Tag Archives: textiles

Flexible Schedule, Intensive Weaving Workshops and Studio Time, Oaxaca, Mexico

Oaxaca Cultural Navigator can arrange and schedule intensive tapestry weaving workshops and independent studio residencies for you with the Chavez Santiago family weavers in Teotitlan del Valle, Oaxaca, Mexico, at a time that best fits your travel schedule.  These can be private or semi-private sessions.

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We are happy to offer you this opportunity to come to Teotitlan del Valle to learn from one of the most accomplished master weavers of the village.  The workshop can be scheduled as a private experience to suit your schedule.  The studio residencies are flexible and can be scheduled for as long as you wish to stay — several days or several months.  This includes time at your own dedicated loom to work on your own projects.

Here is what we can offer you:

  • Weaving Workshop: Intensive beginner to intermediate level 4-day workshop at $585 USD per person.  This includes all wool and 4-6 hours of instruction daily. At the end of the workshop you will have completed a tapestry sampler about the size of a pillow cover or small wall-hanging.  You will make your own lodging, food and transportation arrangements.  Note: Weaving workshop may overlap with other participants.
  • Optional:  We can make all-inclusive arrangements for you when you register for Tapestry Weaving Workshop: Dancing on the Loom. 
  • Studio Residency: Up to four-hours daily of studio time in the workshop at a dedicated loom to weave on your own projects.  This includes a daily coaching/briefing session. The cost for the 4-hour daily studio time and coaching is $60 per day  or $15 per hour .  A minimum of 3 hours a day is required for this option.  Note: Studio time may overlap with other participants.
  • Purchase naturally dyed wool you need for the independent studio time directly from the family.

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You can bypass the Intensive 4-day Weaving Workshop and go directly to studio time IF you are an experienced tapestry weaver or if you have taken the beginner-intermediate workshop from the family at another time.

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If you are interested in making these arrangements, please contact Norma Hawthorne at Oaxaca Cultural Navigator.   We can set up the studio residency for as many days or weeks as you wish.  You would make all payments to reserve the workshop and studio arrangements with Oaxaca Cultural Navigator. We will send you a PayPal invoice for 1/2 the total cost with the remaining amount due 45 days before the workshop/residency begins.  You would need to specify the dates you prefer for the workshop and/or when you want the residency.

Natural Dye Workshop Yields Glorious, Colorfast Textiles

Working with natural dyes like cochineal that yield red, indigo blue, wild marigold (pericone) and fustic to give us yellow, is like being a pastry chef and following a recipe.  It helps to know a little chemistry or have a willingness to learn.

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Indigo dye bath percolating

Eric Chavez Santiago, who is one of Mexico’s most knowledgeable natural dye experts and our workshop leader, takes us through the steps to use a non-toxic process to mordant wool that we will  use to dye cochineal, fustic and wild marigold.  Wool that we dye with indigo requires no mordant but another set of intricate steps that will guarantee a result of intense blue and its variations.  See the green bloom in the photo above. The chemistry here is to allow no oxygen to enter the dye bath. Stirring is a no-no.

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The intense colors we get depend on a number of factors, including the original color of the natural wool, the amount of dye for the recipe, the length of time in the dye bath, the number of dips, how little dye is left in the dye bath, and whether we use an acid (lime juice, for example) or a base (baking soda, alum or ashes).  Eric has developed an extraction technique for the cochineal that yields the most intense, concentrated color.  The extract can be saved and refrigerated for later use and then refreshed.

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In the three-day Oaxaca Natural Dye Secrets workshop, we go through the basics and then tackle more advanced dyeing techniques using acids, bases, and over-dyeing.  Over-dyeing is when you first dye your fiber with the base color such as red (cochineal) or yellow (fustic or wild marigold).  The red is then dipped in the indigo dye bath to yield various shades of purple depending on the shade of red.

Next Workshop:  March 6-12, 2014

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This is not a complex process, but requires attention and following the recipes.  By the end of the workshop, participants have color samples with specific formulas/recipes for all the shades from yellow to green to pink to red to orange to purple to blue.

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During the workshop, we also experiment with shibori dye techniques using indigo with 100% cotton fabric.  The resulting pattern depends on how we fold, wrap, package, or tie the fabric.  Some use rubber bands, string, marbles, sticks, and other materials to manipulate the design.

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Everything depends on whether the material is a protein (animal) or cellulose (plant) fiber.  Cochineal only works best with protein fibers that are mordanted in advance.  Indigo is not really a dye but a stain and only coats the surface of the fiber (which you can see through a microscope).  Indigo works well with protein AND cellulose fibers.  And, wow, does it attach to everything it touches!

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Assisting Eric with the workshop is his wife, Elsa Sanchez Diaz.  As his partner in life and this workshop, Elsa takes detailed notes about the formulas that Eric is using so that there is a record of the colors achieved.  She also helps the participants to complete their samplers with tagged formula notes at the end of the workshop.

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Our participants come from Pennsylvania, Virginia, Northern California, and Kansas.  They include novices and experienced fiber artists/dyers.  Several had never been to Oaxaca before.  One is an English professor, another a faculty member in architecture and interior design, another a mixed media artist, and two professional weavers.  Everyone came away with a great experience and more information than they ever dreamed possible.

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Next Workshop: March 6-12, 2014 

If you can’t attend this workshop, let us know!  We can possibly schedule the next workshop to suit your travel schedule.

Morocco Journal 2: Marrakech–Oaxaca Connection

After a 24-hour journey from Raleigh, North Carolina to Marrakech, Morocco via Madrid, Spain, I headed out on Day One with my guide Fadil into the labyrinthine Marrakech souq (souk).  I was forewarned. It is easy to get lost. Don’t even think about going in without a guide, advised a U.S. State Department friend who lived in Rabat for years.  I took him seriously.  Opinions vary on this, but I decided to be cautious and get the lay of the land.

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It was early morning after a rainy night.  Only the cobra snake charmer greeted us on Jemaa el-Fnaa, the city’s main square.

Then, we entered the souq.  Except for the minarets, Arabic script, women wearing djellabas, and narrow arched and cobblestone alleys, I could have been in Oaxaca’s Abastos Market where I have often lost my bearings among the tangle of vendors. 

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My priority today was to see the Dyer’s Market.  But, as usual I got sidetracked. Temptations are many.  As in most international markets, craftsmen congregate by trade.  Here, there are sections for jewelry, ceramics, shoes, leather bags, traditional clothing, food and spices, cookware, and even a goat skin auction.

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Marrakech–Oaxaca Connection

Natural dyes.  Here in Morocco, indigo, poppy, saffron, mint, kohl, henna, and other plants and minerals are used to dye wool for rugs and fibers for clothing and shawls.

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Silk of the Agave Cactus.  Just like in Mexico, the agave leaf is soaked and pounded, the fibers separated and spun, and used for weaving and embroidery embellishment.  We call it pita in Oaxaca and sabra in Morocco.  It has the shiny texture of raw silk.

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Fruit of the Agave.  Lo and behold, I’m walking through the market and see a street vendor selling tuna, which is what we call the fruit of the agave cactus.  He peeled the skin and offered the fruit to me and Fadil.  We each got two for 5 Dirham.  That’s about 15 cents each.

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Sesame seed snacks.  The women who balance the baskets on their heads filled with sweet sesame treats on the Oaxaca Zocalo and the souq pushcart vendors have a lot in common.

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Donkeys.  There are beasts of burden in every culture, thankfully. MarocSouq-32

Weaving Techniques. Men weave on the heavy floor loom.  Women weave using a lighter weight vertical loom that looks more like the Navajo loom.  MarocSouq-33

And, then there are the rugs.  Stunning rugs, just like in Oaxaca.  Too many beautiful rugs to choose from.

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Market life for the staples of life.

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Photography: Traditional people do not want their picture taken!

Moorish influences in tile work, craft, food.

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Construction:  Buildings are made of adobe, earth’s raw materials.

Of course, so much here is different, especially in food and beverage.  The whiskey of Morocco is mint tea.  We are getting used to dining without a glass of wine in this alcohol-free Moslem country.  Couscous and tagine are culinary gifts.  The hammam, or sweat bath, and the spa life are integral to the culture.

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Oaxaca Natural Dye Secrets — 3-Day Fiber Arts Textile Workshop with Eric Chavez Santiago

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Natural Dye Workshop (c) Oaxaca Cultural Navigator LLC

Roll up your sleeves to learn the secrets of natural dyes. Oaxaca is famous for cochineal and indigo natural dyes, plus many others.

January 2014

          January 10, 11, 12, 2014  (arrive January 9) 

March 2014

March 13, 14, 15 (arrive March 12)

Indigenous Mexican weavers also work with pecan shells and leaves, and yellow fustic — a colorfast wood extract dye, which you will learn to prepare in this workshop.   They also collect moss and wild marigold, pomegranates, tree bark, wild cotton and murex snails to dye textiles, which you will better understand.

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You will:

  • gain an understanding of the properties of natural dye materials
  • learn new methods for extraction
  • discover innovative techniques for mordanting
  • work with the cochineal, nuts, indigo and fustic to dye and over-dye wool
  • achieve a wide range of glorious colors to reproduce at home
  • appreciate natural dye use for a healthier environment
  • take home a labeled sample card for reference
  • maximum 8 people for personal attention

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Your Instructor is Eric Chavez Santiago

Eric is one of the most knowledgeable textile resources in Mexico.  In his professional life, Eric is immersed in Oaxaca’s textile traditions and is affiliated with one of Mexico’s finest cultural arts museums.  A graduate of Oaxaca’s Anahuac University, Eric speaks fluent English, is a talented weaver and dyer, experienced instructor, and makes presentations throughout Mexico and worldwide.  He has developed over 100 shades of cochineal and uses innovative techniques for dyeing with indigo.

Eric has traveled to the United States regularly since 2006 to present Oaxaca’s textile traditions to museums, galleries, and universities, including UNC Chapel Hill, North Carolina State University, University of Notre Dame Snite Museum of Art, University of California at Santa Cruz, National Museum of Mexican Art in Chicago, San Jose, California Quilt and Textile Museum, American Tapestry Alliance, and The Commonwealth Club of San Francisco.

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Cost and Location

The workshop will be held in the weaving village of Teotitlan del Valle, Oaxaca, Mexico.  It includes 3 nights lodging, 3 breakfasts, 3 dinners, all instruction, materials, samples, workbook and an indigo dyed scarf that you will make yourself.

  •  $595 per person double occupancy with shared bath
  •  $675 per person single occupancy with private bath
  • Trailing spouse option:  Add $155 (food/lodging only, no workshop)
  •  Add-on Zapotec cooking class, Monday, January 13 or Thursday, March 13: $125 per person (includes lodging the night before, dinner, breakfast, lunch, all instruction and recipe booklet)
  • Add-on 4-day tapestry weaving workshop from $895 (includes 4 nights, all breakfasts, dinners, weaving handbook). Click link for schedules.

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Reserve your space with a 50% deposit. The balance is due on December 1, 2013.  The workshop includes:  three days of hands-on instruction, 9:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. daily for a total of 15 hours, 2 nights lodging, 2 breakfasts, 2 dinners, all materials and supplies, a natural dye handbook with recipes, and labeled sample cards to take with you.

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Refunds and Cancellations

Please understand that we make arrangements months in advance of the program. Our hosts often require deposits or payments in full to guarantee reservations. If cancellation is necessary, please notify us in writing by email. No refunds are possible after 45 days before the workshop start date; however, we will make every possible effort to fill your reserved space or you may send a substitute. If you cancel on or before 45 days before the workshop start date,  we will refund 50% of your deposit. We strongly recommend that you take out trip cancellation, baggage, emergency evacuation and medical insurance before you begin your trip, since unforeseen circumstances are possible.

Ready to Register? Tell Norma at normahawthorne@mac.com Have Questions? Ask Norma at normahawthorne@mac.com  and we will send you a PayPal invoice.

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Oaxaca Guelaguetza 2013: Photographs and Impressions

Conga Line

Guelaguetza on the Hill is a big, professional production.  Villages from throughout Oaxaca state are invited to present their unique traditional traje (dress), music and dance traditions which are bound to centuries old cultural customs and conquest history.  For textile lovers, it’s a chance to see an

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array of beautifully woven, embroidered and embellished shirts, skirts, blouses, dresses, blankets and baskets.

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Dance interpretations include:

  • Courtship and engagement ceremonies
  • Wedding ceremonies and festivities
  • Conquest and conversion of indigenous peoples
  • Life of caballeros and bullfighting

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Yes, she is dancing (above) with a guacalote (indigenous turkey), symbol of sustenance and a special celebration gift, representing San Antonino Castillo Velasco, the home of the Oaxacan wedding dress.  The embroidery there is unparalleled.  The dances are choreographed to give the audience a sense of rural life, some sizzle and more than plenty of dazzle.

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There might be as many as thirty-five or more people in a presentation group.  That takes a lot of coordination and practice!

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Be prepared.  I attended the morning event, arrived at 9:30 a.m. and did not leave the amphitheater until well after 2:30 p.m.

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Music included song and vocal chanting in Zapotec and Mixtec, pre-Hispanic flutes, ancient high-pitched fiddles, and a tune as familiar as the one that accompanies the Dance of the Feather that I know so well from my Teotitlan del Valle experience.  Look at these guys leap! About as good as my pals from the 2009 Teoti group.

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There are certain iconic photographs from Guelaguetza that say it all! Like these beautiful women from the Isthmus of Tehuantepec (below).  Frida Kahlo modeled her dress from this region.  They pay tribute to the pineapple

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with the Flor de Piña dance.  And then there are the caballeros from the Sierra Norte who re-enact a bullfight, part of their every day village life.

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The women from the village of Pinotepa de Don Luis wear the traditional purple and red striped falda (wrap skirt) dyed with murex snail and cochineal and woven on a back-strap loom.  They are modest and white woven cloth cover their torsos.  Traditional older women in the Sierra Norte village are bare breasted.  We were breathless hoping no one would lose their coverings!

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At the end of each group’s performance, they gifted the audience in traditional Guelaguetza style by tossing out an array of things:  woven hats, fans, tortillas, oranges, nuts, small brown paper bags filled with little loaves of bread.  The men and women from the Isthmus sent pineapples into the crowd.  There was even an occasional bottle of mezcal gifted.  Lucky me, I got one, and a pineapple, too (mostly because I hung around to take photos after the event ended and there was stuff leftover).

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People clamored down the aisles to get up close.  The best trick was to put your hat out and catch an empanada or two.  This strange green pod (below)

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is a fruit, I am told, and very tasty.  It was hurled like a missile from the stage. The idea of Guelaguetza is to give and receive freely from your heart, to be part of community.  There was lots of gifting on Monday on the Hill.  Many left with bags filled with goodies!  Good for them :)  Part of the fun of being there.

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Both arriving and departing, I climbed and descended the steep steps of the Cerro Fortin, stopping every little while to catch my breath and gawk at vendors.  It was too early in the morning to go shopping on my up!  I was too hungry to stop on my way down.  But folks were doing a brisk business and there was a pedestrian traffic jam every time someone stopped for a drink or something to eat.

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The steps to Fortin hill lead through a tunnel that passes under the Carretera Nacional Pan American Highway 190.  The tunnel recognizes the indigenous and Mexican leaders of Oaxaca, and makes note of the city’s original Nahuatl name, which the Spanish could not pronounce: Huaxyacac.

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Despite the cost, the auditorium was packed.  Most of the audience were Mexicans who traveled to Oaxaca on holiday, with a smattering of extranjeros.  I would say, a good time was had by all!

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Descending the stairs through the tunnel, I decided to wait until the crowd thinned.  The steps to the hill were lined with vendors selling everything from atole to maguey worms to textiles to electrical chords and kitchen utensils.  Anyone who stopped to shop or buy a soft drink created a bottleneck.

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I recommend going to the morning performance, since it’s not as hot, the likelihood of rain is lower, and it is a great time for photography!  Using my Nikon D7000 with 17-55mm 2.8 lens.  Even though I cropped to get closer images, most shots were crystal clear  even from 20 rows away from the stage where I was seated.

Next Photography Workshop:  Day of the Dead Photo Expedition. Still places open!

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