Tag Archives: Norma Hawthorne

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.

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

Poster: Textile Arts of Oaxaca — October 2008 North Carolina Calendar

Oaxaca Weaving Workshop: Day 4

On the last day of the workshop, Karen worked with Federico and Janet to complete her tapestry, a glorious rainbow of red, warm yellow and orange, cream and blue. She cut the piece she will use for a wall hanging off the loom, and learned how to finish off the rug in the traditional Zapotec technique of rolling the warp threads into fringes and then tying them off.

As an instructor with her father, Janet Chavez Santiago had this to add about the four-day experience: It was a great experience for me to do the workshop with Karen. It was very satisfying to see how she learned and how she was able to create a beautiful finished product — her rug! The dyeing day was perfect. Karen said she appreciated the process of our work and how we take the time to dye the wool by hand using natural materials. I was very happy that I could teach her the mordanting process, and dyeing with acid, alkaline and a neutral base. The indigo was a challenge because it is a difficult process, but we did it and without mistakes and she was able to see the different blues and how the color changes when it comes in contact with the air. I am very excited about the next workshop we have scheduled to start on August 11. It’s full with five people and it’s going to be wonderful, too.

We are now accepting reservations for workshops starting November 22 and December 13. See the website or blog post: Oaxaca Weaving Workshop: Dancing on the Loom, for more details.

Oaxaca Weaving Workshop: Day 2

The second day of the workshop started at 9 a.m. on Tuesday with Karen and her Chavez Santiago Family hosts and teachers gathered around the worktable in the covered and paved courtyard for an orientation to the natural dyeing process. On hand were baking soda, alum, fresh squeezed lime juice and skeins of undyed wool shorn and spun from Churro sheep. Janet Chavez Santiago explained about and showed the different materials used for the dyeing process: cochineal bugs, indigo, moss, lichens, and pericone. The propane-powered burners were topped with stainless steel and enamel pots filled with water coming to a boil.

Dolores Santiago Arellanas and her 14 year old son, Omar Chavez Santiago were standing by, ready to mix the dyes after selecting the acid (lime juice) or neutral (baking soda) to mix with the dye stuffs to determine the shade and intensity of the color. Federico and Janet guided Karen after they demonstrated how to measure and add the dye liquid to create the dye bath. Wearing a mandil (traditional Zapotec apron) and protective rubber gloves, Karen stirred and poured, while the family and her son, Sebastian, looked on. It was clear that everyone was having a great time. Since it takes an hour of “cooking” the wool in the dye bath to achieve the desired color, Karen went back to her weaving and accomplished quite a bit during the day. She is well on her way to finishing a beautiful wall hanging by the end of the four-day workshop.

Here’s what Karen says about her experience:

“I wanted to be realistic about my expectations, I looked online and thoroughly re-read Norma’s blog. I had my information packet from her and had a basic idea that I would be coming to work with this multi-generational family of weavers. I was impressed by the quality and diversity of the family’s weavings. I had seen the looms before and was familiar with what things looked like. I am really pleased about how patient and agreeable the family is because I don’t have hands-on weaving experience. I appreciated that they offered me the choice of wool from an extensive selection of colors from which to create my piece.

“It was wonderful for me to have this experience at the loom – it was a dream. It really was dancing on the loom. There were certain techniques I couldn’t get right away at the beginning and Federico, Dolores and Janet were patient about repeating the instructions. They wanted me to relax and enjoy what I was doing. They looked at my work and gave me a lot of encouragement. This is a wonderful spontaneous atmosphere in which to learn. It is very exciting to look at and be with the natural colors. I came open-minded and didn’t have too many preconceived notions about what I would do. Federico and Janet talked about weaving with your heart – choosing the colors and their flow in a way that speaks to you — and that was a great approach. At another time, I would like to make more of a design.

“It is also lovely here, beautiful, the food is really gorgeous and delicious. For people who have no experience with Mexico, I believe this would exceed their expectations. It is very clean. Sometimes people might be fearful of coming to a village but once here they would see that it is not that rustic. They are not going to get sick because a lot of care is given to making well-prepared food. Anyone could feel very confident about what they would eat or drink at this house.”

Karen’ son, Sebastian, added his comments:

“I had no idea what would happen, then once I got here, I saw everyone who was here was really nice, and very cool. I like being here with my mom because I got to learn a lot about weaving and dyeing, and watching how the looms work. It was fun taking photos, too. I’d like to be able to do this myself and make something. Omar, who is my age, is really nice and it was a lot of fun to get to meet him. We both rode in the back of the pick-up truck to go get corn grown at Omar’s grandmother’s house for the soup, and we spun the yarn together to make the bobbins that my mom is using for her weaving. My dad, Fernando Olivera, is an artist and he is teaching me how to do woodcuts and etchings. I like everything about Oaxaca – the people, food, culture and art. Everyone here is very friendly. I like it a lot.”

Accepting Registrations Now: Mid-December 2008,

Oaxaca Weaving Workshop: Dancing on the Loom

AHrgggH! Skyrocketing Airfares & August 11-14 Weaving & Natural Dyeing Workshop

We just booked a round-trip on Continental through Houston directly to Oaxaca from August 9-18, and the airfare is $892! Yikes. Just three days ago it was $822 and we waited too long. I know this is pegged to record costs for oil, now $133 per barrel. I’m waiting to hear announcements that we will be charged for baggage, too. Nevertheless, my friends, Cindy Edwards and Sue Szary are joining me for a 4-day weaving and natural dyeing workshop with Federico Chavez Sosa and his daughter Janet.

We have space for 2 more people, so if you’d like to join in the fun, let me know!

Cindy Edwards is the art gallery director at the North Carolina Arts Incubator in Siler City, NC, and Sue Szary (pronounced Zarry, like Larry) is the executive director of the NC Arts Incubator. Sue also owns “Against His Will Gallery”, is a spinner, raises sheep, and has worked in natural dyes. She runs workshops and classes to teach people how to knit, spin, and dye. Sue wants to learn indigenous Zapotec dyeing techniques. Cindy wants to weave a bag or purse. I’ll probably work on creating a pillow cover.

The NC Arts Incubator offers extensive classes in weaving in partnership with the Central Carolina Community College. Both women are novice/inexperienced weavers, and because the workshops with the Chavez family in Teotitlan del Valle are small, Federico and Janet can customize instruction based on level of participant experience. More experienced weavers will learn more complex techniques. (See March 28 Blog Post describing the Oaxaca Weaving Workshop: Dancing on the Loom for more details.)

We’re going to do some day trips to the Tlacolula market, Mitla, Ocotlan and Arrazola, too, and y’all are invited to come along.

Now, I can reminisce about the days when I could choose which special meal I wanted to order — remember when you could actually EAT on a 4-hour flight when it didn’t feel like it was a “bring along your own picnic.”