Tag Archives: weavers

Women Weavers’ Cooperative Vida Nueva, Teotitlan del Valle, Oaxaca: Part Two

This post continues the narrative about women weavers in Teotitlan del Valle, Oaxaca. See Part One for my introduction.

Honoring Mother’s Day: For all women who gave and received life!

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Vida Nueva (“New Life”) Cooperative at the International Folk Art Market

Twenty years ago, Vida Nueva cooperative was founded by six single women from the same extended family group, three of whom where sisters. Some of the women had husbands who never returned to Teotitlan del Valle, Oaxaca, after migrating out for work. Some had not married. Some were widows. They needed to support their families and weaving had the biggest potential economic reward for their labor.

But, weaving was not women’s work.

Pomegranate dyed wool

Pomegranate dyed wool

The traditional role for women was (and still is, for the most part) to stay at home, keep house, tend the children, cook and raise small animals like chicken, sheep, pigs and goats.

Twenty years ago, weaving and then selling/marketing the product was not a usual role for women, plus it was unheard of to go to the city to develop customers. Most women of the time went barefoot, wore indigenous dress and did not go beyond the family compound expect to daily market. Entering the city was foreign, uncomfortable, intimidating.

Cleaning the finished rug

Cleaning the finished rug

Since the height of the Bracero program, when men migrated to the U.S. as temporary farm workers, and women learned to weave out of economic necessity, the number of women who now weave is substantial.  Today, most women work alongside husband, father or brother, to weave in a family centric enterprise. A few also participate in selling and receive recognition for their contributions.

It took a while for Vida Nueva to get started, but they had the help of a non-governmental agency, Grupo del Apoyo a la Educacion de la Mejor (now defunct). Through donations and business development guidance, Vida Nueva began producing rugs for sale in 2001. Their first clients, arranged by the NGO, were adult Spanish language students who were visiting Oaxaca from the United States.

Take a One-Day Natural Dye Weaving & Textile Study Tour

The cooperative meets regularly, makes decisions together, created a mission statement, a vision, goals and objectives for the organization that includes a marketing plan, and have built distribution markets over time. They also put money aside each year to invest in an annual community project that can benefit everyone in Teotitlan del Valle.

Using the stone metate to crush indigo to powder for dye

Using the stone metate to crush indigo to powder for dye

Not all the rugs woven by Vida Nueva are made with natural dyes. Most are woven with synthetic colors because most buyers don’t want to pay the price for a naturally dyed rug and prefer bright, electric colors. But, the cooperative will do custom orders for naturally dyed rugs and from time-to-time, may have some on-hand.

Today there are 12 cooperative members, two of whom are married. Their clientele has developed by word of mouth over the years, and they also have been invited to participate in shows/sales in the U.S.A. including the International Folk Art Market and the Feria at Lake Chapala, Mexico Arts Show. 

Vida Nueva Women’s Cooperative Contact Information

Pastora Gutierrez
Centenario 1
Teotitlán del Valle, Oaxaca
estrelladelvalle@hotmail.com

Telephone: 951 524-4250

Some Useful Resources

 

Travel Oaxaca’s Natural Dye Textiles + Weaving Trail: One-Day Study Tour

We introduce you to weavers of wool, cotton and silk who work with organic natural dyes. This one-day educational study tour gives you in-depth knowledge about the artisanal process for making hand-woven cloth using sustainable technologies. We visit home studios and workshops to meet some of Oaxaca’s outstanding weavers in this curated day trip. See the real indigo, cochineal and wild marigold dye process. Meet artisans who create beautiful rugs and clothing.

Schedule your dates directly with Norma Schafer.

You reserve for the dates you prefer. This  is designed as a private program. You are welcome to organize your own small group.  We will do our best to match your travel schedule with our availability.

Pricing is for a full day, starting at 9 a.m. Customized programs on request.  The rate is based on the time we pick you up and return you to your Oaxaca hotel. Please provide us with hotel/lodging address and phone number.

  • 1 or 2 people, $265 USD flat rate total, includes lunch, transport
  • 3 or more people, $125 USD per person, includes lunch, transport
  • For larger groups, please contact us for special pricing

Dyeing_Australian_Chicas_Eric-94

Oaxaca has many talented weavers working on different types of looms: the two-harness pedal loom, the flying shuttle loom and the back-strap loom. They create many different types of cloth from wool, cotton and silk – to use, wear and walk on.

Wool Coch Red Bobbins62K

The yarns or threads can be hand-woven and made into tapestry carpets or wall hangings. They might become lighter weight garments such as shawls, ponchos and scarves or fashion accessories and home goods like handbags, travel bags, blankets, throws and pillow covers.

Natural grey wool and dried cochineal bugs

Natural grey wool and dried cochineal bugs

Most weavers dye their material using pre-mixed commercial dyes. Some buy their yarns pre-dyed. This streamlines and simplifies the production process, making the finished piece less costly. Often, there are wide quality differences.

DyeWkshp_1-24

A growing number of weavers are going back to their indigenous roots and working in natural dyes. They use a time-consuming process to gather the dye materials, prepare them with tested recipes, dye the yarns and then weave them into cloth. These colors are vibrant and long-lasting. There is a premium for this type of hand work.

Dyeing and then weaving can take weeks and months, depending upon the finished size of the textile and type of weaving process used.

Preparing indigo for the dye pot -- first crush it to powder

Preparing indigo for the dye pot — first crush it to powder

For each visit, we will select artisans who live and work in small villages scattered in the countryside around Oaxaca where families have co-created together for generations to prepare the yarn and weave it.

indigo-dye-pot

Natural dyes we will investigate include plant materials like nuts, wild marigold, fruit (pomegranate, persimmon, zapote negro), wood bark and indigo.

Shades of cochineal -- a full range of color

Shades of cochineal — a full range of color

Another important dye source is cochineal, which is the parasite that feeds on the prickly pear cactus. The Spanish kept the cochineal secret well hidden for over 400 years, calling it grana cochineal or grain, so that English and Italian competitors could not detect its source.

Cochineal dye bath -- the most vibrant red of the natural world

Cochineal dye bath — the most vibrant red of the natural world

During this one-day outing, we will visit four weavers, see complete natural demonstrations of yarns and threads, learn about over-dyeing to get a full rainbow of colors, and savor the beautiful results that master weavers create.

We may not always visit the same weavers on each tour, based on their availability. At each home studio you will see some of the steps that go into the completed process. By the end of the day, you will have gained a fuller understanding of the difference between natural and commercial dyed cloth as well as the various weaving techniques. This will help you become a more educated collector, able to discern nuances in fiber and dye quality.

Ikat wool rebozo colored with pomegranate and cochineal

Ikat wool rebozo colored with zapote negro (black persimmon) and cochineal

More than this, you will learn about the local culture, the family enterprise of weaving, how weavers source their materials, the dedication to keeping this ancient practice alive. You will see how using natural dyes is a small-batch, organic and environmentally sustainable process. And, you will try your hand in the dye pot and at the loom, too, if you like.

Squeezing fresh lime juice for the acid dye bath -- turns cochineal bright orange

Squeezing fresh lime juice for the acid dye bath — turns cochineal bright orange

During this complete one-day study tour you will:

  • Meet master weavers and their families in their home workshop/studio
  • See the raw materials used for coloring wool, cotton and silk
  • Watch the weaving process and try your hand (and feet) at the fixed frame 2-harness pedal loom and flying shuttle loom — if you wish
  • Discuss the origin of cochineal, its impact on world trade and its many uses today
  • Learn how to tell the difference between dyed fibers – are they natural or chemical?
  • Observe processes for dyeing with indigo, cochineal, wild marigold and other organic materials
  • Understand quality differences and what makes a superior product
  • Discover the meaning of the various designs, some taken from ancient codices
  • Have an opportunity to shop, if you choose, at the source
  • Order a customized size, if you prefer

You are under no obligation to buy.

Zapote negro fruit in a dye bath waiting for wool

Zapote negro fruit in a dye bath waiting for wool

This is an educational study tour to give you more in-depth knowledge about the weaving and natural dye process. We offer a stipend to the weavers who take part to compensate them for their knowledge, time and materials. This is included in your tour fee.

Weavers do not pay commissions on any purchases made and 100% of any sales go directly to them.

Also consider these educational options:

About Norma Schafer, your study tour leader

Norma Schafer has organized educational programs and workshops in Oaxaca since 2006 through Oaxaca Cultural Navigator LLC. She is an educator, not a tour guide, and is recognized for her knowledge about textiles and natural dyes.

Nina wears a quechquemitl woven with cochineal dyed cotton

Nina wears a quechquemitl woven with cochineal dyed cotton

Norma is living in the weaving village of Teotitlan del Valle, Oaxaca, since she retired from The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 2011. Before that, she made frequent visits each year beginning in 2005. Norma has access to off-the-tourist-path small production family workshops where the “manufacturing” process is vertical and hand-made.

  • Earned the B.A. in history from California State University at Northridge
  • Holds the M.S. in business administration from the University of Notre Dame
  • 30-year career in higher education administration and program development
  • Created/produced international award-winning programs at Indiana University, University of Virginia, George Washington University and The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
  • Recognized by the International University Continuing Education Association for outstanding educational program development
  • Founder/creator of Oaxaca Cultural Navigator LLC arts workshops/study tours in 2006
  • Contributor to Textile Fiestas of Mexico, with chapters about Teotitlan del Valle and Tenancingo de Degollado
  • Founder/author of Oaxaca Cultural Navigator blog in 2007
  • Learned to weave and use natural dyes as a graduate student in San Francisco too many years ago to count!
  • Has an extensive personal collection naturally dyed textiles
  • Consultant to textile designers, wholesalers and retailers who want to include sustainable, organic textiles in their body of work and inventory
  • International textile conference advisor to Weaving a Real Peace (WARP) organization
  • Consultant on tourism/economic development, State of Guanajuato, Mexico Office of Tourism
  • Embedded in the cultural and social history of Oaxaca’s Zapotec village life

IMG_4423 Dolores with Shadows

Note: From time-to-time, we will invite other distinguished and knowledgeable natural dye experts to join us or to substitute for Norma to lead the study tour, based upon schedules and availability. If Norma is not available on the date(s) you request, we will give you the option to take the study tour with another qualified leader.

Pricing is for a 7-8 hour day. Customized programs on request.  The rate is based on the time we pick you up and return you to your Oaxaca hotel.

  • 1 or 2 people, $265 USD flat rate total, includes lunch, transport
  • 3 or more people, $125 USD per person, includes lunch, transport
  • For larger groups, please contact us for special pricing

Includes transportation from/to Oaxaca city to our meeting place in Teotitlan del Valle, lunch and honoraria to artisans. Please let us know if you need vegetarian options. We will pre-order a tasting menu that includes a fresh fruit drink (agua fresca). Alcoholic beverages are at your own expense.

Schedule your dates directly with Norma Schafer. We will do our best to accommodate your requests.

Silk worms dining on mulberry leaves, Oaxaca, Mexico Wool dyed w moss

Reservations and Cancellations

We require a non-refundable 50% deposit with PayPal (we will send an invoice) to reserve.The PayPal amount billed will be based on the number of people you reserve for. The 50% balance is due on the day of the tour in cash, either USD or MXN pesos (at the current exchange rate).

We will have made transportation arrangements and secured the dates/times with the weavers, plus paid them a stipend in advance for participating. We have learned, living in Mexico, that it is essential to keep commitments to sustain relationships. Thank you for understanding.

Folded pedal looms waiting for the next project

Folded pedal looms waiting for the next project

Chiapas Textile Cooperative to Exhibit and Sell at Oaxaca Textile Museum

After calling ahead and making an appointment, we took a taxi to the outskirts of San Cristobal de las Casas at the end of a dirt road to find the headquarters of Camino de los Altos.  This is a cooperative of 130 weavers who make extraordinary textiles.

They will be exhibiting and selling their work at the Museo Textil de Oaxaca from Friday through Sunday, February 17-19, 2012.  If you are in Oaxaca, you won’t want to miss this event!

The cooperative began in the mid-1990’s by eight French designers who had a passion for Mayan traditions, textiles, and indigenous design.  El Camino selects ancient traditional colors and re-imagines them.  They produce bags, children’s clothing, pillow covers, scarves, shawls, table cloths, runners, napkins, and dish towels on sturdy, highest quality fabric that is hand-woven on back strap looms in five Chiapas weaving villages.  Six sales are held each year in Paris and at other selected locations around the world.

Wool pillow covers can be the natural color of the sheep or dyed with either palo de Brazil or cochineal to yield a rich red. Mayan women then embellish them with traditional hand-embroidered designs.  The cotton is dyed with industrial color.  The color combinations are juicy and intense, and based upon traditional weaving patterns, too.

 

As a cooperative, the members meet together to decide next steps, new design and color directions, and pattern innovations. Their commitment is to each other — everyone must have work.  The marketplace speaks, so together they determine what needs to be altered, adapted, changed or discontinued.

[Cultural note: In traditional villages, the men work in the fields and do required community service (cargos).  Women are responsible for all the household work, and care for children and in-laws.  We hear that many of the women who are now able to earn their own income through weaving and other crafts, choose not to marry to achieve some level of independence.]

 

El Camino de los Altos operates through the sale of their work and the support of a French foundation, and are able to employ four full-time staff.  The money they earn goes directly to the weavers.  In addition, they are training indigenous women in marketing, sales, production, inventory control and other business development aspects that will ensure ongoing success.

 

A Chiapas retail store, Madre Tierra, sells Camino de los Altos textiles.  It is located across from the sweets market on Insurgentes in the courtyard behind the fabulous bakery that sells the most delicious whole grain onion garlic buns.

 

Contact:  Veronique Tesseraud, director, elcaminodelosaltos@gmail.com, (967) 631-6944.  Barrio de Cuxtitali, Cerrada Prolongacion Peje de Oro #3.  http://elcaminodelosaltos.blogspot.com/

Video: Mexican Rug Designs from Teotitlan del Valle, Oaxaca

In the spirit of my own continuing education, I went to the Apple Store last night for a tutorial about how to make an iMovie using my photographs.  My computer is storing over 6,000 photos — many of which are published on this site.  I learned the basics and am now experimenting, so hopefully, over the new few weeks, I’ll be able to translate still photography into a visually appealing presentation for your viewing pleasure.  Hopefully, this works!

The video I created here features many fine examples of the hand-woven, naturally dyed tapestry weave textiles made by The Chavez Santiago Family Weavers in Teotitlan del Valle, Oaxaca, Mexico.  Federico Chavez Sosa, the head of the family, is a master weaver, as is his wife Dolores Santiago Arrellanas.  They and their children, Eric, Janet and Omar Chavez Santiago are also shown in the video interspersed with village scenes.  The music is by Susana Harp.

I hope you enjoy it!

What you’ll see in this video:

  • Zapotec and Mixtec stone carvings at the archeological site of Mitla
  • The Catholic church built with Zapotec temple stones
  • Weavings by the Chavez Santiago Family Weavers
  • Selected Saltillo-style weavings by Tito Mendoza Ruiz and Roman Gutierrez
  • Adaptations of traditional designs for more contemporary styles
  • Teotitlan del Valle Church of the Precious Blood, 16th Century
  • Parade of the Canastas (baskets) in early July

And, if you want to take a weaving class (all levels, from beginners to more experienced are welcome), please let me know. oaxacaculture@me.com

Norma’s Oaxaca Favorites: A Baker’s Dozen

1.     Museo Textil de Oaxaca, corner Fiallo and Hidalgo, closed Tuesdays.  Ask to meet Eric Chavez Santiago, director of education, for a personal tour.  Take a class if you are in town for a while.

2.   Federico Chavez Santiago Family Weavers for authentic, masterful, naturally dyed rugs at fair trade prices, Francisco I. Madero #55, Teotitlan del Valle, 52-44078 (call ahead to be sure they are home)

3.  Shiatsu massage with Annie Burns, Teotitlan del Valle, 951-1313 009.  She will also come to Oaxaca city.  By appointment.

4.  Remigio Mestas’ Arte Textil Indigena, Macedonio Alcala #103, in the Los Danzantes Restaurant Arcade, for the best Oaxacan textiles handwoven, handspun and naturally dyed by Zapotec, Mixtec, Mixe and Trique tribal groups.

5.  La Olla Restaurante, Calle de Reforma

6.  Nieves Anita in the Teotitlan del Valle market.  Closes at 4 p.m.  Nieves is local ice cream made from fresh fruit, nuts, and grated vegetables.  My favorite  flavor is the one that combines the coconut ice cream with chopped pecans, pineapple chunks, and fresh grated carrot.  Tuna, by the way, is the fruit of the nopal cactus and there is an ice cream flavor for that, too. Second choice:  nieves in the Tlacolula market.

7.  Grill your own carne for lunch in the Tlacolula Sunday market.  Walk back deep into the bowels of the market into the covered building beyond the church where you will find the meat vendor stalls and an aisle of charcoal grill stoves.  Meander and buy a bunch of onions, avocados, a few tomatillos, limes, and fresh tortillas (choose from blue, yellow or white).  Then, buy your meat.  Ask for suave (soft) for the most tender cut.  Put all this on the grill in front of the stand (except for the avocado and lime).  Peel the avocado.  Assemble all into the tortilla, sprinkle with fresh lime juice, roll up and eat standing using one of the vacant stalls for your table top.  If you like, use fresh baked rolls instead of the tortilla (ask for pan por tortas) found just down the long aisle.  Total cost is about $1.75 per person.

8.  Definitely Monte Alban.  Take the tourist bus from Calle Mina.  Ask the Zocalo tourist police how to get there.

9.  Mitla for the ruins and for great, inexpensive handloomed cotton tablecloths, blouses, napkins, shawls.  The REAL market is down the hill from the church and ruins.  The market in front of the church is too turistica.  The Mitla archeological site is different from Monte Alban because it incorporates both Mixtec and Zapotec designs in the carvings.  It is a treasure.

10.  Bertha Cruz woodcarver in Arrazola, Justo Xuana woodcarver in San Martin Tilcajete, and Dolores Porras potter in Atzompa.

11.  Handmade paper jewelry from the Francisco Toledo taller in San Augustin Etla can be found at La Granen Porrua on Macedonio Alcala.

12.  A cooking class with Pilar Cabreras at Casa de Los Sabores.

13.  Comida at El Gran Gourmet Oaxaqueno on Calle Independencia.  Be sure to order the Agua de Pepino con Limon (fresh cucumber and lime juice).