If you were to arrive in the village with a taxi driver or via tourist bus, you would have an entirely different experience than if you chose to travel independently. On your own, you might do some research in advance to identify the weavers working with the best wool, using higher count warp threads and only natural dyes, which could take time and study. Then, you would need to figure out how to get to Teotitlan del Valle — on a public bus, a shared collectivo taxi, or a taxi hired for transport only. I am the first to admit, jumping on a tour bus could be convenient (although, I’ve never done it, I can certainly understand it) and saves some time. But it will cost you an authentic experience.
My friends Eric Chavez Santiago and Elsa Sanchez Diaz are both graduates of the tourism program at Universidad Anahuac de Oaxaca. Eric is a very accomplished weaver who lectures and demonstrates weaving and dyeing techniques at museums, universities and galleries in the U.S. and Elsa is a cultural liaison and interpreter. Both have 10-year travel visas to the U.S. They want to create real experiences for visitors to meet Teotitlan weavers who are committed to working only in natural dyes. If you go to our website: www.oaxacaculture.com we have an explanation about the importance of continuing the traditions of using natural dyes — for historic and cultural preservation and for health. The toxic chemical dye vapors that indigenous weavers breathe is creating early onset lung disease, emphysema and some cancers. So, there are important reasons to support weavers who work with natural dyes, beyond the aesthetics of a more beautiful rug. If visitors can differentiate quality and only purchase rugs made with natural dyes, then more people in the village will dye their wool this way. Elsa and Eric have contacted weavers in the village who they know work ONLY with natural dyes and have asked them to be part of a self-guided walking map of the village that the two are creating. The map will include local spots of interest, lodging and dining suggestions, and contact information. Travelers can contact Elsa to purchase the map. If travelers desire, Elsa will personally guide them, and provide round-trip transportation to and from the village from Oaxaca City. The idea is to showcase the village from the perspective of those who live there, engaging in discussions about customs traditions and history with local experts, exploring the back alleys to meet weavers, or perhaps dining in the home of an accomplished cook. Elsa and Eric want to offer day visits, overnight stays, and residencies and workshops for artists, university students and teachers. If you’d like more information about this, let me know, or contact Elsa Sanchez Diaz directly at email: email@example.com In Oaxaca, call her at 01(951)51-43069.
Oaxaca, Mexico: Center for the Graphic Arts
Before going to meet Alan Altamirano aka MK_Kabrito, founder of La Chicharra graphic arts studio for a workshop demonstration on woodcut techniques, we spent the morning with master printer and lithographer Fernando Sandoval. Fernando and his group do traditional lithography using copper plates and the acid wash technique. Master artists like Francisco Toledo and Sergio Hernandez rely on his impeccable expertise to produce the highest quality images. We were able to see many of these masters’ work during our visit.
We met Alan and translator/photographer Luvia Lazo Gutierrez in the studio and for the next two hours we learned about the printmaking process, using different plates for each color. (Note: we are offering a printmaking workshop in January 2016. Please contact us if you are interested.)
Some of us volunteered to try our hand at it — time consuming and labor intensive. Alan says it takes him at least thirty hours to make a large woodcut. Then he does the registration process, applying the ink to the wood and laying the paper exactly over the correct spot.
There is also a large work area and a printing press. So the large pieces go through the press rather than transferring the image to the paper by hand.
I work with local experts and guides to put together an unusual and intimate view of Oaxaca, her art, food and culture. I am not a tour guide but an expert at award-winning university program development. If your organization has interest in a program such as this one, please contact me.
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Posted in Cultural Commentary, Oaxaca Mexico art and culture, Travel & Tourism, Workshops and Retreats
Tagged Alan Altamirano, art, artists, Fernando Sandoval, graphics, lithography, Mexico, Oaxaca, printmaking, Sergio Hernandez, Toledo, woodcut