Tag Archives: Oaxaca weaving workshop

Oaxaca Weaving Workshop: Day 4

On the last day of the workshop, Karen worked with Federico and Janet to complete her tapestry, a glorious rainbow of red, warm yellow and orange, cream and blue. She cut the piece she will use for a wall hanging off the loom, and learned how to finish off the rug in the traditional Zapotec technique of rolling the warp threads into fringes and then tying them off.

As an instructor with her father, Janet Chavez Santiago had this to add about the four-day experience: It was a great experience for me to do the workshop with Karen. It was very satisfying to see how she learned and how she was able to create a beautiful finished product — her rug! The dyeing day was perfect. Karen said she appreciated the process of our work and how we take the time to dye the wool by hand using natural materials. I was very happy that I could teach her the mordanting process, and dyeing with acid, alkaline and a neutral base. The indigo was a challenge because it is a difficult process, but we did it and without mistakes and she was able to see the different blues and how the color changes when it comes in contact with the air. I am very excited about the next workshop we have scheduled to start on August 11. It’s full with five people and it’s going to be wonderful, too.

We are now accepting reservations for workshops starting November 22 and December 13. See the website or blog post: Oaxaca Weaving Workshop: Dancing on the Loom, for more details.

Oaxaca Weaving Workshop: Day 2

The second day of the workshop started at 9 a.m. on Tuesday with Karen and her Chavez Santiago Family hosts and teachers gathered around the worktable in the covered and paved courtyard for an orientation to the natural dyeing process. On hand were baking soda, alum, fresh squeezed lime juice and skeins of undyed wool shorn and spun from Churro sheep. Janet Chavez Santiago explained about and showed the different materials used for the dyeing process: cochineal bugs, indigo, moss, lichens, and pericone. The propane-powered burners were topped with stainless steel and enamel pots filled with water coming to a boil.

Dolores Santiago Arellanas and her 14 year old son, Omar Chavez Santiago were standing by, ready to mix the dyes after selecting the acid (lime juice) or neutral (baking soda) to mix with the dye stuffs to determine the shade and intensity of the color. Federico and Janet guided Karen after they demonstrated how to measure and add the dye liquid to create the dye bath. Wearing a mandil (traditional Zapotec apron) and protective rubber gloves, Karen stirred and poured, while the family and her son, Sebastian, looked on. It was clear that everyone was having a great time. Since it takes an hour of “cooking” the wool in the dye bath to achieve the desired color, Karen went back to her weaving and accomplished quite a bit during the day. She is well on her way to finishing a beautiful wall hanging by the end of the four-day workshop.

Here’s what Karen says about her experience:

“I wanted to be realistic about my expectations, I looked online and thoroughly re-read Norma’s blog. I had my information packet from her and had a basic idea that I would be coming to work with this multi-generational family of weavers. I was impressed by the quality and diversity of the family’s weavings. I had seen the looms before and was familiar with what things looked like. I am really pleased about how patient and agreeable the family is because I don’t have hands-on weaving experience. I appreciated that they offered me the choice of wool from an extensive selection of colors from which to create my piece.

“It was wonderful for me to have this experience at the loom – it was a dream. It really was dancing on the loom. There were certain techniques I couldn’t get right away at the beginning and Federico, Dolores and Janet were patient about repeating the instructions. They wanted me to relax and enjoy what I was doing. They looked at my work and gave me a lot of encouragement. This is a wonderful spontaneous atmosphere in which to learn. It is very exciting to look at and be with the natural colors. I came open-minded and didn’t have too many preconceived notions about what I would do. Federico and Janet talked about weaving with your heart – choosing the colors and their flow in a way that speaks to you — and that was a great approach. At another time, I would like to make more of a design.

“It is also lovely here, beautiful, the food is really gorgeous and delicious. For people who have no experience with Mexico, I believe this would exceed their expectations. It is very clean. Sometimes people might be fearful of coming to a village but once here they would see that it is not that rustic. They are not going to get sick because a lot of care is given to making well-prepared food. Anyone could feel very confident about what they would eat or drink at this house.”

Karen’ son, Sebastian, added his comments:

“I had no idea what would happen, then once I got here, I saw everyone who was here was really nice, and very cool. I like being here with my mom because I got to learn a lot about weaving and dyeing, and watching how the looms work. It was fun taking photos, too. I’d like to be able to do this myself and make something. Omar, who is my age, is really nice and it was a lot of fun to get to meet him. We both rode in the back of the pick-up truck to go get corn grown at Omar’s grandmother’s house for the soup, and we spun the yarn together to make the bobbins that my mom is using for her weaving. My dad, Fernando Olivera, is an artist and he is teaching me how to do woodcuts and etchings. I like everything about Oaxaca – the people, food, culture and art. Everyone here is very friendly. I like it a lot.”

Accepting Registrations Now: Mid-December 2008,

Oaxaca Weaving Workshop: Dancing on the Loom

Oaxaca Weaving Workshop: Day One

Karen Karuza arrived this morning to begin a four-day weaving and natural dyeing workshop with the Chavez Santiago Family, Francisco I. Madero #55, Teotitlan del Valle at their studio and gallery. Karen is an artist and has been teaching textile design at the Art Institute of Philadelphia for 20 years. Her son, Sebastian, age 14, who was born in Oaxaca, accompanied her. It was perfect because he could hang out with Omar Chavez Santiago, also age 14. Karen is not an experienced weaver, but took to the process instantly with expert guidance from master weaver Federico Chavez Sosa.

Federico and his daughter Janet Chavez Santiago first explained to Karen how the Zapotec loom is used and how it was warped. Then, they all went into the rug gallery where Federico and Janet pulled out many rugs woven with natural colors so Karen could see the choices of color combinations and patterns that she might use in the piece she planned to weave. Here, she could see the finished pieces woven by Federico, his wife Dolores, Janet, and sons Eric (age 24) and Omar.

Next, Federico and Janet took Karen upstairs to the area where the dyed wool is stored. Here, she could choose the colors she preferred. Then, they went back downstairs to the weaving workshop area where Federico showed Karen how to wind bobbins using the spinning wheel.

With Karen at the loom next to him, Federico then demonstrated the tapestry weaving techniques of Teotitlan del Valle, how to put the shuttle through the loom, use the foot pedals, and manipulate the yarn to achieve an even border. The two fourteen year olds, Omar and Sebastian, worked together to spin the wool onto bobbins that would be put into the shuttle.

As the family gathers around the loom, Federico teaches and coaches, Janet translates as necessary, and both father-daughter team encourage Karen as she begins the rhythm of weaving. Janet says, “When you have the idea how the loom works, it is easier to do it. It just takes practice.” Karen is learning quickly and after only a few hours, has created the beginning of a beautiful tapestry that she intends to use as a wall hanging when she returns home.

“This is really exciting,” she said. “I’m here because I want to be able to talk about traditional weaving techniques with my students and other textile faculty members. It’s professional development that will be very helpful in my work.”

After the 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. period of instruction is over, Karen, along with her son, gathered around the family table for comida — the mid-day meal — that included homemade sopa de elote con flor de calabassas and tasajo con queso, salsa y tortillas prepared by Dolores Chavez Arrellenas who is an extraordinary cook. Now, to get ready for tomorrow’s lesson, Omar is squeezing 100 limes by hand. The juice will be used to prepare the cochineal for the dyeing portion of the workshop.

Note: The workshops are held in the taller — home and studio — of Federico Chavez Sosa and his wife Dolores Santiago Arrellanos, in the village of Teotitlan del Valle, about 17 miles outside Oaxaca city. The gallery and studio is open daily, however, it is always wise to call ahead to make certain that someone is home! The phone number is (951) 52 44078. Add 011 52 if calling from the U.S.

AHrgggH! Skyrocketing Airfares & August 11-14 Weaving & Natural Dyeing Workshop

We just booked a round-trip on Continental through Houston directly to Oaxaca from August 9-18, and the airfare is $892! Yikes. Just three days ago it was $822 and we waited too long. I know this is pegged to record costs for oil, now $133 per barrel. I’m waiting to hear announcements that we will be charged for baggage, too. Nevertheless, my friends, Cindy Edwards and Sue Szary are joining me for a 4-day weaving and natural dyeing workshop with Federico Chavez Sosa and his daughter Janet.

We have space for 2 more people, so if you’d like to join in the fun, let me know!

Cindy Edwards is the art gallery director at the North Carolina Arts Incubator in Siler City, NC, and Sue Szary (pronounced Zarry, like Larry) is the executive director of the NC Arts Incubator. Sue also owns “Against His Will Gallery”, is a spinner, raises sheep, and has worked in natural dyes. She runs workshops and classes to teach people how to knit, spin, and dye. Sue wants to learn indigenous Zapotec dyeing techniques. Cindy wants to weave a bag or purse. I’ll probably work on creating a pillow cover.

The NC Arts Incubator offers extensive classes in weaving in partnership with the Central Carolina Community College. Both women are novice/inexperienced weavers, and because the workshops with the Chavez family in Teotitlan del Valle are small, Federico and Janet can customize instruction based on level of participant experience. More experienced weavers will learn more complex techniques. (See March 28 Blog Post describing the Oaxaca Weaving Workshop: Dancing on the Loom for more details.)

We’re going to do some day trips to the Tlacolula market, Mitla, Ocotlan and Arrazola, too, and y’all are invited to come along.

Now, I can reminisce about the days when I could choose which special meal I wanted to order — remember when you could actually EAT on a 4-hour flight when it didn’t feel like it was a “bring along your own picnic.”