Tag Archives: Eric Chavez Santiago

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.

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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


Feliz Compleanos y Prospero Ano Nuevo: New Year’s Eve Part Two

Celebrations for the new year begin at sundown on New Year’s Eve with the sound of firecrackers and bands playing throughout the village.  Small groups of young men gather at street corners waiting for something to happen.  Water is sprinkled on courtyards and stairways by women with brooms in hand to sweep up any dust and debris.  A 3 p.m. comida for extended family is common followed by a grand midnight supper.  This is an all night affair.

My birthday celebration begins at 5 p.m. in the courtyard of Las Granadas.  The sun will go down in an hour or so and we all bring along extra sweaters, jackets and shawls.  Federico has packed the special bottle of Chichicapam mezcal and a bottle of white wine.  We arrive to a festive table set with a big bouquet of white lilies and red geraniums, four bottles of wine (two red, two white), mezcal shot glasses, and a pitcher of fresh made jugo de jamaica.  I am surrounded by my Teotitlan family and friends:  Federico Chavez Sosa and his wife, Dolores Santiago Arrellanas, their children Eric Chavez Santiago, Janet Chavez Santiago and Omar Chavez Santiago, Eric’s novia Elsa Sanchez Diaz, Annie Burns, Roberta Christie, Sam and Tom Robbins from Columbus, Ohio, and Las Granadas proprietors Josefina Bazan Ruiz and her mother-in-law Magdalena.  In the kitchen is daughter La Princessa Eloisa Francesca, age 17, who is in her final semester of culinary school in Oaxaca, the young sons Willibaldo and Eligio, and two sobrinas (nieces) who are helping with the preparation and serving.  Eloisa’s betrothed, Taurino, also pitches in.  (Josefina tells me he is very helpful around the house and is weaving to earn Eloisa’s hand.)

We open wine, raise toasts to the new year, and I tell them how important each of them has been to me in my journey of Teotitlan discovery.  We raise a toast to my husband Stephen who is home in North Carolina and I let them know I will Skype with him later to send their best wishes.  Annie first invited us to Teotitlan to visit, where we were the first guests in the trial to establish a bed and breakfast at what was to become Las Granadas.  We slept in Magda’s bedroom where we used a clothesline as a closet and did our best to ignore the shotgun on the wall.  We celebrated Eloisa’s Quinciniera and the boys’ birthdays.  We shared lots of mezcal toasts over the years.  In our wanderings on that first visit, we met Eric and Janet selling rugs in the corner market.  As a textile artist, I could see that what the Chavez Santiago family created was exceptional and fairly priced.  I heard the story from Eric about their use of natural dyes, the reluctance about paying tour guides 40 percent commission to bring customers to their house, the hard work of the family.  I met Dolores, Federico, and Omar and our family-like relationship began.   Elsa Sanchez Diaz, Eric’s novia (girlfriend) of five years, is also part of the family, and has stayed in my NC home when she joins on U.S. exhibitions, lectures, and demonstrations. Roberta came to Teotitlan the following year, also through Annie, and set about helping Josefina construct  first rate B&B, while building an apartment on the second story of the courtyard complex.  She has become a good friend, too.  Sam and Tom Robbins are black and white art photographers from Columbus, Ohio, who I met two years ago at Casa de los Sabores and we have had several reunions in Oaxaca as well as North Carolina.  Eva Hershaw, a documentary photographer, who I have been communicating with via this blog and email to record the process of growing and making food with traditional maize, also joined in.  It was a special group assembled to help me celebrate.

For me, the assembly was more about the people than the food, but the food was spectacular.  Magda, Josefina and Eloisa prepared chicken tamales in mole amarillo, a veggie mix of fresh cut and steamed green beans and potatoes, and a plate of chopped succulent chicken to pass around.  One does not need anything else besides wine and tamales.  It is heaven sent.  I think I ate four or five, but wanted to save room for the cakes, the chocolate layer cake extravaganza with chocolate cream icing, and the chocolate cake topped with flan.  We lit huge sparklers that the two boys, Willi and Eligio twirled.  I blew out the one candle (thank you, I’m only 39), and wished each other a joyous new year, filling up again on mezcal and raising our glasses in salud.

Night had come over us and it was getting chilly.  It was now 8:30 p.m.  Federico and Dolores needed to return home to light the sweet copal incense to purify the house, and make preparation for the midnight party they would attend at the home of Fede’s brother Jose.  For me, the sparkling winter sky gave light to the future, and it was getting time to say goodnight.  Descanse.  Suenos dulces.  The assemblage wished each other happy new year with hugs and good wishes.  On New Year’s Day the party will continue.

Remigio Mestas: Textile Museum of Oaxaca Exhibition

“Remigio Mestas: A Mirror on the Rich Textiles of Oaxaca” Exhibition at the Museo Textil de Oaxaca November 9, 2008 to February 16, 2009

Here is an exhibition you won’t want to miss if you are in Oaxaca through mid-February.  Sr. Remigio Mestas has an incredible shop in the arcade next to Los Danzantes Restaurant on the main pedestrian thoroughfare in the old city — Alacala Macedonio.  There are gorgeous textiles from throughout Oaxaca, including handwoven fabrics you can make up into your own huipil, tablecloth, bedspread or pillow, as well as traditional garments that are ready-to-wear.  Below are the program notes for the new exhibition.

Remigio Mestas: Espejo de la Riqueza Textil del Estado de Oaxaca

Remigio Mestas hace brillar las cualidades del buen hacer del tejido y bordado, es un hombre que ama y disfruta su trabajo. Originario de Yalalag, Villa Hidalgo en el estado de Oaxaca, Remigio emigró a la capital del estado cuando tenía cuatro años y vivió rodeado de personas trabajadoras e involucradas en el mundo del textil. Su madre tejía en telar de cintura y también sabía coser a máquina. Su padre confeccionaba camisas y pantalones de manta, ambos eran muy creativos y pronto los hijos aprendieron el oficio y llevaban sus mercancías a vender al mercado.

Remigio Mestas illuminates the process of quality weaving and embroidering. He is the embodiment of someone who loves and enjoys his work. A native of Yalalag, Villa Hidalgo in the State of Oaxaca, Remigio emigrated to the capital of Oaxaca with his family when he was four years old. He was surrounded by family who were immersed in the creative textile traditions of Oaxaca. His mother wove on a backstrap loom and used a sewing machine, while his father made shirts and muslin trousers. Their children soon learned to weave and sew, and took the handmade clothing to sell at the market.

Un día la señora Dolores Cruz Palacios y su hija Mari Cruz Rosales le preguntaron a la mamá de Remigio si no sabía de alguien que pudiera ayudarles con sus ventas en el mercado Labastida. El pequeño Remigio, que en ese entonces tenía siete años, les pidió permiso a sus padres para trabajar con las señoras. Al principio dudaron, pero al ver tanta insistencia del niño, aceptaron que fuera si tanto lo deseaba. Entonces Remigio iba por las mañanas a la escuela y por las tardes trabajaba. Al año, las señoras lo invitaron a vivir con ellas y él aceptó, porque siempre se sintió bien acogido. Le gustaba el trabajo y relacionarse con los artesanos y además se sentía a gusto con aquella familia, integrada por la abuela, su hija y dos alegres niñas: Jorgina y Ana Pérez Castellanos.

One day Ms. Dolores Cruz Palacios and her daughter Mari Cruz Rosales asked Remigio´s mother if she knew someone who could help them to sell at the Labastida market. Young Remigio, who was 7 years old, asked permission from his parents to work with the women. His parents hesitated then agreed when they saw how much Remigio wanted to do this. Each day he attended school in the morning and worked during the afternoon. A year later, the women invited Remigio to join their family and live with them. Of course, he agreed because it was a very comfortable household comprising three generations of women -– a grandmother, her daughter, and two happy grandchildren – Jorgina and Ana Perez Castellanos.

Desde entonces, Remigio admiraba el arte popular, especialmente el trabajo de los tejedores. Pronto notó cuáles piezas estaban mejor concebidas que otras, supo distinguir las regiones en que se elaboraban los textiles, los distintos tipos de tejidos y bordados, así como la utilización de fibras y tintes naturales. También se daba cuenta que había materiales industrializados que deterioraban la calidad de los textiles tradicionales.

Since then, Remigio admired popular art, the work of artisans, and especially the work of the weavers. Soon he noticed which pieces were better quality than others. He learned to distinguish the regions where the textiles originated, the different weaving and embroidery techniques, the use of fibers and natural dyes. He also noticed that pieces made with industrialized materials detracted from the quality of traditional textiles.

En 1978, doña Dolores y su hija fundaron una tienda ubicada a un costado del templo de Santo Domingo y al poco tiempo Mari Cruz y Remigio abrieron un nuevo local en la misma calle al que llamaron “artesanías de Oaxaca” con un giro más artístico y mejorando la calidad de la mercancía. Más tarde, este negocio cambió el nombre a “Juana Cata”, como se le conoce actualmente. En ese entonces, Remigio era un joven que estudiaba la secundaria, se dedicaba al comercio y comenzó a hacer trabajos tallados en madera.

In 1978, Ms. Dolores and her daughter founded a shop located next to the Santo Domingo Church and little later Mari Cruz and Remigio opened a new shop on the same street called “Artesanias de Oaxaca” with a more artistic touch and higher quality merchandise. Later, this business changed its name to “Juana Cata,” as it is now known. During that period, Remigio was attending junior high school, operating a business and beginning to create woodcarvings.

En 1996, Remigio terminó sus estudios universitarios de contador público y supo que su pasión era relacionarse con los tejedores y si algo tenía claro era que se iba a dedicar a esa noble tarea que también era su vida. Así, Remigio conseguía textiles bellísimos, piezas únicas que sólo en su tienda se podían encontrar y comenzó a tener una clientela interesada en obtener obras de exquisita factura, realizados con materiales finos. Interesado en los colorantes naturales, Remigio comenzó a teñir hilos para dárselos a los tejedores y fue de esta manera que inició una nueva etapa en el textil oaxaqueño.

In 1996, Remigio earned a degree in accounting. He also realized that his passion was to relate with weavers and he was certain he wanted to dedicate his life to this purpose. Remigio sought out only the most beautiful, unique textiles to sell in his shop, and began to build a clientele interested in purchasing exquisite handcrafted pieces made with only the finest materials, including those made with natural dyes. His interest grew and he began to dye yarn and provide them to weavers, and in this way a new era for Oaxaca textiles began.

En 2002, el éxito de Remigio lo llevó a abrir otra hermosa tienda en Casa Vieja, en la calle peatonal más concurrida de la ciudad. Con una clientela cautiva, el local se ha convertido en un punto obligado para los amantes de los textiles de Oaxaca. En 2006, por los problemas políticos y sociales, y la ausencia de turismo en la ciudad de Oaxaca, Remigio inauguró otra tienda en San Miguel de Allende, en el estado de Guanajuato. Su preocupación era continuar con el apoyo a sus paisanos indígenas, a sus tejedores.

In 2002, Remigio´s success led him to open shop in Casa Vieja, located on Alacala Macedonia, the busiest pedestrian street of the city. With a captive clientele, the shop has became a “must visit” stop for lovers of Oaxaca textiles. In 2006, due to societal unrest and the resulting absence of tourism in the city of Oaxaca, Remigio opened another shop in San Miguel de Allende, in the state of Guanajuato. His commitment was to continue supporting his fellow indigenous people — his weavers.

Remigio es conocido por la generosidad de sus conocimientos, de ahí su éxito como un maestro que disfruta enseñar a sus clientes las características de cada textil. Con ternura explica la procedencia de la pieza, los materiales en las que se realizó, el significado del diseño, la utilización de tintes naturales y destaca la belleza de la prenda. Trabajador honesto y comprometido con los artesanos, Remigio ha logrado sensibilizar a sus clientes y concibe cada pieza como si fuera un tesoro. El comprador siempre sale satisfecho de valorar el trabajo, el tiempo y la calidad de la prenda adquirida.

Remigio is known for the generously sharing his knowledge. He is a master who enjoys teaching customers about the qualities and intricacies of each textile. Tenderly, he explains the origin of the piece, the materials with which it was made, the meaning of the designs, and the use of natural dyes. Each piece is a treasure. Remigio has succeeded in raising awareness for highest quality artisan made textiles. He represents the weavers with honesty and commitment. Customers leave his shop satisfied and appreciate what they have purchased.

La visión de Remigio ha logrado mejorar notablemente el textil oaxaqueño. Su experiencia y su origen indígena han sido factores fundamentales para haber contactado a los mejores tejedores del estado y muchos de ellos han podido comprender que al mejorar la calidad de los hilos, su trabajo luce más y es mejor remunerado. Sin duda, esta contribución es el reflejo de un hombre generoso, que creció en un ambiente de trabajo y constancia, sensible a las manos de los artesanos de Oaxaca y capaz de transformar una pieza en verdadera obra de arte.

Remigio´s vision has had a notable impact on the textiles of Oaxaca. Because of his experience and indigenous origins, he has been successful in contacting and guiding the best weavers of the state and many have understood and responded by improving the quality of the yarns they use. As a result, their work is higher quality and can command a higher price. Without doubt, this contribution reflects on his generosity, his constant work and perseverance, and sensitivity for the hand work created by Oaxacan artisans and capability to transform something into a truly great piece of art.

El Museo Textil de Oaxaca rinde homenaje a Remigio Mestas por su habilidad para comprender, experimentar y sorprender al mundo con su trabajo en beneficio del textil mexicano.

The Museo Textil de Oaxaca pays homage to Remigio Mestas for his ability to understand, experiment and surprise the world with his work that benefits Mexican textiles.


Written by Maria Isabel Granen Porrua, November 2008, translated by Eric Chavez Santiago with assistance from Norma Hawthorne

Diagramming the Altar of the Dead: Dia de los Muertos

Beginning in pre-Columbian times in the Zapotec culture, the dead are remembered through ofrendas (offerings).  Each year the souls of the dead return to earth to partake with the living the foods they enjoyed when they were alive. The ofrenda rests on an altar dedicated to the dead relatives who are only able to return if their path is lit and they can find their way through the underworld.  The ofrenda and altar is constructed around the elements of underworld, earth and sky.  Here is the interpretation, as told by Eric Chavez Santiago.

Level One — Sky:  represents religion and the sacred.

Level Two — Earth:  this is the main part of the altar since it contains most of the characteristics elements including photos of the people remembered, food, fruits and beverages.  This area is divided into four equal parts representing the four elements of the earth and the four seasons of the year.  Summer is represented by the image of the person remembered, the salt cross, fruits, bread and food, sugar skulls, flowers, and chocolate.  A glass of water or mezcal represents spring.  Fall is represented with candles, fire, which is necessary to mark the path of light to guide the dead from the underworld to earth.

Level Three — Underworld: This the the place where the dead and the souls of purgatory rest.  It is the road towards the world of the living where the dead need a guide represented by the candles marking the four cardinal points. This is represented with copal incense to purify the atmosphere, a vase of white flowers to symbolize purity and tenderness, and yellow flowers to symbolize richness, and a small carpet as an offering for rest.


The ofrenda that Eric and Janet Chavez Santiago constructed at the University of Notre Dame’s Snite Museum of Art was in honor of their grandfather, Jose Chavez Ruiz, a master weaver who died at the age of 85 in 2006.   He took the family design of the caracol (snail) to the next level, achieving a special technique to create a difficult to execute curved design, replicating those carved in the Zapotec temples of 700 AD.  The Chavez Santiago family continues to create tapestries in the traditions of their forefathers.

Pan Comida! Piece of Cake!

After hours of preparation, Eric and Janet hosted a free 3-hour after school workshop yesterday afternoon for Chatham County, NC teachers, for which they received in-service training credits from the school district.  There were seven teachers.  “The right people always show up,” I reassured them after a few expressed the wish that more would have participated. The workshop was included in the Grassroots Grant awarded to the NC Arts Incubator through Chatham Arts and the NC Arts Council.

We “set the table” with samples of hand carved fanciful wood animal figures, called alebrijes, that are brightly painted; a Francisco Toledo kite crafted from handmade paper; and miniature woven tapestries made with a hand-held cardboard loom.   Another table spilled over with supplies teachers are familiar with:  scissors, rulers, non-toxic paint, brushes, egg cartons, popsicle sticks, buttons, empty plastic bottles and metal cans, stencils of Zapotec rug patterns pre-cut from foam core board, strands of brightly colored and naturally dyed yarn, Elmer’s glue, plain brown wrapping paper, bamboo sticks, and string.

Several taught K-8 and covered art classes at every grade level.  One mentioned that kindergarten art classes go for 25 minutes, and we marveled at what could be taught or experienced in a 25 minute class period.  They were from all over the county, east to west, and said that Latino students 25% to 70% of the student population in their classrooms.  One told the story about a student who spoke no English, but who created extraordinary art and inspired his classmates.

After a brief presentation about the history and art of Oaxaca, the teachers constructed their own hand-held cardboard looms, warped them with string, and proceeded to weave miniature tapestries with yarn connected to a popsicle stick with masking tape, that they could then demonstrate to students.  Eric explained that this was a process he had taught to over 250 school children in Oaxaca with great success to understand the Zapotec culture and weaving techniques.  Some finished quickly and created their own alebrije, cutting, painting and glueing pieces of cardboard, plastic, drinking straws, and foam packing materials together.  Look, it’s an owl.  See the bat flying through the dark sky.  Another wanted to make a kite from brown wrapping paper and dowels, decorated with designs duplicated from the patterns of rugs hanging nearby.  We talked about whether kites need tails in order to fly.

When it was all over, the teachers left satisfied and with instructions about how to construct the loom and kite, and Eric exclaimed, “pan comida.”