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Norma Writes for Selvedge Magazine Issues #89 + #109
Creating Connection and Meaning between travelers and with indigenous artisans. Meet makers where they live and work. Join small groups of like-minded explorers. Go deep into remote villages. Gain insights. Support cultural heritage and sustainable traditions ie. hand weaving and natural dyeing. Create value and memories. Enjoy hands-on experiences. Make a difference.
What is a Study Tour: Our programs are designed as learning experiences, and as such we talk with makers about how and why they create, what is meaningful to them in their designs, the ancient history of patterning and design, use of color, tradition and innovation, values and cultural continuity, and the social context within which they work. First and foremost, we are educators. Norma worked in top US universities for over 35 years and Eric founded the education department at Oaxaca’s textile museum. We create connection and help artisans reach people who value them and their work.
Why We Left, Expat Anthology: Norma’s Personal Essay
We Contribute Two Chapters!
Meet Makers. Make a DifferenceOaxaca Cultural Navigator LLC has offered programs in Mexico since 2006. We have over 30 years of university, textile and artisan development experience. See About Us.
Programs can be scheduled to meet your independent travel plans. Send us your available dates.
Designers, retailers, wholesalers, curators, universities and others come to us to develop artisan relationships, customized itineraries, study abroad programs, meetings and conferences. It's our pleasure to make arrangements.
Select Clients *Abeja Boutique, Houston *Selvedge Magazine-London, UK *Esprit Travel and Tours *Penland School of Crafts *North Carolina State University *WARP Weave a Real Peace *Methodist University *MINNA-Goods *Smockingbird Kids *MINNA *University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Tell us how we can put a program together for you! Send an email firstname.lastname@example.org
- WEAVE Podcast: Oaxaca Coast Textiles & Tour
- NY Times, Weavers Embrace Natural Dye Alternatives
- NY Times, Open Thread–Style News
- NY Times, 36-Hours: Oaxaca, Mexico
- Cooking Classes–El Sabor Zapoteco
- Currency Converter
- Fe y Lola Rugs by Chavez Santiago Family
- Friends of Oaxaca Folk Art
- Hoofing It In Oaxaca Hikes
- Living Textiles of Mexico
- Mexican Indigenous Textiles Project
- Museo Textil de Oaxaca
- Oaxaca Lending Library
- Oaxaca Weather
- Taller Teñido a Mano Natural Dyes
My Soapbox: Beware of the Quality of Wool
First, let me say that my primary goal is to educate the consumer and to support weavers who invest in making the highest quality woven materials. I applaud those who use 100% wool that is handspun, who choose the lengthier more time consuming method of using natural dyes to color their wool, and who refuse to pay high commissions to tour guides. It takes courage to take an ethical stand for quality.
Weavers have learned to cut corners and reduce the cost of raw materials in order to continue making the slim profits they need and deserve after paying hefty commissions (up to 50%) to the tour guides who bring them to Teotitlan from their hotels in Oaxaca City. How do the people make enough money? Volume sales from large tour groups is one way. The other is to use less expensive synthetic, chemical dyes that cut the time in half, and the third way is to buy machine spun wool from commercial manufacturers. Machine spun wool is thinner, prone to fiber breakdown over time, and less resilient to wear. Because it has been processed, it contains less lanolin and will dry out.
The wool that comes from the Ocotlan mountain village of Chichicapam is handspun, thick, full of lanolin, resilient and strong. Spinning wool by hand is an artform that is expensive because it is time-consuming and fewer women are willing or able to sit and spin for hours. The irregularities of the thickness is what gives a high quality woven rug its texture and strength.
Master weavers in the village who recognize that their reputation for repeat business depends on making a fine woven rug will invest in using double strands of yarn to make a thicker quality product. Of course, they will be using double the amount of yarn that is used in a typical rug which will cost them more. They will often also incorporate mohair with the churro wool from Chichicapam that also adds strength and value. Rugs made in this manner will last several lifetimes.
Today, Pantaleon Ruiz Martinez, a master weaver and noted oil painter, told me that he has used a washing machine and dryer when he lived in Oregon to clean his rugs that were made with pure wool and naturally dyed. They didn’t shrink or discolor. I would not recommend that, but this is his testimony to the strength and durability of a great rug! He also lamented that many of the older women, including his mother, do not have the stamina to continue to hand spin wool.
Economic forces dictate that if there is not a demand for a product it will die out. If China reproduces Zapotec rugs to bring prices down, and tradtional weavers trim costs to bring the prices down, then we become a culture driven by low cost rather than quality. Please take the time to seek out small production weavers, people who do the work themselves and do not contract with other weavers, who adhere to quality standards and you will be doing your part for textile preservation. You may pay a little more but you will be doing good in the world.
In Teotitlan del Valle, I recommend:
Federico Chavez Sosa, Francisco I Madero #55
Pantaleon Ruiz Martinez, Constituccion #12
Bii Dauu Cooperative, Calle de Iturbide
Arte y Seda, Avenida Benito Juarez #4
and the young weavers I noted in my blog post about the textile exhibition at the archeological museum of Monte Alban.
In Oaxaca, I recommend two shops next door to each other:
Galleria Fe y Lola, Av. Cinco de Mayo #408
El Nahual Gallery, Av. Cinco de Mayo #402