Tag Archives: study tour

Chiapas Notebook: Magdalena Aldama Weavers

Our recent textile study tour took place over nine days. We were based in San Cristobal de las Casas, Chiapas, Mexico, with so much to see and do, and no time to write!. I’m going to start now with one highlight that happened in the middle: a visit to Magdalena Aldama, Chiapas.

A few of our group with hosts Rosa and Cristobal, Magdalena Aldama

Some of us know this village, about two-and-a-half hours from San Cristobal, as Magdalenas. Others call it Aldama. It is one and the same. Officially, it is known as Santa Maria Magdalena.

Indigenous justice and liberty are elemental here, as is native Non-GMO corn.

It took on the name Aldama in 1934 in honor of Mexican insurgent Ignacio Aldama. This is a Tzotzil village strongly aligned with the Zapatistas.

Rosa with Barbara, and a neighboring Chenalho blue emboidered top

Not many foreigners show up here. Without an introduction to a family, it would be difficult to know where to go to see extraordinary back strap loom weaving and intricate embroidery that the women here are known for.

Susie admires a finely woven, embroidered huipil

We pulled up to the village zocalo and parked near the church. Cristobal was waiting for us and took us to his family home where his wife Rosa greeted us. She was joined by family members who were busy weaving and doing fine stitching, surrounded by children.

Children hover close to mom when strangers show up

This would not have been possible without our knowledgeable guide who arranged the visit through an anthropologist friend who has been working here for some time.

Every garment handmade: the woven cloth, fine embroidery, seams, hem

After demonstrations and a stunning expoventa of very fine work, the family invited us into their kitchen where they prepared Caldo de Gallina over a wood fire.

Work continues with babies bundled across backs with rebozos

They make the soup from organic free-range chicken and fresh local vegetables. The tortillas come hot off the comal. We toast the day with posh, the local fermented drink made from corn and sugar cane.

It is quite tasty!

Indigenous rights are fragile. People here take a stand for themselves. Viva Zapata!

Women work hard here, staying close to home. Tending babies, preparing meals, cleaning up, weaving, sewing. Extended families live together in the same household and next door.

Fifteen enjoying a family meal, altar with Mayan cross in background

I saw no young men and assume they were in the fields tending to vegetables or herds of cows. Or, perhaps they were in El Norte USA trying to make a few dollars to send home. At 20 pesos to 1 US dollar now, it’s an economic advantage to go north to work. Regardless of what Agent Orange says, families do not like to be separated. They do it out of necessity. 

A village Mayordomo came by to check us out and stayed for lunch

Since the village is not frequented by tourists, we had a social call by one of the village leaders, a mayordomo and friend of our host family. He saw that we were supportive of the cultural norms and stayed to talk and have lunch with us. We were not a rowdy group!

Waddle and daub traditional village construction, perfect backdrop

The large kitchen space where we had lunch, the traditional outbuilding where the expoventa (show/sale) was held, and some of the surrounding cottages, were all constructed with waddle and daub. This is different from adobe bricks. It is a great insulator, keeping the house warm in winter and cool in summer.

Yes, smoke gets in your eyes, clothes, hair and lungs in traditional kitchens

The only problem was the ventilation from the smoke, which rose to the ceiling in billows but didn’t escape readily from the open areas near the rafters. In some villages, NGOs are working with locals to create better vents so they don’t breathe the wood smoke and develop lung disease.

Britt wears an elegant dress, traditional in design

Magdalena Aldama is about ten minutes further from San Andres Larrainzar, another amazing weaving village, much larger than Magdalena. There seems to be some crossover in stitching and fashion, though for the most part women like to identify with where they are born and live by their costume.

Mom and toddler, infant sleeping behind

The finely woven mesh bags you see below are hand-woven from ixtle, the washed, pounded and softened fiber of the agave cactus leaf. The finer and smaller the bag, the more costly. The shoulder straps are soft leather. Sometimes they are finished with colorful woven edging. We love them and bought lots!

Display of blouses, bags, table runners, dresses, pillow covers

Often, the difficulty for western women is to find a garment large enough to fit us. The width here is as wide as the loom, but the arm holes and necklines can be small. So small, we can’t get the blouse over our heads or arms through the sleeves. Here, it wasn’t a problem! They knew we were coming!

Rosa holds up one her group’s fine blouses. They sold out!

On our way back to San Cristobal de las Casas, we made a quick stop in Larrainzar to check out the street scene.  On the way, we passed a family of sheep herders. While the animals grazed, the women tied their looms to the trees. No one here is idle.

Looms tied to trees. Always something to weave.

In San Andres Larrainzar, we stopped at a commercial cooperative outside of town. I was disappointed in the quality and offerings, though a few of us managed to find a treasure. It’s best to find a private group!

San Andres Larrainzar main street. Hard to find a huipil for sale here.

Local women buy the embroidered bodice pieces and then stitch their own cotton or poplin (cotton/poly blend) to make the complete blouse. They like the polyester because it dries much faster. So, it’s getting more difficult to find a pure cotton garment. The embroidered pieces cost 1,000 to 1,500 pesos before being made into the blouse.

Embroidered blouse pieces, Larrainzar. White area is for head opening.

Back in San Cristobal, I wore the Magdalena Aldama blouse I bought from Rosa and Cristobal on the following day. People stopped me. Where did you find that? I told them. I visited a local Mayan coop and the manager said, “We don’t carry anything that fine. It’s hard to find and too expensive.”  Well, not really. Not for us at the current exchange rate!

The weaving group in black and white.

Making a trip into the village to meet the family, share a meal and support their work was one of the highlights of this trip.

Weaving on the street, Magdalena Aldama

We are going to offer this again at the end of February 2018. Contact me if you are interested and I’ll put you on the list to let you know dates and cost. This study tour will be limited to 9 people maximum!

Games little boys play, in the doorway to the kitchen.

 

Mazahua Textile Artisan Added to Tenancingo Rebozo Study Tour

We are adding a nice detail to the already textile extensive — and intensive — Mexico Textiles and Folk Art Study Tour: Tenancingo Rebozos and More!

Mazahua embroidered bodice with fine detail of animal figures

Mazahua embroidered bodice with fine detail of animal figures

We have invited two indigenous Mexican artisans, one is Nahuatl who lives on the volcano side of Orizaba and the other is Mazahua from Estado de Mexico (State of Mexico) to come to our hotel for a needlework demonstration and sale.  Their work is among the finest of this type in the region.

Fine cross-stitch needlework, called punto de cruz, examples of Mazahua work

Fine cross-stitch needlework, called punto de cruz, examples of Mazahua work

Cross-stitch embroidery embellishes small handbags

Cross-stitch embroidery embellishes small cotton handbags, called bolsas

The study tour meets in Mexico City on February 2. We travel for a week together and return to Mexico City on February 10. Departure day is February 11.

4 spaces open! Will one be yours?

Artist Hollie Taylor Creates Frida Kahlo Retablos

At Casa Azul in Coyoacan, Mexico City, one of the largest collections of folk art ex-votos (also called retablos) hangs along with pre-Columbian art and memorabilia collected by Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera.

Ex-voto in Casa Azul, the Frida Kahlo Museum in Mexico City

Traditional ex-voto/retablo in Casa Azul, the Frida Kahlo Museum in Mexico City

They were avid supporters of artists who had no formal training but who represented the naive, populist art of Mexico.

I am broken but I am happy. Frida Kahlo Retablo by Hollie Taylor

Ex-votos are small devotional paintings that offer thanks or prayers to a saint for a gift granted, wish fulfilled or for good health. It usually includes a hand-written note of gratitude at the bottom of the painting.

After a foot amputation, Kahlo gave us this inspiration, interpreted by Hollie Taylor

Hollie Taylor is a North Carolina artist who loves Mexico and Frida Kahlo. On Friday, April 8, the North Carolina Crafts Gallery in Carrboro, hosts an opening reception for Hollie and artist colleague Madelyn Smoak from 6-9 p.m., Dreaming of Frida: Hollie & Madelyn at Casa Azul. 

Frida Kahlo Retablo by Hollie Taylor Novak

Hollie has  adapted the ex-voto concept to offer thanks to Frida for her courage, strength, femininity, resolve and creativity by creating Frida Retablos. These are small devotional wall plaques with many of the icons and sayings that represent Frida Kahlo.

Looking for Frida Kahlo + Diego Rivera in Mexico City Art History Study Tour

Kahlo studio at Casa Azul

Kahlo studio at Casa Azul, just as she left it

As we know, Frida’s health issues — childhood polio and a debilitating accident at age 18 that rendered it impossible for her body to carry a child — defined her and shaped her art. French artist Andre Breton named her a surrealist, a brand she refuted.

I paint because I need to. Frida Kahlo Retablo by Hollie Taylor

She was a woman who painted her emotions and that is what makes her a great artist. We can identify with her pain, passion and joy.

I paint self-portraits because. Frida Kahlo Retablos by Hollie Taylor

Hollie captures the spirit of Frida Kahlo in the retablos she created for this show. At the gallery, the retablos are offered at $58 USD.

Shrine to Frida Kahlo by Hollie Taylor

Shrine to Frida Kahlo by Hollie Taylor

You can order your retablo from Hollie at a direct-from-artist price.  They are lightweight, ready for hanging, made from collected objects on hand-painted rice-paper covered foam core.

Looking for Frida Kahlo + Diego Rivera in Mexico City Art History Study Tour

Hollie also teaches retablo workshops in her Chapel Hill home studio. Email her at hollietaylorart@icloud.com her for details about ordering and scheduling a workshop.

Hollie Taylor Novak, mixed media artist

Hollie Taylor Novak, mixed media artist

 

At the Dolores Olmedo Museum: Pablo O’Higgins Prints

The entire Frida Kahlo permanent exhibition of paintings at the Dolores Olmedo Patiño Museum in Mexico City is on loan to the Faberge Museum in St. Petersburg, Russia, until April 30.

We discovered this last Sunday as we made our afternoon visit as part of the Looking for Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera Art History Tour. Disappointed? Yes.

But, the Rivera galleries were intact and we were treated to a special exhibition of Pablo O’Higgins lithographs in the space that usually holds Frida’s work.

Pablo O’Higgins, one of Diego Rivera’s most talented disciples, participated in the making of Rivera murals in the public education building, and then painted his own at the Abelardo Rodriguez market.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

He is an enigma to many. He changed his name from Paul Higgins Stevenson (there is even controversy about his real original name) when he arrived in Mexico  at age 20 to obscure his upper-class family origins and identity. His father, a conservative lawyer participated in the death sentence of miner and labor organizer Joe Hill.

Writer Susan Vogel addresses the question of his identity in her book, Becoming Pablo O’Higgins: How an Anglo-American Artist from Utah Became a Mexican Muralist.

The character of O’Higgins is fascinating if not fully articulated. Here is a blonde, blue-eyed giant among the Mexican working-class, painting and drawing powerful images of average daily life.

This exhibition, combined with the one at the Museo de Mural de Diego Rivera, shows the skill and directness of O’Higgins’ work. Real. Intense. Honest. Compelling.

So, ultimately, we were not disappointed. The visit was enhanced by this special exhibition.

I’m in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, now, and will be here for the month of April, taking care of legal and health care check-ups.  (Don’t worry, all is well.)

On Friday evening, my artist friend, Hollie Taylor Novak, is opening an exhibition at the North Carolina Craft Gallery featuring her Frida Tributes. I’ll be writing more about that later.

Saludos from the state that needs to elect a new governor!

Natural Dyes and Indigo Blue Easter Eggs

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.

Naturally Dyed Easter Eggs Made Simple

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.