Tag Archives: textiles

Veracruz, Gateway to La Chinantla, Oaxaca

Just as Veracruz was the gateway into Mexico for Hernan Cortes in 1519, I begin my journey here to explore remote textile villages that are part of the Chinanteco and Mazateco regions of Oaxaca state called La Chinantla.

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We start at Veracruz because it is a short two hours by car to cross over the border to Tuxtepec. From Oaxaca city, this trip can take as much as eight hours over winding, two-lane mountain roads of Oaxaca’s Sierra Norte.

Cortes landed in Veracruz on Good Friday and name the place The True Cross.

I am traveling with Stephanie Schneiderman of Tia Stephanie Tours. She made this trip on her own three times to research the villages and put the tour in place before opening it up in 2013 to textile lovers and collectors.

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This is the land of fresh fish, seafood stew, a paella-like dish called arroz a la tumbada and ceviche. It is where women have been weaving on back-strap looms and creating glorious embroidered designs for centuries. They are preserved because the region is remote. The conquistadors were more interested in gold, silver and cochineal.

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It’s the end of the rainy season. From the airplane window as we descend into Veracruz, I see the rivers below are full. The earth is forest, spring, olive and lime green. It is the middle of October. I see the blue waters of the Gulf of Mexico in the distance. It is low, flat and warm here. The port city is Mexico’s most important shipping and naval center.

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Our Gran Hotel Diligencias is on the Zocalo across from a stark white cathedral. The square is filled with outdoor restaurants,  son jarocho music and dancers, and late night lechero coffee drinkers. It’s colonial architecture reflects the sequence of conquests: Spain, France and the United States of America.

I will be here for two days before our textile journey begins.

San Juan del Rio, Oaxaca: Mezcal on the Mountain

We didn’t start out planning a trip to San Juan del Rio, Oaxaca. It just happened as we moved into the day. Friend Sheri Brautigam, textile designer, collector and Living Textiles of Mexico blogger, is visiting me. After a roundabout through the Teotitlan del Valle morning market, we headed out to San Pablo Villa de Mitla to visit master flying shuttle loom weaver Arturo Hernandez.

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Don Arturo creates fine ikat wool shawls and scarves colored with natural dyes, including cochineal, indigo, wild marigold and zapote negro (wild black persimmon).  Sheri knew him from the Santa Fe International Folk Art Market where he exhibited in summer 2014.  I’ve known him for years through my friend Eric Chavez Santiago, education director at the Museo Textil de Oaxaca. So, of course, we couldn’t help ourselves and new rebozos made it into our collections.

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It was only eleven in the morning. I asked Don Arturo if he knew the village of San Juan del Rio, where some of Oaxaca’s finest mezcal is produced and sold under private label. He said, Yes, it’s only about forty-five minutes from here.

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I looked at Sheri, she looked at me. We said, Let’s go. I invited Don Arturo to come with us and he said Yes, once more. A native Zapotec speaker, we were lucky to have him with us. He helped find our way!

About Mezcal: The agave piña or pineapple is dug up out of the ground at maturity (seven to twelves years of field growth) and taken to the distillery, where it is roasted over a wood fired, rock-lined pit.  That’s what gives it a smokey flavor. It’s then crushed to yield the liquid that becomes mezcal. Good mezcal goes through two distillations.

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Years ago, Sheri  worked with a seamstress embroiderer Alma Teresa who lives in San Juan del Rio. Sheri designs gorgeous quechquemitls and Teresa crochets the pieces together. To reconnect with her was another reason to go.  Notice Teresa’s blouse and jacket, with the elaborate crochet trim. Seems like some of the most fun days in Oaxaca start with no particular plan.

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We headed out toward Hierve del Agua but made a left turn onto a winding road that soon became unpaved dirt, rough from recent rains. It took a good hour plus to get there from Mitla.  The road ends at the picturesque village, tucked away in a river valley. Houses are built on hillsides.  Other hillsides are terraced with mezcal palenques and maize crops. The stills are at river level.  They use the water to cool the distillation process. This is not yet a tourist destination.

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This village is known for small production, artesenal mezcal. I was on a hunt for reposado. What I found was an extraordinary reposado at a third the price of what I usually pay in Oaxaca city, plus a wild agave (silvestre) mezcal called Tepeztate from a mezcalero who is akin to a winemaker. He produces mezcal that he sells to some of the top hand-crafted brands.

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Sheri got a taste of just distilled mezcal, warm and just out of the still. At eighty-percent alcohol her engine was roaring after just a sip.  I inhaled and almost fell over. Don Arturo joined us. Being the designated driver, I had to be more careful. The whole thing reminded me of North Carolina moonshine, but the resulting product here is so much more refined it’s not even comparable.

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There are now so many varieties of mezcal, depending on the type of agave used and whether the mezcal is aged and for how long. Añejo can be aged as long as twelve years in oak which takes on characteristics of the wood. Wild agave has a distinctive herbal flavor and aroma. You need to taste to see which you prefer.

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This is a full day trip. We could have stayed longer and visited more mezcaleros. But I think we came home with some of the best produced in the village at a fraction of the retail price. If you go, bring your own liter size glass bottles with tight lids. Some bring gallon jugs to fill up. Plan to leave Oaxaca by nine in the morning. You’ll return around seven at night. Don’t go in the rainy season! You will slide all over the road!

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Who to visit?

  1. Redondo de San Juan del Rio, Rodolfo Juan Juarez, mezcalero. Tel. (951) 546 5260. Reposado and Tepeztate
  2. Perla del Rio Mezcal, Ignacio Juan Antonio, mezcalero, Tel. (951) 546 5056. Espadin joven.
  3. Alma Teresa’s clothing cooperative, a block from the church. She is sending two daughters to university in Oaxaca. Her husband went to the U.S. to work years ago and never came back.

 

 

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You can buy a road map of Oaxaca state at the Proveedora, corner Reforma and Independencia, in the Centro Historico. Comes in handy for exploring and having an aventura, like we did.

Coming Up: Oaxaca Portrait Photography Workshop, Starts Jan. 30, 2015

Jess Schreibstein Writes About Teotitlan del Valle, Oaxaca Weaving Workshop at Fringe Association

Fringe is a common thread for knitters, weavers, sewers and textile artists around the world. It’s a metaphor for finishing the edge, binding off, completion and embellishment.

Here’s what Jess wrote in Fringe Association, a blog for knitters.

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Jess wove this tepete (rug) in four days! A traditional Zapotec feather pattern with naturally dyed wool: cochineal, moss, wild marigold.

Jess Schreibstein came to Oaxaca for a wedding in May.  She wanted to experience something special beyond the wedding celebration.  So she contacted us about taking a four-day Oaxaca Weaving Workshop: Dancing on the Loom with Federico Chavez Sosa and his wife, Lola, in Teotitlan del Valle.

A writer, artist, photographer, cook and founder of the D.C. Food Swap, Jess asked for customized dates that would fit into her travel schedule.  We were happy to make this arrangement for her that included lodging and meals at a local guesthouse.

Here’s what Jess wrote to me about her experience:

I want to thank you personally for organizing such a wonderful trip to Teotitlan and my workshop with Federico.  It was one of the richest weeks of my life, and I’m so grateful for the opportunity that you provided.  Thank you!

twitter: @jschreibstein
instagram: @thekitchenwitch
witchininthekitchen.com

If you would like a customized weaving workshop to fit into your travel schedule, please contact us!

 

Oaxaca Weaving: The Flying Shuttle Loom

The flying shuttle loom is a European innovation brought to Oaxaca, Mexico, with the Industrial Revolution. It joins the back-strap loom and the fixed frame two-harness pedal loom as one of the major three weaving technologies still widely used in Oaxaca today.

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The advantage of the flying shuttle loom is that it can create wider, lighter weight fabrics from cotton, perfect for long and wide tablecloths, napkins, dish towels, curtains, and shawls. Made-by-hand, it is semi-automated, but requires the design skill and judgment of the weaver.

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There are two neighborhoods that use the flying shuttle loom : Santo Tomas Xochimilco and San Pablo Villa de Mitla. Today, we focus on Xochimilco. Most textiles made with a flying shuttle loom use commercial cotton thread colored with chemical dyes, although sometimes you can find pieces made with natural dyes.

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Once, the neighborhood of Xochimilco was humming with the sound of the flying shuttle. The loom has a distinct, rhythmic sound, a beat, beat, as the weaver moves the handle back and forth, which operates the opening of the warp threads and the direction of the shuttle.  It is fast, and the weaver sways with the beat.

Today, I could find only a few weavers in Xochimilco still using this loom.

Trailing along with Susan, Carol and Norma Dos on a mid-week excursion there in search of textiles, we come across two workshops on either end of Calle Dr. G. Bolaños Cacho between the Iglesia Santo Tomas Xochimilco. One is at the corner of Avenida Venus and the other is at the corner of Macedonio Alcala. To find them, just listen for the looms. On the day we visit, the jacaranda trees are in full purple regalia!

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In my opinion, the finest quality is produced by Casa Jimenez Taller Textil. They have several locations.  The easiest to find is at the El Pochote organic market every Friday and Saturday, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., located in the patio of the 16th Century Santo Tomas Xochimilco Church.

The looms are located way up the hill at Calle 1 de Mayo #105 in Colonia Aurora.

But they have a small gallery closer to Conzatti Park in the Jardin Carbajal, a square near the corner of Calle Xolotl and Calle Macedonio Alcala. It’s just a few doors down from El Quinque, which I’m told, has the best hamburgers in town!

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See the turquoise tablecloth that she is holding in the photo above. That’s the one I got my son for a gift. The fringes are hand-tied, just like a rebozo. The weave is tight and even. The cost: well-under $40 USD.

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Nuno Felt Fashion Workshop 2015: Clothing Design with Pre-Hispanic Flair

Escape winter, roll up your sleeves, and make a nuno felted wool garment you will be proud to wear. For seven nights and eight days, from January 17 – 24, 2015, you will experience the textile culture of Oaxaca, make wearable fiber art from felt fabric, learn about natural dyes and the process to make them, and explore the textile workshops of local artisans.  In January 2014, we welcomed Californians, Canadians, and Brazilians! What they made is featured here.

Beginners and experienced felters are welcome.

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We use comfortable, unstructured, easy to wear, easy-to-construct , yet elegant indigenous Mexican patterns to show off your design creativity.  If you aren’t confident, don’t worry! The place itself is an inspiration.

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Maddalena Forcella is our expert instructor for 2015.  She is a fiber artist-clothing designer born in Italy where fashion is part of one’s DNA. Maddalena came to Mexico over 20 years ago to study textile design and never left. She is joined by Eric Chavez Santiago from Oaxaca, who will demonstrate the natural dye process using locally sourced plants and cochineal. 

About Your Instructors 

Maddalena Forcella is an internationally renown fiber textile artist whose work has been exhibited in Rome, Los Angeles, Antigua, Guatemala, Mexico City, Oaxaca, and Minneapolis, Minnesota.  Her clothing is sensual and substantial. She studied at the National Museum of Modern Art in Rome, Italy, and the University of Iberoamericana in Mexico City.  For many years, Maddalena has been working with indigenous women in Oaxaca and Chiapas states to preserve natural dye traditions, leading women’s textile projects with the support of private funds. She is committed to indigenous culture and sustainable development.

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Eric Chavez Santiago is a one of Mexico’s most knowledgeable authorities on natural dye sources, chemistry, and production.  He has taught natural dyeing techniques in Oaxaca and at U.S. universities and museums since 2006.  He is a graduate of Anahuac University and is director of education for one of Mexico’s leading arts and cultural organizations.

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I attended the workshop in 2013. Wow! The village of Teotitlan is an experience in itself and will immerse you in a totally different and vibrant world. The B&B and especially the meals were awesome and conversation around the table with other workshop participants was totally fun and absorbing — a bunch of creative, independent and feisty women! And, you can’t lose — even I made several shawls I’m very proud to wear. Highly recommended! –Leslie Larson 

Our Itinerary

Working with Maddalena daily from 9:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. in our outdoor studio, we will create lengths of felted nuno fabric enough to make a garment design of your choice.  You might decide to felt on silk or cheesecloth to make a lighter weight and beautifully draping fabric. After your fabric is dry, you will have the option to cut and sew it into one of several indigenous Oaxaca styles: the huipil (tunic), the blusa (blouse), rebozo (shawl), boufanda (scarf) or quechequemitl (cape), or modify the basic pattern into a design of your own.  We give you patterns to adapt to your own body.

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This workshop is for all levels of experience!  You do not have to be an artist or experienced felt-maker to attend.  We welcome beginners who have never worked in wet felting and more advanced fiber artists. This is a perfect residency for university students, teachers and artists who may want to explore a different medium, too.

We are based in the weaving village of Teotitlan del Valle where for generations families have created wool textiles.  During our time together, we will go on local field trips to gain design inspiration, and meet and talk with weavers who work with natural dyes.  Some weave wool fabric for wearable art as well as sturdier floor and wall tapestries.  We will see examples of the types of garments that can be created from the felted fabric we make.

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Supplies to bring (preliminary list).  After you register we will send you a list of supply sources where you can buy the workshop materials to bring:

  • Cotton cheesecloth, preferably pre-colored, 5 to 6 yards or more
  • Silk chiffon, your favorite colors, at least 5 to 6 yards
  • 1-1/2 to 2 pounds of merino wool, preferably naturally dyed, in your favorite colors
  • Raw silk and/or wool fleece locks for texture and interest
  • Sewing kit: sharp scissors, needles, threads, tailor chalk 
  • Optional embellishments: beads, sequins, buttons, ribbons, embroidery thread, yarn, etc.

Note: We will provide the bubble wrap, soap, sponges, buckets, work tables, and other necessities for the process.

What is included in your registration fee:

  • all instruction
  • 7 nights lodging
  • 7 breakfasts
  • 6 dinners
  • pattern booklet and natural dye recipes
  • sewing machine to share with needles, thread
  • selected embellishments, yarns, threads
  • guided visit to Oaxaca textile museum and galleries 

Workshop is limited to 8 participants.

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Daily Workshop Schedule:  Arrive Sunday, January 18 and leave Sunday, January 24.   7 nights and 8 days with options to extend your visit. 

Day 1, Saturday, January 17 – Arrive and settle in to your bed and breakfast posada in Teotitlan del Valle (we send directions)

Day 2, Sunday, January 18 – Welcome, introductions, Tlacolula Market Visit for inspiration and to source local embellishments, afternoon natural dye demonstration with Eric Chavez Santiago.  (B, L, D)

Day 3, Monday, January 19 – Jump right in to make samples with silk and cheesecloth to understand the process. We will make an actual mini- scarf during this session, as well as fabric samples. (B, D)

Day 3, Tuesday, January 20 – Take a morning field trip to the village market and church for pattern inspiration from the local environment. Visit a local weaver.  After lunch we will work on designs using inspiration from the morning studies. (B, D)

Day 4, Wednesday, January 21 – After a visit to a local weaver,  you will  start on making larger pieces of felt for your final project/garment. (B, D)

Day 5, Thursday, January 22 – Finish completing your felted fabric. In the afternoon we will demo the art of making felt flowers. (B, D)

Day 6, Friday, January 23 —  Cut, sew and embellish your project. We will have a Show and Tell with Fashion Photo Shoot before our final celebration dinner. (B, D)

Day 7, Saturday, January 24 – Departure (B)

(This is a preliminary daily schedule and subject to modification.)

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Note: Vest design shown is by Jessica de Haas, FunkShui Studio, 2014 Felt Fashion Workshop instructor.

Workshop Fee:

Option 1:   $1,295 double occupancy basic cost per person includes shared room and bath, double occupancy.

Option 2:  Single occupancy with private bath, $1,595

Extension Options: 

Add-On 1:  Arrive Friday, January 16 and take a Zapotec cooking class on Saturday, January 17.  Includes one night lodging, breakfast, lunch, cooking class and recipes.  $115 USD each.

Add-On 2:  Extend your trip one day and depart Sunday, January 25.  Enjoy Saturday in Oaxaca City with Norma to explore the best textile shops and visit the Museo Textil de Oaxaca. Includes transportation to Oaxaca, overnight on January 24 in Oaxaca City. $195 per person double occupancy, $275 per person single occupancy. Dinner on your own.

Add-on 3:  Stay extra days before or after the workshop.  Add on nights in Teotitlan del Valle at $55 per night,or in Oaxaca City at $125 per night.  Let us know your preference and we make all the arrangements for you.

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Cecelia, Margaret, Sandra, Kirsten, Lynne, Margaret show their work from the 2014 Felt Fashion Workshop.Vest design by Jessica de Haas, FunkShui Studio.

About Our Workshops, Retreats and Programs.  We offer educational programs that are hands-on, fun, culturally sensitive, and offer you an immersion experience.   Our workshop leaders are experts in their field, knowledgeable, have teaching experience and guide you in the learning process.  Our goal is to enhance your knowledge while giving you time to explore and discover. 

About Lodging and Accommodations. To keep this trip affordable and accessible, we stay in a local posada/guest house in Teotitlan del Valle. The food is all house made (including the tortillas), safe to eat and delicious. Vegetarian options are available. 

Insurance Required:  Proof of international travel insurance that covers accidents, medical coverage and emergency evacuation to the U.S.A. or your home country is required by all participants.  If you do not want this, you must send us a notarized waiver of responsibility, holding Norma Hawthorne and Oaxaca Cultural Navigator LLC harmless.  Thank you for your understanding.

Your registration fee does NOT include airfare, taxes, admissions to museums and archeological sites, tips, liquor/alcoholic beverages, some meals, some transportation, and insurance. 

Deposits, Reservations and Cancellations.  A 50% deposit is required to guarantee your spot.  The last payment for the balance due (including any supplemental costs) shall be paid by December 1, 2014.  We only accept Payment with PayPal.  We will be happy to send you an invoice.

If cancellation is necessary, please notify us in writing by email.   After December 1, 2014, no refunds are possible; however, we will make every possible effort to fill your reserved space.  Your registration is transferable to a substitute.  If you cancel before December 1, we will refund 50% of your deposit.

To register or for questions, contact: normahawthorne@mac.com