Tag Archives: sale

Handwoven Basket Fair: San Juan Guelavia, Oaxaca

Today was the first of two Sundays when the Zapotec village of San Juan Guelavia holds its annual basket fair.  Next Sunday, February 2, is the last day.  They open in the compact zocalo at 9 a.m.  By the time we got there, close to noon, there wasn’t much left.  Before I could say basket, two that caught my eye were snatched up from under my outstretched arm.


The bamboo used to make the baskets is picked young and green, much easier to manipulate.  Then, it is washed and stripped.  After the basket is complete, the sturdy handles are wrapped with palm leaves. Most of the Zapotec women in the central valleys of Oaxaca prefer these baskets for daily shopping use.  The handle fits easily over the crook of the elbow, is smooth and comfortable.  


Both men and women are basket weavers.  They are also makers of corn husk flowers, lamp shades, bird cages, decorative woven bottle coverings, and traditional storage baskets for maize.

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Some of the workmanship is so fine, one wonders how fingers can weave the course strips of bamboo, let alone strip the cane and prepare it for the weaving process.  The basket I bought is above, left, held by the weaver who made it.  He was happy and so was I.

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Basketmaking in San Juan Guelavia, Oaxaca is a craft in decline and I have included this link to an academic paper that references San Juan Guelavia and their struggle to keep this craft tradition alive.

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I hope you get to the Feria (fair) next Sunday.  I paid 140 pesos for a beautiful handmade basket, quite large.  That’s about $11 USD.  A day’s wage here in Oaxaca.  Who knows how long it took to make!  Looks like more than a day to me.  A basket this size for sale at the Tlacolula market would cost double the price, maybe more, and still a bargain at that!

Boys play while parents shop

Boys at play while parents shop

In addition to the baskets, there is lots of home-style cooked food like quesadillas, tamales, and hot steamed corn-on-the-cob.  Come and linger.

Where to Find San Juan Guelavia:  From Oaxaca City, take any bus or colectivo taxi heading to Tlacolula or Mitla.  Get off at the San Juan Guelavia crossroads (which is about 1/2 mile before you get to Teotitlan del Valle, and maybe five miles beyond El Tule).  There are village taxis and tuk-tuks that will take you along the beautiful curving road that leads to the village, set about three miles off the Panamerican Highway 190, nestled in the rolling foothills of the Sierra Madre del Sur.

Sabbaticals, Cleaning Out, Chiapas Cat For Sale

For the past month that I have been in North Carolina, I have looked around my house and decided it was time to deconstruct my collection.  This includes all things Oaxaca, Mexico, plus art and artifacts from past lives where I have traveled around the world and wanted to bring home the memories represented by something tangible and beautiful.

Red Bean Necklace    DSC_0275-2

You have not heard much from me during this time.  I have focused my energies on editing my collection, selling and cleaning out.  This is in preparation for spending more time in Oaxaca in the coming year, and for my month-long trip to Peru starting in mid-September.  When I retired from The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Nursing, my foundation board gave me this trip to Peru as a departing gift and thank you for my service to the school.  I was surprised, amazed, and speechless!  Now, I get to plan the adventure.

And, no, I’m not leaving North Carolina and this home I love.  Merely taking an opportunity to downsize, deconstruct, re-evaluate how much I want and need, and taking steps to simplify my life and go lighter.

I’ve been selling most of my collection on ebay and Etsy, and lots is still there.  This includes ceramics figures from the famed Aguilar sisters and alebrijes by Bertha Cruz, and handmade Mexican vintage sterling silver earrings.

Here is a beautiful stuffed Chiapas Cat I’ve had in my collection.  10″ high and 9″ wide. Do you want it?  $24 plus shipping and it’s yours!

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Here goes Comandante Ramona on horseback (or is it donkey?) with Subcomandante Marcos across EZLN territory of Chiapas.  A great figure of felted wool, embroidery and wood.  10-1/2″ tall and 8″ wide.  $26 plus shipping.

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I subscribe to and regularly read The Improvised Life blog written by Sally Schneider.  This week she posted she was taking a one-week sabbatical and posted a TED talk video in support of this idea.  I’m sharing it here.

For me, this sabbatical is intermittent, unplanned, and I don’t know what I will write or post here or when.  I do know I am doing more reflective and creative writing, writing more poetry, and creating the basics of a memoir that may or may not be published!  I’m taking one day at a time.

How are you doing as you approach summer?

And, have you thought about participating in the February 2014 Women’s Creative Writing and Yoga Retreat?  We are accepting reservations now.

Big Oaxaca Rug Sale at Fiber Fiesta, May 17–Siler City, NC

Mark Your Calendar! Oaxaca Cultural Navigator’s Big Folk Art and Textile Sale in historic downtown Siler City, NC at Fiber Fiesta, Friday, May 17, 6:00-9:00 p.m. I have a stash of naturally dyed, hand-woven rugs from the Teotitlan del Valle, Oaxaca weaving studio of Federico Chavez Sosa and his wife Dolores Santiago Arrellanas.  Spread the Word. Pre-show sales by appointment, send me an email!  Federico said, Offer big discounts to clear the inventory. So, I will.fiberfiestaposter-1

Examples of tapestry woven rugs available for sale in all sizes, small to large:


Celebrating Five Years of Blog Writing: Oaxaca Cultural Navigator

On November 28, 2007, I started a free WordPress.com blog and posted my first essay there about visiting, traveling and intending to live in Oaxaca, Mexico.  Two years earlier, using iWeb on my Apple computer and the clunky URL web.mac.com/normahawthorne/iWeb/ [defunct, not searchable, remember those days], I started my original blog.  However no one could find me!  So, technically, I’ve been writing this blog for seven years!      

Writing regularly is an act of commitment, love of place, and desire to share the experience.  I want to mark this anniversary and share with you now what I published on November 28, 2007.  I didn’t take as many photos then and most weren’t of publishable quality.  Then, I was more interested in the narrative. The times they are a-changin’ — let’s celebrate!

Creative Commons Birthday Cake and Candles

5- Year Celebration Sale with Discount — Good Until December 25, 2012.   


Take 15% off any workshop offered through August 1, 2013 (except Felted Fashion Workshop).


Take 15% off any Shop Mexico-Artisan Sisters Items still available. 


Tell me you want the Celebration Discount!       



Reposted from November 28, 2007: Navigating with Norma

An explanation:  Navigating Oaxaca (pronounced Wah-Hah-Kah), Mexico, is a cultural arts and history experience that requires a certain sense of exploration, discovery and adventure.  For me, it is going without a roadmap down the back alleys of a small village to see what I will discover next:  a master weaver, an exceptional wood-carver, an accomplished potter or expressive painter.  I am open to the experience of creating relationship by appreciating artistic creativity, cultural history, shared values and vision, and the possibility for multicultural exchange.  After four visits of several weeks each over the past two years, and an invitation from Federico Chavez Sosa and his family to live with them in Teotitlan del Valle, I begin to call myself “cultural navigator.”

This blog is a way for me to share my experiences with you with the hope that it will excite your interest to visit this extraordinary place and  appreciate the rich artistic and cultural traditions of Mexican immigrants.  There are great artisans who live on the back alleyways, don’t show up in the tourist guide books, and aren’t willing to pay hefty commissions to have  tour guides and tour buses pulling up to their front door.  I am motivated to support fair trade so that 100% of tourist dollars go directly to the families who actually create the art.

In the next weeks, we will be preparing to return to Oaxaca through the winter holidays.  There will be Posadas and fireworks.  The ancient fife player will lead the village band in a Sousa march. Farmers will herd cattle and sheep through the streets.  The guacalotes will chortle and the donkey next door will bray at sunrise.  We will hike to the reservoir along the river through the bamboo and cactus forest, beyond us Picacho rises above the 6,000 foot plateau with a promise of a new archeological discovery.  We will eat handmade tamales con pollo y salsa Coloradito with fresh nopales, and the adventure will begin anew.

Then and Now

  • Then, blog posts were mostly prose and a few poorly executed photographs
  • There was no Wikipedia and little reference content to link to — I couldn’t make links happen with iWeb
  • I was really happy to get 30 or 40 page views a day and an occasional comment
  • Now, we get 500-600+ page views a day; our top day this year was over 1,800 page views.  That’s great for us!
  • Organizing workshops based in Oaxaca was the flicker of a dream
  • There was no financial way to support the blog writing
  • In 2010, I migrated over to a self-hosted WordPress.org website and finally figured out how to use Google ads [last year I netted a whopping $100USD using Google Adsense]
  • And, then, when we launched a diversified workshop schedule in 2010, I figured out how to use PayPal
  • Now as then, I’m still a one-person Oaxaca Cultural Navigator band, performing all instruments solo [oh, I should say, sola]
  • And, I speak much better Spanish, though it could be a whole lot better :)


Shop Mexico: Week 3–Day of the Dead Extravaganza

The Artisan Sisters offer, on this Memorial Weekend Monday, unusual pieces by noted Oaxaca artisans who playfully render clay and wood into fanciful Day of the Dead figures.  Today’s line-up:  Josefina Aguilar, ceramic artist, Bertha Cruz, alebrijes painter, and Miguel Diaz.

1.  First,  we introduce you to The Happy Couple: Ready for a Stroll Around Town.  By famous Ocotlan de Morelos folk artist Josefina Aguilar. The glittery female Catrina rests on her parasol while balancing a cigarette holder in her other hand.  She stands tall at 11-1/2″ high x 5″ wide.  Her male companion is 13″ high x 4″ wide, complete with bow tie and top hat.  These are substantial figures, larger that what is typical.  Note: both heads rest on wire springs — the better to see you with, my dear.  Sold as a pair.  Item #5312012.2.  $265.  Day of the Dead is just around the corner!


3. Catrina Roja Negra. Bertha Cruz, an amazing alebrije painter from Arrazola, outdid herself on this figure.  Bertha began selling independently out of her home about four years ago. She is not represented in galleries. Her brush details are eensy teensy and exquisite. Her husband, Alfonso Castellanos Ibañez, does the carving but insists that she sign her name because the beauty is in the painting, he says.  She is quite collectible. 14″ high x 5″ wide. Item #5312012.3.  $225.


Alebrijes-Mexico, a German art resource, notes that “Bertha is a famous painter. Every single one of her alebrijes is a unique work of art. None of her sculptures matches any of the others. Each of her sculptures represents a three dimensional painting of the highest standard. She predominantly uses Zapotec motifs in subdued colors. She is without restriction one of the best artists in Mexico.”

4.  Donkey Playing Keyboard is a whimsical musician lady, she’s got the  rhythm, she’s got the beat. Carved copal wood and painted alebrije figure by Arrazola folk artist Miguel Diaz (signed).  9-7/8″ high x 3-1/2″ wide.  Item #5211012.4.  $45.


Don’t forget to contact us first by email  to see if the item you are interested in is still available.  We will send you an invoice after we calculate shipping costs based on your Zip Code.  Many thanks, Norma and Barbara, The Artisan Sisters.

Come see Oaxaca for yourself during Day of the Dead and attend our Photography Expedition, October 28-November 4.