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Japan Textile Study Tour: November 2020

Japan Textile Study Tour, November 6 – 19, 2020, 12 nights, 13 days, start in Kyoto and end in Tokyo — 7 spaces open

We take you on a textile adventure of a lifetime to the land of the Rising Sun. Japanese style elevates textiles to a fine art form. We go deep into the culture of hand-weaving and indigo dyeing, high fashion and simple garment construction, venturing into old mercantile shops, contemporary design studios and temple markets to discover how cloth defines a people. Along the way, we discover historical sites, eat traditional foods that have ceremonial significance, visit museums and immerse ourselves into a modern Japan that is underpinned with ancient tradition.

Geisha life on the streets of Gion, Kyoto

Japan is an amalgam of ancient craft wisdom that is translated into art as a metaphor for life – from pottery to textiles to knife-making to humble and refined cuisine to garden landscape. We visit craftsmen who were provisioners to emperors. Throughout our travels, we touch on the philosophy that girds the culture – aesthetic sensibility, wabi-sabi (perfection in imperfection), and iki (simplicity, originality, sophistication, spontaneity, refinement).

Vintage indigo stamped cloth, Kyoto antique textile shop
Bolts of beautiful cloth, Nuno Works, Tokyo

You will travel with Norma Schafer, Oaxaca Cultural Navigator LLC director, writer, producer and photographer. Our co-leader is Nathan Somers, textile artist, collector, indigo dyer and historian. You will visit many sites Norma and Nathan know from personal and professional experience.

Vintage indigo textile samples

This is a hands-on, slow-savor, deep cultural immersion travel experience for up to 12 active textile lovers. Three people have already registered. There are 9 spaces open.

Handmade, hand-hammered kitchen knives, Tsukiji market

Our itinerary concentrates on the textile culture of Kyoto, Japan’s ancient capital, and Tokyo, once known as Edo, where day-glow neon and phantasmagorical skyscrapers cast a futuristic glow over the old Tokugawa Shogunate. 

Vintage Boro patchwork textiles using sashiko stitching

In Kyoto and Tokyo, we will navigate the city and reach our local destinations using outstanding public transportation – faster and more reliable than private services. Bus and Metro service is punctual, frequent, safe and reliable. This gives us an opportunity to travel with the locals and familiarize ourselves with neighborhoods and the ease of travel in Japan.

Indigo dye vats where the plant ferments

Who goes on the Textile Study Tour to Japan? Artists, makers, educators, life-long learners, writers, textile lovers, historians, photographers and those wanting to learn more about Japan, weaving and natural dyeing there.   

Preliminary Itinerary

F-11/6:   Depart your home city and travel to Kyoto, Japan           

Sa-11/7:    Arrive Kyoto in late afternoon. If you are up to it, join us in the hotel lobby to meet up for an optional group dinner (cost is OYO)

Su-11/8:    Meet at 1 PM for a Welcome Lunch, stroll the Imperial Palace, visit a traditional miso shop and confectionary maker (B, L)

In Gion, Kyoto, naturally dyed silk, linen and cotton — persimmon and cochineal
Satoshi holding court at his Tokyo izakaya

M-11/9:     After breakfast, we will set out to explore the Nishiki Market, meandering the famed fish and food stalls, have lunch, then stroll Teramachi Street where we will visit vintage textile galleries, then transition to the Geisha neighborhood of Gion for more! (B, L) Dinner OYO

Street food at a temple market, Kyoto
Time and space for meditative moments

Tu-11/10:   Shibori Workshop and Shibori Museum. Hands-on session to make your own shibori-designed textile with indigo dye. (B, L)

W-11/11:  Our focus today is on the old weaving center of Kyoto with a visit to Nishijin Textile Center and several shops that dye and make indigo garments.  Afternoon OYO (B, L)

Arashiyama river scene, Kyoto
In the Bamboo Forest, Arashiyama, Kyoto

Th-11/12:  It’s important to have choices! Take the day to create your own itinerary or come with us to visit Arashiyama where we will stroll the famed Bamboo Forest. You have the option to take a rickshaw ride and meander sacred temples in this more rural Kyoto neighborhood, with optional and traditional keiseki multi-course lunch  (B)

Norma’s boro and sashiko project — in progress

 F-11/13:  Travel to Kawaguchi Lake, overnight at resort hotel with spa (B, D)

Sa-11/14:  Morning natural dye demonstration with renowned indigo dyer in the mountains of  Yamanashi. We will take a tour of her studio, where she will demonstrate indigo dyeing methods, and present a private showing and sale of her work. Travel to Tokyo in late afternoon. (B, L)

Geisha in training at the Bamboo Forest

 Sa-11/14:   We love markets and the most famed in Japan is Tokyo’s Tsukiji  Market where we will to early in the morning to take in splendid company of super-fresh oysters the size of fists, sushi and sashimi bites, sake sips, and crispy tempura rolls. Then we are off to Nippori Fabric Town to shop for yardage, with a stop at Kata-Kata or Gallery Kawano (B, L)

Buddhist monk stamps a Goshuin with a calligraphy message
Silk, hemp, linen and cotton shawls with natural dyes

 Su-11/15:   Attend two major Temple Markets — Takahata Market and Oedo International Forum — where you will find old kimono, pieces of vintage cloth including silks, natural dyes and hand-weaving, vintage collectibles such as ceramics, carved wood, figurines, jewelry, art and much more. (B)

Temple altar with prayers and incense

 M-11/16:    We set you loose in Ginza — high fashion center of Japan — for Department Store Shopping and to explore the Basement Food Courts. Department stores feature unparalleled designer boutiques and food treasures. If you prefer, you might like to go to Nuno Works in Roppongi and peek into the upmarket world of Akasaka boutiques. (B)

Bolt of vintage indigo-dyed cotton cloth, once intended to become a kimono

 Tu-11/17:       We discovered Yu Office Design during a no-particular-destination afternoon. They are a new, innovative design studio working in hand-woven cotton, silk and hemp with indigo dyes. We will visit their studio or invite them to our hotel for a show and sale.  (B, L)

 W-11/18:    After breakfast, set out on your own to chart your own course. You might like to visit the Imperial Palace, the National Museum or retrace steps to go back for a treasure that passed you by. We will meet again for our grand finale dinner to say our goodbyes. Dinner (B, D)

Th-11/19    Tour ends and participants depart (B)

*Travel Note: You can arrive to Osaka Kansai International Airport which is 40 minutes from Kyoto and depart from Tokyo Narita Airport.  You might also find more favorable airfares flying to/from Tokyo. Check www.skyscanner.com for schedules and airfares. If you fly to Tokyo, you will take the Shinkansen bullet train (2 hours, 15 minutes) to Kyoto to meet up with the group on November 6. Rail tickets can be purchased in advance online. We will send more detailed information to the group after our travel cohort is formed. You can choose to arrive earlier or stay later at your own expense.

Yep, I ate the whole thing — but not in one gulp!

Your Guides are Norma Schafer and Nathan Somers

Norma Schafer is director of Oaxaca Cultural Navigator LLC, writer, blogger, photographer and food aficionado. Her love of indigo has taken her to Mexico, India and Japan to explore the culture of weaving and natural dyes. On this return visit to Japan, she takes you to her favorite textile haunts to meet makers and collectors.

Vintage peasant coat, indigo with sashiko stitching, sourced in Kyoto

Nathan Somers is an educator, textile artist and vintage Japanese fabric collector who lives in Durham, NC. Nathan teaches indigo resist throughout the southeast United States, and making guest presentations at spinning an weavers’ guilds. His primary area of study is Japanese textile traditions.

Nathan Somers with a textile from his collection, found at a temple market

In 2016, Nathan was the subject of a Japanese television show that came to Durham to film his collection. The producers then tansported him to the Island of Amami Oshima, Japan, to study with an indigo dyer. 

How did it all begin for Nathan?

In 2007, Nathan found himself rummaging through a box of Japanese textile scraps at a Portland, Oregon, antique sale. The fabric, with its hand spun threads, uneven selvedges, complex patterns, and deep indigo inspired him, but at the time he didn’t understand the techniques that had been used to make the textiles.

Hand-spun, hand-woven Japanese cloth, textural beauty

Nathan began to study all he could about how these fabrics were produced and what their designs were meant to convey. Nathan’s textile collection comes from Japan’s temple and shrine markets and through contacts with dealers. The collection spans the late Edo (1603-1868) and Meiji (1868-1912) periods. He focuses on Tsutsugami (freehand paste resist), Katazome (stencil paste resist), Sashiko (mending or reinforcing stitch), Zanshi (waste thread fabrics) and Boro, (repeatedly mended and patched textiles). These textiles heavily inspired Nathan’s own work, which focuses on the Katazome stencil paste resist technique.

Fresh grilled octopus — skewered for eating while strolling

            In the years since first finding that box of fabric scraps, Nathan has researched traditional Japanese fabrics to best understand their production and design. He has traveled to China and Japan to deepen his knowledge about dyeing and weaving. Nathan experiments extensively, grows cotton in his home garden that he weaves and dyes, and also works with foraged fibers like Kudzu, wisteria and hemp – all essential parts of fabric production in Old Japan. 

            Nathan is an outstanding resource to guide us on this textile adventure, explaining dyeing, weaving and design processes as we travel, helping us to identify cloth origins, quality and value.

What is included?

  • A total of 12 nights accommodation
  • 12  breakfasts, 6 lunches and 2 dinners as outlined in the itinerary
  • Hands-on indigo dye workshop
  • Textile fabric shopping – vintage and new
  • Natural dye, weaving and stitching demonstrations
  • Market and gallery tours that encompass textiles, food, culture
  • Visits to cultural and historic sites
  • Shinkansen Bullet Train tickets or luxury van transportation from Kyoto to Tokyo
  • Intra-city metro and bus tickets
  • Entry fees to museums and galleries as part of the itinerary
  • Comprehensive pre-trip planning guide
  • Knowledgeable tour leaders – Norma and Nathan
Shark skin wasabi grater, of course

What Nathan says:

            I am so excited to have this opportunity to co-lead this tour.  Japan is an amazing country and regardless of where you travel you have a strong connection to the past and to the Japanese concepts of mottainai (make the best of what you have) and wabi sabi (beauty through imperfection). I am excited to share with others my love and appreciation of Japan and its traditional textiles. The beauty and simplicity of the fabric is plain to see, but by learning about the complex way in which they are made offers a greater appreciation for the intricacies and aesthetics of this textile tradition.

You can see Nathan’s work on Instagram: @nsomersnc  and on his website: www.nathansomerstextiles.com

What is NOT included:

  • Round-trip international airfare from your home country to Japan
  • Gratuities, taxes
  • Travel insurance
  • Meals not included in the itinerary
  • Local transport you may take OYO, such as taxis
  • Personal supplies and incidentals
  • Alcoholic beverages at group meals
  • Airport transfers (transport from airport to/from hotels)

Check Skyscanner.com for best schedules and fares.

We reserve the right to substitute instructors and alter the program as needed.

Cost • $5,895 per person double room with private bath (sleeps 2) in top-rated deluxe accommodations • add $985 for a single supplement

Hand-woven ikat with indigo dye

Reservations and Cancellations.  A $750 non-refundable deposit is required to guarantee your spot. The balance is due in four equal payments – on December 22, 2019; March 22, May 22, August 22, 2020.  We accept payment using online e-commerce only.  If for any reason, Oaxaca Cultural Navigator LLC cancels the tour, a full-refund will be made.

We will send you an itemized invoice when you tell us you are ready to register. If you cancel on or before August 22, 2020, we will refund 50% of your deposit received to date (less the $750 non-refundable deposit). After August 22, 2020, there are no refunds.

If you register after December 22, 2019, you will owe $750 plus 1/4 of the balance due. If you register after March 22, you will owe the non-refundable $750 fee plus 1/2 of the balance due. If you register after May 22, you will owe the non-refundable $750 plus ¾ of the balance due. If you register after August 22, you will owe 100% of the balance due (if there are openings).

Old Japan is still very much present and alive

How to Register: Send an email to norma.schafer@icloud.com

Tell us if you want a shared/double room or a private/single room (single supplement). We will send you an e-commerce invoice for $750 by email that is due on receipt.

Who Should Attend: Artists, makers, educators, life-long learners, writers, photographers, textile lovers, historians and those wanting to learn more about Japanese art, textiles, culture and history.   If you love First World Exotic Travel and the inspiration of the best of Asia influences, this trip is for you.

Selection of sake at a Tsukiji market tasting stand

To Register, Policies, Procedures & Cancellations–Please Read

Required–Travel Health/Accident Insurance: We require that you carry international accident/health insurance that includes $50,000+ of emergency medical evacuation insurance. Proof of insurance must be sent at least 45 days before departure.

In addition, we will send you by email a PDF of a witnessed waiver of responsibility, holding harmless Norma Schafer and Oaxaca Cultural Navigator LLC. We ask that you return this to us by email 45 days before departure. Unforeseen circumstances happen!

Chef’s choice — this array of dinner selection is not unusual

Reservations and Cancellations.  We accept online e-commerce payments only. We will send you an itemized invoice when you tell us you are ready to register. All documentation for plane reservations, required travel insurance, and personal health issues must be received 45 days before the program start or we reserve the right to cancel your registration without reimbursement.

Fitness Level – Moderate Terrain, Walking and Group Courtesy:  Tour participants must be able to walk two miles, board buses and trains, carry their own luggage unaided, and navigate uneven surfaces including stairs. We may walk more on some days. We recommend you bring a walking stick if you need something to lean on! If you have mobility issues or health/breathing impediments, please consider that this may not be the study tour for you.

Traveling with a small group has its advantages and also means that independent travelers will need to make accommodations to group needs and schedule. We include plenty of free time to go off on your own if you wish.

On a rickshaw ride through the Bamboo Forest

Tribal Art and Georgia O’Keeffe: New Mexico Study Tour

Tuesday, September 1 – Wednesday, September 9, 2020 – 8 nights, 9 days

New Mexico was originally part of the Spanish land grant known as New Spain. It calls to me in a way that reminds me of Oaxaca: Vast vistas of mountains and desert punctuated by red and purple skies, stately organ-pipe cactus and gnarly mesquite, Rio Grande River oases lined with scrub oak, and unparalleled art and craft made by indigenous peoples.

Ubiquitious adobe bricks, New Mexico desert
Lapidary work by Kewa pueblo master

Colonized by the Spanish in 1598 and referred to as New Mexico by them after the Aztec Valley of Mexico, the territory was integrated into a new nation after 1821 Independence from Spain. Mexico was forced to cede its northern territories to the US in 1848 in a period of political vulnerability. Deeply rooted locals identify more with Spanish or indigenous ancestry.

Today, New Mexico has the largest percentage of Latino and Hispanic Americans in the USA. America’s First Peoples lived here for thousands of years before European occupation. Anglos, the trappers, merchants and adventurers, arrived much later. This sequence of settlement is important for showing respect and appreciation.

Sheri Brautigam, textile author and operator of Living Textiles of Mexico, and I join together again to bring you this program that starts in Santa Fe, the state capitol and heart of Colonial New Mexico.  Sheri lives in Santa Fe and I visit periodically. Our love of place is defined by the majestic natural world, exquisite art, textiles, jewelry and pottery created by Native American people, and a deep appreciation for cultural history.

Iconic skull, O’Keeffe house
Abiquiu, New Mexico landscape

On many levels, it seems only natural to add New Mexico to our travel repertoire. Here political borders give way to the shared cultural and aesthetic history of Mexico and the American Southwest.

We take you to Native American pueblos to meet favorite weavers and jewelry makers, and to galleries and public spaces where world-class examples are displayed.  We introduce you to collectors and purveyors of folk art and craft who will talk about quality, authenticity, craftsmanship and style. We go deep rather than wide to offer insight and perspective.

Georgia O’Keeffe treasure at the La Fonda Hotel

Any exploration of New Mexico must include a look into the life of artist Georgia O’Keeffe. Our study tour takes you to her summer residence at Ghost Ranch where we spend the night and enjoy a morning walking tour of her favorite painting sites. We visit her Abiquiu winter home where her minimalist style shaped future generations.

Kewa pueblo jewelry artist Mary L. Tafoya
Mezcal laced Smoky Rosa at the Secreto Lounge, Hotel San Francisco

We invite you to join us to explore and discover:

  • An O’Keeffe landscape of the White Place and the Pedernal
  • Westward migration and the lure of the Santa Fe Trail, Route 66
  • Ancient indigenous Native American Pueblos nestled along the Rio Grande River banks
  • Colonial Spanish and Mexican history, architecture and cultural influences
  • Sumptuous food spiked with rare New Mexico red Chimayo chile and green Hatch chile — try the Hatch flavored pozole or a green chile cheeseburger or buy a ristra to take home
  • Mezcal infused beverages that transcend Oaxaca origins
Inlay stone work, Thunderbirds: turquoise, mother-of-pearl, apple coral, gaspeite
Vintage tin mirror, La Fonda Hotel collection

Here is the Preliminary Itinerary: Arrive September 1 and depart September 9, including Labor Day Weekend.

Tues, 9//1: Arrive and check in to hotel, welcome cocktail reception (R)

Wed. 9/2:  Breakfast with art and cultural history talk, walking tour of Santa Fe galleries, the Governor’s Palace Portal and historic sites, welcome lunch.  Presentations by noted experts and collectors. Dinner OYO.  (B, L)

Finest heishi bead work, Santo Domingo Pueblo (Kewa)

Thurs. 9/3: After breakfast, depart for Rio Grande River Kewa/Santo Domingo pueblo to meet Native American craftspeople where we will have private demonstrations of stone inlay and metal smithing, and a home-style lunch. We visit award-winners who exhibit at prestigious galleries and participate in the International Folk Art Market. (B, L) Dinner OYO

Friday. 9/4: After breakfast, we will take a private La Fonda Hotel art history tour, with lunch at the historic Fred Harvey restaurant, followed by a visit to the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum (B, L) Dinner OYO

Vintage Navajo rug with churro sheep wool
Bumble bee painting at La Fonda Hotel

Sat, 9/5: After breakfast, we will return to the Kewa pueblo to attend the big Labor Day Weekend Artisan Fair, an all Native American traditional arts and craft event that includes artisans from throughout New Mexico. (B) Lunch and dinner OYO.

Sun. 9/6: After breakfast, depart for Ghost Ranch with a stop in Sanctuario de Chimayo a famous shrine of miracles and Hispanic faith. We will visit the Rio Grande style weavers of the Chimayo region and have lunch at Rancho de Chimayo, overnight at Ghost Ranch (B, L)

O’Keeffe wall, subject of numerous paintings
Rudy Coriz feather motif inlay stone work

Mon. 9/7: After breakfast, morning Art Walk at Ghost Ranch to see the locales where Georgia O’Keeffe painted. After lunch at the Inn at Abiquiu, we will tour O’Keeffe’s winter home in Abiquiu, then return to Santa Fe. (B, L) Dinner OYO.

Tues., 9/8: Breakfast and day on your own. Grand finale dinner. (D) Breakfast and lunch OYO.

Wed. 9/9: Depart

Painting, Native American festival dances
Colonial furniture, hand-carved wood

You may wish to arrive early or stay later to add a visit to Taos, Ojo Caliente Mineral Springs, or Santa Clara or San Ildefonso pottery villages.  So many places to visit, so much to see and do.

What Is Included

  • 8 nights lodging at a top-rated Santa Fe historic center property within walking distance to the Plaza
  • 6 breakfasts
  • 5 lunches
  • 1 dinner
  • 1 cocktail reception
  • a curated itinerary with introductions to some of the region’s finest artisans
  • museum and other entry fees, as specified in itinerary
  • private demonstrations, presentations and lectures
  • private coach and chauffeur to/from pueblos and O’Keeffe sites
  • outstanding and personal guide services with Norma Schafer and Sheri Brautigam
Inlay pin by Mary Tafoya
Exterior landscape, O’Keeffe in Abiquiu

The program does NOT include airfare, taxes, tips, travel insurance, liquor or alcoholic beverages, some meals, and optional local transportation that is not specified in the itinerary.

You can fly in/out of either Albuquerque (ABQ) or Santa Fe (SAF), New Mexico. Check Skyscanner.com for best schedules and fares.

We reserve the right to substitute instructors and alter the program as needed.

Cost • $3,845 double room with private bath (sleeps 2) • $4,435  single room with private bath (sleeps 1)

Important Note: All rooms at Ghost Ranch for one night on Sunday, September 6, are shared accommodations. 

Native American Feast Day Mask

Reservations and Cancellations.  A $750 non-refundable deposit is required to guarantee your spot. The balance is due in three equal payments – on January 22, April 22, July 22, 2020.  We accept payment using online e-commerce only.  If for any reason, Oaxaca Cultural Navigator LLC cancels the tour, a full-refund will be made.

We will send you an itemized invoice when you tell us you are ready to register. If you cancel on or before July 22, 2020, we will refund 50% of your deposit received to date. After July 22, 2020, there are no refunds.

If you register after January 22, you will owe $750 plus 1/3 of the balance due. If you register after April 22, you will owe $750 plus 2/3 of the balance due. If you register after July 22, you will owe 100% (if there are openings).

How to Register: Send an email to norma.schafer@icloud.com

Tell us if you want a shared/double room or a private/single room. We will send you an e-commerce invoice for $750 by email that is due on receipt.

Who Should Attend: Artists, makers, educators, life-long learners, writers, photographers, jewelry and textile lovers, historians and those wanting to learn more about Native American art, culture and history.   If you love off-the-beaten path adventure, the great outdoors, and the inspiration of the great Southwest as seen by Georgia O’Keeffe, this trip is for you.

To Register, Policies, Procedures & Cancellations–Please Read

Work in progress, Warren Nieto

Required–Travel Health/Accident Insurance: We require that you carry international accident/health insurance that includes $50,000+ of emergency medical evacuation insurance. Proof of insurance must be sent at least 45 days before departure.

In addition, we will send you by email a PDF of a witnessed waiver of responsibility, holding harmless Norma Schafer and Oaxaca Cultural Navigator LLC. We ask that you return this to us by email 45 days before departure. Unforeseen circumstances happen!

Reservations and Cancellations.  We accept online e-commerce payments only. We will send you an itemized invoice when you tell us you are ready to register. All documentation for plane reservations, required travel insurance, and personal health issues must be received 45 days before the program start or we reserve the right to cancel your registration without reimbursement.

Terrain, Walking and Group Courtesy:  We may walk a lot on some days.  — up to 10,000 steps. We recommend you bring a walking stick if you need something to lean on!

If you have mobility issues or health/breathing impediments, please consider that this may not be the study tour for you.

Warren Nieto with sacred corn pendant, inlay stones and sterling silver

Traveling with a small group has its advantages and also means that independent travelers will need to make accommodations to group needs and schedule. We include plenty of free time to go off on your own if you wish.

Old West hand-carved lamp base, La Fonda Hotel

Oaxaca Discovery Study Tour: Textiles and Folk Art

January 31 to February 7, 2020, 8 days and 7 nights.

Templo Santo Domingo, the most iconic image of Oaxaca — in winter!

Come with us to explore the Oaxaca we know and love by going deep and personal. We offer you an unparalleled and eclectic cultural immersion travel experience by introducing you to the artisans we believe offer some of the finest examples of folk art and craft the Oaxaca City region has to offer. We know each of them personally and have cultivated their trust and friendship over the years. During our week together we take you into their homes and workshops to investigate and explore why they are makers, who they learned from, the value and importance of continuing their traditions, and the special techniques they have developed to become masters.

Cost

  • $2,795 per person for a shared room (2 rooms available)
  • $3,395 per person for private room (5 Queens and 2 Kings available).
Detail of embroidered apron — a fantasy of design and color

The city of Oaxaca is a travel destination that is on the map. Her artisan craft, fine and unique cuisine, delicious beverages (from fruit waters to mezcal) and UNESCO Colonial Historic Center receive wide acclaim – and justly so! You’ll sample some of this as we also focus on meeting the masters who weave rugs and clothing, make silver filigree jewelry, ceramics, woodcarvings, lead-free ceramics, and more. Many have not yet achieved worldwide fame but they are equally as talented as those who have, and offer what they make at affordable prices.

Agave piñas ready for roasting on the way to becoming mezcal
Intricate supplementary weft embroidery from the Amusgos group

Most importantly, we offer the opportunity to meet the makers and support them and their families directly. This is an important mission of ours as we travel into the backstreets of villages where not many have the opportunity to go.

A sampler of what Oaxaca Eats has in store for us

This program is for collectors, lovers of Mexican art and folk art, and anyone with curiosity and an open heart who wants to learn more about Oaxaca, Mexico, and her creative traditions. Even if you have been to Oaxaca before, there is still a lot more to discover and we take you on that path.

Oaxaca is famous for her hand made pottery

We will be a small group of travelers — no more than 12 to 14 people — to give you an intimate and in-depth experience. 

Hand-drawn floral pattern will become heavily embroidered blouse

Oaxaca Cultural Navigator LLC and Norma Schafer is pleased to tell you that Eric Chavez Santiago and his wife Elsa Sanchez Diaz have joined our organization and will co-lead this tour. They are native Oaxaquenos, possess a broad and deep knowledge of the region and have years of experience working with Oaxaca’s outstanding craftspeople. Both are bilingual. Elsa is an expert teacher and maker of natural dyes. Eric is a Zapotec weaver and dyer who was born and raised in Teotitlan del Valle. Both have deep roots in Oaxaca’s artisan communities, are knowledgeable about artisan made textiles and folk art and know the best of the best.

A friend will bring huipiles and blusas to the expoventa

Elsa, Eric and I developed this itinerary together to present to you for our first Oaxaca Discovery Study Tour.

The wonders of Oaxaca textile art — weaving, embroidery, natural dyes, native cotton

Day 1, Friday, January 31: Travel day, arrive to Oaxaca City and check in to your hotel. Meet the group for a welcome supper. Please schedule your flights to arrive to our historic center hotel by 5 p.m. Welcome dinner included.

The Biswas Family find a naturally dyed rug at the workshop of Fe y Lola

Day 2, Saturday, February 1: We set out after breakfast for a Oaxaca city meander. This day is designed to give you an overview introduction to see the best available of Oaxaca’s textiles and folk art. We have curated visits to some of the finest shops and galleries to discuss, discern and differentiate quality, and understand pricing. You’ll learn about Oaxaca’s back-story – history, cultural appreciation, social and economic forces, craft development and evolution. We will have lunch at a highly rated comedor that serves authentic Oaxaca food. This is a big walking day. Please bring comfortable shoes and all your stamina! Breakfast and lunch included. Dinner on your own.

Natural dyes color cotton for hand woven clothing
True folk artist Don Jose and his wife Reyna

Day 3, Sunday, February 2:  After breakfast we travel along the Ocotlan artisan route to explore the Oaxaca State Museum of Folk Art in San Bartolo Coyotepec. We will talk about why this museum is important to Oaxaca craft development. We continue on to meet the maker of amazing carved wood and painted whimsical figures in San Martin Tilcajete. After lunch on the road, we see back strap loom weavers in Santo Tomas Jalieza, and a noted primitive folk art pottery family in San Antonino Castillo Velasco. Breakfast and lunch included.

Whimsical Oaxaca folk art plays front and center here
Enjoy delicious organic food — native corn, squash and beans

Day 4, Monday, February 3: After breakfast, we head out for an overnight excursion to Teotitlan del Valle, where you will enjoy a market tour and cooking class in a traditional Zapotec kitchen, see weaving and natural dyeing demonstrations with weavers of wool and cotton rugs and clothing. We think it’s important to introduce you to indigenous Zapotec history, so we will loop through their new cultural center. Zapotec civilization was the most sophisticated in Mesoamerica.  Bring your overnight bag. Breakfast, lunch and dinner included.

This huipil is pure hand-spun native cotton with murex sea snail purple dye
Apron making takes talent, imagination and patience. No two are alike.

Day 5, Tuesday, February 4: After breakfast we travel along the Pan-American Highway to the apron-making village of San Miguel del Valle, meet families who design and sew, and take a tour of the historic 16th century, fresco-walled church. We continue on to San Pablo Villa de Mitla to visit a dealer in regional antiquities – jewelry and historic artifacts, detour for a mezcal tasting in Santiago Matalan, and finish off by meeting a flying shuttle loom weaver who works in natural dyes. We return to Oaxaca in time for dinner on your own. Breakfast and lunch included.

Along with mezcal, you might want to try some pulque, too.
Taking a stroll on the Andador Turistica, aka Macedonio Alcala

Day 6, Wednesday, February 5: After breakfast, we travel first to visit the workshop of one of the finest ceramic artists in the region. They are among the last workshops crafting high temperature, lead-free ceramics of unusual and fine-art quality, perfect for gifting, adding to home décor, and serving and preparing some of Oaxaca’s finest recipes after you return home.  We then meet up with Oaxaca Eats for a concentrated foodie walking tour designed just for us. Your late afternoon is free to explore. Dinner is on your own.

An example of finest Oaxaca silver filigree jewelry
Perhaps you’ll try tacos with organic corn tortillas

Day 7, Thursday, February 6: After breakfast, we treat you to a curated expoventa (show and sale) at our hotel with some of our favorite artisans who are from outlying areas. Invited artisans include a Mixe grower, spinner, and weaver of silk garments who works in natural dyes, a noted embroiderer from the Papaloapan region that is 12 hours from the city, a tin-maker, and a weaver from San Juan Cotzocon in the Sierra Mixe. Our favorite filigree silversmith will join us, too, to show and tell about the intricacy of traditional Oaxaca jewelry making – a technique brought to Mexico shortly after the conquest by artisans who learned from the Moors of southern Spain. After the expoventa, you’ll have lunch and the afternoon on your own. We meet together for our grand finale gala dinner. Breakfast and dinner included. Lunch on your own.

It doesn’t get much better than a fresh Mango Mezcalini

Day 8, Friday, February 7: This is your departure day. Breakfast is included. We will help you make transportation arrangements to the Oaxaca airport or you may extend your trip (on your own) to explore other parts of Mexico.

We reserve the right to alter the itinerary based on artisan availability and other unexpected circumstances.

Molten Oaxaca chocolate cake with house made raspberry sauce, vanilla ice cream

What is Included

  • 7 nights lodging at top-rated accommodations
  • 7 breakfasts
  • 5 lunches
  • One lunch includes custom Oaxaca Eats food walking tour
  • 3 dinners
  • museum entry fees
  • artisan honoraria for demonstrations
  • van transportation as outlined in itinerary
  • complete guide services including cultural and language expertise

The program does NOT include airfare, taxes, tips, travel insurance, liquor or alcoholic beverages, some meals, and optional local transportation as specified in the itinerary. It does not include taxi or shuttle service to/from airport and to/from hotel.

We reserve the right to substitute instructors and alter the program as needed.

Learned from the Moors of Southern Spain, artisans brought the craft to Mexico

Cost to Participate — We offer three options.

  • $2,795 double room with private bath (sleeps 2). Two rooms available in this category.
  • $3,395 for a single supplement (private room and bath, sleeps 1). We offer a luxury King or Queen option in this category on first come-first served basis. Eight rooms available in this category.

We are staying in a tranquil small boutique hotel in the historic center of Oaxaca City within walking distance of the Zocalo and other attractions.

Send us an email when you are ready to register: email norma.schafer@icloud.com

Flying shuttle loom weaver makes beautiful home goods and clothes

Who Should Attend

  • Explorers of indigenous cloth, native fibers, artisan craft
  • Collectors, curators and cultural appreciators
  • Textile and fashion designers
  • Weavers, embroiderers, spinners and dyers
  • Photographers and artists who want inspiration
  • Anyone who loves folk art, culture and collaboration

Full Registration Policies, Procedures and Cancellations– Please READ

A parade of the canastas (baskets) might form down the Alacala

Reservations and Cancellations.  A 40% deposit is required to guarantee your reservation. The balance is due in two equal payments. The second payment of 30% of the total is due on or before September 1, 2019. The third 30% payment is due on or before November 25, 2019. We accept payment using online e-commerce that can be paid with a credit card. We will send you an itemized invoice when you tell us you are ready to register. After November 25, 2019, there are no refunds. If you cancel on or before November 25, 2019, we will refund 50% of your deposit received to date. After that, there are no refunds.

Notes. When you tell us you are ready to register, we will: Send you a Health Questionnaire to complete and return. We will then send you an itemized invoice when you tell us you are ready to register. 

Indigo blue hands, a sign that they work in natural dyes

Health Questionnaire: Oaxaca is at almost 6,000 feet altitude and we will be walking a lot, especially on our first full day together. If you have a heart condition, have trouble breathing, have difficulty walking, or have other conditions that would have a mobility impact, please do not register for this program. The health questionnaire requires that you disclose any issues.

Required–Travel Health/Accident Insurance: We require that you carry international accident/health insurance that includes $50,000+ of emergency medical evacuation insurance. Proof of insurance must be sent at least 45 days before departure.

A fine example of Oaxaca embroidery

In addition, we will send you by email a PDF of a witnessed waiver of responsibility, holding harmless Norma Schafer and Oaxaca Cultural Navigator LLC. We ask that you return this to us by email 45 days before departure. Unforeseen circumstances happen! Be certain your passport has at least six months on it from the date you enter Mexico before it expires!

Carved wood and painted folk art figures come in many forms

Plane Tickets, Arrivals/Departures: Please send us your plane schedule at least 45 days before the trip. This includes name of carrier, flight numbers, arrival and departure time to our destination.

All documentation for plane reservations and required travel insurance must be received 45 days before the program start or we reserve the right to cancel your registration without reimbursement.

Demonstrating the two-harness tapestry loom for rug weaving

Health Questionnaire and Your Well-Being: Oaxaca is at almost 6,000 feet altitude and we will be walking a lot, some on cobblestone streets, especially on our first full day together. Plus, we will be getting in and out of vans. If you have a heart condition, have trouble breathing, have difficulty walking, or have any other condition that would have a mobility impact, please do not register for this program. The health questionnaire requires that you disclose any issues.

A fiesta in Teotitlan del Valle, Oaxaca

Terrain, Walking and Group Courtesy: We will do some walking and getting in/out of vans. If you have mobility issues or health/breathing impediments, please let us know before you register. This may not be the study tour for you.

Traveling with a small group has its advantages and also means that independent travelers will need to make accommodations to group needs and schedule. We include free time to go off on your own if you wish.

Who you might see around town …


Looking for Frida Kahlo + Diego Rivera: Mexico City Art History Tour, October 2019

Arrive October 17 and depart October 21, 2019

We have not offered this program since 2017. Now is your chance to register and explore the lives of Frida and Diego through their art. One space open. Click on this link and then contact me: norma.schafer@icloud.com

Looking for Frida Kahlo + Diego Rivera 2019

Chiapas Textile Study Tour 2020

Dates are set. Let’s GO! February 25 to March 4, 2020. 8 nights, 9 days in and around the San Cristobal de Las Casas highlands.

Cost • $2,495 double room with private bath (sleeps 2) • $2,995 single room with private bath (sleeps 1)

For fiestas, wool huipil takes 8 months to weave, San Andres Larrainzar, Chiapas

We are based in the historic Chiapas mountain town of San Cristobal de las Casas, the center of the Maya world in Mexico. Here we will explore the textile traditions of ancient people who weave on back strap looms.

Women made cloth on simple looms here long before the Spanish conquest in 1521 and their techniques translate into stunning garments admired and collected throughout the world today. Colorful. Vibrant. Warm. Exotic. Connecting. Words that hardly describe the experience that awaits you.

Humanitarian healer Sergio Castro explains collection, Museo del Trajes Regionales

We are committed to give you a rich cultural immersion experience that goes deep rather than broad. We cover a lot of territory. That is why we are spending eight nights in this amazing Pueblo Magico — Magic Town — to focus on Maya textiles and weaving traditions.

Our cultural journey takes us into villages, homes and workshops to meet the people who keep their traditions vibrant. This is an interpersonal experience to better know and appreciate Mexico’s amazing artisans.

There will be only ONE study tour to Chiapas in 2020.

Detail, embroidered blouse, San Lorenzo Zinacantan, Chiapas

Take this study tour to learn about:

  • culture, history and identity of cloth
  • cultural appropriation or cultural appreciation
  • wool spinning and weaving
  • clothing design and construction
  • embroidery and supplementary (pick-up) weft
  • Maya textile designs — significance
  • village and individual identity through clothing
  • market days and mercantile economy
  • local cuisine, coffee, cacao and chocolate
  • quality and value
With Andrea in San Andres Larrainzar, Chiapas

We work with one of San Cristobal’s best bilingual cultural guides who has worked with weavers and artisans in the region. Alejandro is a native Mexican who knows textiles and can explain the meaning of the woven symbols embedded in the cloth. You will enjoy learning from him.

We will travel in a comfortable van as we go deep into the Maya world.

  • We visit 6 Maya weaving villages
  • We enjoy home-cooked meals
  • We meet the makers and directly support them
  • We go far and away, off-the-beaten path
  • We decode the weaving designs unique to each woman and village
  • We explore three towns on their market days
  • We understand the sacred, mysterious rituals of Maya beliefs
Carnival in San Juan Chamula, Chiapas

Daily Itinerary

Tuesday, February 25: Travel day. Arrive and meet at our hotel in San Cristobal de las Casas. You will receive directions to get from the Tuxtla Gutierrez airport to our hotel. The airport is a clean and modern facility with straightforward signage. You will book your flight to Tuxtla from Mexico City on either Interjet, AeroMar, Volaris or Aeromexico. There are plenty of taxis and shuttle services to take you there. Your cost of transportation to/from San Cristobal is on your own. Taxis are about $55 USD or 800 pesos. Shared shuttle is 180 pesos or about $10 USD. Those who have arrived by dinner time can go out for an optional meal, on your own.

From Cancuc (left) and Oxchuc (right), Maya mathematics on cloth

Wednesday, February 26: On our first day in San Cristobal de las Casas, we orient you to the Textiles of the Maya World. You will learn about weaving and embroidery traditions, patterns and symbols, women and villages, history and culture. After a breakfast discussion we will visit Centro Textiles Mundo Maya museum, Sna Jolobil Museum Shop for fine regional textiles, meander the Santo Domingo outdoor market that takes over the plaza in front of the church, and two outstanding textile shops. We guide you along the walking streets to get your bearings. We finish the morning together with a Group Welcome Lunch. (B, L)

Ancient Maya cemetery, Romerillo, Chiapas

Thursday, February 27: Tenejapa is about an hour and a world away from San Cristobal de Las Casas. Today is market day when villagers line the streets filled with fresh fruits, vegetables, meats, and often textiles. We’ll meander the market to see what’s there. In years past, I’ve found some stunning shawls, huipils and bags. Keep your eyes open. Then, we will visit the outstanding textile cooperative founded by Doña Maria Meza Giron. After a box lunch at the centuries- old Romerillo Maya cemetery, we continue on up another mountain to visit Maruch (Maria), a Chamula woman at her rural home. Surrounded by sheep and goats, Maruch will demonstrate back strap loom weaving and wool carding, and how she makes long-haired wool skirts, tunics and shawls. Perhaps there will be some treasures to consider. Return to San Cristobal de Las Casas in time for dinner on your own. (B, L)

Shuko wears a soft wool chal (shawl) woven by Maruch

Friday, February 28: After breakfast, we take you to an outstanding women’s weaving cooperative outside of town that was founded over 40 years ago. You will learn about international collaborations and textile design that conserves traditions while meeting marketplace needs for exquisite and utilitarian cloth. In the early evening, we visit Museo de Trajes Regionales and humanitarian healer Sergio Castro, who has a large private collection of Maya indigenous daily and ceremonial dress representing each Chiapas region. (B, L)

Ceramic bull candleholders adorn churches and homes

Saturday, February 29: We set out by foot after breakfast for a full morning at Na Balom, Jaguar House, the home of anthropologist Franz Blom and his photographer wife, Gertrude Duby Blom. The house is now a museum filled with pre-Hispanic folk art and jewelry. We walk the gardens and learn about Franz and Trudy’s work with the Lacandon tribe and relationship with Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera. After hot chocolate at Na Balom, we make a stop at Los Leñateros, the hand-made paper workshop that is also a graphics arts hand-print studio. You will have the afternoon and evening on your own. (B)

Youngsters learn cultural traditions early — Carnival in San Juan Chamula

Sunday, March 1: This is a big day! First we go to San Lorenzo Zinacantan, where greenhouses cover the hillsides. Here, indigenous dress is embellished in exquisite floral designs, mimicking the flowers they grow. First we meander the open-air market, then visit the church, bedecked in fresh flowers. Next stop is magical, mystical San Juan Chamula where the once-Catholic church is given over to a pre-Hispanic pagan religious practice that involves chickens, eggs and coca-cola. We’ll roam Chamula’s abundant textile market, compare and contrast fabrics and designs. (B, L) Dinner on your own.

Printmaking at Los Leñateros handmade paper studio

Monday, March 2: Today, we make a study tour to the textile villages of San Andres Larrainzer and Magdalena Aldama. This is another ultimate cultural experience to immerse yourself into families of weavers in their humble homes. We will see how they weave and embroider beautiful, fine textiles, ones you cannot find in the city markets or shops. They will host a show and sale for us, and we will join them around the open hearth for a warming meal of free range chicken soup, house made tortillas, and of course, a sip of posh! (B, L))

Seen on the street, extraordinary huipil from Chalchihuitan

Tuesday, March 3: After breakfast, the finest agave fiber bags in all of San Cristobal will be on display from the makers who live in Magdalena Aldama. They will also bring flashy beaded necklace strings and beautiful hand-woven huipils. Afternoon is on your own to do last minute shopping and packing in preparation for your trip home. We end our study tour with a gala group goodbye dinner. (B, D)

From agave leaf to finished bag, three months of work

Wednesday, March 4. Depart. You will arrange your own transportation from San Cristobal to the Tuxtla Gutierrez airport. The hotel guest services can help. It takes about 1-1/2 hours to get to Tuxtla, plus 1-2 hours for check-in. Connect from Tuxtla to Mexico City and then on to your home country.

What Is Included

• 8 nights lodging at a top-rated San Cristobal de las Casas hotel within easy walking distance to the historic center and walking streets

• 8 breakfasts • 5 lunches • 1 dinner

• museum and church entry fees

• luxury van transportation

• outstanding and complete guide services

The workshop does NOT include airfare, taxes, tips, travel insurance, liquor or alcoholic beverages, some meals, and local transportation as specified in the itinerary. We reserve the right to substitute instructors and alter the program as needed.

Cost • $2,495 double room with private bath (sleeps 2) • $2,995 single room with private bath (sleeps 1)

Reservations and Cancellations.  A 40% deposit is required to guarantee your spot. The balance is due in two equal payments. The second payment of  30% of the total is due on or before October 1, 2019. The third 30% payment is due on or before December 15, 2019. We accept payment using online e-commerce only. We will send you an itemized invoice when you tell us you are ready to register. After December 15, 2019, there are no refunds. If you cancel on or before December 15, 2019, we will refund 50% of your deposit received to date. After that, there are no refunds.

How to Register: Send an email to Norma Schafer.

Tell us if you want a shared/double room or a private/single room. We will send you an e-commerce invoice by email that is due on receipt.

Who Should Attend • Textile and fashion designers • Weavers, embroiderers and collectors • Photographers and artists who want inspiration • Resellers * Anyone who loves cloth, culture and collaboration

Worn by officials, handmade straw hat, festooned with ribbons

To Register, Policies, Procedures & Cancellations–Please Read

Reservations and Cancellations.  We accept online e-commerce payments only. We will send you an itemized invoice when you tell us you are ready to register. After December 15, 2019, there are no refunds. If we receive a cancelation on or before December 15, 50% of your deposit will be refunded. After that, there are no refunds.

All documentation for plane reservations, required travel insurance, and personal health issues must be received 45 days before the program start or we reserve the right to cancel your registration without reimbursement.

Our 2019 group with Esperanza in Amantenango del Valle, Chiapas

Terrain, Walking and Group Courtesy: San Cristobal de las Casas is a hill-town in south central Chiapas, the Mexican state that borders Guatemala. The altitude is 7,000 feet. Streets and sidewalks are cobblestones, mostly narrow and have high curbs. Pavement stones are slippery, especially when walking across driveways that slant across the sidewalk to the street. We will do a lot of walking. Being here is a walker’s delight because there are three flat streets devoted exclusively to walking. We walk a lot — up to 10,000 steps per day. We recommend you bring a walking stick.

If you have mobility issues or health/breathing impediments, please consider that this may not be the study tour for you.

Traveling with a small group has its advantages and also means that independent travelers will need to make accommodations to group needs and schedule. We include plenty of free time to go off on your own if you wish.

Backstrap loom weaving in Tenejapa, Chiapas with Maria Meza Giron