I’ve never seen dyed Easter eggs here in Oaxaca, but perhaps someone could correct me if I just haven’t noticed them. Yet, here we are in the world of natural dyes. My personal favorite is indigo blue. So, when this post from Improvised Life came to my inbox this morning, I felt compelled to share it.
This segues into the world of natural dyes here in Oaxaca, where a kilogram of indigo from the coast costs over $100 USD. In the spirit of indigo blue, I’d like to share these photos with you of indigo blue dyed textiles taken during recent Natural Dye Textiles and Weaving Study Tour programs.
Thanks to Juana Gutierrez, Galeria Fe y Lola, Alfredo Hernandez Orozco, Bii Dauu Cooperative, Elsa Sanchez Diaz, Arturo Hernandez and Porfirio Gutierrez for their talent to keep the world of natural dyes alive here.
Ikat: a design technique where the warp threads are first dyed before they are tied onto the loom and create the pattern in the cloth. Very time intensive!
I also love to sew and so … I have three rebozos I have repurposed, designed and sewn into pullover ponchos. These are all cotton, have French seams and open sides — one size fits all. Just slip it over a tank top or bathing suit for a summer cover-up, or wear over a light-weight Tee and jeans to add pizzaz. Makes a nice evening wrap, too.
This post offers 3 pullover ponchos and 7 rebozos, scarves or shawls. Keep scrolling to see all. Send me an email if you want something!
Pop-Up Sale: Buy Before March 29, 2016.
After that, the sale goes away! I’m leaving Oaxaca on March 30 for a several week visit with friends and to take care of business in North Carolina. I’ll take what you buy with me and ship to you (USA only) as soon as I get there. Send me an email and I’ll let you know how to pay. Many thanks.
Pullover Poncho #1–Tomato Red and Black. Ikat cloth hand-woven on the counterbalance pedal loom. 28″ long from the shoulder seam, 26″ wide and a 5″ collar that drapes beautifully. French seams. Open sides (sew them closed if you like.) One size fits all. $95 + shipping.
Pullover Poncho #2 — Spring and Olive Green. Ikat hand-woven cloth made on the counterbalance pedal loom. 27″ long and 29″ wide with a 7″ cowl collar. French seams. Open sides. One size fits all. $95 + shipping. See below.
SOLD! Pullover Poncho #3–Periwinkle Blue. Ikat cloth hand-woven on the counterbalance pedal loom. 32″ long from the shoulder seam, 28″ wide with a hand-stitched scoop neckline. French seams. Open sides (sew them closed if you like and voila, a dress!) One size fits all. $95 + shipping.
Rebozo #1: Blue and Brown by Fito Garcia, one of Tenancingo’s masters. 74″ long. 29″ wide. Plus a 13″ punta (hand-knotted fringe). Below. $185. + shipping.
SOLD! Rebozo #2: Black and Brown. Dramatic ikat design with impressive hand-knotted 13″ punta. 74″ long, 29″ wide. $165 + shipping. Below.
Rebozo #3: Very finely woven by master Jose Luis Rodriguez, soft as silk chalina in two-tone dark and light blue. 65″ long, 29″ wide with an intricate 13″ punta. $155 + shipping. See below.
Please send me an email if you want to make a purchase. Thank you!
Rebozo #4: Forest green and navy blue ikat rebozo, 68″ long, 26-1/2″ wide, with a knotted 5″ punta. $125 + shipping. See below left.
L-Blue-Green rebozo, $125+ shipping. R-scarf with chaquira beads, $75+shipping
Rebozo #5: Red and camel ikat scarf, 20″ wide, 61″ long with 9″ punta. $85+ shipping. See below.
Rebozo #6: Mango scarf with blue ikat accent stripes and chaquira beads hand-knotted into the fringe. Great accent piece! $75+ shipping. See below right.
Rebozo #7: Above left is a beautiful, soft silky cotton ikat scarf, 58″ long and 18″ wide, with loose fringes. I loved this one because of the ikat gradations along the center panel of the scarf. $65+ shipping.
Please send me an email if you want to make a purchase. Thank you!
Come along with me on the next Rebozo study tour in September for the annual Rebozo Fair in Tenancingo de Degollado, Estado de Mexico.
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
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, 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 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.
September 8-16, 2016 includes Rebozo Fair — Feria del Rebozo
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 — 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
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 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 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–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.
This study tour is designed as an intensive personal learning experience. Here in Tenancingo de Degollado and beyond, you will meet artisans in their homes and workshops, understand family traditions and culture, and help honor and preserve craft.
Rebozo seller, Tenancingo Town Market
Tenancingo de Degollado, Estado de Mexico (Edomex), is the source for handwoven ikat rebozos or shawls made on back-strap and flying shuttle looms by master artisans. Some count only 27 remaining reboceros — the men who weave the cloth. Not long ago there were hundreds. We will also meet the puntadoras — the women who hand-knot the intricate fringes. The experience of being there is so inspiring that I want to keep sharing it with you. I invite you to return with me for a memorable, curated Mexican textile and folk art study tour.
Jesus Zarate ikat rebozos are like a Monet painting — innovative, full of movement
February 2-10, 2017. 8 nights, 9 days. $1,995 per person shared room with private bath. Single supplement is $300 more per person. A 50% deposit will reserve your space.
Cost includes luxury van transportation from Mexico City to Tenancingo and back, daily excursions, all hotels, 7 breakfasts, 5 lunches, 5 dinners, private guide services, gratuities for artisans, guides, drivers and service staff. Does not include alcoholic beverages and optional expenses not included in the itinerary.
Group size limited to 10 people.
Grand Master of Mexican Folk Art Evaristo Borboa Casas at his loom
You will arrive and leave from Mexico City.
Meet together in Mexico City on February 2 with an overnight there at a historic center hotel
Travel to and stay in Tenancingo from February 3-9 at a bed and breakfast oasis
Enjoy the company of our bi-lingual guide who migrated from the U.S. to Tenancingo to marry a local thirteen years ago
Meet the master weavers of Tenancingo de Degollado in their home workshops
Learn about ikat warp thread preparation, the complexity of this at-risk textile art and how to differentiate quality
Participate in hands-on natural dye and weaving demonstrations
Understand the intricacy of a fine hand-knottedfringe called punta or rapacejo, and how it adds to the beauty of the lienza (cloth)
Visit three of Mexico’s Pueblo Magicos – magic villages where traditional life flourishes
Spend a day in Malinalco, a Pueblo Magico, to discover archeology, ancient frescoes, weaving traditions, natural dyes and more
Travel to Metepec, a Pueblo Magico. Climb the archeological site of Teotenango, meet outstanding ceramic artists who make Tree of Life sculptures and cazuelas cooking vessels
Spend the last night in Mexico City to depart on February 10 for home OR stay on longer to enjoy museums and world-class restaurants
Puntadora Amalia shows how to tie the finest knots
Along the way, you will eat great food, climb ancient pyramids at important though remote archeological sites, visit three Pueblo Magicos – Malinalco, Taxco and Metepec — and immerse yourself in some of Mexico’s outstanding folk art.
Primarily, we are here to learn about the art and craft of making a fine rebozo, meet the men who weave the cloth and the women who tie the elaborate fringe.
Ikat rebozo handwoven on the back strap loom from Rapacejos gallery
Some of the weavers are innovators, like Jesus Zarate, who incorporates intricate floral, bird and animal motifs on the ikat cloth.
Some, like Fito Garcia, use splashes of color that looks like confetti. Camila Ramos ikat designs employ ancient indigenous symbols and figures.
The revered master, 82-year old Evaristo Borboa Casas, is a traditionalist. All have received top honors for their work worldwide.
Each technique requires mathematical and technical precision, extraordinary creativity and months of work to produce one rebozo.
It can take weeks to prepare the ikat warp threads, dye them and dress the loom, with another month or two for the weaving. It can take two or three months to tie a punta, depending on length and elaboration.
After this study trip, I can guarantee that you will better appreciate this textile art form that is at risk of disappearing. Only three or four weavers in Tenancingo continue the back-strap weaving tradition. Sixty years ago there were over 200 weavers working on the back-strap loom.
8 nights lodging
Round trip transportation to/from Mexico City center and Tenancingo
Transportation to all towns, villages and artisans noted in itinerary
Gratuities to artisans for demonstrations
Tips for most services, including hotel rooms, van driver, guides
Day 1, Thursday, February 2: Arrive in Mexico City, overnight. Dinner on your own. We will stay at a historic hotel on or near the Zocalo. As soon as you register, we will tell you where. You might also like to arrive a few days early to explore the city. It’s wonderful!
Study tour group tries gives fringe-making a try in hands-on workshop
Day 2, Friday, February 3: Travel by luxury van to Tenancingo, overnight (B, D) Group dinner.
Day 3, Saturday, February 4: In the morning, meet some of Tenancingo’s best master weavers. We will confirm who later! The group can include Evaristo Borboa Casas, Jesus Zarate, Adolfo “Fito” Garcia Diaz, Fermin Escobar Camacho and Luis Rodriguez Martinez. Take a ride on the flying shuttle peddle loom. (B, L, D)
Day 4, Sunday, February 5: Today we will visit the big, weekly rebozo market where weavers and puntadoras, the women who hand knot the rebozo fringe, sell their wares. Then, we have lunch at a beautiful outdoor family restaurant in the countryside, followed by a demonstration in late afternoon. (B, L, D)
Day 5, Monday, February 6: We leave early to spend a day in Taxco de Alarcon, Pueblo Magico, with the next generation owner of the William Spratling silver jewelry workshop. First, we will have breakfast at the famous Spratling Ranch followed by a tour and silversmith demonstration. We’ll return to town for a late lunch Spratling’s home and first workshop, Las Delicias, now S’Caffecito. Then, you can roam Taxco on your own. We start our 2-hour return to Tenancingo in early evening. (B, L)
Day 6, Tuesday, February 7:Malinalco Pueblo Magico. Climb the ancient archeological site (if you wish), the only one in Mesoamerica carved out of the rock face. Visit the workshop of Camila Ramos Zamora and award-winning son Juan Rodrigo Mancio Ramos. See how they work the back strap loom and make natural dyes. See how to dye and prepare ikat threads. Take time to visit the 16th century Augustinian church with the amazing Paradise Garden Murals. (B, L, D)
Day 7, Wednesday, February 8: After breakfast, we will have a demonstration of another type of weaving, the fiber made from the Joshua Tree leaf called izote. An indigenous family will join us from the countryside to show the process that is made into beautiful, finely crafted bags, some dyed with cochineal. Afternoon on your own to return to your favorite rebocero, do last-minute market shopping and begin packing. (B, D)
Day 8, Thursday, February 9: Travel to Metepec Pueblo Magico. First, we will stop to climb the Mesoamerican Teotenango pyramids (if you wish) or visit the adjacent museum. Then, we will visit the Museo del Barro ceramics museum to see the finest examples of Tree of Life sculptures and highly decorated, sturdy cooking pots called cazuelas. After lunch, we will have time to explore the artisans market before returning to Mexico City. Overnight in Mexico City. (B, L)
Day 9, Friday, February 10: Depart our Mexico City hotel by taxi (at your own expense) to catch your flights home. Or make your own arrangements to stay in Mexico City a little longer and enjoy the Independence Day festivities around town.
The study tour includesround trip transportation between Mexico City and Tenancingo de Degollado, lodging in Mexico City and Tenancingo, meals as noted in the itinerary, travel to all artisans and destinations noted on the itinerary, cultural bi-lingual guide services and most gratutities/tips. Plus you receive a comprehensive packet of information about our location, shopping, restaurants, and itinerary sent by email before the study tour begins.
The study tour does not include airfare, taxi from Mexico City airport to Mexico City hotel, return taxi from Mexico City to the airport, some meals as noted in the itinerary, admission to museums and archeological sites, alcoholic beverages, travel insurance, optional transportation and incidentals.
Reservations and Cancellations: A 50% deposit will reserve your space. The final payment for the balance due shall be made on or before 45 days before the study tour begins. We accept PayPal for payment only. We will send you an invoice for your deposit to reserve when you tell us by email that you are ready to register.
If cancellation is necessary, please notify us in writing by email. After the 45-day cut-off date, no refunds are possible. However, we will make every effort to fill your reserved space or you may send a substitute. If you cancel before the 45-day deadline, we will refund 50% of your deposit.
About Travel to Mexico City: The Mexico City Benito Juarez International Airport (MEX) is our gateway city and a Mexico City historic center hotel is our meeting point. You can fly to Mexico City from many United States locations on most major USA airlines. Mexico’s excellent new discount airlines Interjet and Volaris service some U.S. cities, as does Aeromexico.
International Travel Insurance Required.We require that you purchase trip cancellation, baggage loss and at least $50,000 of emergency evacuation and medical insurance before you begin your trip. We will ask for insurance documentation as well as a witnessed waiver of liability form that holds Oaxaca Cultural Navigator LLC harmless. We know unforeseen circumstances are possible.
William Spratling died in 1967 but his legacy lives on through the efforts of Violante Ulrich and her sister Consuelo. Their father, Alberto Ulrich, was a close Spratling friend and supporter. They drove race cars together along the narrow winding roads connecting Taxco with the Pacific beach resort of Acapulco. Ulrich took over the Spratling enterprise then to keep it going and his daughters are also committed to this.
There are few remaining silversmiths in Taxco from that era. All the shops whose mast-head bear the names of the famous masters such as Los Castillos, Antonio Pineda and Enrique Ledesma are now mostly filled with production pieces. Very little is still made by hand. (There is one Taxco shop called Hecho a Mano that makes excellent reproductions of significant pieces.)
In production, silver fish with ebony, a favorite Spratling jewelry hardwood
I made arrangements with Violante to spend a day with her in Taxco during our recent folk art study tour. Silver is to Mexico what rebozos are, too. Part of this country’s cultural identity. So, seeing the Spratling home Las Delicias where he first lived and worked was an essential part of this experience.
Rafa melting 925 parts silver and 75 parts copper to make 925 jewelry
I remember visiting the Spratling silver galleries in Taxco in the early 1970’s. I was young and couldn’t afford much. Even then, Spratling was a legend. There were many beautiful pieces for sale in the showroom on the plaza. I managed to buy a small chain for $35 USD — a big sum then — and still have it!
Sterling silver flatware with rosewood, $1,000 USD a place setting
Taxco is about a two-hour drive from Tenancingo, so it made sense to me to schedule this as a day trip. When we arrived, we had breakfast at S’Caffecito prepared by Violante and her staff, got a tour of the house, galleries and and rooftop terrace overlooking the church.
Above left, Violante with a Marilyn Monroe chair. Right, the Spratling monkey.
1950’s vintage Spratling owl pin with amethyst eyes
Then, we got in the van and drove to Taxco El Viejo on the road to Iguala, where Spratling later built his ranch. He did this for many reasons. He wanted privacy and a workshop away from the hovering eyes of other Taxco silversmiths who began to copy his work.
Spratling workshop, just as it was then. Antonio demonstrates.
It was amazing to be in this space where all the equipment used now was the same as it was then.
The beginning of the owl pin with the amethyst eyes.
The jewelry molds are exactly as they were, and skilled craftsmen are creating silver flatware inlaid with rosewood, pins, necklaces, bracelets and earrings in the same gauge metal and quality that William Spratling used.
Annealing the silver owl pin that will have amethyst eyes
Not much has changed, thankfully, except that the next generation of Spratling silversmiths include Violante and Consuelo who have registered a new stamp with the Mexican government and also design and produce their own work.
We toured the workshops and met silversmiths Antonio and Rafael who demonstrated the process to make Spratling’s famous owl pin with the amethyst eyes. We saw the original molds, examples of Spratling’s original work and the pieces made today that are for sale. (Of course, there was lots to try on.)
We saw the chairs that Spratling designed for Marilyn Monroe that went undelivered because of her suicide.
How did they know this? Margarita Gonzales, the accountant, kept impeccable records, and when Alberto Ulrich found the stash of chairs tucked away in a closet, he knew exactly where to look to track the provenance.
Old iron nails kept for furniture restoration projects
After a tour of the ranch and the workshops, we settled in for a delicious lunch under the corridor next to the kitchen. We talked about beauty, history, Spratling’s love of red, white and blue ornamentation that represented to him the colors of melting silver. We saw pre-Columbian sculpture and folk art figures from Spratling’s personal collection.
A day with Violante Ulrich is a rich experience by which to understand the lore and history of Taxco silver making and the life of William Spratling. She is an artful cook, outstanding silversmith, great host and dedicated to preserving the ranch which is in need of restoration. We were fortunate to spend this time with her.
At the end of the afternoon there was enough independent time to explore the steep cobbled hill town, go into the church and search for more silver treasures before heading back to Tenancingo.
A surprise awaited us! In the church was sculptor Miguel D. Sobrino who created the silver Virgin of Guadalupe that stands beside the altar encased in protective glass. Except today, Our Lady had been removed from her case and was being thoroughly cleaned to prepare her for a move to the Basilica de Guadalupe in Mexico City to greet Pope Francis.
We enjoyed lots of views — from the Las Delicias rooftop garden and the terrace overlooking the central plaza. For some on the study tour, this trip to Taxco was a dream come true. I hadn’t been back for 44 years until last September. I’m looking forward to the next time. I hope you can come with me.
Ten wonderful women + me, February 2016 study tour on the Spratling terrace
I will be organizing this rebozo study tour for mid-September 2016 to coincide with the Tenancingo rebozo fair. There will be a few modifications in the itinerary we just completed but the trip to Taxco is set in stone! Please tell me if you are interested. Get on the notification list!
If you want to take a silver jewelry making workshop at the Spratling Ranch, please contact Violante directly. She is also starting a B&B there, so there are some accommodations. The ranch is in need of restoration so please support her efforts in any way you can. It’s an important part of Mexican history. Thank you!
Norma Schafer and Oaxaca Cultural Navigator LLC has offered programs in Mexico since 2006. We have over 30 years of experience developing and delivering award-winning programs for Indiana University, University of Virginia, George Washington University and University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Study tours are personally curated and introduce you to Mexico's most stunning artisans. They are off-the-beaten path, internationally recognized, live and work at home where it is safe and secure to travel. Groups are limited to 12 people for the most personal experience.
Workshops are scheduled according to your travel plans. Send us your available dates.
Designers, retailers, wholesalers, universities and other organizations come to us to develop customized itineraries, meetings and conferences. It's our pleasure to make arrangements.