Federico Chavez Sosa + Galeria Fe y Lola

Husband and wife team Federico Chavez Sosa and Dolores Santiago Arrellanas of Teotitlan del Valle weave extraordinary rugs using only natural dye materials to color their wool.  His nickname is “Fe” and hers is “Lola.”  In 2010, they opened Galeria Fe y Lola on Av. Cinco de Mayo a half-block down from the Santo Domingo Church between Abasolo and Constitucion.  The gallery is inside the beautiful courtyard that houses other artisans and is next door to El Nahual Gallery.

Galeria Fe y Lola, (951) 524 4078, Av. Cinco de Mayo #408, Oaxaca Centro Historico, cellular 044 (951) 243 1657.  Usually open 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily except Sunday.  Home workshop is at Francisco I. Madero #55, Teotitlan del Valle, Oaxaca, open by appointment for weaving demonstrations.

Fe and Lola are a small production family business.  They both weave and their three children weave, too.  They do the entire process by hand — from washing, dyeing, and weaving. Eldest son, Eric Chavez Santiago, is director of education at the Museo Textil de Oaxaca. Their daughter, Janet, is education coordinator at Centro Cultural y Academica de San Pablo, and youngest son Omar begins university in autumn 2012.

Federico was born in 1959 in Teotitlan del Valle, the second oldest of four children.  His formal education stopped at age eleven, typical for most of his generation.  At age eight, Federico learned to weave from his grandfather Victoriano Chavez, first shearing the sheep, then cleaning, carding and spinning the wool.  Victoriano is remembered as one of the most important weavers of his time.  His variations of the caracol (snail) were innovative and beautiful.  Federico’s father, Jose, took the family design to the next level, achieving a special technique to create the rounded caracol, replicating those carved in Zapotec temples around 700 C.E.

When he was age ten, Federico wove and sold his first 2.5 x 5 foot rug for eight pesos.  At age fifteen, after working as a cowboy, taking buss and cows to graze in the mountains, Federico had saved enough to buy his own rough-hewn loom.  He began to experiment, exercising his artistic and creative talents, weaving mythological Zapotec figures, first sketching them to determine proportion and size.

In 1976, at age seventeen, he was asked by his employer to weaver a portrait of Mexican presidential candidate Jose Lopez Portillo, which he sucessfully completed.  Federico studied with master weaver Erasto Gutierrez to make detailed designs using techniques from artist Francisco Toledo.  Chavez mastered the ability to reproduce designs from a single picture, drawing the design on graph paper, then translating it to a tapestry by sight — a unique skill.

In 1979, at age nineteen, Federico could not earn enough money as a weaver to help his family.  He decided to go with friends to California as an undocumented field worker, and lived there for eighteen months.  He then migrated to North Carolina to harvest tobacco.  He returned to Teotitlan del Valle in 1981.

For the next two years, as the rug market in the United States exploded, Federico did contract work for an exporter, weaving complex designs.  In 1984, he became an independent supervisor of rug production for a New Mexico importer, ensuring quality of design, color, and weaving.

Dolores is a member of one of the most illustrious weaving families of Teotitlan, too.  Her eldest brother, Porfirio, is head of the Casa Santiago weaving household on Av. Benito Juarez.

Today, the artist-weaver experiments with complex designs that blend tradition with innnovation, setting the standard for beauty and quality.


9 responses to “Federico Chavez Sosa + Galeria Fe y Lola

  1. Hi Norma,
    Do you have an email address for Federico Chavez Sosa or the Chavez Santiago Family or for any of the people listed in your book Textile Fiestas of Mexico?

  2. Hi Norma, I am planning a visit to Oaxaca City and Teotilan in the near future to buy rugs for my home and plan on going to see some of the weavers. I want a rug that is 9×12 in size. Can you please recommend which weaver(s) will be able to accommodate this size and also if there are any stores in the area that would already have these in stock. I have enjoyed reading your articles regarding the textiles etc. Thanks so much for sharing all your knowledge.

    • Sherry, thanks for writing. This is usually a custom size. When you get to Oaxaca, go to Galeria Fe y Lola at Calle 5 de Mayo #408 and talk to them. You can choose any design you like and they can make it for you in a bigger size if they don’t have it in stock. You will need to decide if you want to buy a rug made with natural or commercial dyes, too. If you purchase my Self-Guided Tour Map of Teotitlan del Valle for $10, I list all the weavers I know who work in natural dyes, too.

  3. Norma, this is wonderful to read! you have done so much to share this intriguing culture. What a gift to us as travelers and adverturers.

  4. Hi Norma: Maybe the map will be done by the time I go to Oaxaca, Jan. 14. Am looking forward to my trip. I have accumulated a few names you have recommended. I do plan, upon arrival to go see Eric with my list of weavers and hopefully he can tell me which ones he highly recommends.

  5. Hi Norma: Am looking at an e-mail written in January 2008 discussing the proposal of a list of weavers in Teotitlan and Santa Ana who use natural dyes and also a map. Has anything been done regarding this proposal?

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