Denver, Colorado and Update

Just a brief note to tell you why I haven’t been writing lately. I’m in Denver and go into a surgical procedure this afternoon at University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Center to repair L4-L5 vertebrae that has been causing me increasing pain over the last year. I’ll keep you posted as I progress.

Meanwhile, yesterday I visited the botanical gardens with dear friends Leslie and Lynn to see the Jacobo and Maria Angeles giant alebrijes installation. I hope it brings a smile to your face as it did for me.

Abrazos, Norma

Zinacantan + San Juan Chamula, Chiapas: Magic Towns

My friend Chris Clark writes a blog called Color in the Streets. It is her musings about living on Lake Chapala, Jalisco, and visiting many regions around Mexico during the last six years since she moved there from North Carolina, where I first met her. Chris’ partner Ben died almost two years ago and she has decided to move back to North Carolina where she has a strong support system. She will return in August.

In February, Chris came with us to Chiapas to explore the villages she had always dreamed about visiting. She has been writing a three-part series about her experiences there, and I published her first piece earlier this spring. You can read all three posts HERE.

Chris has a way with words. Her descriptions are detailed and luxurious. Reading what she writes is almost like being there. She has a big heart and makes instantaneous connections with the people we meet along the way.

Here is an excerpt about Zinacantan:

The village is the largest supplier of flowers throughout Mexico and parts of the United States. The hillsides are covered with greenhouses. Most residents wear indigenous traje (costumes) handwoven and then embroidered with each year’s current colorful display of flowers. The designs are hand-drawn and then machine embroidered. The colors change regularly. On our visit we saw deep green, burgundy, black, and brightly colored accents.

Here is an excerpt about San Juan Chamula:

This is the village I’d heard most about from friends and neighbors in Ajijic, where I live, who’d visited the church of San Juan Chamula, noted for its mix of Christianity and Maya beliefs (syncretism). For some reason, I had expected a small, simple structure, maybe made of wood, with little space inside. Church pews, of course. But pine needles and candles? Surely not. Inside felt immediately sacred and mystical. The walls were lined with small, lifelike statues of saints. The floor covered with pine needles, brushed aside to hold tall, skinny candles creating “pop-up” altars honoring those in need of healing…unlike anything I’ve ever seen.

Interested in joining us in 2026? Send an email to get on the notification list!

Textile Tour in Oaxaca, Mexico, December 2024

Join us in Oaxaca from December 6 to 14, 2024, for a spectacular insider’s view of the textile culture and history of this World Heritage colonial city. We have created this experience in collaboration with Fiber Circle Studio in Petaluma, California, and owner founder Alisha Bright. Lots of touring plus hands-on workshops to keep you excited and engaged in the weaving and textile culture.

TRIP HIGHLIGHTS

  • Visit to artisan studios in Teotitlan del Valle including silk and tapestry weavers
  • Participate in a two-day natural dye workshop
  • Learn or enhance your skills in a two-day tapestry weaving workshop
  • Travel to the mountain village of Chichicapam for a one-day spinning workshop
  • Discover key sights – Hierve el Agua, and El Tule, a 3,000 year old cypress tree
  • Visit important museums and shops
  • Wander the Sunday tianguis at the Tlacolula Market, a confluence of art, craft and more
  • Meet a red clay potter in her famous ceramics studio
  • Experience Virgin of Guadalupe parades in downtown Oaxaca
  • Show & tell your work, share your experience with the group
  • Enjoy a grand finale dinner with our group and leaders

Read more details here!

(No prior weaving or dyeing experience is necessary. This is open and valuable to all levels of fiber artists and fiber admirers.)

DAY 1 | Arrive, settle in & welcome! 

Arrive, travel to Teotitlan del Valle on your own, at your own expense. We will provide directions from the airport. Box supper available upon check-in at our upscale bed and breakfast inn. Overnight in Teotitlan del Valle.

DAY 2 | Introduction, visit weaving cooperatives, begin dye workshop

Breakfast, introduction to the textile culture of Oaxaca with a presentation. Morning excursion to 3 cooperatives and workshops to meet weavers in Teotitlan del Valle who create tapestries, clothing, and handbags. After lunch, we will meet at the dye studio and begin the process to create naturally dyed skeins of wool. Dinner will be at our bed and breakfast inn. Overnight in Teotitlan del Valle.

About the Natural Dye Workshop: Participants will dye an assortment of colors using various plants and overdyed techniques. Participants will dye 15 wool skeins of 100 grams, with enough colors and materials to weave a small sampler on our weaving day.

DAY 3 | Natural dye workshop – 15 colors; 15 skeins of wool

Breakfast. Visit the Tlacolula market. Lunch at local comedor. We’ll resume the natural dye workshop to dye skeins of wool exploring locally sourced plant materials of indigo, pomegranate, wild marigold, plus cochineal. The workshop will cover chemistry in dye preparation and techniques for over-dyeing. Box supper at dye studio. Overnight in Teotitlan del Valle.

DAY 4 | Spinning workshop, dip in the waters of Hierve el Agua

Breakfast. Excursion to Chichicapam to meet a family of spinners who work with only the finest quality Churro sheep wool. We will have an opportunity to spin yarn using the drop-spindle (malacate) and purchase handspun yarn. Visit to Hierve el Agua. Dinner on your own. Overnight in Teotitlan del Valle.

DAY 5 | Weaving workshop, ceramics studio

Breakfast. Morning weaving workshop – we’ll be working on a frame loom that will produce a sampler or wall hanging approximately 10” x 18” using the yarns prepared during the natural dye workshop. Lunch at the weaving studio. Afternoon excursion to ceramics village of San Marcos Tlapazola. Dinner on your own. Overnight in Teotitlan del Valle.

DAY 6 | Weaving workshop, visit El Tule, head to la ciudad de Oaxaca, optional Mezcal tastings!

Breakfast. Morning weaving workshop to continue working on and finishing projects. Lunch at a local comedor. Excursion to El Tule to see the ancient cypress tree and visit flying shuttle loom weaver. Dinner at Oaxaca Te Amo. Overnight in Oaxaca City. We will provide suggestions for anyone who wants to do Mezcal tastings.

DAY 7 | Textile museum and shops, Virgin de Guadalupe parades

Breakfast. Morning guided walking tour of Oaxaca textile museum and important shops. Lunch on your own and opportunity to see Virgin of Guadalupe parades in El Centro. Dinner on your own. Overnight in Oaxaca City.

DAY 8 | Show & tell, wander the city, final dinner

Breakfast. Discussion of community, culture, textiles, show and tell of weaving samplers. Lunch and afternoon on your own. Gala Grand Finale Dinner. Overnight in Oaxaca City.

DAY 9 | Hasta luego!

Breakfast. Depart on flights home from Oaxaca airport. We will help arrange taxi transportation at your own expense.

PRICING

  • $4,295 (per person/double occupancy)
  • $4,995 (per person/single occupancy)

REGISTER

  1. Please download this form, complete it and return it by email to norma.schafer@icloud.com 
  2. A $500 non-refundable deposit will reserve your space – you will receive an invoice after your registration form is received. The remaining balance will be due on August 1, 2024. 
  3. PLEASE TELL US YOU ARE REGISTERING DIRECTLY WITH OAXACA CULTURAL NAVIGATOR

CANCELLATION POLICY

For cancellations made on or before August 1, 2024, we will honor a 50% refund. Any cancellations after August 1, 2024, will not qualify for a refund. Details of the cancellation policy can be found here.

Read more details here!

Textile Conference WARP in Denver

Last Tuesday I drove from Taos to Denver through the La Veta Pass studded with snow capped mountains on my way to the annual meeting of one of my favorite textile organizations, Weave a Real Peace (WARP). I’ve been involved since I organized their 2017 annual meeting in Oaxaca, Mexico.

The welcome circle, that included more than 80 people from through the USA, Canada, and Europe, was a testimony to our knowledge, expertise, and diversity. Some of us are anthropologists, historians, archeologists, textile faculty and students, collectors, appreciators, educators, tour leaders, business people who import and sell artisan craft.

I was especially interested in hearing the keynote speaker, Lynda Teller Pete, a Navajo weaver from Two Grey Hills community on the Navajo Nation. She talked about cultural appropriation and appreciation, how she was raised to become a spinner and weaver in the tradition of Spider Woman, and her take on what it means to be an artist or an artisan. Lynda is also co-author of the book Spider Woman’s Children. https://navajorugweavers.com/books/

She says, As a Navajo weaver you live as your culture and accept those lessons. Art and artisanry are colonial terms. The definition goes much deeper. What we create is art and has to do with meaning, our lifestyle, family and traditions, and dreams and culture. 

In October 2023 I went on a Southwest roadtrip with my sister through Zuni, Hopi, and Navajo territories. We made a detour to Two Grey Hills and the trading post where Lynda grew up learning to become a master weaver with her sister Barbara.

Above: amazing embroidered textiles with bling beadwork from Guatemala.

The conference also includes an artisan vendor gallery that features homemade goods from Mexico, Central and South American, Africa, Uzbekistan, China and Lithuania.

On the left, Lanita and I are modeling indigo jackets made by Azure Blue created by Kathy McHenry, San Francisco. Kathy also designs and sews clothing made from Guatemala fabric. On the right, my dear friend Leslie Roth is wearing an indigo jacket and I’m wearing one made from indigo dyed ikat from Guatemala.

Tonight the conference ends with a textile auction and fashion show. More about that soon!

If you are a textile lover, please consider joining WARP. It’s a wonderful organization.

Mother’s Day in Mexico is Always on May 10

Feliz Dia de las Madres! Happy Mother’s Day

The sentiment is the same around the world wherever Mother’s Day is celebrated: love, gratitude, and appreciation. It is a day to honor and celebrate mothers and those who have stepped into this role as surrogates. We show appreciation for their care and contributions to us as individuals and to families in general. Many use the day to express affection, give gifts, or spend quality time with the important women in their lives. It is one particular time to show respect and acknowledge the essential role that mothers play. From my point of view, it does not need to be soppy or dramatic, or over-the-top. It is an opportunity for each of us to communicate genuine caring, whatever that looks like.

In the USA, President Woodrow Wilson declared Mother’s Day to be official in 1914. The Mexican government officially recognized Mother’s Day in 1922. In the USA, the date floats and is always observed on the second Sunday in May. In Mexico, this is a fixed date and is observed on whichever day May 10 falls.

Why May 10? Because back in the day, the 10th of the month was pay day in Mexico, meaning that everyone could afford a little extra to buy mom a gift or take her out for a nice meal. The month of May in Mexico is also important because it is consecrated to the Virgin of Guadalupe, the Patron Saint of Mexico, and the incarnation of the Virgin Mary.

In Mexico, children of all ages make a fuss about their mothers in various ways. Moms are called las reinas de la casa, or the queens of the house, and treated accordingly. Flowers are particularly popular – the more colorful, the better! But for many Mexican moms, the most valuable gift is a little less tangible. Often, children gather outside the house on the morning of Mother’s Day to serenade mom with a song. Las Mañanitas is a favorite tune, with appropriate lyrics that translate to Because today is your day, we’ve come to sing for you. To awaken to the sound of your children singing to you (sometimes accompanied by a full mariachi band) is considered to be the ultimate Mother’s Day experience.

You will often hear this in Mexico:

  • Mamá, eres la mejor (Mom, you’re the best). 
  • Te quiero con todo mi corazón (I love you with all my heart). 

Also, Mother’s Day in Mexico all about food. Families will often gather around a feast featuring such signature Mexican dishes as mole, pozole verde with pork, enchiladas, sopes, quesadillas, beef barbacoa and more. 

If we are so lucky that our mothers, grandmothers, or other mother figures are still with us, this is an opportunity to offer a special tribute. If our mothers have passed on, it is a time for us to reflect on how they influenced us, contributed to our well being, and helped shaped us to better navigate in the world.

Not every mother-child relationship is/was consistently rosy. Most of us have experienced the inconsistencies of mothering. If we are parents ourselves, we know how difficult it is to be even-handed, rational, loving, affirming, and offer unconditional love and support one-hundred percent of the time. As I have written in a recent essay, they did the best they could given the tools they were given, and so did we!

Las Mananitas Lyrics

Estas son las mañanitas
Que cantaba el rey David
Hoy, por ser día de tu santo
Te las cantamos aquí

Despierta, mi bien, despierta
Mira que ya amaneció
Ya los pajaritos cantan
La luna ya se metió

Qué linda está la mañana
En que vengo a saludarte
Venimos todos con gusto
Y placer a felicitarte

El día en que tú naciste
Nacieron todas las flores
En la pila del bautismo
Cantaron los ruiseñores

Ya viene amaneciendo
Ya la luz del día nos dio
Levántate de mañana
Mira que ya amaneció

Si yo pudiera bajarte
Las estrellas y un lucero
Para poder demostrarte
Lo mucho que yo te quiero

Con jazmines y flores
Este día quiero adornar
Hoy, por ser día de tu santo
Te venimos a cantar