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Chiapas Textile Study Tour 2021: Deep Into the Maya World

The Maya World of Chiapas, Mexico, spans centuries and borders. Maya people weave their complex universe into beautiful cloth. Symbols are part of an ancient pre-Hispanic animist belief system. In the cloth we see frogs, the plumed serpent, woman and man, earth and sky, the four cardinal points, moon and sun, plus more, depending on each weaver.

Andrea with her award-winning huipil, San Andres Larrainzar
San Juan Chamula woman, Los Leñateros print + paper making studio

We go deep into the Mayan world of southern Mexico, from February 23 to March 3, 2021. While we focus on textiles, we also explore what it means to be indigenous, part of cooperative, live in a remote village, have agency and access to economic opportunity. We meet creative, innovative and talented people who open their doors and welcome us.

Church official, Zinacantan, Chiapas
Melanie brought 25 boxes of crayons to give to children along the way

Our dates of February 23 to March 3, 2021, are reserved in a fine historic hotel. 8 nights, 9 days in and around the San Cristobal de Las Casas highlands.

Cost • $2,695 double room with private bath (sleeps 2) • $3,195 single room with private bath (sleeps 1)

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.

Ancient Maya cemetery, San Juan Chamula
We distributed more than 50 pairs of glasses to help weavers see

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.

Home goods for export made on flying shuttle pedal loom
Extraordinary gauze woven huipil from Venustiano Carranza, Chiapas

We are committed to give you a rich cultural immersion experience that goes deep rather than broad. We cover a lot of territory. That is why we are spending eight nights in this amazing Pueblo Magico — Magic Town — to focus on Maya textiles, weaving and embroidery traditions.

Saints dress in traditional garments, Magdalena Aldama
Julia and friends in Tenejapa during Carnival

Our cultural journey takes us into villages, homes and workshops to meet the people who keep their traditions vibrant. We explore churches, museums and ancient cemeteries. This is an interpersonal experience to better know and appreciate Mexico’s amazing artisans.

Embroidered skirts and shawls, Zinacantan Sunday Market

There will be only ONE study tour to Chiapas in 2021.

Your Study Tour Leader is Norma Schafer, Oaxaca Cultural Navigator LLC. Sheri Brautigam, author of Living Textiles of Mexico, will be your expert resource guide.

Lynn and Andrea — of course! She bought it.

Take this study tour to learn about:

  • culture, history and identity of cloth
  • cultural appropriation or cultural appreciation
  • wool spinning and weaving
  • clothing design and construction
  • embroidery and supplementary (pick-up) weft
  • Maya textile designs — iconography and significance
  • village and individual identity through clothing
  • social justice, opportunities and women’s issues
  • market days and mercantile economy
  • local cuisine, coffee, cacao and chocolate
  • quality and value
Men wear flowers, too, in Zinacantan

We work with one of San Cristobal’s best bilingual cultural guides who has worked with weavers and artisans in the region. Alejandro is a native Mexican who knows textiles and can explain the meaning of the woven symbols embedded in the cloth. You will enjoy learning from him.

Keeping the edges straight on a back-strap loom

We will travel in a comfortable van as we go deep into the Maya world.

  • We visit 6 Maya weaving villages
  • We enjoy home-cooked meals
  • We meet makers and directly support them
  • We go far and away, off-the-beaten path
  • We decode the weaving designs unique to each woman and village
  • We explore three towns on their market days
  • We understand the sacred, mysterious rituals of Maya beliefs
Innovative colors with traditional designs from Alberto Lopez Gomez

Who Should Attend  Anyone who loves cloth, culture, and collaboration • Textile and fashion designers • Weavers, embroiderers and collectors • Photographers and artists who want inspiration • Resellers

Winn finds a treasure at our Regrets Sale on the last day

Daily Itinerary

Tuesday, February 23: Travel day. Arrive and meet at our hotel in San Cristobal de las Casas. You will receive directions to get from the Tuxtla Gutierrez airport to our hotel. The airport is a clean and modern facility with straightforward signage. You will book your flight to Tuxtla from Mexico City on either Interjet, AeroMar, Volaris or Aeromexico. There are plenty of taxis and shuttle services to take you there. Your cost of transportation to/from San Cristobal is on your own. Taxis are about $55 USD or 800 pesos. Shared shuttle is 180 pesos or about $10 USD.

Fine food and beverage is a cornerstone of our visit, too

Wednesday, February 24: On our first day in San Cristobal de las Casas, we orient you to the textiles of 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 Museum Shop for fine regional textiles, meander the Santo Domingo outdoor market that takes over the plaza in front of the church, and visit two outstanding textile shops. We guide you along the walking streets to get your bearings. We finish the morning together with a Group Welcome Lunch. (B, L)


Carnival in Tenejapa, Chiapas

Thursday, February 25: 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 household supplies. Peer into dimly lit doorways to find hidden textile treasures. We’ll meander the market to see what’s there. In years past, I’ve found some stunning shawls, huipils and bags. Keep your eyes open. Then, we will visit the outstanding textile cooperative founded by Doña Maria Meza Giron. After a box lunch at the centuries- old Romerillo Maya cemetery, we continue on up another mountain to visit Maruch (Maria), a Chamula woman at her rural home. Surrounded by sheep and goats, Maruch will demonstrate back strap loom weaving and wool carding, and how she makes long-haired wool skirts, tunics and shawls. Perhaps there will be some treasures to consider. Return to San Cristobal de Las Casas in time for dinner on your own. (B, L)

Maruch using a warp board called stairway to the moon to prepare back-strap loom
It was cold in the Chamula highlands at over 7,000 feet altitude

Friday, February 26: After breakfast, we set out for a full morning at Na Bolom, 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 folk art and jewelry. We walk the gardens and learn about Franz and Trudy’s work with the Lacandon tribe and their relationship with Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera. After hot chocolate there we go to the outskirts of town to an outstanding women’s weaving cooperative that was founded over 40 years ago. You will learn about international collaborations and textile design that conserves traditions while meeting marketplace needs for exquisite and utilitarian cloth. After lunch on your own, we meet in the early evening to visit Museo de Trajes Regionales and humanitarian healer Sergio Castro, who has a large private collection of Maya indigenous daily and ceremonial dress representing each Chiapas region. (B)

Sergio Castro explains Naha Lacondon jungle rituals

Saturday, February 27: We set out by foot to a nearby textile collaboration that houses three different cooperative groups, one of which is founded by Alberto Lopez Gomez who was invited to New York Fashion Week in 2019. We hear presentations about creativity, style, innovation, and how to incorporate tradition while breaking new ground. Next, we stop at Los Leñateros, the hand-made paper workshop that is also a graphics arts print studio. You will have the afternoon and evening on your own. (B)

Alberto Lopez Gomez combines tradition with innovation and creativity

Sunday, February 28: 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 meander the open-air market, then visit the church, bedecked in fresh flowers. 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. You’ll find out why. We’ll roam Chamula’s abundant textile market, compare and contrast fabrics and designs. (B, L) Dinner on your own.

Alejandro and Maria Meza Giron, Tenejapa
Magdalena Aldama back-strap loom weaving, the finest

Monday, March 1: Today, we make a study tour to the textile villages of San Andres Larrainzer and Magdalena Aldama. This is another ultimate cultural experience to immerse yourself into families of weavers in their humble homes. We will see how they weave and embroider beautiful, fine textiles, ones you cannot find in the city markets or shops. They will host a show and sale for us, and we will join them around the open hearth for a warming meal of free range chicken soup, house made tortillas, and of course, a sip of posh! (B, L)

Hearty lunch Rosita + Cristobal, Magdalena Aldama, Chiapas
Bitty peeks out from behind exquisite cloth, San Andres Larrainzar

Tuesday, March 2: This is expoventa day! We have invited one of the finest embroiderers of Aguacatenango blouses, an amber wholesaler, an organic coffee grower/roaster, and other artisans to show and sell their work. 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)

Enjoying cocktail hour in hotel garden before gala dinner

Wednesday, March 3. Depart. You will arrange your own transportation from San Cristobal to the Tuxtla Gutierrez airport. The hotel guest services can help. It takes about 1-1/2 hours to get to Tuxtla, plus 1-2 hours for check-in. Connect from Tuxtla to Mexico City and then on to your home country.

What Is Included

• 8 nights lodging at a top-rated San Cristobal de las Casas hotel within walking distance to the historic center and pedestrian streets

• 8 breakfasts • 4 lunches • 1 grand finale gala dinner

• museum and church entry fees

• luxury van transportation

• outstanding and complete guide services

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 • $2,695 double room with private bath (sleeps 2) • $3,195 single room with private bath (sleeps 1)

Melanie adorned in pompoms and her Cancuc huipil

Reservations and Cancellations.  A 40% deposit is required to guarantee your spot. The balance is due in two equal payments. The second payment of  30% of the total is due on or before October 1, 2020. The third 30% payment is due on or before December 15, 2020. We accept payment using online e-commerce only. We will send you an itemized invoice when you tell us you are ready to register. After December 15, 2020, there are no refunds. If you cancel on or before December 15, 2020, we will refund 50% of your deposit received to date. After that, there are no refunds.

All documentation for plane reservations, required travel insurance, and personal health issues must be received 45 days before the program start or we reserve the right to cancel your registration without reimbursement.

How to Register:  First, complete the Registration Form and send it to us. We will then send you an invoice to make your reservation deposit.

To Register, Policies, Procedures & Cancellations–Please Read

Pom poms are us, and Sheri models them well!
Meet our guide, Alejandro — a knowledgeable textile and cultural translator, too

Terrain, Walking and Group Courtesy: San Cristobal de las Casas is a hill-town in south central Chiapas, the Mexican state that borders Guatemala. The altitude is 7,000 feet. Streets and sidewalks are cobblestones, mostly narrow and have high curbs. Pavement stones are slippery, especially when walking across driveways that slant across the sidewalk to the street. We will do a lot of walking. Being here is a walker’s delight because there are three flat streets devoted exclusively to walking. We walk a lot — up to 10,000 steps per day at a moderate pace. We recommend you bring a walking stick.

NOTE: If you have mobility issues or health/breathing impediments, please consider that this may not be the program for you.

Traveling with a small group has its advantages and also means that independent travelers will need to make accommodations to group needs and schedule. We include plenty of free time to go off on your own if you wish.

Sunnie and Phoebe from behind a flying shuttle pedal loom at rest

Oaxaca Coast Textile Study Tour 2021

Arrive on Saturday, January 16 and depart on Monday, January 25, 2021 — 9 nights, 10 days in textile heaven!

Trip is limited to 12 participants–6 single rooms and 3 shared rooms.

To register, please complete the Registration Form and email it.

Indigo and purple shell dye in Pinotepa de Don Luis
Handmade masks for Dance of the Tigers, San Juan Colorado

Cost is $2,795 per person shared room or $3,395 per person for private room. See details and itinerary below.

Please complete this Registration Form and return to Norma Schafer at norma.schafer@icloud.com to participate. Thank you.

This entire study tour is focused on exploring the textiles of Oaxaca’s Costa Chica. You arrive to and leave from Puerto Escondido, connecting through Mexico City or Oaxaca.

Natural dyes on back-strap loomed cotton, the finest handmade garments

We go deep, and not wide. We give you an intimate, connecting experience. We spend time to know the culture. You will meet artisans in their homes and workshops, enjoy local cuisine, dip your hands in an indigo dye-bath, and travel to remote villages you may not go to on your own. This study tour focuses on revival of ancient textile techniques and Oaxaca’s vast weaving culture that encompasses the use of natural dyes, back-strap loom weaving, drop spindle hand spinning, and glorious, pre-Hispanic native cotton.

The weaver and Kristy, who came on our trip from Australia

Villages along the coast and neighboring mountains were able to preserve their traditional weaving culture because of their isolation. Stunning cotton is spun and woven into lengths of cloth connected with intricate needlework to form amazing garments.

San Juan Colorado, Oaxaca, weaver who uses indigo and nanche tree bark for dyes

We have invited a noted cultural anthropologist to travel with us. She has worked in the region for the past fifteen years and knows the textile culture and people intimately. We learn about and discuss motifs, lifestyle, endangered species, quality and value of direct support.

Our 2020 group and one of the weaving cooperatives we visit
Market meander, Puerto Escondido

What we do:

  • We visit 7 weaving villages in Oaxaca and Guerrero
  • We meet back-strap loom weavers, natural dyers, spinners
  • We see, touch, smell native Oaxaca cotton — brown, green, natural
  • We participate in a sea turtle release with sunset dinner on the beach
  • We swim in a rare bioluminescence lagoon
  • We visit three local markets to experience daily life
  • We travel to remote regions to discover amazing cloth
  • We support indigenous artisans directly
  • We attend Dreamweavers annual sale at Hotel Santa Fe
  • We escape WINTER in El Norte
Hand-painted Converse tennis shoes at Pinotepa de Don Luis art studio

Take this study tour to learn about:

  • the culture, history and identity of cloth
  • beating and spinning cotton, and weaving with natural dyes
  • native seed preservation and cultivation
  • clothing design and construction, fashion adaptations
  • symbols and meaning of regional textile designs
  • choice of colors and fibers that show each woman’s aesthetic while keeping with a particular village traje or costume
  • the work of women in pre-Hispanic Mexico and today
Rare skirt (posahuanco) fabric dyed with caracol purpura, cochineal and indigo

2020 Itinerary — Oaxaca Coast Textile Study Tour

  • Saturday, January 16: Fly to Puerto Escondido—overnight in Puerto Escondido, Group Welcome Dinner at 7 p.m. (D)
  • Sunday, January 17: Puerto Escondido market meander, lunch and afternoon on your own. Late afternoon departure for turtle release and Manialtepec bioluminescence lagoon.  (B)
We release just hatched baby Ridley turtles into the Pacific Ocean
  • Monday, January 18: Depart after breakfast for Tututepec to visit a young weaver who is reviving his village’s textile traditions, visit local museum and murals — overnight in Pinotepa Nacional. (B, L)
  • Tuesday, January 19: After breakfast, we go on to the weaving village of San Juan Colorado to visit two women’s cooperatives working in natural dyes, hand-spinning, and back strap loom weaving. Overnight in Pinotepa Nacional. (B, L)
  • Wednesday, January 20: After breakfast, we return to the mountain with a first stop at the Pinotepa de Don Luis market. Then, we visit the Converse shoe project where talented artists hand-paint footwear, carve gourds and make amazing graphic art prints. We have lunch with Dreamweavers cooperative members and caracol purpura purple snail dyers in their home, complete with show and sale, and cultural talk.  Overnight in Pinotepa Nacional. (B, L)
  • Thursday, January 21: After breakfast, we travel up the coast highway into the state of Guerrero, where we visit two outstanding Amusgo weaving groups in Xochistlahuaca and Zacoalpan. They are working to revive ancient designs and incorporate locally grown native, wild cotton. Overnight in Ometepec. (B, L)
  • Friday, January 22: After breakfast, we begin our journey back to Puerto Escondido, with a stop at the Afro-Mexican Museum to understand Mexico’s black history. We stop in Pinotepa Nacional for lunch and a market meander.  Overnight in Puerto Escondido. (B, L)
Understanding the slave trade and cultural history, Afro-Mexican Museum, Costa Chica
  • Saturday, January 23: This is a day on your own to explore the area, return to the Puerto Escondido market, take a rest from the road trip, enjoy the beach and pools, and begin packing for your trip home.  Overnight in Puerto Escondido. (B)
  • Sunday, January 24: Attend the annual Dreamweavers Expoventa featuring the Tixinda Weaving Cooperative from Pinotepa de Don Luis. Other regional artisans are also invited, making this a grand finale folk art extravaganza — a fitting ending to our time together on Oaxaca’s coast. Grand Finale Dinner. Overnight in Puerto Escondido. (B, D)
  • Monday, January 25: Depart for home.
Sea and insect motifs adorn collar embroidered with snail dye and indigo

Note: You can add days on to the tour — arrive early or stay later — at your own expense.

Cost to Participate

  • $2,795 double room with private bath (sleeps 2)
  • $3,395 for a single supplement (private room and bath, sleeps 1)
We visit the mask-maker, too
Picking native pre-Hispanic green and coyuchi cotton, Amusgos, Xochistlahuaca, Guerrero

Your Tour Leader: Norma Schafer, director of Oaxaca Cultural Navigator LLC, will again lead this popular tour. We sell out each year so don’t hesitate to register if you are interested in participating.

An intricate floral bodice, woven into the back strap loomed cloth, San Pedro Amusgos
Village chapel, Zacoalpan, Guerrero

Some Vocabulary and Terms

Sunset dinner on the beach, somewhere north of Puerto Escondido, Manialtepec Lagoon
On the Manialtepec Lagoon, a night it is bioluminescence–Let’s go swimming!

Who Should Attend

  • Explorers of indigenous cloth, native fibers
  • Collectors, curators and cultural appreciators
  • Textile and fashion designers
  • Weavers, embroiderers, dyers and collectors
  • Photographers and artists who want inspiration
  • Anyone who loves cloth, culture and collaboration

Full Registration Policies, Procedures and Cancellations– Please READ

Xochistlahuaca, Guerrero, where Amusgo women make extraordinary cloth
Shuko with award-winning coyuchi and cochineal huipil, Dreamweavers

Reservations and Cancellations.  A 40% deposit is required to guarantee your spot. The balance is due in two equal payments. The second payment of  30% of the total is due on or before September 15, 2020. The third 30% payment is due on or before November 15, 2020. We accept payment using online e-commerce only. We will send you an itemized invoice when you tell us you are ready to register. After November 15, 2020, there are no refunds. If you cancel on or before November 15, 2020, we will refund 50% of your deposit received to date. After that, there are no refunds.

We will send you an itemized invoice when you tell us you are ready to register. After November 15, 2020, there are no refunds.

Required–Travel Health/Accident Insurance: We require that you carry international accident/health insurance that includes $50,000+ of emergency medical evacuation insurance. Proof of insurance must be sent at least 45 days before departure.

History of the Mixtec nation and 8-Jaguar Claw Chieftain
Hand-carved jicara gourds, rattles and lamps

Be certain your passport has at least six months on it before it expires from the date you enter Mexico!

Fuschina dye, preferred by the women of Santiago Ixtayutla, Jamiltepec

Plane Tickets, Arrivals/Departures: Please send us your plane schedule at least 45 days before the trip. This includes name of carrier, flight numbers, arrival and departure time to our destination.

All documentation for plane reservations, required travel insurance, and personal health issues must be received 45 days before the program start or we reserve the right to cancel your registration without reimbursement.

Terrain, Walking and Group Courtesy: We will do some walking and getting in/out of vans. If you have mobility issues or health/breathing impediments, please let us know before you register. This may not be the study tour for you.

Indigo and coyuchi cotton huipil, detail

Well-Being: If you have mobility issues or health impediments, please let us know. Our travel to remote villages will be by van on secondary roads with curves, usually not for more than two hours. When you tell us you are ready to register, we will send you a health questionnaire to complete. If you have walking or car dizziness issues, this may not be the trip for you.

Traveling with a small group has its advantages and also means that independent travelers will need to make accommodations to group needs and schedule. We include free time to go off on your own if you wish.

Note: Itinerary subject to schedule change and modification.

AeroTucan, between Oaxaca and Puerto Escondido, a 35-minute ride


To the Villages with Shuko–Backroads Oaxaca

Shuko Clouse is here. She opened Mano del Sur recently, a beautiful online shop that combines her Japanese aesthetic — simplicity and quality — with Mexican handcraft excellence. Shuko came to Oaxaca to restock the shop.

Shopping with Shuko, our Oaxaca backroads adventure into craft villages

She takes her time. She curates each item. She meets the makers and engages with them. She holds an article in her hands and savors its creation. She kneels down to touch a wool rug whose life is created on the loom. She traces the pattern with her fingertips, asking about ancient design origin.

The women who make clay mural
Each handmade, hand-formed, imperfect, burnished, beautiful

It is a marvel to go shopping with Shuko. She chooses carefully. Selects one or two items that are the same. She is not a volume shopper. I learn from her. Take your time. Each moment with a handmade article is a blessing for the maker and eventually, the buyer.

Shuko with cochineal dyed cotton warp and ikat wool throw/shawl
Arnulfo, Jr. finishes his first rug. So proud. Vendido. Sold!

Don’t rush. When I was in Japan, I saw that a large room with one extraordinary vase containing one exquisite flower was enough. This is antithetical to my own collecting sensibilities. It is a struggle to keep my living environment spare, and I confess I am unsuccessful. But I aspire to this — one object, beautifully crafted, as focal point.

Perfect naturally-dyed beeswax candles suspend from rebar rods
Beeswax candlemaker Viviana Alavez, Grand Master of Oaxaca folk art

Meanwhile, Shuko and I travel the villages; to San Marcos Tlapazola to visit the women makers of red clay pottery; to Mitla to see the weaver of natural dyed wool and cotton; deep into a Mitla neighborhood to visit the antique dealer whose eclectic collection tempts all; to old adobe houses of Teotitlan del Valle where humble weavers work magic.

Spaces Open: Oaxaca Discovery Tour–Textiles and Folk Art 2020

Elaborate, handmade beeswax flowers decorate church candlesticks, made here
Shuko with Viviana, a joyful moment

As always, thank you for reading and following. Can we take you on the backroads? On the Ocotlan Highway? Through the Tlacolula Valley? On a Textile Study Tour adventure?

A collection of dolls on Epifanio’s altar in Mitla
Rare, 17th century Quiatoni necklace with blown glass, coral. Anyone want it?
I’ll buy it for you. $1,200 USD includes mailing.
Shuko with Macrina and family in San Marcos
Ernestina shows us rugs she just finished weaving
Perched on a dead tree branch, Virgin of Guadalupe vintage icon

Tribal Art and Georgia O’Keeffe: New Mexico Study Tour

Tuesday, September 1 – Wednesday, September 9, 2020 – 8 nights, 9 days

New Mexico was originally part of the Spanish land grant known as New Spain. It calls to me in a way that reminds me of Oaxaca: Vast vistas of mountains and desert punctuated by red and purple skies, stately organ-pipe cactus and gnarly mesquite, Rio Grande River oases lined with scrub oak, and unparalleled art and craft made by indigenous peoples.

Ubiquitious adobe bricks, New Mexico desert
Lapidary work by Kewa pueblo master

Colonized by the Spanish in 1598 and referred to as New Mexico by them after the Aztec Valley of Mexico, the territory was integrated into a new nation after 1821 Independence from Spain. Mexico was forced to cede its northern territories to the US in 1848 in a period of political vulnerability. Deeply rooted locals identify more with Spanish or indigenous ancestry.

Today, New Mexico has the largest percentage of Latino and Hispanic Americans in the USA. America’s First Peoples lived here for thousands of years before European occupation. Anglos, the trappers, merchants and adventurers, arrived much later. This sequence of settlement is important for showing respect and appreciation.

Sheri Brautigam, textile author and operator of Living Textiles of Mexico, and I join together again to bring you this program that starts in Santa Fe, the state capitol and heart of Colonial New Mexico.  Sheri lives in Santa Fe and I visit periodically. Our love of place is defined by the majestic natural world, exquisite art, textiles, jewelry and pottery created by Native American people, and a deep appreciation for cultural history.

Iconic skull, O’Keeffe house
Abiquiu, New Mexico landscape

On many levels, it seems only natural to add New Mexico to our travel repertoire. Here political borders give way to the shared cultural and aesthetic history of Mexico and the American Southwest.

We take you to Native American pueblos to meet favorite weavers and jewelry makers, and to galleries and public spaces where world-class examples are displayed.  We introduce you to collectors and purveyors of folk art and craft who will talk about quality, authenticity, craftsmanship and style. We go deep rather than wide to offer insight and perspective.

Georgia O’Keeffe treasure at the La Fonda Hotel

Any exploration of New Mexico must include a look into the life of artist Georgia O’Keeffe. Our study tour takes you to her summer residence at Ghost Ranch where we spend the night and enjoy a morning walking tour of her favorite painting sites. We visit her Abiquiu winter home where her minimalist style shaped future generations.

Kewa pueblo jewelry artist Mary L. Tafoya
Mezcal laced Smoky Rosa at the Secreto Lounge, Hotel San Francisco

We invite you to join us to explore and discover:

  • An O’Keeffe landscape of the White Place and the Pedernal
  • Westward migration and the lure of the Santa Fe Trail, Route 66
  • Ancient indigenous Native American Pueblos nestled along the Rio Grande River banks
  • Colonial Spanish and Mexican history, architecture and cultural influences
  • Sumptuous food spiked with rare New Mexico red Chimayo chile and green Hatch chile — try the Hatch flavored pozole or a green chile cheeseburger or buy a ristra to take home
  • Mezcal infused beverages that transcend Oaxaca origins
Inlay stone work, Thunderbirds: turquoise, mother-of-pearl, apple coral, gaspeite
Vintage tin mirror, La Fonda Hotel collection

Here is the Preliminary Itinerary: Arrive September 1 and depart September 9, including Labor Day Weekend.

Tues, 9//1: Arrive and check in to hotel, welcome cocktail reception (R)

Wed. 9/2:  Breakfast with art and cultural history talk, walking tour of Santa Fe galleries, the Governor’s Palace Portal and historic sites, welcome lunch.  Presentations by noted experts and collectors. Dinner OYO.  (B, L)

Finest heishi bead work, Santo Domingo Pueblo (Kewa)

Thurs. 9/3: After breakfast, depart for Rio Grande River Kewa/Santo Domingo pueblo to meet Native American craftspeople where we will have private demonstrations of stone inlay and metal smithing, and a home-style lunch. We visit award-winners who exhibit at prestigious galleries and participate in the International Folk Art Market. (B, L) Dinner OYO

Friday. 9/4: After breakfast, we will take a private La Fonda Hotel art history tour, with lunch at the historic Fred Harvey restaurant, followed by a visit to the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum (B, L) Dinner OYO

Vintage Navajo rug with churro sheep wool
Bumble bee painting at La Fonda Hotel

Sat, 9/5: After breakfast, we will return to the Kewa pueblo to attend the big Labor Day Weekend Artisan Fair, an all Native American traditional arts and craft event that includes artisans from throughout New Mexico. (B) Lunch and dinner OYO.

Sun. 9/6: After breakfast, depart for Ghost Ranch with a stop in Sanctuario de Chimayo a famous shrine of miracles and Hispanic faith. We will visit the Rio Grande style weavers of the Chimayo region and have lunch at Rancho de Chimayo, overnight at Ghost Ranch (B, L)

O’Keeffe wall, subject of numerous paintings
Rudy Coriz feather motif inlay stone work

Mon. 9/7: After breakfast, morning Art Walk at Ghost Ranch to see the locales where Georgia O’Keeffe painted. After lunch at the Inn at Abiquiu, we will tour O’Keeffe’s winter home in Abiquiu, then return to Santa Fe. (B, L) Dinner OYO.

Tues., 9/8: Breakfast and day on your own. Grand finale dinner. (D) Breakfast and lunch OYO.

Wed. 9/9: Depart

Painting, Native American festival dances
Colonial furniture, hand-carved wood

You may wish to arrive early or stay later to add a visit to Taos, Ojo Caliente Mineral Springs, or Santa Clara or San Ildefonso pottery villages.  So many places to visit, so much to see and do.

What Is Included

  • 8 nights lodging at a top-rated Santa Fe historic center property within walking distance to the Plaza
  • 6 breakfasts
  • 5 lunches
  • 1 dinner
  • 1 cocktail reception
  • a curated itinerary with introductions to some of the region’s finest artisans
  • museum and other entry fees, as specified in itinerary
  • private demonstrations, presentations and lectures
  • private coach and chauffeur to/from pueblos and O’Keeffe sites
  • outstanding and personal guide services with Norma Schafer and Sheri Brautigam
Inlay pin by Mary Tafoya
Exterior landscape, O’Keeffe in Abiquiu

The program does NOT include airfare, taxes, tips, travel insurance, liquor or alcoholic beverages, some meals, and optional local transportation that is not specified in the itinerary.

You can fly in/out of either Albuquerque (ABQ) or Santa Fe (SAF), New Mexico. Check Skyscanner.com for best schedules and fares.

We reserve the right to substitute instructors and alter the program as needed.

Cost • $3,845 double room with private bath (sleeps 2) • $4,435  single room with private bath (sleeps 1)

Important Note: All rooms at Ghost Ranch for one night on Sunday, September 6, are shared accommodations. 

Native American Feast Day Mask

Reservations and Cancellations.  A $750 non-refundable deposit is required to guarantee your spot. The balance is due in three equal payments – on January 22, April 22, July 22, 2020.  We accept payment using online e-commerce only.  If for any reason, Oaxaca Cultural Navigator LLC cancels the tour, a full-refund will be made.

We will send you an itemized invoice when you tell us you are ready to register. If you cancel on or before July 22, 2020, we will refund 50% of your deposit received to date. After July 22, 2020, there are no refunds.

If you register after January 22, you will owe $750 plus 1/3 of the balance due. If you register after April 22, you will owe $750 plus 2/3 of the balance due. If you register after July 22, you will owe 100% (if there are openings).

How to Register: Send an email to norma.schafer@icloud.com

Tell us if you want a shared/double room or a private/single room. We will send you an e-commerce invoice for $750 by email that is due on receipt.

Who Should Attend: Artists, makers, educators, life-long learners, writers, photographers, jewelry and textile lovers, historians and those wanting to learn more about Native American art, culture and history.   If you love off-the-beaten path adventure, the great outdoors, and the inspiration of the great Southwest as seen by Georgia O’Keeffe, this trip is for you.

To Register, Policies, Procedures & Cancellations–Please Read

Work in progress, Warren Nieto

Required–Travel Health/Accident Insurance: We require that you carry international accident/health insurance that includes $50,000+ of emergency medical evacuation insurance. Proof of insurance must be sent at least 45 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 45 days before departure. Unforeseen circumstances happen!

Reservations and Cancellations.  We accept online e-commerce payments only. We will send you an itemized invoice when you tell us you are ready to register. All documentation for plane reservations, required travel insurance, and personal health issues must be received 45 days before the program start or we reserve the right to cancel your registration without reimbursement.

Terrain, Walking and Group Courtesy:  We may walk a lot on some days.  — up to 10,000 steps. We recommend you bring a walking stick if you need something to lean on!

If you have mobility issues or health/breathing impediments, please consider that this may not be the study tour for you.

Warren Nieto with sacred corn pendant, inlay stones and sterling silver

Traveling with a small group has its advantages and also means that independent travelers will need to make accommodations to group needs and schedule. We include plenty of free time to go off on your own if you wish.

Old West hand-carved lamp base, La Fonda Hotel

Jeweler’s Studio: Kewa-Santo Domingo Pueblo, New Mexico

Under the Palace of the Governors portal sit Native American artisans, displaying their craft. They may sit on small camp stools or cross-legged on a blanket waiting for us. Their hang tags tell their name, their pueblo, and authenticate what they sell. This is a juried system.

The portal at the Palace of the Governors calls to me because it is a place of discovery. I have spoken with gallery owners in Taos and Santa Fe who tell me they found artisans they represent here along this arcade. A keen eye can differentiate quality

This Warren Nieto pendant is for sale. $185.

Who is able to sell each day is based on a lottery. Just as I visit artisan studios throughout Mexico to understand the craftsmanship and to create connection, when I find someone who makes something extraordinary, I want to know more. To see how something is made is to understand the calculus of time and materials, passion, art and history. This is how we put value on something handmade.

Warren and his son in the studio

It’s more than that. To see how people live and work, to meet their families, to understand their culture and origins, hear who they learned from and appreciate the traditions of creativity, gives added meaning to the experience. It becomes more than shopping. It is the next level to an ancient practice of sharing, bartering, collaboration and respect.

The swirls are inlaid slices of shell
A pile turquoise, mother-of-pearl, apple coral, spiny oyster, river shell, jet (fossilized coal)

We got to the Plaza early that day, before 9:30 a.m. Leslie spotted Warren Nieto first, noticed his fine heishi beadwork and mosaic inlay. His thunderbird design earrings were perfectly executed. There were three pair, one for her, one for Kaola and one for me. We struck a bargain for the three and paid cash. I asked if we could visit his studio to see how he constructed his pieces and get a demonstration. We set a day and time.

Warren Nieto’s Thunderbird Earrings, NFS
Fossilized stone with shell impression

Eugene Sanchez was also at the Palace portal that day. I didn’t recognize him but I recognized the fine, tiny pieces of gemstone inlay work I bought from his wife Georgia two years ago. I asked him if we could visit, too.

Eugene and Georgia Sanchez earrings and Thunderbird necklace, NFS
Eugene Sanchez and granddaughter

Eugene’s story is not unique. He’s a military veteran. He worked construction in northern California, had a back injury and returned to his family roots to revive their Native American jewelry making. He learned from his grandmother and father. The work is extraordinary.

Warren’s unfinished work — in the rough

I had traveled the Rio Grande River Valley pueblos in the 1970’s, but had never visited the Kewa (Santo Domingo) village. I was more interested in pottery then. This would be an adventure. We drove south on I-25 for about 40 minutes and then turned off to head west. In the distance, beyond the vast sand-colored desert was a ribbon of green cottonwood where the river flowed fast. Summer rains and winter snow melts ensure an abundance of water.

Raw materials: spiny oyster and caracol shells

Warren Nieto lives with his family in a new modular home behind a vacant trading post, a vestige of the old west and tourism dream that didn’t materialize. He worked carpentry and framing before he returned to the craft he earned from his family. He’s 32 years old.

We were told to respect what your grandparents taught you, he says. Growing up, I learned to make heishi beads and tend the corn fields. We were taught that jewelry making was something to come back to. I do it to create something that others appreciate and value.

Warren speaks Keres to his son, who hovers nearby. This is an ancient language, he explains, and he’s not worried about losing it. The Kewa people adhere to tradition. He says its linguistic roots are Aztec (Nahuatl). I tell him common belief is that the Aztecs came from the north into what is now Mexico in search of a fertile land where the eagle would perch on a cactus, overcome the serpent and lead them to water. Is it likely they originated from this part of New Mexico?

I am organizing a 2020 folk art study tour into the tribal areas of New Mexico with Sheri Brautigam, who lives in Santa Fe. We will visit a curated group of jewelers, weavers and potters, and attend a Native American festival. If you are interested in joining us, please send me an email so I can add you to the announcement list: email norma.schafer@icloud.com