Monthly Archives: July 2023

Churro Sheep, the Heritage of Spanish Conquest, and Tierra Wools

There are so many similarities between living in Oaxaca, Mexico, and northern New Mexico. With the conquest, the Spanish brought the pedal loom and sheep to the Americas. Churro sheep, an Iberian peninsula breed and the first to be domesticated in the Americas, are especially sturdy. They survive, even thrive, in harsh climates and at high altitudes. This is the wool used by New Mexico Navajo to weave their famous rugs. This is the wool used by Oaxaca Zapotecs to weave their famous rugs.

As I drive from Taos, NM, to Pagoso Springs, Colorado, to meet up with Carol Estes and her family for camping, I pass through Chama, NM. Here, off the road almost obscured in a forest of pine trees, is Tierra Wools. I remembered it from my last camping adventure from two years ago. I wanted to make a stop to see what it was all about, zoomed by before I could make the turn. For a moment, I hesitated and considered going on, thought better of it, did a U-turn, and pulled into the driveway.

It was a hot day, and the barn door was wide open to let in any semblance of a breeze. Five people were learning to weave at treadle looms of the type predominant in Teotitlan del Valle, not much different from the ones introduced by the Spanish in these parts over five hundred years ago. They call them Rio Grande Valley looms here, much too localized for their historical impact.

As I stepped through the front door, I entered a world of color and texture, walls filled with skeins of locally grown Navajo-Churro sheep wool, hand or machine spun, and most dyed with natural plants and cochineal. It was astounding to find a shop like this in a town of 912 people. Tierra Wools pride themselves on making everything from local sources, and their history runs deep.

I share this with you because finding sources for native wool that is naturally dyed, where people are keeping their traditions alive, is important. If you are a knitter or weaver, perhaps some of these amazing skeins will entice you. They did me.

And, here’s what car camping looks like in the San Juan National Forest! My Subaru is equipped with a 20”wide x 66” long blow up mattress. Cozy for one small woman!

Clothing for a Hot Summer: Light and Airy

We need to dress lightly to be comfortable in this extraordinary heat. I brought these pieces back from Mexico when I returned in April, thinking they would be perfect for summer dressing, not realizing how much we now need lightly woven gauze cotton or beautifully embroidered linen to keep our bodies cool. We still want to look good when we go out or invite others in, and these blusas and huipiles fit these needs. Plus, they are easy care — wash in the machine on gentle using a mild soap (not Woolite, it leeches color) like Ivory. Then hang to dry. Press with a warm iron, if needed. There are 16 items. Be sure to scroll down to see everything!

How to Buy: Send me an email.Tell me the item you want by number. Send me your mailing address. Tell me how you want to pay. Choose one of four ways.

You can pay one of three ways: 1) with Zelle and no service fee; 2) with Venmo or 3) with PayPal or 4) with Square. If you choose either #2, #3, or #4, we add on a 3.5% service fee which is their charge to us. Tell us which payment method you prefer and how your account is registered (email, phone number, other?). We will send a Request for Funds to your account. The request will include the cost of the garment + $14 mailing. If you want more than one piece, I’m happy to combine mailing.

P.S. Please measure carefully. All sales are final. Why? Because we have already purchased and paid the artisan makers for these textiles at the price they set, doing our part for cultural continuation and sustainability.

#1. From San Juan Colorado, Oaxaca, handwoven on the back strap loom by Brisaida, this native white cotton is a loose weave. The blue is indigo dye, with designs achieved using the supplementary weft technique. Measures 22-1/2″ wide x 25″ long. $235.

#2 From Coban, northern Guatemala, where a tropical climate dictates that women weave very fine cotton. This, too, uses indigo dyed threads to achieve the designs in the cloth created using the supplementary weft technique. Measures 27″ wide x 35″ long. $295.

#3. From San Juan Chamula, Chiapas, a very fine white cotton blouse embroidered with blue trim. Easy wearing! Measures 23-1/2″ wide x 27″ long. $135.

SOLD #4. Egg yolk yellow cotton blouse handwoven on the back strap loom with an amazing embroidered collar from Pinotepa de Don Luis, Oaxaca. Measures 23″ wide x 26″ long. $95.

#5. Black on White embroidered blouse from San Antonino Castillo Velasco, Oaxaca, where they make the famous wedding dresses! A crop top for ultimate coolness. Measures 25″ wide x 23″ long. $165.

#6. San Juan Colorado, Oaxaca, huipil with natural dyes — wild marigold and logwood, handwoven on the back strap loom by Brisaida. Measures 30-1/2″ wide x 30 ” long. $265.

#7. White on White blusa woven in Pinotepa de Don Luis with rare purple snail dye trim around neckline and collar. Measures 22″ wide x 26″ long. $185.

#8. Pale yellow linen blouse with the finest embroidery I’ve ever seen, made in Chiapas. Measures 23-1/2″ wide x 24″ long. $135.

#9. This quechquemitl, which is a native Mexican design, is like a short poncho. You put it on over your head. This one is handwoven on the back strap loom in Venustiano Carranza, Chiapas, a light cover-up to embellish your dressing. Measures 35″ wide x 31″ long. $145.

SOLD. #10. Handwoven cotton blouse with supplementary weft designs from the Triqui group in Oaxaca’s Mixteca Alta. Measures 20″ wide x 24″ long. $110.

SOLD. #11. This blouse from San Juan Guichicovi, Oaxaca, is cotton woven on the treadle loom and decorated in free-form machine embroidery. It measures 21″ wide x 23″ long. $145.

SOLD. #12. From San Juan Colorado, a White on White blouse with a beautiful square collar, perfectly executed on the back strap loom Measures 24-1/2″ wide x 24-1/2″ long. $165.

#13. San Juan Chamula, Chiapas, embroidered blouse on very fine cotton. Measures 24″ wide x 24″ long. $135.

SOLD #14. San Juan Chamula, Chiapas, embroidered blouse, similar to the one above. This is a somewhat lighter color way. Measures 24″ wide x 26″ long. $135.

SOLD. #15. All natural dyes are what makes this Triqui huipil very special. It incorporates cochineal, wild marigold, indigo, and tree bark. It measures 25″ wide x 35″ long. $295.

SOLD. #16. A turquoise blusa embellished with sparkly threads in the supplementary weft design, from Venustiano Carranza, Chiapas, where tropical weather dictates a lighter weave. Measures 23″ wide x 24″ long. $125

Thank you for looking and shopping. Buy today and I will mail on Wednesday, July 26. Otherwise I will mail on August 4.

News and Updates: A Brief Report

Good morning, everyone. I’m still in Taos and won’t be returning to Oaxaca until just before Day of the Dead. So, far, it’s been a whirlwind of a summer. Hot, dry, filled with non-stop activities and I’m holed up now, taking it easy. I’ve hosted my son’s 50th birthday party, joined a reunion of Chiapas 2020 tour-goers for the Santa Fe International Folk Art Market, then did a presentation about Oaxaca and Chiapas textiles at the Kent State University WARP Conference in Ohio.

On Thursday, I’m heading off to Pagosa Springs, Colorado, where I’ll meet up with dear friend Carol Estes for camping and relaxation with her family along the San Juan River. Carol and I met in Oaxaca about 10 years ago, when she decided to make Oaxaca City her home after retirement. Oaxaca has a way of making connections that are lifelong and important.

I joined SOMOS this year. This is the Taos literary society. An open mic is held on the third Thursday of every month and I’ve been participating since I returned from Oaxaca in April. In June, I read a new piece entitled Lipstick. The feedback was so positive that I decided to submit it to Minerva Rising Press to be judged for publication. Lo and behold, they accepted it, paid me a stipend, and published the piece. Very exciting. Here it is, in the event you’d like to read it. Please write me if you have comments or feedback. I’d love to hear from you.

Lipstick by Norma Schafer

The creative writing process is very energizing and gives me an opportunity to express thoughts and feelings with the written word. I don’t do it to get published. I do it for self-reflection, understanding, and observation. The process helps me know myself more fully as I reconcile past and navigate the future.

We will continue offering writing workshops in Oaxaca starting in 2024. The first up will be a Screenwriting for Film and Television with two-time Golden Globe winner Harry Werksman. Our Women’s Creative Writing Workshop Retreat will be back in early January 2025. Interested? Get on our list by writing Norma Schafer. We will hold these in Teotitlan del Valle, where we find inspiration in this small, amazing Zapotec rug weaving village where time moves slowly, and we can savor culture and community.

Yes, it’s HOT. I have a beautiful selection of clothing, light weight, gauzy, breathable, perfect for summer dressing, that I will offer for sale this week. The pieces are from Oaxaca and Chiapas, where weather drives comfort. Stay tuned.

Day of the Dead in Oaxaca is fast approaching. We still have spaces open on our village day tours during this magical time. Please forward this info to anyone who will be in Oaxaca to experience a more intimate view of this important celebration. 1) Day of the Dead on the Ocotlan Highway. 2) Day of the Dead in Teotitlan del Valle. 3) Day of the Dead in Mitla.

And, if you are thinking of coming with us to Original in Mexico City in November, we hope you will decide soon. There are only three spaces open. Same for Chiapas 2024. We are also committed to offering a winter 2025 trip to Guatemala, and we are in the planning stages now.

Eric and I are working behind the scenes to open an online gallery shop that features home goods, rugs, clothing and other art/design pieces from Mexico, especially Oaxaca and Chiapas. We are close to being ready to launch and we will let you know.

As an educational organization, we are dedicated to giving back to communities. We are exploring how we might establish a Oaxaca Cultural Navigator scholarship that will support students who want to complete their high school education and pursue university studies. A part of your registration fees will be dedicated to this endeavor.

And, there is a flock of baby quail trailing behind their mother on my patio at this moment. I couldn’t get a photo fast enough before they took flight. So, this one of Big Horn Sheep in my yard will have to do!

Please stay cool, hydrated and healthy.

Textiles Front and Center: WARP

I’ve been a member of WARP (Weave a Real Peace) since 2017 when Thrums Books recommended that I organize an international textile conference in Oaxaca for the organization. Over the years, I have come to respect and embrace what they do even more — connecting textile artisans from around the world to support, encourage and promote creativity and economic opportunity. This is the WARP mission:

WARP is a catalyst for improving the quality of life of textile artisans worldwide.
We are an inclusive global network of individuals and organizations who value the social, cultural, historic, artistic, and economic importance of textile arts.

The international conference at Kent State University located about forty-five minutes east of Cleveland, Ohio just ended. It was a three-day, jam-packed event that included demonstrations, discussions, presentations, a marketplace filled with textiles for sale from all over the world, a fashion show, an auction, a gallery show, delicious food, and great networking among all of us — weavers, dyers, spinners, educators, collectors, makers, entrepreneurs, and social justice advocates. Now, I’m back in Albuquerque with my son, and will return to Taos tomorrow.

WARP is an inspiration and a place for us to share what we love. It is where we can talk about and see innovation and change. Kent State gave us a place to explore this — how design innovation melds with technology to create ikat, jacquard, and supplementary weft on technologically advanced, computerized looms. It is where we can understand how the Fibershed movement of farmers, fashion activities and makers influences a new textile economy — earth and people friendly, sustainable, and circular, minimizing fast fashion waste. It is how we can embrace the resurgence of innovation in the Rust Belt by meeting entrepreneurs like Faan‘s Aaron Jacobson, who started a Cleveland-based fashion company after working as an architect in China. They make low-waste, recycled, community-centric, eco-friendly fashion with everything sourced locally. We meet John Paul Moribito, assistant professor and head of textiles at Kent State. They open our eyes to creating textiles that speak to a Queer sensibility with beads, loose shimmering threads, evoking drag queen glamour. We talk with Praxis who created a community garden of indigo, involved children and the local neighborhood in natural dye activism to overcome the slave history of indigo culture in the USA.

This is also a place to share our concerns about what threatens hand weavers across the globe. As the global economy tightens its grip on the production of cheap goods made in countries that have no regulation for labor protections, and where often political prisoners are forced labor to reproduce what is authentic around the world, we must read labels and be vigilant about buying hand made. In this way, we personalize rather than depersonalize the shopping/buying experience.

Daniel and Norma, last dance of the evening

A highlight for me during this conference was seeing my friend, North Carolina ceramic artist-potter Daniel Johnston, who is engaged to be married to WARP’s executive director Kelsey Wiskirchen. I’ve known Daniel for almost 25 years, and met him when he was a young studio apprentice with Mark Hewitt Pottery in Pittsboro, NC. I attended Daniel’s first solo show in Asheboro, NC, bought some of his work and continued collecting, going to see his new kiln in Seagrove, and attending studio openings. Even as I was leaving NC, heading to New Mexico, I went to visit him and Kelsey before I left.

The great news is that they have purchased land in Abiquiu, near the Georgia O’Keefe home, and will be back and forth between NC and NM. So, once again, dear people whom I love are migrating to the southwest. In case anyone is interested, Daniel is represented by the Gerald Peters Gallery in Santa Fe. He has a major installation at the North Carolina Museum of Art sculpture garden, and is among the most decent, humble, and caring young men I know (similar to my son, Jacob). A perfect match for Kelsey who mirrors his attributes.

I delivered the last presentation of the conference, talking about and comparing the weaving traditions of two villages, one on the Oaxaca coast — San Juan Colorado, with a Chiapas Maya village — San Pedro Chenalho, just outside of San Cristobal de las Casas. We had a lively discussion about cultural appropriation and cultural appreciation, and I’ll be writing more about that as soon as a survey I’m conducting comes in. BTW, we have a few spaces open for both these textile study tours.

Next WARP Annual Meeting: May 16-18, 2024, Golden, Colorado. Join Us!

WARP Conference Marketplace, Kent State, Ohio

Yesterday was a travel day, from Taos to Albuquerque by car, then a flight from there to Denver to Cleveland. I arrived by bedtime and slept at an airport hotel, hauling one huge piece of luggage filled with Mexican textiles to sell at the WARP (Weave a Real Peace) Conference Marketplace. I got to Kent, Ohio, about an hour away, via Lyft. I’ve just finished setting up.

There are representatives here selling goods from Guatemala, Africa, Bhutan, Uzbekistan. Some haven’t arrived yet, so there will be more!

WARP is an international textile organization that I’ve belonged to since 2017, when we helped organize their Oaxaca conference. They promote and support the work of indigenous artisans around the world, offer scholarships and support for young talented artisans, and are committed to social justice. It is comprised of weavers, dyers, spinners, all fiber artisans, and collectors. Consider joining if you aren’t already a member!