Tag Archives: folk art

Chiapas Textiles + Folk Art Study Tour: Deep Into the Maya World

We are based in the historic Chiapas mountain town of San Cristobal de las Casas, the center of the Maya world in Mexico. Here we will explore the textile traditions of ancient people who weave on back strap looms. Women made cloth on simple looms here long before the Spanish conquest in 1521 and their techniques translate into stunning garments admired and collected throughout the world today. Colorful. Vibrant. Warm. Exotic. Connecting. Words that hardly describe the experience that awaits you.

Tuesday, February 14 to Wednesday, February 23, 2017, 9 nights and 10 days in San Cristobal de las Casas, Chiapas

Small group! Registration limited to 12 people.

Man from Zinacantan with hand-woven straw hat

Man from Zinacantan with hand-woven straw hat

I am committed to give you a rich cultural immersion experience that goes deep rather than broad. We cover a lot of territory, but it’s not physical! That is why we are spending nine nights in this amazing Pueblo Magico — Magic Town — to focus on Maya textiles and weaving traditions. Our day trips will take us into villages, homes and workshops to meet the people who keep their traditions vibrant. This is an interpersonal experience to better know and appreciate Mexico’s amazing artisans.

Humanitarian healer Sergio Castro with vintage textile collection

Humanitarian healer Sergio Castro with vintage textile collection

Take this study tour to learn about:

  • the culture, history and identity of cloth
  • spinning wool and weaving with natural dyes
  • clothing design and construction
  • symbols and meaning of textile designs
  • choice of colors and fibers that reflect each woman’s aesthetic while keeping with a particular village traje or costume
  • mystical folk medicine practices that blend Maya ritual and Spanish Catholicism
The church at San Juan Chamula, Chiapas, Mexico

The church at San Juan Chamula, Chiapas, Mexico, February

I have invited textile collector Sheri Brautigam to join me to give you a special, in-depth experience. Sheri writes the blog Living Textiles of Mexico and is recognized for her particular knowledge of Chiapas Maya textiles. She is author of the Thrums soon-to-be-published Textile Fiestas of Mexico: A Traveler’s Guide to Celebrations, Markets, and Smart Shopping. (I’ve contributed two chapters with photos, one for Tenancingo de Degollado and the other for Teotitlan del Valle!)

San Cristobal de las Casas, international crossroads of great food

San Cristobal de las Casas, international crossroads for great food

I have also engaged one of San Cristobal’s most well-informed local guides who will travel with us to provide bi-lingual services for understanding the nuances in translation. We will travel in a luxury Mercedes-Benz Sprinter van as we go deep into the Maya world.

Daily Itinerary

Tuesday, February 14: Meet me at the Mexico City Airport. We will fly together from Mexico City to Tuxtla Gutierrez and transfer to San Cristobal de las Casas (SCDLC) by pre-arranged van service together. I will let you know which airline/flight to book and meet you at the Mexico City airport as soon as you register. If you prefer to not coordinate air travel, please make your own arrangements to get from Tuxtla to SCDLC. Arrive in time for group dinner at 7 pm. (D)

Textiles from the village of Cancuc

Textiles from the weaving villages of Cancuc and Oxchuc

Wednesday, February 15: Our first day in San Cristobal de las Casas orients you to the Textiles in the Maya World. You will learn about weaving and embroidery traditions, patterns and symbols, women and villages, history and culture. After a breakfast discussion we will visit Centro Textiles Mundo Maya museum, Sna Jolobil for the finest regional textiles made, and meander the Santo Domingo outdoor market that takes over the plaza in front of the church. We will then guide you along the walking streets to get your bearings. (B, L) Dinner on your own.

Embroidered blouse from Amantenango

Embroidered blouse from Amantenango

Thursday, February 16:  Tenejapa is about an hour and a world away from San Cristobal de Las Casas. Today is market day when villagers line the streets filled with fresh fruits, vegetables, meats, and often textiles. We’ll meander the market to see what’s there. In years past, I’ve found some stunning shawls, huipils and bags here. Then, we will visit the outstanding textile cooperative founded by Doña Maria Meza Giron who founded the Sna Jolobil cooperative. We’ll also stop in Romerillo to see the larger than life pine-bough covered Maya blue and green crosses. Return to San Cristobal de Las Casas in time for dinner on your own. (B, L)

Hand carved colonial wood detailing on doorway arch

Hand carved colonial wood detailing on doorway arch

Friday, February 17:  Today is a walking day, devoted to visiting textile cooperatives in San Cristobal de las Casas. You will learn about international collaborations and textile design that conserves traditions while meeting marketplace needs for exquisite and utilitarian cloth. In the early evening, we visit Museo de Trajes Regionales and humanitarian Sergio Castro, who has a large private collection of Maya indigenous daily and ceremonial dress representing each Chiapas region. (B, D)

Clay and wood carved artifacts

Clay and wood carved artifacts

Saturday: February 18: Amantenango del Valle and Aguacatenango to see the whimsical and functional wood and dung fired pottery – the way its been done for centuries. Wonderful roosters, spotted jaguar sculptures and ornamental dishes. This is a textile village, too, where women embroider garments with designs that look like graphic art. We’ll travel to neighboring Aguacatenango, to visit a well-known embroiderer who has won many awards. (B, L) Dinner on your own.

Whimsical Amantenango chicken pots

Whimsical Amantenango chicken pots

Sunday, February 19: This is a big day! First we go to San Lorenzo Zinacantan, where greenhouses cover the hillsides. Here, indigenous dress is embellished in exquisite floral designs, mimicking the flowers they grow. First we visit the church, bedecked in fresh flowers. Then we’ll meet weavers and embroiderers in their home workshops. Next stop is magical, mystical San Juan Chamula where the once-Catholic church is given over to a pre-Hispanic pagan religious practice that involves chickens, eggs and coca-cola. We’ll roam Chamula’s abundant textile market, compare and contrast fabrics and designs, then visit the home workshop of a Chamula woman in her village outside of town who will give us a full demonstration that includes spinning, back strap loom weaving, dyeing, and the unique Chamula process for making the long-haired tunics. (B, L) Dinner on your own.

At the textile museum, an outstanding collection

At the textile museum, an outstanding collection of Maya weaving

Monday, February 20: We will set out by foot after breakfast for a full morning at Na Balom, Jaguar House, the home/of anthropologist Franz Blom and his photographer wife, Gertrude Duby Blom. The house is now a museum filled with pre-Hispanic and jewelry collections. We walk the gardens and learn about Trudy’s work with the Lacandon tribe and relationship with Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera. After lunch at Na Balom, you will have the afternoon and evening on your own. (B, L)

Jaguar pot, Amantenango, Chiapas

Jaguar pot, Amantenango, Chiapas

Tuesday, February 21: Today, we want to give you enough time to know and discover San Cristobal de Las Casas. We will suggest destinations to explore on your own: the Maya Medicine MuseumJade Museum, Chocolate Museum, and Coffee Museum. We can also recommend an optional cooking class with one of the city’s top chefs and make those arrangements for you in advance for an added cost. You may want to use your time to explore the town’s wonderful churches, learn about the Zapatista movement, revisit textile shops or just stroll the lively walking streets stopping for a great cup of Chiapas coffee and people watching. A surprise artisan demonstration, show and sale may pop-up sometime during the day, too. (B)

The best of the best vintage from San Andres Larrainzar, Chiapas

The best vintage from Magdalenas, Chiapas — if you can find it, buy it.

Wednesday, February 22: Men from Magdalena Aldama who weave bags made from ixtle, agave cactus leaf fiber, join us at our hotel after breakfast. Accompanying them are the women who make flashy beaded necklace strings and beautiful hand-woven huipils. Afternoon is on your own to do last minute shopping and packing in preparation for your trip home. We end our study tour with a gala group goodbye dinner. (B, D)

San Juan Chamula Sunday market

San Juan Chamula Sunday market in February

Thursday, February 23: Depart. We will coordinate departures with included van service from San Cristobal de las Casas to the Tuxtla Gutierrez airport. You will connect from Tuxtla to Mexico City and then on to your home country. Please wait to make you airplane reservations until you hear from us about van departure time.

What Is Included

  • 9 nights lodging at a top-rated San Cristobal de las Casas hotel within easy walking distance of the historic center
  • 9 breakfasts
  • 6 lunches
  • 3 dinners
  • museum and church entry fees
  • luxury van transportation
  • outstanding and complete guide services
  • transfers to/from Tuxtla Gutierrez airport

The workshop does NOT include airfare, taxes, tips, travel insurance, liquor or alcoholic beverages, some meals, and local transportation as specified in the itinerary.  We reserve the right to substitute instructors and alter the program as needed.

Cost

  • $2,395 double room with private bath (sleeps 2)
  • $2,795 single room with private bath (sleeps 1)

There will be a sign-up in advance for a cooking class on Tuesday, February 21. Please let me know if you are interested in this option. Cost to be announced.

Home goods from Chiapas textile cooperative

Home goods from Chiapas textile cooperative

Who Should Attend

  • Textile and fashion designers
  • Weavers, embroiderers and collectors
  • Home goods wholesalers/retailers who want a direct source
  • Photographers and artists who want inspiration
  • Anyone who loves cloth, culture and collaboration

In years past, I have purchased lengths of used hand-woven ikat Maya skirt fabric to repurpose into clothing and upholstery.

Reservations and Cancellations.  A 40% deposit is required to guarantee your spot. The balance is due in two equal payments. The first 30% payment is due on or before October 15, 2016. The second 30% payment is due on or before December 31, 2016. We accept payment with PayPal only. We will send you an itemized invoice when you tell us you are ready to register. After December 31, 2016, refunds are not possible. You may send a substitute in your place. If you cancel on or before December 31, 2016, we will refund 50% of your deposit.

ChiapasBest45-18

Detail of cross-stitched bodice, called punto de cruz

Required–Travel Health/Accident Insurance:  We require that you carry international accident/health/emergency evacuation insurance. Proof of insurance must be sent at least 30 days before departure.  In addition, we will send you by email a PDF of a witnessed waiver of responsibility, holding harmless Norma Schafer and Oaxaca Cultural Navigator LLC.  We ask that you return this to us by email 30 days before departure. Unforeseen circumstances happen!

Workshop Details and Travel Tips.  Before the workshop begins, we will email you study tour details and documents that includes extensive travel tips and information. To get your questions answered and to register, contact Norma Schafer.

This retreat is produced by Norma Schafer, Oaxaca Cultural Navigator LLC. We reserve the right to make itinerary changes and substitutions as necessary.

Old woven ixtle bag used to hold pulque or lunch

Old woven ixtle bag used to hold pulque or lunch

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3-Day Pop Up Huipil Sale: Mexican Folk Art Dresses

These textiles — dresses and blouses — huipiles and blusas — are from my personal collection. I’ve decided it’s time to send them on to others who will also appreciate their handwoven and embroidered beauty.

If you buy by Wednesday, March 30, I will bring your purchase with me to the USA and mail to you. Send me an email and tell me which piece(s) you want.

7 pieces left! Scroll down to see. Take 20% off remaining pieces! Monday-Tuesday-Wednesday sale. Say SALE when you email.

  1. San Antonino floral dress, embroidered and crocheted, finest quality. Size L-XL. New. Never worn! See the little dolls that form the bodice gathers? Cotton. Hand wash. $295. USD includes shipping to anywhere USA.

 

2. Traditional Chinantla Huipil from San Felipe Usila. Size L-XL. Handwoven on back strap loom. New, never worn! Bought on a visit to Usila, 12 hours from Oaxaca. 100% cotton. $375 USD includes shipping to anywhere USA.

3. San Miguel Soyaltepec huipil, size L-XL. Chinantla region of Oaxaca. New, never worn! Hand stitched on finest quality muslim cotton. Bought on a visit to the island village on the Miguel Aleman dam. $295 USD includes shipping to anywhere USA.

 

4. San Bartolo Yautepec huipil from the Sierra Sur of Oaxaca, hand-woven on back strap loom with 100% fine cotton (cream color), with blue figures and butterscotch yellow accents woven into the cloth (called supplemental weft). Size L-XL. $295 USD include shipping to anywhere USA.

5. SOLD. San Antonino Castillo Velasco blouse. Size L-XL. $85USD includes shipping to anywhere USA. 

6. From the Yucatan, machine stitched cotton dress with cutwork, perfect for a garden party summer, size L-XL. New, never worn! $125 USD includes shipping to anywhere USA.

7. SOLD. Lightweight, easy-to-wear cotton dress from Yalag, all hand embroidered. Size L-XL. $125 USD includes shipping to anywhere USA.

 

8. From San Juan Bautista Valle Nacional, near Tuxtepec, Oaxaca. Needlepoint embroidery called punto de cruz (cross stitch) on back-strap loomed cotton, breathable and easy-to-wear. $195 USD includes shipping to anywhere USA.

9. Huipil blouse from Amantenango, Chiapas. I loved the graphic beauty of this piece. All hand-embroidered. Size L-XL. Could be repurposed to make a pillow cover. New, never worn! $140 USD includes shipping to anywhere USA.

10. SOLD. From Puebla, Mexico. Hand-embroidered blouse with great detail. Size L-XL. $125 USD includes shipping to anywhere USA.

 

11. SOLD. Iconic Oaxaca huipil from the Mixteca region, with intricate and finest embroidery on cotton woven on the back-strap loom. Size L-XL. $295 USD includes shipping to anywhere USA.

 

12. SOLD. Black Rebozo from Tenancingo de Degollado. $125 USD includes shipping to anywhere USA. A beautiful, largest size shawl with hand-knotted fringe.

Butterflies on the Rebozo: Jesus Zarate’s Ikat Shawls

It’s not easy to describe how Jesus Zarate from Tenancingo de Degollado, Estado de Mexico, prepares the cotton weft threads to weave an ikat rebozo or shawl filled with 125 multi-colored butterflies.

Complex ikat dyed cotton rebozo or shawl by Jesus Zarate

Complex ikat dyed cotton butterfly rebozo or shawl by Jesus Zarate

This rebozo is made on a traditional back strap loom. Jesus ties one end around his waist and the other to a fixed pole or wall. He stands while weaving. The loom is wide and heavy, which is why men do this type of work. It is usually constructed of oak or another hardwood, built to last a lifetime.

Jesus holds the butterfly rebozo on front of a pedal loom

Jesus holds the butterfly rebozo on front of a pedal loom

It takes Jesus two or three months to weave this textile, working about six hours a day. That’s before he prepares the weft threads, first tying the knots where the design will be, marking the pattern on the threads that are held together with a cornstarch glue, then dipping the tied area into dye, then untying and washing the threads before he puts them on the loom. It can take a week to warp the loom before the weaving begins.

A Jesus Zarate ikat rebozo is like a Monet painting -- innovative, comforting

A Jesus Zarate ikat rebozo is like a Monet painting — innovative, spectacular

Jesus works with his son Hugo by his side. They both weave more traditional patterns on the fixed-frame pedal loom, also called the counterbalance or flying shuttle loom brought to Mexico during the Industrial Revolution.

Cindy, a North Carolina weaver, tries the pedal loom with Jesus' son Hugo

Cindy Edwards, a North Carolina weaver, tries the pedal loom with Jesus’ son, Hugo

Many of these looms are more than 100 years old. They are in need of continuous repair and their age is a testimony to their durability as a tool for textile creation.

Mexico Textile + Folk Art Study Tour: Rebozos and More

September 8-16, 2016 includes Rebozo Fair — Feria del Rebozo

A traditional ikat design by Jesus Zarate includes gold threads

A traditional ikat design by Jesus Zarate includes gold threads

The first time I visited the home studio of Jesus Zarate was in September 2015. I went along with a group from Los Amigos del Arte Popular de Mexico — people who love Mexican folk art. Three women bought the finest rebozos from Jesus. He cried. He hadn’t sold a fine rebozo in two years.

Jesus shows his rebozo filled with tulip designs

Jesus shows his rebozo filled with tulip designs — or are they yellow rose buds?

I decided to change the LADAP itinerary to go deeper and focus primarily on rebozo weaving with a side trip to Taxco. I’m now offering a September 2016 and February 2017 tour. It is a perfect experience for weavers and textile lovers alike. We also include an in-depth discussion about and demonstrations of the natural dye process.

Pattern marked chord stiffened with cornstarch glue called atole

Pattern marked chord stiffened with cornstarch glue called atole

Jesus recently lost two sons and is in mourning. He tells me he never smiles. It is difficult for him. His son, Hugo, is his remaining heir to the tradition of ikat weaving in Tenancingo de Degollado.

Son Hugo weaves at pedal loom

Son Hugo weaves at counterbalance pedal loom

Jesus has only two pedal looms, not a sign of prosperity in a weaving culture. He is one of a handful who still know how to work the back strap loom. These pedal looms cram into a small workshop at the front of the humble house where he lives with his son. He is no longer married. Often, as we know, the tragedies of life take its toll on relationships.

Ikat pattern taking form on the flying shuttle pedal loom

Ikat pattern taking form on the flying shuttle pedal loom with Jesus looking on

Very few international visitors come to Tenancingo. It is about two-and-a-half hours from the center of Mexico City. To go independently requires a combination of bus and taxi travel with transfers at the Mexico City west bus station and again in Toluca.

Linda wears white roses, an innovative Zarate ikat design

Linda wears white roses, an innovative Zarate ikat design–note the texture!

I recently took a group of 10 women to meet many famous rebozo weavers of Tenancingo, including Jesus Zarate. We traveled together from Mexico City and spent a week going deep into the textile culture of the region to see and understand the process. You can read the rave reviews on TripAdvisor.

Please come with me on the next Mexico Textiles and Folk Art Study Tour: Rebozos of Tenancingo, set for September 2016 to coincide with the annual Feria del Rebozo or rebozo fair. Registrations are now open!

Cross draped with white rebozos in Zarate's workshop corner, a comfort

Cross draped with white rebozos in Zarate’s workshop corner, a comfort

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pueblo Magico Malinalco, Mexico: Rebozos Are Here, Too

Now I’m back in Oaxaca after a whirlwind nine-day folk art study tour featuring the ikat rebozos of the State of Mexico (Estado de Mexico). Rather than cover a range of territory, I like to stay put and go deep. So, we spent the week meeting the people who weave rebozos and tie the elaborate fringes, learning the differences in design and quality. Plus, a side trip to silver mecca Taxco to visit the Spratling Ranch (more about this in another post).

Camelia Ramos, and poster about her father, Issac Ramos Padillo

Camelia Ramos, and poster about her father, Issac Ramos Padillo

This included a day trip to Pueblo Magico Malinalco, a short 30-minute drive over a mountain range from Tenancingo de Degollado along the pilgrimage route to Chalma. We spent a day there, first going to the studio workshop of Camelia Ramos Zamora, following a dirt road that led us to a bougainvillea covered adobe cottage under the shadow of an extinct volcanic outcropping.

Brilliant colors combine to create wearable art in Camelia Ramos studio

Brilliant colors combine to create wearable art in Camelia Ramos studio

Camelia told us the story about her father, Isaac Ramos Padillo. He moved from Tenancingo to Malinalco to marry her mother and worked as a stone mason. When he was age 66, Camelia had the idea to sell rebozos in town. He disclosed he knew how to weave rebozos, something she never knew. So, they started the workshop and now the entire family weaves.

 

Above left, Camelia’s husband Jose working on the back strap loom. Above right, a pre-Hispanic figure woven into the cloth using the ikat technique, with natural dyes.

Rusty nails become perfect dye bath to create a beautiful mushroom color

Rusty nails become perfect dye bath to create a beautiful mushroom color

They make two levels of fine cloth. The more affordable rebozos are woven on pedal looms using commercially-dyed cotton. The top-of-the-line rebozos are woven on the back strap loom and can be made with natural dyes, which the family makes by hand. They use indigo, cochineal, huizache and even rusty nails!

Came chooses the color palette from cotton yarns made in Puebla

Came chooses the color palette from cotton yarns made in Puebla

Came, as she is called, explains that cotton is a wearable, comfortable fabric, offering protection from the sun, warmth in the shade. She explained that different colors identified the social class of the women who wore the rebozo in years past. Her father, who died in 2011, created new patterns and said the tradition wouldn’t survive unless there is innovation. He introduced color and creativity in cloth.

 

Above left, a selection of rebozos in the Malinalco gallery Repacejo, owned by the Ramos family. Right, Came models a traditional bird design rebozo originated by her father, dyed with cochineal and indigo.

Over 4,500 threads make up the warp of this back strap loom

Over 4,500 threads make up the warp of this back strap loom

Let me dream, let me create, said Isaac Ramos Padillo. Came, with her husband Jose Mancio and son Hugo Mancio Ramos, and their extended family of nephews, are working to keep the tradition alive.  They are the only rebozeros of Malinalco.

Our group photo with Camelia Ramos at her country workshop

Our group photo with Camelia Ramos at her country workshop

I will be organizing this rebozo study tour for either mid-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!

 

Above, left. Malinalco, the magic town, and on the right, Britt and Susie taking a break off the Zocalo.

 

Above left, Came’s son Hugo, giving us an indigo dye demonstration, and on the right a nephew preparing the back strap loom for weaving.

 

 

How to Navigate Oaxaca’s Radish Festival: Norma’s Tips

Noche de los Rabanos, the Night of the Radishes, in Oaxaca, Mexico, always on December 23 each year, draws huge crowds. The entire zocalo of the city is taken over by giant carved red roots depicting traditional scenes of Oaxaca’s cultural and indigenous life.

There was a new category this year which I can loosely translate as free style.  It attracted a lot of young participants who carved phantasmagorical creatures that especially captured the attention of the little ones.

There are also two other categories, one for dried flowers and another for the use of corn husks (totomoxtle in Nahuatl) to create scenes. But it is the radishes that people love.

The number of visitors, coupled with triple the number of vendors, plus all the families of the radish carvers, means that the area is packed with people and hard to navigate.

This year was no exception. So I’m  writing this now post-event to give you a heads-up for the future. GO EARLY.

 

The displays, along the 360 degree circumference of the zocalo, are ringed by a large raised walkway that is gated and protected by guard rails. No one can gain entry to this walkway until 5:00 p.m. when the Radish Festival officially opens. There are guards everywhere to guarantee this.

 

So, people begin to line up early and by 3:00 p.m. when we got there this year, there were several hundred people in line waiting for the opening bell.

 

At 3:00 p.m. we were able to peer over these guard rails to see the displays and get some pretty decent camera shots.  The designers of the dioramas were constantly obstructing the views with continuous spraying of water to keep the radishes fresh.

The judges were not passing through until close to opening time and everyone wanted their fresh vegetable displays to look perfect. Of course, many of the veggies were not obedient. It was a hot day with lots of wilted leaves and roots.

 

Most of the time we had to wait our turn to get up to the rail since people were two or three deep. Many had the same idea as we did — avoid the long lines and get an earlier, though somewhat obstructed, view.

It took us until almost 5:00 p.m. to walk around the circumference of the zocalo to see everything. By then, it was nearly impassable. We finished seeing the last display after going full circle just as the clock struck.

There was my friend Francine, along with a couple of other silver headed visitors, who was admitted early. She was pulled out of the line, she said, and allowed to go as a “grande” or a “senior citizen.” I guess this is the time to be grateful you don’t color your hair.

 

My recommendation is to get there by 2:00 p.m. The displays won’t be complete, but you’ll be able to get the best, somewhat unobstructed views and you won’t have to wait in line for hours or deal with the crush of the crowd.

On the other hand, if you want a totally clear and raised view of everything, then have your wait. In any case, this is a very fun part of being in Oaxaca this time of year.

The Zocalo has Triqui demonstrators for many years. But the teachers are gone!

Triqui demonstrators on the Zocalo, but the teachers are gone!

Oaxaca is safe. We have a small group of Triqui demonstrators who continue to encamp on a small part of the zocalo, but otherwise everything is clear.