepeztate from a mezcalero who is akin to a winemaker. He produces mezcal that he sells to some of the top hand-crafted brands.

San Juan del Rio_2-35 San Juan del Rio_2-32 San Juan del Rio_2-9

Sheri got a taste of just distilled mezcal, warm and just out of the still. At eighty-percent alcohol her engine was roaring after just a sip.  I inhaled and almost fell over. Don Arturo joined us. Being the designated driver, I had to be more careful. The whole thing reminded me of North Carolina moonshine, but the resulting product here is so much more refined it’s not even comparable.

San Juan del Rio_2-17 San Juan del Rio_2-20 San Juan del Rio_2-16

There are now so many varieties of mezcal, depending on the type of agave used and whether the mezcal is aged and for how long. Añejo can be aged as long as twelve years in oak which takes on characteristics of the wood. Wild agave has a distinctive herbal flavor and aroma. You need to taste to see which you prefer.

San Juan del Rio_2-3 San Juan del Rio_2-26

This is a full day trip. We could have stayed longer and visited more mezcaleros. But I think we came home with some of the best produced in the village at a fraction of the retail price. If you go, bring your own liter size glass bottles with tight lids. Some bring gallon jugs to fill up. Plan to leave Oaxaca by nine in the morning. You’ll return around seven at night. Don’t go in the rainy season! You will slide all over the road!

San Juan del Rio_2-29 San Juan del Rio_2-8 San Juan del Rio_2-14

Who to visit?

  1. Redondo de San Juan del Rio, Rodolfo Juan Juarez, mezcalero. Tel. (951) 546 5260. Reposado and Tepeztate
  2. Perla del Rio Mezcal, Ignacio Juan Antonio, mezcalero, Tel. (951) 546 5056. Espadin joven.
  3. Alma Teresa’s clothing cooperative, a block from the church. She is sending two daughters to university in Oaxaca. Her husband went to the U.S. to work years ago and never came back.

 

 

San Juan del Rio_2-40 San Juan del Rio_2

You can buy a road map of Oaxaca state at the Proveedora, corner Reforma and Independencia, in the Centro Historico. Comes in handy for exploring and having an aventura, like we did.

Coming Up: Oaxaca Portrait Photography Workshop, Starts Jan. 30, 2015

Shopping in San Antonino Castillo Velasco, Oaxaca

My sister and I set out for San Antonino Castillo Velasco, Oaxaca, to visit the potter Don Jose Garcia Antonino who makes life-size human figures sculpted from local red clay called barro rojo.  We decided to go before everyone arrived for the wedding so that we could focus on the shopping day at hand.  Barbara has been wanting to get one of Don Jose’s sculptures for years.  She was set on getting one she could see eye-to-eye with.  Yes, they are that big!

Viejitos_PreWed-2

Viejitos_PreWed-3

Jose Garcia Antonio‘s daughter dusts off the figure Barbara selected while his granddaughter watches us.  He is featured in the recently published book, Grand Masters of Oaxaca.  Calle Libertad No. 24, San Antonino Castillo Velasco. Telephone (951) 539-6473.  email Jose Garcia’s son at josemiguelgarcia2010@gmail.com

Viejitos_PreWed

San Antonino is mostly known for it’s intricate multi-colored embroidery with designs of flowers and birds that embellish blouses and dresses.  The quality and amount of the embroidery plus the finish work determine the price of a garment that can range from 200 pesos to 6,000 pesos (that’s about $17 USD to $525 USD).  The white on white version is known as the Oaxaca Wedding Dress.

Viejitos_PreWed-5 Viejitos_PreWed-4

Here at Artesanias Viki on Calle Libertad No. 1, (telephone 571-0092) sister Barbara models a manta (natural cotton) blusa with hot pink embroidery on the bodice.  Dueña Virginia Sanchez de Cornelio and her daughters, also included in the Grand Masters of Oaxaca folk art book, have a stash of stunning blouses and dresses in all types of colors, sizes, intricacy of embroidery, and prices.   Note the pansies and the little figures that make up the smocking on the bodice of the white dress.  These can take six to nine months to embroider, we are told.

We probably spent an hour or more at the pottery studio and then a good hour-and-a-half with Señora Viki trying on clothes.  Good thing we did this trip sola — just the two of us.  After a lunch on the patio at Azucenas Zapoteca at the San Martin Tilcajete crossroads, we went to Mailboxes Etc. in Oaxaca city to pack and ship the girl, which Barbara nicknamed Viki!

Viejitos_PreWed-6

San Antonino is just before you get to the town of Ocotlan de Morales, about 40 minutes beyond Oaxaca on the way to Puerto Angel.  There’s a sign that directs you to turn right off the highway.  It is beyond San Martin Tilcajete, the alebrijes village and Santo Tomas Jalieza, the backstrap loom weaving village.  You can make a day of it along this route.   Hire a taxi for 120-150 pesos per hour or take a collectivo for 10 pesos per person each way.

Our mode of transportation was trusty Teotitlan del Valle Sitio Zapoteco taxi driver Abraham.  Running errands later in the day, we hopped on a moto-taxi which we call a tuk-tuk.  Here’s a bit of pueblo scenery with Barbara profiled in the rear-view mirror!

Viejitos_PreWed-7

Fortunately, I downloaded these into my computer before I lost my camera, so I’m able to share them with you.  Hope you enjoy.

Shop Mexico: The Artisan Sisters

Welcome to our new online store — Shop Mexico: The Artisan Sisters. We are sisters in real life, Norma Hawthorne and Barbara Beerstein.  We are passionate collectors and supporters of artists and artisans who express the creativity and vitality of Oaxaca and Mexico.  Textiles and folk art are our passion.  Because of this, we fall in love with people and what they create along our journey.  For us, it is as much about the people we connect with than what we are buying. Invariably, we usually come home with much more than what we need.

Today we feature huipils + blusas from Oaxaca, Chiapas and Puebla!

This is to your advantage!  Our prices our reasonable.  We ship fast.  We have already made the purchase and paid the artist. We believe in compensating people fairly and immediately for the beauty they create.  We offer the best quality because that is what we expect for ourselves.

Each week, starting today, we will list a few select pieces for sale on this blog!  Look for the Artisan Sisters in your inbox.  

Week 1 — Shop Mexico: The Artisan Sisters.

#1_51412, Collector Quality Huipil, Las Margaritas, Chiapas, handwoven, $195

Detail, Las Margaritas textile

#1_51412:  This extraordinarily detailed huipil from the Mayan indigenous village of Las Margaritas, in the Los Altos (highlands) of Chiapas, is a finely woven piece of highest quality cotton cloth created on the backstrap loom.  The design is integrated and woven into weft of the cloth; it is not embroidered.  Size is ample and would fit U.S. size 14-18 comfortably.  It has three webs across the front and three webs across the back, each securely hand-embroidered together.  The huipil is 29″ wide across the front armpit to armpit and 30″ long from the shoulder seam.

Contact us first to make sure the item you want is still available.  We accept PayPal and will send you an invoice after we calculate packing and shipping costs.

#2_51412: Blusa, Cuetzalan, Puebla, hand-embroidered bodice, $175


Detail of Cuetzalan blusa, #2_51412

#2_51412: Cuetzalan is in the Sierra Norte of the State of Puebla, four hours from the city of Puebla high in the mountains. The Artisan Sisters traveled there by public long-distance bus.  The women there embroider intricate patterns of wildlife and flowers onto panels of cotton which become part of washable cotton blouses that are gently gathered across the chest.  This blusa is a stunning, intricate design, with finely finished inside seams.  The bodice stitches are really tiny.  Every inch of the bodice and sleeve fabric is covered in handwork.  Neckline and sleeves have lovely crocheted trim. Width armpit to armpit across the front is 25″.  Length from shoulder seam to hem is 30.”  Neckline opening is 13″ wide.

#3_51412: Blusa, San Vicente Coatlan, $85

 

 

Detail, blusa, San Vicente Coatlan

#3_51412:  This Blusa (blouse) from San Vicente Coatlan, is one of the most beautiful I have seen in Oaxaca.  It has lots of punto de cruz cross stitch patterning in multi-colors covering the entire bodice, extending out the shoulders, and trimming the sleeve edge.  The back collar is also embellished with fine detail. I don’t know how they do it.  The gathers are all done by hand, too.  This is a KNOCK-OUT.  Width from armpit to armpit across the front is 27″ wide.  Length from shoulder seam to hem is 34″ long.  Sleeves are 20″ long from the shoulder seam.  Embroidered panels sewn onto manta cotton (washable).

Zapotec Fashionistas Know — It’s All in the Apron


Katie wrapped in apron and head scarf with market apron vendor

What does the stylish Zapotec woman wear?  Why, an apron, of course!  Aprons with ruffles, embroidery, scalloped detailing, lace, deep pockets and a secure button closure with waist tie are the ubiquitous fashion statement in the Tlacolula valley of Oaxaca.  The center of apron fashionistas is the Sunday Tlacolula Market.  There, an entire aisle is devoted to the apron and accompanying colorful headscarves.  Aprons come in all variations on the theme of checkered, gingham-like, cotton or cotton/poly blend fabric.  They can be simple straight edge or more complicated, heavily scalloped at the hemline and bodice.  Price depends upon complexity of style and amount of embroidery.  Aprons can be magical, embroidered with figures of birds, flowers, animals, and fruit.  The fancier the apron, the more it costs.

Polly chooses hers, and ...

Gringas like aprons, too.  After we buy ours and wear them, we get big smiles from the locals.  The fun is in the fashion show for each other, shopkeepers and passers-by. Almost like dress-up when we were girls :)  What’s amazing is that you can be wear any plain ‘ole thing underneath, and a great apron from Tlacolula just adds color, fun and spark to life.  When you come to a village in Oaxaca you will see that the apron is just part of everyday dressing.  For us, it’s a way to enjoy another dimension of Oaxaca.  Now, we are ready for cooking class!

Robin finds one that suits her at the local market in Teotitlan del Valle.

Helen loves this one with brown tones.