Tag Archives: Carolyn Kallenborn

Flores y Cantos Mixed Media Art Exhibition at Museo Rufino Tamayo

The opening was last night. The food was amazing. The exhibition ethereal and dramatic. The premise: in the language of the Aztecs, Nahuatl, when the two glyphs flower and song are joined, the new meaning is art and poetry.  This concept was essential to the Aztec worldview, according to exhibition creator Carolyn Kallenborn, professor at University of Wisconsin-Madison.

And what do I take with me when I go?

Will I leave nothing here of me on this earth?

Do we only rise up and grow to then die in the ground?

At least let us leave flowers.

At least let us leave song.

Nezahualcoyotl, Aztec Poet

Flores y Cantos invites you to lose yourself in a surreal world of past and future, light, shadow and projected imagery of the ever-present and on-going cycles of nature. As you step into and move throughout the space, you add your own shadow and become immersed in the thoughts of life’s meaning and what is left behind by those who came before you. The artist asks, What will you leave behind?

Tree of life embroidery by Miriam Campos, San Antonino Castillo Velasco

For me, that leads to the ultimate and essential question, What is the meaning of life?

Tito Mendoza’s tapestry illuminated by a visual lake, you are on the beach

The exhibition has as its backdrop the pre-Columbian ceramic figures collected by Oaxaca artist Rufino Tamayo. While the individuals who created these sacred pieces, often deities that also refer to animals, plants, people and customs, are unnamed, we consider their legacy and that of their culture. They who believed in the eternal and the life cycle of birth, death and back again.

Enter into this other-worldly space, reflections

I sit on shallow steps, examining the tapestry of indigenous maize woven by textile artist Erasto “Tito” Mendoza, appreciating the fine embroidery stitches of a tree of life by Miriam Campos, I watch the movement of light, color, sky, water, nature projected. Sound conveys birdsong, waves, thunder-clap, peace, and I am immersed in another world, or is it my own, here and now?

Food for thought

At the buffet table, a visual feast

Carolyn asks us: Think about the following questions —

  1. What do you value that your ancestors passed on to you?
  2. What would you want others to remember about you when you are gone?

In the frenzy of Guelaguetza, the Oaxaca event that attracts thousands to the city, this is a respite that offers calm and consideration.

Carolyn, Miriam and Tito joined by family and friends

I am grateful to be writing about this after the almost two-hour trip from the city back to Teotitlan last night. The city celebration brings much-needed tourism and also Los Angeles-style gridlock. I’m going to be here on the hammock for a while as I think about what Carolyn asks me to re-examine.

Nicuatole pre-Hispanic corn pudding with Teotitlan mole negro tamales

Is life a blur or is there a kernel of meaning in this picture?

Feet up, swinging in the hammock, a meditation on blue skies





Tenidos de Reserva Taller — Bound Resist Natural Dye Workshop

Carolyn Kallenborn worked with Eric Chavez Santiago, director of education at the Museo Textil de Oaxaca to offer a natural dye workshop in the technique of bound resist or “tenido de reserva.”  Attendees included indigenous weavers, artists and expatriates from the U.S. and Canada who live in Oaxaca.   Carolyn is assistant professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.  Her contact information is at the end of this post.  We have been working together to organize weaving and natural dyeing workshops for university students in the home of Eric’s parents in Teotitlan del Valle.  I asked her if I could publish this workshop experiences (which she just shared with friends and colleagues) and photos.  She happily agreed.


I just got back Tuesday night from a couple of weeks in Oaxaca just in time for some of the coldest temperatures here in WI on record. They say it is supposed to get down to  *minus 27 degrees Fahrenheit* tonight. Brrrr. But as I look through the photos and think about the time I just spent in Mexico, it helps me feel a little warmer.

See a complete photo library of the bound resist natural dye workshop at

This year, perhaps because I am at a new school, perhaps because of the financial crunch, I didn’t get enough students to lead a trip to Oaxaca this year. So I took the opportunity to work with the new Textile Museum in Oaxaca ( http://www.museotextildeoaxaca.org.mx/) and offered a workshop to some very talented weavers from the Oaxaca area. It was a big milestone for me in that it was the first time I have taught a class all in Spanish (translated directions, converted from TBS to grams (they use weight rather than measuring spoons) and Fahrenheit to Celsius) so it was a bit of a challenge. But very fun.

Weaving by Elsa Abigail Mendoza Antonio

I taught a four day class in Bound Resist (Teñidos de Reserva) using natural dyes, and discharge (color removal) on cotton and linen. They had a wonderful exhibit up at the museum on bound resists from all over the world, including a patola from India and double ikat from Japan, adire oniko from Nigeria and wonderful Mexican bound resist from the 20’s. It was great to be able to go into the museum to look at pieces multiple times during the workshop to look at some of the best examples from around the world.

Bound Resist with Indigo, Mexico 1920’s

I also brought along a lot of my own dyed fabrics and pieces that I have collected. Unlike the ones in the museum exhibit, we could touch and fold these.  Some of the students had done some dyeing but all had been working with textiles their whole lives. It was amazing to see how quickly they understood the processes as I described them. And they were excited to be learning something very different than anything they had done before.

Demonstrating folding and clamping

We spent three days working in with stitched resist, cochineal for red, pericón for yellow, indigo for blue and Thiox to remove color.

Indigo workshop area

Bound resist in pericón and indigo and Indigo dyed yarn

I brought along some wooden clamps that I had my friend Paul cut out for me. We used these to compress the fabric tight enough so that the dye could not penetrate between the clamps.  With these, they made some beautiful designs.

62e78da 62e78ea 62e78f9 Photos Left to right:
Eufrosina Vásquez López      Fabric by Eric Chavez Santiago     Line of fabrics drying

On the last night, I gave public lecture (also in Spanish – a bit scary but fun to have made it through!) on my own art work, the projects that I have been doing with the weavers in Oaxaca and talked about the work we did in the workshop. It seemed to go really well and I think everyone understood me. No one feel asleep and people seemed to laugh at the right places.

The museum set up a display of the pieces that the students made during the workshop.  After the lecture, the students talked to the guests about what they did and explained the processes.  I don’t know what more they will do with this, but several of them were asking questions about how to do specific projects that they were thinking of. So I am hoping that when I go back again, some of them may have some pieces to show.

62e7909 62e7919
One of 4 display tables       View of workshop area from museum

Reporters from two local newspapers showed up. I was able to get a copy of one of the articles, but the other came out after I already left. (If you can read Spanish, it is on the web at: http://www.imparcialenlinea.com/index.php?mod=leer&id=70451&sec=cultura&titulo=Intercambian_culturas_a_trav%E9s_de_te%F1idos
Though I don’t think those are direct quotes. The Spanish usage seems much too complex to be anything I actually said.)

All in all, it was a really great experience. It was wonderful to work with such a talented group of artists and with the fabulous staff at the Textile Museum in Oaxaca.

Special thanks to Eric Chavez Santiago for helping to organize everything and who gave wonderful information on natural dyes.  Photos are courtesy of Carolyn Kallenborn and Eric Chavez Santiago.

Carolyn Kallenborn
Assistant Professor
Design Studies
University of Wisconsin – Madison
1300 Linden Drive
Madison WI 53706