We pride ourselves on buying direct from artisan makers. We know them and the quality of their work. We believe that by supporting makers we are contributing to the well-being of their children, families and communities. Many live in remote regions of Mexico where they have little or no access to those of us who appreciate and can purchase their work directly. In many communities, the men are subsistence farmers who raise the three sisters: beans, corn, and squash to feed their families. Women are able to find markets for what they make and can then raise the cash to pay for the cost of education, health care, and additional food to sustain them. When we bring small groups to visit, what we purchase is a benefit and a blessing. As we continue to give thanks in this season for the abundance in our lives, making a purchase here helps women and their families survive and thrive.
We’ve just added these beautiful handmade bags to the shop. More than 75 items are listed, including handwoven, naturally dyed rugs and wall-hangings by Eric Chavez Santiago, Teotitlan del Valle, Oaxaca. Perhaps there is something you would like to embellish your holiday wardrobe or for gifting something special!
We are committed to supporting Mexican artisans, especially women who work so hard to support their families to give them schooling, health care and nutritious food. Food insecurity is a big deal in remote villages. Access to local medical clinics is severely limited. There are extra costs for school books, tuition and required uniforms. It’s the women who, through their weaving, are able to earn extra income to supplement the basics that the men can provide through subsistence farming. That’s why your support is so important. Big thanks as we approach Thanksgiving, for all you have done and continue to do to enable Oaxaca Cultural Navigator to buy direct and outright from the makers, and not on consignment.
I’m returning to Oaxaca at the end of December and want to clear my inventory of many beautiful pieces before then. What better time than NOW to add some splash to your holiday dressing with these Pre- and Post-Thanksgiving Specials. We have some home goods, too. Many pieces deeply discounted. I’m listing 12 things here, with more to come.
How to Buy: Send an email to email@example.com and tell me the item(s) you want to purchase by number, your email, your mailing address and which payment method you prefer: 1) Zelle bank transfer with no service fee; 2) Venmo or 3) PayPal each with a 3% service fee. I will send you a request for funds and then add on a flat rate $14 mailing fee. Happy to combine shipping if you buy more than one piece. These are one-of-a-kind. Note: Thank you for understanding that all sales are final. Please measure carefully.
#1. Steel Grey Floral Blouse from Zinacantan, Chiapas, land of the flower greenhouses! This is a village in the highlands just beyond San Cristobal de Las Casas where elaborate floral embroidery decorates everything. Machine washable, cold water, gentle cycle. Hang to dry. 23″ wide x 29″ long. Wear out or tuck into pants or a skirt. Shimmering beauty. Was $85. Now $65.
SOLD. #2. Gunmetal Grey Floral Blouse from Zinacantan, Chiapas, land of the flower greenhouses! Great contrast between blouse fabric and embroidery. Elegant and casual comfort, too. Machine washable, cold water, gentle cycle. Hand to dry. 25″ wide x 29″ long. Was $85. Now $65.
#3, #4 and #5. Three beautiful pillow covers, 100% cotton and hand-woven on the back-strap loom in Chiapas. Reduced from $95 each to $45 each. The brown stripey is beautifully embroidered. The creamy one has traditional design motifs woven into the cloth using the supplementary weft technique.
#6. Embroidered Blouse, 100% cotton, From Tzintzuntzan, the ceremonial center of the pre-Hispanic Purepecha capital along the shores of Lake Patzcuaro, Michoacan. Here, the most astounding embroidery decorates blouses, shirts, and other wearable, telling stories of village life, including weddings and engagements. This blouse is from the most famous embroiderer of them all, Teofila Servin Barriga. Her work commands hundreds, even thousands of dollars! Blouse measures 22-1/2″ wide x 26″ long. $175.
#7. Embroidered Jacket, 100% cotton, from Tzintzuntzan, Michoacan, from Teofila Servin Barriga. Jacket measures 22″ wide x 26″ long and the sleeves are 24-1/2″ long from shoulder seam. Too long? Roll them up! $275.
SOLD. #8. From Venustiano Carranza, Chiapas, a handwoven black blouse with amazing brilliant supplementary weft design woven into the cloth. Wear a Heat-Tech T-shirt underneath for winter warmth and transition into spring and summer with this beautiful, lightweight cotton blouse. Measures 27″ wide x 25″ long. Was $95.Now $55.
SOLD #9. Adorn yourself with a handwoven accent scarf from Venustiano Carranza, Chiapas. A statement in holiday elegance. Was $85.Now $45.
#10. The Francisca Blouse, Purple Haze — all French Knots, intricate and completely made by hand, even the seams and hem! This one is a size LARGE, measuring 17″ wide from shoulder seam to shoulder seam and 28″ long. Sleeves are 3/4 length. Was $145. Now $95.
#11. The Francisca Blouse, Purple Haze — size EXTRA LARGE, measuring 19″ wide from shoulder seam to shoulder seam and 30″ long, with 3/4 length sleeves. Was $145.Now $95.
#12. Tlahuitoltepec black linen shirt jacket with cotton machine stitched embroidery. This embroidery is considered handmade because the seamstress guides the machine free-form! Measures 22″ wide x 26″ long in the front. The back panel of the jacket is 29″ long, designed to cover the tush. Sleeves are 23″ long from the shoulder seam. Was $175.Now $85.
#13. Chakira beaded bodice and fine smocking make this long-sleeved 100% cotton blouse from the mountains of Puebla state a knock-out. Measures 24″ wide x 27″ long. Sleeve length is 18″. Notice the chakira beading at the cuff. Neckline is adjustable with a delicate, handmade drawstring. Embroidered lace accents the bodice and the cuffs. These blouses sold in Santa Fe on the Plaza for $425. Now yours for $165.
I’m looking out of my little rental house at a sea of sagebrush. In the distance are the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, part of the southern Rockies, somewhat obscured by the haze from wildfires. It is supposed to rain tomorrow. Our New Mexico native peoples are doing rain dances. So am I as I wait for my casita to be finished, waiting to see if I can get back to Oaxaca in July in time for our textile tour to the Sierra Madre del Sur mountains.
Tucked up into the crevices of this mountain range are vibrant textile villages where weavers cultivate silkworms that feed on mulberry trees to create loomed silk garments dyed with natural plants and cochineal. They are glorious.
Meanwhile, as I dream of Oaxaca, I’m also thinking of the rich textile traditions along the Costa Chica north of Puerto Escondido. In particular, today I’m focused on Pinotepa de Don Luis. During our last textile tour of the Oaxaca coast in January 2022 we were based in the regional coastal town of Pinotepa Nacional and did day trips up to this and other mountain weaving villages.
I like to include a market meander of the vast public market in Pinotepa Nacional. In addition to regional foods and an immersion into the Afro-Mexican culture, there are some extraordinary finds. I tell everyone in our group to look up, look down, look all around into every nook and cranny. Last winter, I found some rare hand-woven ixtle (agave fiber) woven market bags to sling over the shoulder or to wear as a cross body bolsa to carry fruit, veggies and textiles!
Surprise! There are also hand and machine embroidered collars that local women use to embellish the necklines of simple blouses and dresses. Usually, women who are produce sellers have these, too. You can miss them if you are only looking at mangoes and bananas. The collar I bought for about $25 has been waiting for me to do something with. Definitely a project.
I had something in mind. A simple, indigo-dyed huipil/blusa that would be the perfect garment to show off this amazing collar. Pinotepa de Don Luis master weaver Sebastiana Guzman made me one, but I wasn’t sure how well the collar would fit the neckline of this blusa so I procrastinated on starting to figure it out. Until yesterday. It’s too hot here to go outside (90 degrees) and the wind kicks up, making it hard to walk. Hiding from sun and wind, I decided to give this project a start.
First, I needed to hem the inside and outside edges of the collar. Then, I needed to fit it to the blouse. A steam iron helped to get everything positioned properly. After five hours of hand-sewing and pressing, I’m very pleased with the results.
Now the big question is: Which is the front and which is the back? Perhaps you can help advise me!
I never knew that visiting the Monarch butterflies in Mexico should have been on my bucket list until I got there. Tucked into the mountainous forests of Estado de Mexico is the terminus of the butterfly migration from North America where the noble Monarchs winter and reproduce. The experience is mystical, magical, life-affirming and memorable. I’ve always felt that being here is one of those moments that inspire and validate our existence on the planet, and gives us pause to appreciate the constant cycle of nature at its most magnificent.
But this is not all! After this first part of our tour, we travel to the magical craft and folk art towns of Michoacan, including Morelia, San Juan Capula, Patzcuaro and the indigenous Purepecha towns surrounding Lake Patzcuaro. We meet with famous artisans and those off-the-beaten path whose work is recognized as Grand Masters of Mexican Folk Art by Fundacion Banamex. We meet weavers, potters, embroiderers, mask-makers, coppersmiths. We explore in safety and security, led by a local guide whom I know very well. We NEVER take you into any locations that are dangerous or threatening.
This tour is limited to 12 travelers. We have five single rooms and 4 shared rooms available.
Here is our preliminary itinerary:
Day 1, Sunday, February 5: Fly to Mexico City and check in to our comfortable hotel located near the Zocalo, the historic Aztec archeological site Templo Mayor, and excellent restaurants. Day and evening on your own.
Day 2, Monday, February 6: After breakfast, welcome and orientation, join us for a walking tour of Mexico City that includes stops at Bellas Artes and Museo Franz Mayer. Afternoon on your own. Group Gala Welcome dinner. (Breakfast and dinner included. Lunch on your own.)
Day 3, Tuesday, February 7: After early breakfast, we load luggage onto the van and leave CDMX for the town of Angangueo. Here we visit San Felipe de los Alzati, and the archeological site of Zirahuato, When we arrive, we enjoy a walking tour in Angangueo and check in to our hotel. Overnight in Angangueo. (Breakfast and lunch included. Dinner on your own.)
Day 4, Wednesday, February 8: After breakfast, we pack up again and travel to El Rosario Monarch Reserve in the Sierra Chincua to observe the winter home of the majestic Monarchs. In late afternoon, we get back on the van to travel to the historic colonial city of Morelia, capital of Michoacan. Overnight in Morelia. (Breakfast and lunch included. Dinner on your own.)
Day 5, Thursday, February 9: Orientation walking tour in the Historical area of Morelia. We have lunch together and then you have the rest of the afternoon and evening to explore at your leisure. (Breakfast and lunch included. Dinner on your own.) Overnight in Morelia.
Day 6, Friday, February 10: We leave Morelia for Patzcuaro after breakfast, making a stop in San Juan Capula to visit the town where ceramic Catrina figures captivate collectors’ attention. We arrive in Patzcuaro, check in to our comfortable hotel and participate in an orientation walking tour of the historic town. Overnight in Patzcuaro. (Breakfast, lunch and dinner included.)
Day 7, Saturday, February 11: After breakfast, we explore the artisan towns around Lake Patzcuaro, including Tupataro, Cuanajo, Santa Clara and Tzintzuntzan. Overnight in Patzcuaro. (Breakfast and lunch included. Dinner on your own.)
Day 8, Sunday, February 12: After breakfast, you have the day to yourself. Maybe you want to revisit sites around town or hire a private taxi to take you back to one of the artisan villages. We join together in early evening for a Grand Finale Dinner. (Breakfast and dinner included. Overnight in Patzcuaro.
Day 9: Monday, February 13: Transfer to the Mexico City airport. You may also choose to depart to Morelia airport or Guadalajara airport. Airport transportation is on your own. We will help you make arrangements. Breakfast included.
Shared Room: $3,360 each person, two beds
Single Room: $3,985 one person, one bed
Non-Refundable Deposit to Reserve: $500.
About your Oaxaca Cultural Navigator Eric Chavez Santiago
Eric Chavez Santiago is an expert in Oaxaca and Mexican textiles and folk art with a special interest in artisan development and promotion. He is a weaver and natural dyer by training and a fourth generation member of the Fe y Lola textile group. He and his wife Elsa are founders of Taller Teñido a Mano dye studio where they produce naturally dyed yarn skeins and textiles for worldwide distribution. Eric is a business partner with Oaxaca Cultural Navigator, too. He is trilingual, speaking Zapotec, Spanish and English and is a native of Teotitlan del Valle. He is a graduate of Anahuac University, founder of the Museo Textil de Oaxaca education department, and former managing director of folk art gallery Andares del Arte Popular. He has intimate knowledge of local traditions, culture and community.
Norma Schafer, Oaxaca Cultural Navigator LLC founder, will accompany this group.
What is Included:
8 nights lodging
Expert bilingual guide services
Museums and archeological site admissions
Luxury van transportation
An educational experience of a lifetime
What is NOT Included:
Required international travel insurance
In-country COVID test
Required vaccines, PPE and hand-sanitizer
Any meals, snacks and taxis not specified in the itinerary
All alcoholic beverages, tips for guides and services, and personal purchases
Reservations and Cancellations. A $500 non-refundable deposit is required to guarantee your spot. You can make your reservation deposit using one of the following (please tell us which payment method you prefer):
Zelle bank transfer with no service fee
PayPal request for funds with a 3% service fee
Venmo request for funds with a 3% service fee
The balance is due in two equal payments. The second payment of 50% of the balance is due on or before September 15, 2022. The third payment is due on or before December 1, 2022. We accept payment using online e-commerce only. We will send you an itemized invoice when you tell us you are ready to register. After December 1, 2022, there are no refunds. If you cancel on or before December 1, we will refund 50% of your deposit received to date less the $500 non-refundable deposit. After that, there are no refunds. If we cancel for whatever reason, you will receive a full refund.
The tour and COVID-19: Many believe that the epidemic is waning, however, data say otherwise. The virus continues to mutate. You are required to be FULLY VACCINATED to participate. Fully vaccinated is defined as all vaccinations required by the CDC including boosters. You must send Proof of Vaccination (this includes all boosters) by email on or before December 1, 2022. You can take a photo of the documentation and email it to us. All participants are required to wear N95 OR KN95 face masks when visiting artisans and it is strongly suggested that you use the mask when you are in crowds of people or indoors. We also use hand-sanitizer and practice social distancing while together. Please note: You MUST also provide proof of international travel insurance including $50,000 of emergency medical evacuation coverage.
Tell us if you want a shared/double room or a private/single room and how you want to make your deposit
Who Should Attend • Anyone who wants a bucket-list experience, who is interested in indigenous culture and creativity, who wants a deep immersion experience into textile practices and traditions, and who appreciates artisan craft — weaving, embroidery, pottery. If you are a collector, come with us to go deep and find the best artisans. If you are a photographer or artist, come with us for inspiration. If you are an online retailer, come with us to buy and find the stories to market what you sell.
All documentation for plane reservations, required travel insurance, and personal health issues must be received by December 1, 2022 or we reserve the right to cancel your registration without reimbursement.
Terrain, Walking and Group Courtesy: While we are primarily transported by van, there will be some walking/hiking in the butterfly sanctuary and as we walk in towns and villages. In addition, many streets and sidewalks are cobblestones, narrow and uneven. We will do a lot of walking. We recommend you bring a walking stick and wear sturdy shoes.
If you have mobility issues or health/breathing impediments, please consider that this may not be the study tour for you.
Traveling with a small group has its advantages and also means that independent travelers will need to make accommodations to group needs and schedule. Adaptability, flexibility and respectfulness are essential. We encourage a no-whining attitude. There is adequate free time to go off on your own if you wish.
Posted onWednesday, November 17, 2021|Comments Off on Francisca’s French Knot Blouses + Rosario’s Embroidered Shoulder Bags: Holiday Shopping
Just in time for the holidays! Colorful hand-embroidered blouses and shoulder bags from Mexico, yours to gift or for festive wearing during the next few weeks and beyond.
Francisca is an expert in embroidered blouses using the French Knot technique. She lives in Aguacatenango, a small Chiapas village about an hour-and-a-half from San Cristobal de las Casas. I met her in the plaza some years back during one of our Chiapas textile study tours (there is one space open in the March 8-16, 2022 tour). Her work was far and away the best quality of all the women there, with dense embroidery, all hand-finished seams (no machine stitching in this garment), and 100% Mexican cotton cloth called manta. During Covid, when there were no tourists (and there aren’t that many now, either), I began to order blouses from her to help the family earn income. She sent me this group of all LONG SLEEVE blouses to Oaxaca and I brought them back in my luggage.
The blouses are perfect for winter in southern climates. In the colder north, layer a white HeatTec t-shirt underneath for warmth.
Rosario is a friend from Teotitlan del Valle, Oaxaca. I asked her to start making these colorful embroidered shoulder bags last year, also during covid. Her family lives in a humble, concrete block house ringed by a dirt patio. In the traditional way, she cooks outside on the comal — making tortillas, tamales, beans and squash — the staples of campesinos throughout Mexico. The bags are lined, have an interior pocket and zippered closure. They are fun to wear daily or make a delightful, whimsical addition to any festive occasion.
Ethical sourcing and fair trade. I pay both these women outright for what I order at the price they ask. No bargaining! No questions asked. The money goes in their pockets immediately and we can all feel better that we are supporting women and Mexican artisan craft. Francisca told me she can only make two blouses a month! It takes Rosario a month to embroider the pieces to make eight bags. They are embroidered front and back.
How to buy: mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org Tell me the item you want by number. Send me your mailing address. I will send you a PayPal invoice after you ID your choices. The invoice will include the cost of the garment + $12 mailing. If you want more than one piece, I’m happy to combine mailing. I’ll be mailing from Taos, NM. Next day mailing guarantee if you order and buy before December 10. On December 11, I’m in transit to return to Oaxaca.
Size Medium/Large has an embroidered bodice that is 14” wide. Sleeve is 21” long from shoulder to cuff. (Longer sleeves this time!) 27” wide armpit to armpit. 28-1/2” long from shoulder to hem. $125 each.
Size Large/Extra Large has an embroidered bodice that is 16” wide. Sleeve is 21” long from shoulder to cuff. 29” wide armpit to armpit. 28-1/2” long from shoulder to hem. $135 each.
Care Instructions: Wash in cold water on delicate cycle in washing machine using a mild soap like Fels Naptha or baby shampoo. Do not use Woolite. Hang to dry. Use medium-hot iron to press. Or, dry clean.
SOLD 2. Blue, size L-XL.$135
Shown with Rosario’s shoulder bag.
SOLD. 4 Purple, size L-XL. $135
#5 Purple, size L-XL. $135
SOLD. 7. Red. Size L-XL. $135
Each bag is about 10” wide x 9” high and has a 44” strap that easily works as a cross-body bag.
We know the culture! We are locally owned and operated.
Eric Chavez Santiago is Zapotec, born and raised in Teotitlan del Valle, Oaxaca.
Norma Schafer has been living in Oaxaca for almost 20 years.
We have deep connections with artists and artisans.
63% of our travelers repeat -- high ratings, high satisfaction.
Wide ranging expertise.
We give you a deep immersion to best know Oaxaca and Mexico.
Creating Connectionand 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 learning experiences, and as such we talk with makers about how and why they create, what is meaningful to them, 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.
OCN Creates Student Scholarship at Oaxaca Learning Center Giving back is a core value. Read about it here!
Why We Left, Expat Anthology: Norma’s Personal Essay
Norma contributes personal essay, How Oaxaca Became Home
We Contribute Two Chapters!
Click image to order yours!
Meet Makers. Make a Difference
Oaxaca 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 *University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Oaxaca has the largest and most diverse textile culture in Mexico! Learn about it.
When you visit Oaxaca immerse yourself in our textile culture: How is indigenous clothing made, what is the best value, most economical, finest available. Suitable for adults only. Set your own dates.
One-Day Custom Tours: Tell Us When You Want to Go!
New--Ruta del Mezcal One-Day Tour.We start the day with pottery, visiting a master, then have lunch with a Traditional Oaxaca Cook who is the master of mole making. In Mitla, we meet with our favorite flying shuttle loom weaver, and then finish off with a mezcal tasting at a palenque you will NEVER find on your own! Schedule at your convenience!
January 13-21, 2024: Oaxaca Coast Textile Study Tour. Very popular! Get your deposit in to reserve. For intrepid travelers. Visit 7 back-strap loom weavers. Explore the culture of cloth and community. ONE SPACE OPEN!
We require 48-hour advance notice for map orders to be processed. We send a printable map via email PDF after your order is received. Please be sure to send your email address. Where to see natural dyed rugs in Teotitlan del Valle and layout of the Sunday Tlacolula Market, with favorite eating, shopping, ATMs. Click Here to Buy Map After you click, be sure to check PayPal to ensure your email address isn't hidden from us. We fulfill each map order personally. It is not automatic.
Dye Master Dolores Santiago Arrellanas with son Omar Chavez Santiago, weaver and dyer, Fey y Lola Rugs, Teotitlan del Valle