Tag Archives: fiber art

New Location for Puebla, Mexico Folk Art Cooperative Siuamej

After landing in Mexico City, taking the Estrella Roja bus (complete with WiFi, TV, and reclining seats) from the airport to Puebla, and a good night’s sleep, I set out to find my favorite folk art shop Siuamej, only to discover that they moved.  First and foremost, here is the address: The corner of 4 Oriente and 4 Norte. 4 Oriente is the street of the camote shops.  Puebla streets are confusing** and I got turned around and lost trying to find the new location.  But, when I got there — WOW!

Siuamej-2 Siuamej-3

Siuamej is an indigenous arts cooperative that represents the work of artisans from throughout the remote Nahuatl-speaking mountain region which is a good three to four hours by bus from the city of Puebla.

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Within moments of entering the shop, Kit Rank showed up.  She is a New York City artist represented by McKee Gallery who has been living with her husband in Sicily for the last ten years. They have been living in Puebla now for a couple of months and love it.  She had her eye on an exquisite hand-embroidered top that we convinced her to model.  She bought it on the two-month layaway plan!

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While Uriel, son of shopkeepers Mari Jimenez Barbara and Tomas Amaya Aquino amused himself with Sponge Bob, I looked through the all naturally dyed wool quechquemitls and rebozos, settling on a Chal de Hueyapan handwoven by Teresa Lino Bello, dyed with baseide sauco  (elderberry plant dye) that yields a stunning olive green (see photo above of the three shawls).  The hand spun yarn that is used for the embroidery is dyed with nogal (tree bark) and the brown embroidery on the green provides a subtle contrast.  The fringes or punto are hand tied in a style called doble vista.

In addition to the handwoven wool textiles, there is a selection of jewelry, baskets, embroidered cotton blouses, ceramics and lots more.  Tomas speaks English very well (he is originally from Oaxaca), and it is easy to be in discovery of Puebla’s indigenous artisan riches for well over an hour.  This is the only artist cooperative I’ve been able to find in Puebla.  Here you know you are buying the best quality available and the funds go directly to the makers at fair trade value.

**Puebla streets are arranged in a quadrant — north, south, east and west.  Odd numbers go in one direction, even numbers go in the other direction.  Get a map from your hotel or the tourist office on the Zocalo before you set out.  It is really confusing.  Especially since oriente translates to east and poniente translates to west.

Commonwealth Club of California to Host Chavez Santiago Family Weavers on May 10

San Francisco and Bay Area textile and fiber artists, hand-weavers and spinners are invited to attend a presentation at the Commonwealth Club of California at 12:00 noon on May 10.

The Future of Tradition: Weavers of Oaxaca, Mexico Connect Their Future with Their Past.

Eric Chavez Santiago, director of education at the Museo Textil de Oaxaca and Janet Chavez Santiago, education coordinator at the San Pablo Academic and Cultural Center of Oaxaca, will talk about their family’s weaving and textile traditions, indigenous life, and the professional goals they have set for themselves and their institutions.  Jean Pierre Larochette, a Berkeley, Calif. weaver and leader of the American Tapestry Alliance, will introduce them.

Chavez Santiago Family Portrait by Richard Carter c.2012

Their father, Federico Chavez Sosa, is a master weaver whose work is recognized for blending traditional Zapotec design with innovative color combinations and pattern adaptations.  Both Janet (top, second from left) and Eric (top right) are fourth generation tapestry weavers, along with their brother Omar (top left).  Eric’s novia Elsa Sanchez Diaz is to Eric’s left.

The family is committed to using only 100% natural dyes in their work.  They have been featured in the NY Times article 36 Hours: Oaxaca, Mexico by travel writer Freda Moon.

Eric and Janet are in the Bay Area at the invitation of the American Tapestry Alliance.

This summer! Weaving and Natural Dye Workshop with Federico Chavez Sosa and the Chavez Santiago Family Weavers in Teotitlan del Valle, Oaxaca, Mexico, produced by Oaxaca Cultural Navigator LLC.

Chavez Family Weavers, a Portrait by Norma Hawthorne c.2012

In addition, Federico accepts commissions for custom work and when you are in Oaxaca, please visit them at Galeria Fe y Lola, Av. 5 de Mayo #408, Centro Historico.

Questions?  Contact Norma Hawthorne, executive director, Oaxaca Cultural Navigator LLC.

Chiapas Textile Cooperative to Exhibit and Sell at Oaxaca Textile Museum

After calling ahead and making an appointment, we took a taxi to the outskirts of San Cristobal de las Casas at the end of a dirt road to find the headquarters of Camino de los Altos.  This is a cooperative of 130 weavers who make extraordinary textiles.

They will be exhibiting and selling their work at the Museo Textil de Oaxaca from Friday through Sunday, February 17-19, 2012.  If you are in Oaxaca, you won’t want to miss this event!

The cooperative began in the mid-1990’s by eight French designers who had a passion for Mayan traditions, textiles, and indigenous design.  El Camino selects ancient traditional colors and re-imagines them.  They produce bags, children’s clothing, pillow covers, scarves, shawls, table cloths, runners, napkins, and dish towels on sturdy, highest quality fabric that is hand-woven on back strap looms in five Chiapas weaving villages.  Six sales are held each year in Paris and at other selected locations around the world.

Wool pillow covers can be the natural color of the sheep or dyed with either palo de Brazil or cochineal to yield a rich red. Mayan women then embellish them with traditional hand-embroidered designs.  The cotton is dyed with industrial color.  The color combinations are juicy and intense, and based upon traditional weaving patterns, too.


As a cooperative, the members meet together to decide next steps, new design and color directions, and pattern innovations. Their commitment is to each other — everyone must have work.  The marketplace speaks, so together they determine what needs to be altered, adapted, changed or discontinued.

[Cultural note: In traditional villages, the men work in the fields and do required community service (cargos).  Women are responsible for all the household work, and care for children and in-laws.  We hear that many of the women who are now able to earn their own income through weaving and other crafts, choose not to marry to achieve some level of independence.]


El Camino de los Altos operates through the sale of their work and the support of a French foundation, and are able to employ four full-time staff.  The money they earn goes directly to the weavers.  In addition, they are training indigenous women in marketing, sales, production, inventory control and other business development aspects that will ensure ongoing success.


A Chiapas retail store, Madre Tierra, sells Camino de los Altos textiles.  It is located across from the sweets market on Insurgentes in the courtyard behind the fabulous bakery that sells the most delicious whole grain onion garlic buns.


Contact:  Veronique Tesseraud, director, elcaminodelosaltos@gmail.com, (967) 631-6944.  Barrio de Cuxtitali, Cerrada Prolongacion Peje de Oro #3.  http://elcaminodelosaltos.blogspot.com/

Video: Mexican Rug Designs from Teotitlan del Valle, Oaxaca

In the spirit of my own continuing education, I went to the Apple Store last night for a tutorial about how to make an iMovie using my photographs.  My computer is storing over 6,000 photos — many of which are published on this site.  I learned the basics and am now experimenting, so hopefully, over the new few weeks, I’ll be able to translate still photography into a visually appealing presentation for your viewing pleasure.  Hopefully, this works!

The video I created here features many fine examples of the hand-woven, naturally dyed tapestry weave textiles made by The Chavez Santiago Family Weavers in Teotitlan del Valle, Oaxaca, Mexico.  Federico Chavez Sosa, the head of the family, is a master weaver, as is his wife Dolores Santiago Arrellanas.  They and their children, Eric, Janet and Omar Chavez Santiago are also shown in the video interspersed with village scenes.  The music is by Susana Harp.

I hope you enjoy it!

What you’ll see in this video:

  • Zapotec and Mixtec stone carvings at the archeological site of Mitla
  • The Catholic church built with Zapotec temple stones
  • Weavings by the Chavez Santiago Family Weavers
  • Selected Saltillo-style weavings by Tito Mendoza Ruiz and Roman Gutierrez
  • Adaptations of traditional designs for more contemporary styles
  • Teotitlan del Valle Church of the Precious Blood, 16th Century
  • Parade of the Canastas (baskets) in early July

And, if you want to take a weaving class (all levels, from beginners to more experienced are welcome), please let me know. oaxacaculture@me.com

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