Tag Archives: Embroidery

Traveling in Chiapas: Charmed, I’m Sure

My friend Chris Clark writes a blog called Color in the Streets, and just reported on her recent trip to Chiapas with us in February 2024. Chris lives in Ajijic, on Lake Chapala, in the Mexican state of Jalisco. She talks about how this was a dream come true trip that she had wanted to go on with us since moving to Mexico almost six years ago.

I met Chris when we were both living in North Carolina and we became instant friends. She is selling her home in Ajijic and returning there to be with family and friends since her partner Ben died almost two years ago. Anyone want a beautiful home with lake view, casita and pool?

Chris offers us an in-depth, deep dive into San Cristobal de las Casas, a Spanish colonial Pueblo Magico that is in the highlands and our base during our exploration of textile villages and markets. Chris covers it all: restaurants and delicious food, recommended books that explore the weaving culture and techniques, and the mish-mash Santo Domingo market where you can find anything from high quality amber and textiles to imported schlock from China.

The tour is really an educational immersion for every traveler to be able to identify quality work and fair prices, as well as to meet makers where they live and work. What Chris does is give us her personal impressions of the experience. This includes a discussion about cultural appropriation and contrasting this with what it means to wear indigenous made clothing that we call cultural appreciation.

I hope you have a chance to read Chris’ blog and look at her exceptional photos. If you want to come with us to Chiapas in 2026, please sent us an email expressing your interest. We are building a list of people to give first notice.

Click here for Color in the Streets Blog

Shop Small SALE Continues to December 1

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.

Use Discount Code thankful2023 when you make a purchase at shop.oaxacaculture.com

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!

Deals Continued From Oaxaca, Chiapas + More

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 norma.schafer@icloud.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.

See our Deeply Discounted Designer Baskets, too.

#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.

Un Recuerdo: Weaving and Embroidery on the Oaxaca Coast

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.

A. Frontmor back?

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.

B. Front or back?

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.

My finished project

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!

Example of what you can find

By the way, we are sold out for the Oaxaca Coast Textile Tour 2023, but you can get on a wait list or come with us in 2024. Just send me an email.

Sea creatures, plants and wildlife, mythical beasts
Example: Double-headed turkey from Pinotepa Nacional

Bucket List Tour: Monarch Butterflies + Michoacan

February 5 – 13, 2023 – 9 days, 8 nights

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.)

Those orange things are butterflies, waking up to the sun

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.

Morelia at night

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.)

Painted lacquer gourds, a Michoacan specialty

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.

Cost:

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
  • 8  breakfasts
  • 5  lunches
  • 3 dinners
  • Snacks
  • Expert bilingual guide services
  • Museums and archeological site admissions
  • Luxury van transportation
  • An educational experience of a lifetime

What is NOT Included:

  • Airplane tickets
  • 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):

  1. Zelle bank transfer with no service fee
  2. PayPal request for funds with a 3% service fee
  3. 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. 

Registration Form

Complete the form and Send an email to Norma Schafer.

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.

To Register, Policies, Procedures & Cancellations–Please Read

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.