We’re expecting Eric Chavez to return to North Carolina this spring. He’ll be coming on March 22 with his friend, Elsa Sanchez Diaz, to participate in an art fair and exhibition at East Carolina University, in Greenville. The University has invited him back for a second year because of the success of his presentation last spring. During the time they will be here, Eric and Elsa will also meet with Molly Matlock and Chris Bouton of the Chatham Arts Council to plan a fall 2008 arts in education program for the public schools, artists and weavers, and the general public, including a major exhibition and sale at the community college. The program looks like it will include workshops for teachers, with students in elementary, middle and high school, and master classes in collaboration with local artist cooperatives. Because Eric is a fluent English speaker, he is able to speak eloquently about his Zapotec people and culture, the influences of the Spanish conquest, the impact of tourism on the economy of Oaxaca state, and the ancient weaving and natural dyeing traditions of his village, Teotitlan del Valle.
These programs are wonderful cultural bridges to understanding the artistic traditions of Mexican culture and the rich history of immigrants who live and work here. We have found that wherever we make presentations, give workshops and exhibit in the U.S., people are welcoming and interested. Often, cross-cultural appreciation, understanding and respect is facilitated through the arts.
Eric is planning his exhibition and presentation schedule for fall 2008 at museums, galleries and universities in the U.S. Often, he is sponsored by through Latino Studies programs, university art museums, departments of global studies, education, textiles, art and design, weavers and textile guilds, or a collaboration of these and other community groups. If you or your organization would be interested in hosting Eric Chavez, please reply by posting your comment to the blog.
Notes From An Artist’s Journal by Andrea Donnelly
I am writing this entry from Teotitlan del Valle in Oaxaca, Mexico. I’ve been here since July 4th, exploring the culture and landscape of this beautiful place. Surrounding mountains hug this little village like silent guardians, spirit-lifting backdrops to cobblestone roads and adobe brick walls. The rhythm is slower here, more thoughtful. Teotitlan is a village of master weavers. Wool tapestries hang outside homes, calling cards for the family business. I came here to learn about natural dyes from Eric Chavez, who I met at NC State when he came with his father to give a dye workshop and presentation about his work and his village. In the rug room of their beautiful open-air home hang faded photo portraits of grandparents and great-grandparents at their looms, a history of Zapotec weavers going back four generations. Eric and his father Frederico are still using natural dyes when many have moved to the faster and cheaper but highly toxic synthetics. Though I came with the specific intention of learning the natural processes for indigo and cochineal, I see that there are many more possibilities for natural dye. There are pomegranates, onion, flowers, moss, nuts; so many options for future experiments! Eric and I have been very busy. First he took me to the cochineal farm at Tlapanochestli, where I saw the growth and harvesting process of the delicate little bugs. They grow on cactus spears naturally, but must be tended to very carefully if they are to complete their life cycle. Outside in the sun they might live for a few days, but for the farmers to get a pigment they must live a complete three months. We also began a natural indigo bath at the beginning of this week. The bath consists of indigo and organic matter: banana and mango skins, flower petals, honey and a touch of alcohol. It is currently fermenting in the sun on Eric’s roof, and we expect that it will be ready for dyeing in about another week. A few days ago I helped Eric’s family harvest dye materials from the woods near Benito Juarez, a neighboring village hidden far up one of the mountains. They had run out of moss the night before, so Eric’s mother and father loaded up the back of the pickup truck with baskets, tools, and me, Eric, and his sister, and up the mountain we went. What a view I had from the back of that pickup truck! I am almost through my first big lesson- dyeing wool with cochineal. We’ve mordanted and dyed five 450g skeins of yarn so far, with one left to go: two neutrals, two acids, and one base to date. I’ve learned the very important mordant process and how to get different shades by manipulating the pH of the dye bath. There are five incredibly vibrant natural shades of red, pink, purple, and orange currently drying at Eric’s house, and next week we are going to warp a loom (one of the seven currently put together in his house) for me to weave on with my beautiful fiber. I’m going to practice a traditional Zapotec pattern. Tomorrow will be more cochineal dyeing, and then we are on to indigo with wool. Eric and his entire family have really taken me in. I’m having a wonderful time and learning more than I could have ever imagined.
Click on the blogroll link to see photos and more journal entries from Andrea’s 3-month artist’s residency in Teotitlan studying with Eric Chavez. Andrea graduated from NC State University College of Art and Design, where Eric and Federico Chavez gave a master class to textile students.
Posted in Cultural Commentary, Oaxaca Mexico art and culture, Oaxaca rug weaving and natural dyes
Tagged artist residency in Oaxaca, Eric Chavez Santiago, Federico Chavez Santiago, learning to weave, natural dye bath chemistry, natural dyeing techniques, North Carolina State University textiles program, study art in Oaxaca, Weavers and artists