Tag Archives: tapestry weaving

In Teotitlan del Valle, Hidden Treasures: Adrian Montaño

My North Carolina friends just left the village after spending a week with me celebrating a belated birthday. It was a bash! Mucho mezcal. Mucha fiesta. Mucha comida. Lots of travel to villages to visit favorite artisans.

We spent a morning with antiquarian Adrian Montaño in Teotitlan del Valle. I met Adrian a couple of months ago when I was visiting with friends Christophe and Rogelio who operate Maison Gallot. But, I had seen him around town, in the market, always impeccably dressed, a woven straw hat topping off the costume.

Adrian at his loom, with (left to right) Scott, Wendy, Kathryn (NC) and Carol (Texas)

Adrian lives in a part adobe, part brick and part concrete house tucked into the hillside above the village. He has a wonderful view. He has one very ancient loom. His house is adorned in antiquities and a beautiful altar. He has been weaving since he was a boy. He is now age 75 and still productive.

Virgins of Guadalupe and Soledad watch over revered ancestors on the altar

In the 1960’s, missionaries came to town and began a program of conversion, translating oral Zapotec into English. (Many still do, and call themselves linguists.) They befriended Adrian, who decided that rather than convert, he would learn English from them.

Adrian is also a painter, and adorns the jicara gourds a la Matisse

His language skills are impeccable and he speaks Zapotec, his first language, Spanish and English flawlessly. He says it is important for young people to keep the language traditions alive. To earn a living, he teaches Zapotec and English to village youth, and weaves ponchos.

The beautiful poncho that Wendy bought. Not natural dyes, but gorgeous nevertheless.

His hidden treasures are a stash of vintage textiles that he wove himself, mostly when he was in his twenties, and those he has collected over the years. We were treated to a Show and Tell. I am sharing the photos of these beauties here.

1930’s-1940’s tapestry, two wefts woven together, natural and synthetic dyes

In the 1930’s and 1940’s, most of the textiles woven were bed blankets. They were natural sheep wool or were synthetic dyes most common to the era — red, green and black. Motifs were animals, birds and symbols of Mexican nationalism. Few remain in pristine condition. Storage is a problem and moths love the dark “chocolate” richness of natural wool.

Panteleon or leopard motif on tapestry blanket, Teotitlan del Valle, 1930’s-40’s

Back then, the looms were narrower and to make a bigger tapestry, the weavers needed to create two exact pieces and then sew them together down the middle. Each side needed to match up! Only the masters could achieve this. These became either blankets or ponchos/serapes.

Famous vintage Victoriano Chavez rug design, Federico Chavez Sosa‘s grandfather

It was not until the early 1970’s that blankets then became adapted to become floor rugs. This happened when young travelers came to Oaxaca from the USA, saw the beautiful weavings produced in Teotitlan del Valle, understood the beginning craze of Santa Fe Style and worked with weavers to create sturdier floor tapestries.

Curved figures are the most difficult to achieve in tapestry weaving

Many back then brought Navajo designs with them and contracted with weavers to reproduce Native American designs that were then sold throughout the Southwest. Thus, began the rug-weaving boom in the village where I live.

Adrian wrapped in one of his vintage blankets

Today, there is a return to natural dyes and to the traditional Zapotec designs that are found on the stone walls of the Mitla Archeological Site. Moreover, young weavers are developing their own style, taking traditional elements and making them more contemporary, innovating to meet a changing marketplace.

Adrian Montaño has a reverence for his roots. He openly shared his collection with us. Many of the weavings had moth holes. Some were pristine. He tells me that those washed with amole, the traditional natural root used for soap, will prevent moths from nesting. But few people use amole these days.

Eagle and the Serpent Medallion, Mexican nationalism motif

I love Adrian’s ponchos. They are short-cropped and come to the waist. They are designed using the Greca (Greek-key) pattern so named by a European archeologist who explored Mitla.

Adrian wove this Covarrubias-inspired tapestry over 50 years ago

If you want to visit Adrian and purchase a poncho, please give him a call. (951) 166-6296. Only go with the intention of supporting him by purchasing what he makes.

A Story About Five Wool Rugs for Sale with 100% Natural Dyes, Oaxaca, Mexico

Omar Chavez Santiago went back to Mexico on Saturday but he left these five beautiful hand-woven tapestry rugs (tapetes) behind for me to sell for him and his family.

Omar’s family from Galeria Fe y Lola, use 100% churro sheep wool that is hand-spun on the drop spindle (malacate) in the Mixtec region of Oaxaca, high in the Sierra Madre del Sur about six hours from the city. Here, many women each raise a few sheep and twice  year when the fleece is thick enough, they shear them and spin the wool by hand.  They then collect the balls from among the group for the Chavez Santiago family to buy enough to work. Hand-spun wool, a rarity now, is more costly but is the strongest fiber for rug weaving.

Listen to this GistYarn podcast with Omar Chavez Santiago

#1, 4×6 ft, Mountains and Rain tapestry rug, $1,325

#1. Detail. Cochineal, indigo, natural sheep wool

That’s one reason why these wool rugs are collector and heirloom pieces. 

The other reason is because the family uses ONLY 100% natural dyes. That means they prepare wool that they dye themselves using local plant materials and cochineal. This is a completely vertical process all done in the family home studio. They do not work in synthetic or chemical dyes at all — so everything from them is designed to be environmentally sustainable and healthy.

#2. A Thousand Stars, 4×6′, $1,325. All natural dyes.

#2 Detail. Cochineal, indigo, wild marigold, zapote, pomegranate

Many in Teotitlan del Valle know how to give the cochineal dye demonstration, squeezing lime juice or baking soda on a bit of ground bugs to show visitors how the color explodes and changes.  This does not always mean that the makers use natural dyes in their tapestries. Only about a dozen families actually work with natural dyes because it it more expensive and time consuming.

SOLD. #3. Relampajo, 2-1/2×5′, $550. Indigo and wild marigold

After buying the handspun balls of wool, Omar, his mom Lola (nickname for Dolores) and his dad Fe (nickname for Federico), make the skeins of wool, wash and mordent the wool, then prepare the dye baths.  They will grind dried cochineal bugs, grind and ferment the Oaxaca-grown indigo, prepare other plant materials like wild marigold (pericone), pomegranate, pecan shells and leaves, zapote negro, tree moss, huizache (acacia vine seed pods), palo de aguila (alderwood) and other dye sources. They have developed formulas to get over 40 shades of red, purple, orange and pink from the cochineal insect itself.

They are weavers, chemists, herbalists and artists.

SOLD. #4. Mariposas, 2-1/2 x 5′, Cochineal and wild marigold. $550.

This is #slowfiber and #smallbatches. It can take a week to dye enough yarn for one medium-sized rug. Another week to dress the loom and attach the warp threads. The weaver creates his or her design and executes it, standing at the two-pedal loom for several months working a six-hour day, six days a week. That’s about all the back can take!

When you visit a weaver, ask to see the dye pots. Weavers who work in small volume production have small inventories and are more likely to use natural dyes.

#5. Campo Rojo. 2-1/2×5′. $550. Cochineal, marigold, natural sheep wool.

In the fiber world we ask #whomademyclothes. The #fashionrevolution brings our attention to asking if what we buy is #fastfashion and disposable or made to last with excellent quality.  This is not just about clothes. It is about supporting makers who are using ethical practices, paying fair wages and selling at fair value for time and materials.

It can take 90 days to weave a rug made in this way. If it costs $500 USD, please do the math. That’s a little more that $5 USD per hour.

One of the most gratifying things for me living in Mexico is the opportunity to buy direct from the maker. I know my purchase is meaningful and valued. This is also an important reason that I organize textile study tours — to bring visitors directly to the women and men who make the clothes and home goods and jewelry, and all the beautiful artisan work that Mexico is famous for.  Afterall, in the end, it’s all about the relationship, not the thing!

I hope you will consider purchasing one of these beautiful rugs from Galeria Fe y Lola. Funds go directly to the family. Then, you will know the answer to #whomademyrug

How to Buy: Send me an email with your name, the item you want to buy, and your mailing address. I will respond with availability, send you a PayPal invoice (or you can mail me a check) that includes the cost of the rug and mailing.  Fixed price shipping is $35 per small piece and $60 per large piece anywhere in lower 48 states. Inquire about mailing prices to Canada.

 

 

Oaxaca Rug Exhibition + Sale @ Dos Perros, Durham, NC, October 5, 5:30-8:30 PM

All Friends of Oaxaca Are Invited!

El Dio del Maize: Corn God of Mexico–Rug Weaving

This afternoon Federico Chavez Sosa completed this extraordinary handwoven 100% wool rug created with natural dyes and cut it from his loom.  It is a complex design that requires special skill to execute the curves and circles to perfection.  The piece measures 32″ x 57″ and is $500 USD. Dyes are from the cochineal bug, pomegranates, wild marigold and the natural color of sheep wool. Federico is a master weaver from the Zapotec village of Teotitlan del Valle, Oaxaca.   Since I am in Teotitlan now, I would be glad to bring it back for you and ship it from North Carolina after August 1.  We can arrange payment with PayPal.

Baptismo, Mercado, Massaje: Just Another Day in Teotitlan

The sound of familiar music drew me to the doors of the village church and another celebration.

[My guess is that village life is a mutual support society.  Families support each other by providing and paying for the services needed to sustain the constant celebration of life.  There is incredible joy for families, and economic benefit to those who create the music, food, flowers, and the red and blue striped tent rentals that mark the homes of celebrants throughout the village.  Okay, so the music is a little off key, but I can assure you that the cake will come from the best pasteleria and the tamales from an expert cook.]

I took my seat at the back of the church as the service was coming to a close.  The band led the way, playing full throttle.  Behind them came the family — father holding a little girl about one year old dressed in white, a huge smile on his face, his wife next to him was beaming, beautifully dressed in a gauzy pink floral dress and gold jewelry.  The rest of the family trailed behind them.  As they approached, I smiled and said, felicidades.  He stopped, asked me where I was from.  Carolina del Norte, I replied.  Oh, my brother worked in Raleigh for a while.  Why don’t you join us at the party, just follow us to our home.  I thanked them, and expressed my regrets.  I had a massage appointment with Annie that I couldn’t miss.  But, I was astounded at the generosity of the invitation, and reminded myself that this is what Teotitlan life is about — generosity and inclusion.  I joined the procession as it curled for a block or two along with abuelos wrapped in tradition jaspe-style woven shawls, tias from Tehuantepec bedecked in gold and high heels, and then peeled off.

First, a stop at the pasteleria to order my New Year’s Eve birthday cake, an all chocolate affair that would feed 20.  Then, I noticed the chocolate cake topped with flan double layer extravaganza and ordered one of those, too.  Federico was in the rug market today and I thought I would join him for a few minutes before heading off to Annie’s up the hill.  The Chavez Santiago family displays and sells at the rug market intermittently depending upon whether there is a celebration, trip to Oaxaca, or a commission to finish that might take priority.  Today the market was filled with tourists, and as a gringa sitting in the stall with a Zapotec weaver, I guess I was somewhat of an anomaly.  The English-speakers asked me where I was from, and from there it was easy to start the conversation about rug quality, natural dyes, cultural preservation, Spanish conquest history, and conserving authentic weaving and dyeing traditions.   I met a bi-lingual man from Texas who brings his children to Mexico to teach them about their cultural history and traditions.  He wanted to show his daughter rug weaving techniques so he went to the house where Dolores and Janet were weaving.  Another family from Cancun stepped in to visit and placed a custom order.  It was a good day.

Tuk-tuk time for me.  I hopped into one of those little three wheel red moto-taxis that ply the village lanes and we huffed and puffed over the cobble stones, across the river, onto the dirt and stone road that leads to the hillside where Annie lives.  I am entering shiatsu heaven.  First a bit of tea and talk, then I’m down on the mat.  When I emerge an hour later, magically all my back pain from carrying talavera tile in my backpack is gone.  I’m light footed down the hill, gaze at the golden stumps of shorn cornstalks dazzling in the last moments before sunset, stop at El Descanso for a bowl of fresh vegetable soup and agua de pepino con limon, and arrive home just in time to greet Eva Hershaw, a university student applying to graduate school, who came to Oaxaca to create a photo documentary of people who grow traditional maize (the non-bioengineered kind).  We had been carrying on a correspondence and I suggested that she first connect with Itanoni, the Oaxaca bakery that only uses native corn.  I invited her out to the village telling her that everyone here grows corn just like they did 6,000 years ago.  She joined us at the kitchen table as we were finishing late comida, and she met the Chavez family and talked about her project.  We will help her connect with local farmers and invited her back to join us for the Las Cuevitas new year celebration on December 31 and January 1.

It is a good day!