Tag Archives: weaving

Handwoven Basket Fair: San Juan Guelavia, Oaxaca

Today was the first of two Sundays when the Zapotec village of San Juan Guelavia holds its annual basket fair.  Next Sunday, February 2, is the last day.  They open in the compact zocalo at 9 a.m.  By the time we got there, close to noon, there wasn’t much left.  Before I could say basket, two that caught my eye were snatched up from under my outstretched arm.

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The bamboo used to make the baskets is picked young and green, much easier to manipulate.  Then, it is washed and stripped.  After the basket is complete, the sturdy handles are wrapped with palm leaves. Most of the Zapotec women in the central valleys of Oaxaca prefer these baskets for daily shopping use.  The handle fits easily over the crook of the elbow, is smooth and comfortable.  

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Both men and women are basket weavers.  They are also makers of corn husk flowers, lamp shades, bird cages, decorative woven bottle coverings, and traditional storage baskets for maize.

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Some of the workmanship is so fine, one wonders how fingers can weave the course strips of bamboo, let alone strip the cane and prepare it for the weaving process.  The basket I bought is above, left, held by the weaver who made it.  He was happy and so was I.

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Basketmaking in San Juan Guelavia, Oaxaca is a craft in decline and I have included this link to an academic paper that references San Juan Guelavia and their struggle to keep this craft tradition alive.

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I hope you get to the Feria (fair) next Sunday.  I paid 140 pesos for a beautiful handmade basket, quite large.  That’s about $11 USD.  A day’s wage here in Oaxaca.  Who knows how long it took to make!  Looks like more than a day to me.  A basket this size for sale at the Tlacolula market would cost double the price, maybe more, and still a bargain at that!

Boys play while parents shop

Boys at play while parents shop

In addition to the baskets, there is lots of home-style cooked food like quesadillas, tamales, and hot steamed corn-on-the-cob.  Come and linger.

Where to Find San Juan Guelavia:  From Oaxaca City, take any bus or colectivo taxi heading to Tlacolula or Mitla.  Get off at the San Juan Guelavia crossroads (which is about 1/2 mile before you get to Teotitlan del Valle, and maybe five miles beyond El Tule).  There are village taxis and tuk-tuks that will take you along the beautiful curving road that leads to the village, set about three miles off the Panamerican Highway 190, nestled in the rolling foothills of the Sierra Madre del Sur.

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

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

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

Here is what we can offer you:

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

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

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

Natural Dye Workshop Yields Glorious, Colorfast Textiles

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

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Indigo dye bath percolating

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

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

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

Next Workshop:  March 6-12, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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Next Workshop: March 6-12, 2014 

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

Oaxaca Indigo Dye Workshop Delights Penland School of Crafts Visitors

Penland2013_1-45Dyeing with the natural color of indigo was a highlight of the Penland School of Crafts textile workshop tour of Oaxaca in early November.  I brought this wonderful group  of women — all first-time visitors to Oaxaca — for a workshop with Eric Chavez Santiago and his parents at their family home in Teotitlan del Valle.

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Indigo is a plant that grows wild on the southern Pacific coast of Oaxaca in the village of Santiago Niltepec.  Before we rolled up our sleeves to immerse our hands and white cloth into the dye pot, Eric explained the process of how indigo is processed here by hand to get the intense color that you see in the photos.

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After Eric demonstrates how to twist, tie, bundle, fold, clip, band, and otherwise manipulate a white piece of cotton to get a pattern, each person takes their cloth and starts their own project.  Some choose marbles that are held by rubber bands.  Others fold the cloth like a sandwich of triangles. Some combine the two.

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It’s a surprise when we unroll them from the styrofoam tube.  Every resulting piece is unique and beautiful.  Perfect for a scarf or wall-hanging.

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I cannot say enough about Eric and his family, what an education and experience. I feel like I have new friends in Mexico. The personal contact and sharing make this such a rich and deep experience, not just learning a skill but really feeling the history of the culture and being charged by the experience. – Barbara Benisch

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During the workshop, Federico Chavez Sosa and Dolores Santiago Arrellanas give us a break and show us the process for tapestry weaving with a thorough demonstration.  The family only uses natural dyes to produce the rugs they weave.

We have two spaces left for a 3-day natural dye workshop in January, several spaces open for a 4-day tapestry weaving workshop that immediately follows.

We develop customized programs like the one for Penland for arts organizations.  Contact us to learn more. 

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Oaxaca Tapestry Weaving Workshops: Dancing on the Loom–2014

Imagine! A 4-day hands-on weaving workshop in Teotitlan del Valle, Oaxaca for a total of 4 nights and 5 days.   For beginners and experienced weavers, textile and fiber artists, knitters, designers, and anyone who wants to know more about traditional tapestry weaving.  Your instructor is master weaver Federico Chavez Sosa.  With optional add-on cooking class and/or natural dye workshop!

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Photos above: Workshop participant Claudia Michel, Portland, Oregon, chooses colors for her tapestry and watches as Federico demonstrates a technique.

Includes 22 hours of instruction, 4 nights lodging, 4 breakfasts and 4 dinners. Perfect for fiber artists, weavers, knitters, natural dye users, artists, teachers.  A great shared experience for families, too.

March 2014

  • Arrive Saturday, March 8.  Weaving workshop is Sunday, March 9-Wednesday, March 12, $895.
  • Add-on Zapotec cooking class, Thursday, March 13, $125 per person (stay the night of March 12, includes one night lodging, dinner, breakfast, lunch, all instruction and recipe booklet)
  • Trailing Spouse Option for Weaving Workshop: $385
  • Add-on Natural Dye Workshop with Eric Chavez Santiago, arrive March 13, workshop is March 14-16, includes 3 nights lodging, instruction, sample dye chart, recipes, sample indigo scarf, from $595 per person.
  • Trailing Spouse Option for Dye Workshop: $265

June 2014

  • Arrive June 9.  Weaving workshop is June 10-13, $895 per person double occupancy (course details below).
  • Add-on Zapotec Cooking Class, June 14, $125 per person includes lodging on June 13, dinner, breakfast and lunch, instruction and recipes.

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Tapestry Weaving Workshop Tuition is $895 per person, including lodging (double occupancy), and most meals.  Workshop is limited to 6 participants. For a single room with private bath the cost is $1095.

Claudia's finished tapestry.

Claudia’s finished tapestry.

I cannot even find the words to tell Fredrico what a wonderful teacher he is — encouraging, patient, skilled, kind, with a sense of humor, and a master weaver. He loves color, and knows color and design. He encouraged me to be creative.  At the end of the last day, we had a great experience creating the end of my tapestry together. He was generous with all of the yarn colors and patiently made the spindles for me. He and Lola took the time to dye yarn today and show me each step of the process. I cannot even find words to tell them how grateful I am.  I have a magnificent tapestry to remind me of this extraordinary experience in my life.  And I have learned skills to take home and incorporate into my own weaving. Gracias a todo Fredrico y Lola!  – Claudia Michel, Portland, OR, August 6, 2013

WeavingWkshpClaudiaMichel-9Not only will you learn the way Zapotecs have been weaving for over 500 years, and dyeing for millenia, you will be experiencing village life through a very unique and personal perspective.

Brief History of Tapestry Weaving in Teotitlan del Valle: With the conquest of Mexico in 1521, the Spanish brought to Oaxaca the 2-harness tapestry loom, European weaving techniques, and sheep for wool.  They taught men to weave since European weavers were male, strong enough to work the heavy wooden beaters. Not much has changed in the last 500 years except that about half the women in the village also weave using this loom! Yes, we can!

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About the Chavez Santiago Family Weavers.  They have traveled and exhibited throughout the United States, are in the permanent collections of galleries, museums and artists, including the Snite Museum of Art at the University of Notre Dame. They have exhibited and lectured widely, including at the National Museum of Mexican Art (Chicago), the San Jose (CA) Quilt and Textile Museum, the American Tapestry Alliance, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Purdue University, and the University of California at Santa Cruz.

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Level of Experience Necessary: These are small group, hands-on workshops that can accommodate varying levels of ability, from beginner to advanced student. Because the size of each group is limited, you will receive individualized instruction and coaching from the master weaving family of Federico Chavez Sosa. More experienced weavers can create more complex projects.

Participants will have a personal loom for the session.  We will have the loom dressed (warped) and ready for you to begin weaving when you arrive. Materials include your choice of naturally dyed wool yarn from which you will weave a sampler textile that can be used as a wall hanging, pillow cover, or form the body of a purse or shoulder bag. You will select the wool from colors dyed with pomegranates, pecans, mosses, indigo, and cochineal.  Our participants have created amazing textiles that range from 18 inches to 30 inches in length in just four days.

What You Will Learn:

  • Traditional Zapotec weaving techniques, patterns and motifs that produce squares, stripes, diagonals, circles and color gradations;
  • Use of the two-harness pedal loom and shuttles;
  • Practice weaving simple or more complex patterns, depending upon your level of experience;
  • The cultural history of rug weaving in Teotitlan, ancient wool preparation techniques, natural dyeing methods, and how to discern synthetic dye use
  • Participate in natural dyeing demonstrations to see how the range and variety of color comes from native plant materials;
  • Complete a finished textile: cut the sample tapestry from the loom, clean the wool tapestry, twist and tie the fringes; and
  • Work under the expert guidance of weavers who have created extraordinary textiles for generations.

Day 1:  Arrive and settle in to your Bed and Breakfast lodge. Light supper included.

Weaving Workshop: Days 2-5, 9:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.

Day 2: Arrive at the Chavez Santiago Family Weavers for an orientation and demonstration of Zapotec weaving patterns and techniques to create squares, stripes, diagonals and circles. Choose your loom and select the colors for your tapestry. Prepare the bobbins. Begin your project. (Breakfast and dinner included. Lunch on your own.)

Days 3-4-5: Participate in demonstrations and then practice using the two-harness pedal loom using a variety of shuttles to make more complex patterns and greater variety of colors, experiment with using the equipment on your own, see dyeing demonstration using cochineal, indigo, and wild marigold (pericone). Learn how to count threads to create a circle or square within the overall design. Finish off your piece by cutting it off the loom, rolling and tying fringes.

Day 6:  Depart for the airport and home after breakfast, or extend your stay in Teotitlan del Valle or Oaxaca city.

Cost:

  • $895 per person shared room and shared bath
  • $1095 per person single room with private bath
  • $125 per person add-on cooking class

Trailing Spouse Add-on for Weaving Workshop: $385.  Includes 5 nights lodging, 5 breakfasts, 5 dinners.

Trailing Spouse Add-On for Dye Workshop:  $265.   Includes 3 nights lodging, 3 breakfasts, 3 dinners.

What Is Included:

  • All weaving equipment and supplies to create a finished wool tapestry sampler that is approximately 18” wide by 24” long
  • 22+ hours of supervised instruction in English
  • An educational reference notebook of workshop materials
  • 4 nights lodging with daily breakfast and dinner in Teotitlan del Valle at family-operated posada/bed and breakfast within easy walking distance of the weaving studio

How to Register: A 50% deposit is required to reserve your space.  Tell us you are ready to register and we will send you a PayPal invoice.  Payment is only accepted with PayPal.

Final payment of the balance is due 45 days before the program starts.   If the final balance is not paid by then, we reserve the right to treat the reservation as cancelled and no refunds are offered. Any registrations made within 45 days of the workshop start date must be paid in full at the time of registration.

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Cancellations and Refunds

If cancellation is necessary, deposits are refundable, as follows: cancellations must be made in writing by email.

Deposits may be refunded:

  • If cancellation is necessary, 50% of the deposit will be refunded up to 45 days before the program start date.
  • After that, deposits are not refundable.
  • If cancellation is necessary, you may apply the deposit to a future workshop scheduled in the same calendar year or transfer your registration to another person.
  • We reserve the right to cancel or reschedule workshops, in which case you may choose a 100% refund or to apply the tuition to a future workshop.

We accept payment with PayPal.  See “Register Today” for form and procedures. We will send you a PayPal invoice when you tell us you are ready to register.

What Is NOT Included:

  • Transportation in/to Mexico, Oaxaca and Teotitlan
  • Local transportation costs (bus, taxi, collectivo)
  • Gratuities and fees
  • Trip insurance, medical expenses, hospitalization, and other fees
  • Lunches and dinners (unless noted in the itinerary), snacks, liquor/alcoholic beverages
  • Optional afternoon side trips and excursions

Upon registration for the workshop, we will provide you with:

  • Transportation options to get from the Oaxaca airport to the city and to Teotitlan del Valle and your bed and breakfast
  • A self-guided tour map of Teotitlan del Valle
  • How to get from the airport to the village
  • A seasonal packing list, and travel tips to make your journey easier and fun

Note: Zapotec weavers use the pedal loom, which they stand at to work. People who have difficulty standing for any period of time, or who have back problems will want to consider this.  Many of Teotitlan’s streets and alleyways are cobblestone and/or dirt, with many uneven surfaces. It is a several block walk between lodging options and the weaving workshop. Please bring sturdy, comfortable walking shoes.

Documentation

U.S. Citizens traveling to Mexico are required to carry a current passport, valid for at least three months after your re-entry to the U.S. It is your responsibility to obtain proper documentation. If you are not a U.S. Citizen, contact the Mexican embassy, consulate or national airline of Mexico for entry requirements.

Questions? Contact oaxacaculture@me.com