Tag Archives: school

Oaxaca Day of the the Dead Photos + Videos by Nick Eckert

We had the pleasure of having accomplished Washington, D.C. photographer Nick Eckert with us on the 2011 Day of the Dead Photo Expedition.  [We are now planning the 2012 expedition. Send me an email if you want to get on the notification list.]

Here are Nick’s Flickr shots of sand sculptures.  These installations are painstakingly assembled by artists and artisans.  They are hand-painted and colored and can take more than a day to build. In Oaxaca City, the sculptures were displayed at the plaza next to the Basilica de Soledad.  They lined the street leading to the old cemetery in Xoxocotlan.

Day of the Dead Sand Sculptures

Nick also has a YouTube Channel named maskirovka77 where you can see all his videos.   Here are a couple to whet your appetite.

Mexico’s Spooky Day of the Dead

Day of the Dead Rituals

After the workshop, Nick went to Mexico City where he photographed the famed murals by Diego Rivera.

Oaxaca Essay Conveys Women’s Writing Retreat Experience

Sue Spirit, a participant in our Women’s Creative Writing and Yoga Retreat 2011, had this essay about her experience published in  “All About Women,” a High Country of North Carolina magazine.  It beautifully expresses our week together and I want to share it with you.  Published here with Sue’s permission!

Oaxaca: Bright Riches on My Plate 

Dreams of Oaxaca, Mexico, have haunted me for years: fat tacos filled with queso blanco and red mole sauce, mariachis playing sprightly tunes, Zapotec women weaving colorful  huipiles and aprons, outdoor markets overflowing with bright fruits and flowers, and rugs woven with Native American designs.

Suddenly my dream springs to life. A woman named Norma is offering what seems too good to be true: a writing workshop with yoga, massage, a cooking class, sweat lodge, meditation, and immersion in the Zapotec culture of a small village called Teotitlan del Valle, in the heart of Oaxaca. Who could resist? Give me a writing workshop any day. And in Oaxaca! Unbelievable! The rest is salsa on the enchiladas.

I enter the courtyard of Las Granadas Bed and Breakfast, a fantasy world of  pomegranates hanging from trees, bouquets of calla lilies, tortillas baking on an open-air wood fire, birds called dortolos singing sweetly, roosters crowing, doves cooing, and nearby donkeys braying.

Our writing workshop meets for three hours a day with our leader Robin. We meditate for twenty minutes in the sunny courtyard, then free-write for 45 minutes. “We should always surprise ourselves as we write,” Robin says. Indeed.  Her advice and the technicolor experiences we’re having help us produce some memorable pieces. “You’re the shepherd and words are the sheep,” Robin continues. “You call them, prod them, cajole them, protect them, feed them.”  As I bask in the sun, letting my pen move languidly across the page, a poem takes shape, oozing rich imagery.

We wander through the open-air market at Tlacolula tasting just-ground chocolate with cinnamon and buying some for hot chocolate. We purchase perfect small clay pots with spoons for serving salsa. We have lunch at Mary’s Comedor, ladling salsa from several pots over our enchiladas and chiles rellenos.

We experience a temescal, a Zapotec sweat lodge, three of us at a time crawling naked into a sauna-hot hut to be doused with hot water and beaten with eucalyptus branches by an old Zapotec woman tending the fire.

We go for a cooking lesson with Reina, queen of Oaxacan chefs. First we drift through the local market with baskets on our arms, collecting offerings of peppers, garlic, Oaxaca cheese, and all the ingredients needed for our cooking spree. Over an open fire in Reina’s courtyard we toast hot peppers and herbs, then grind them in a molcajete  (mortar and pestle) and on a metate (indented stone surface with rolling pin),  mash them with tomatoes to make a rich red mole sauce. We sit down to the best meal ever: cactus salad, enchiladas mole, and raspberry ice cream.

How amazing and precious is a small taste of another culture! The time goes by slowly as I savor every moment, recording it all in my journal.  Jacaranda and bougainvilla blossoms,  plates of neon-bright mango and papaya, ancient cobblestone streets,  a molinillo (a little twirly wooden mill) for making our hot chocolate light and frothy, looms in every home for weaving ancient Zapotec designs: all these disappear into my journal day by day,  to appear later in poems and essays that surprise even me. Oaxaca writing workshop: what a gift for the spirit!

–Sue Spirit


Women’s Creative Writing and Yoga Retreat 2012

All About Women of the High Country

Art Book Binding. What Is It and Why in Oaxaca?

When I talked with Lisa Gilbert about teaching an art book binding workshop in Oaxaca, I had a smattering of an idea about how beautifully elegant and simple the process can be.  Lisa follows  the path of all the great book binding artists who have gone before her.  And, she is an expert in her own right.  (See Lisa’s complete bio below!)

Lisa Gilbert's Handmade Books within a Box

Back story:  A few years ago, I had the pleasure of helping Warren Wilson College art professor and author Gwen Diehn assemble her handmade books at the Asheville BookWorks in Asheville, NC.  The National Museum of Women in the Arts awarded a grant to Gwen to do the book design, woodcuts, typesetting, printing and bookbinding.  It was fun and relaxing to gather around the table stitching the papers together with a group of enthusiastic people.  Many of us had no experience doing this and we were there to support Gwen and to learn.



Photos above illustrate the coptic stitch technique in a class I took recently taught by Lisa.  I love this traditional bookbinding art form. 

The experience I had with Gwen & Company triggered the idea of organizing a book making workshop in Oaxaca.  We will start with a visit to San Agustin  Etla, a local village known for its handmade Amate paper studio started by Oaxaca artist Francisco Toledo.  There, local and international artists create books, journals, jewelry and kites made from this material.



When I enrolled in two art bookbinding workshops with Lisa, I discovered what a joy it is to learn from her.  Lisa’s style is gentle, affirming, and encouraging. She provides in-depth learning materials, diagrams, and instructions.  She is a coach, a mentor and colleague in the book making process.  And, she supports people who are beginners who want to learn the craft.

Our process in Oaxaca will be to select the papers, fold them and assemble our signatures, stitch the signatures together with the cover, make the box, and add embellishments.  What you put in the book is totally up to you — you can use it as a journal, a sketchbook, or any combination of visual or art journal to capture your travel adventures.

copyright Norma Hawthorne

Stunning handmade journal in red, white and black

We hope you will make plans for August 2012 to join us in Oaxaca for this very personally satisfying art book binding and travel journal making adventure!

Here is Lisa’s Bio:  Lisa Gilbert has been an enthusiastic book artist since childhood. She has been illustrating professionally, and teaching art and/or health for the past 20 years. Known for her use of color, finely tuned creativity, and excellent technical bookbinding, Lisa has been invited to show her work in two North Carolina exhibitions.  She has studied bookbinding, paper making, and box making at programs across the U.S., and most recently completed a Penland School of Crafts program.  She has taught bookmaking classes throughout North Carolina, and has a reputation as a patient, encouraging, imaginative, and effective teacher.

Lisa considers herself to be a “cultural navigator” – a well-deserved designation since she has traveled to more than 25 countries.  She purchases, collects, and uses exotic papers on her travels, most recently from Panama, Scandinavia, and India. Lisa has visited paper making facilities and bookbinderies across India and has fashioned books from wood, papyrus, metal, mica, fabric, plastic, vinyl as well as from traditional materials such as handmade and machine-made decorative papers.

She attended Colorado Institute of Art, holds degrees in art and business, and the PhD in health education from University of Maryland.  Her background is versatile and inventive.

New: Silver Jewelry Making Workshop, November 2011

If you are in Oaxaca in November, don’t miss this!

On November 11, 12, and 13, we are holding a sterling silver jewelry making workshop in Oaxaca with instructors Brigitte Huet and Ivan Campant.  They are teaching lost wax carving, sling casting, and classical jewelry making.  You will make your own silver element — either a pendant or a pair of earrings — included in the cost.

You can attend a 2-day or 3-day session.  For complete description of the course and costs, CLICK HERE.

The workshop does not include lodging or meals.  We are happy to suggest places to stay or work with you to make lodging arrangements for an added cost.

4-Elements Bracelet by Brigitte Huet and Ivan Campant


Novelist, Poet and English Professor Robin Greene Leads Creative Writing Workshop

Robin Greene, novelist, poet, English professor, yoga practitioner, parent and wife, is a native New Yorker who is a “Southerner by choice.”  She came to Fayetteville, North Carolina in 1989, and joined the faculty at Methodist University where she is now Professor of English and Writing, the Director of the Writing Center, and Literary Editor of Longleaf Press.

Greene recently completed “Augustus: Narrative of a Slave Woman,” a  novel based on the oral history of a former Fayetteville slave compiled by the Works Progress Administration.  It expertly weaves together Greene’s imagination of what happened with the sparse written legacy recorded in the Library of Congress archives.  The book took Greene ten years to write and she included herself in the novel.  “I exist as Professor Greene, an inquisitive English professor who finds her way into an old mystery,” she says.  In a twist of events, the protagonist Sarah Louise Augustus, the former slave, emerges from the narrative to become the Professor’s teacher.

“The novel is a commentary on black feminism, race-specific reactions to historical inquiry, on sexuality and rape and the quest for identity,” explains Greene.  In 2010, she was invited to teach American Slave Narrative as Literature at a university in Romania.  And, then Norma Hawthorne selected her from an applicant pool of over 100 published writers and writing instructors to lead a creative writing retreat in Oaxaca, Mexico.

Women’s Creative Writing and Yoga Retreat (March 2-9, 2012) is a natural extension of Robin Greene’s reflective nature.  In Oaxaca, Mexico each spring she offers coaching, inspiration and guidance to other women writers.  “We come together as a supportive community and develop a spirit of strength that is often transformative,” Greene says.   “The life of any artist is a complicated one, and emergent writers need to learn not only how to write but also how to make their lives work.”

Novelist and Poet Robin Greene in Oaxaca, Mexico

Greene is passionate about this:  “Many writers need help to integrate the many demands on their time.  It is hard to write, edit, publish, make a living, and be an effective parent.”  Her own life experience tells her so.

When Robin Greene earned the Master’s degree in English from State University of New York at Binghamton and the Master of Fine Arts in Writing from Vermont College of Fine Arts, she was married and then became a mother. She knows what it takes to balance work, home, family, commitments, and creative endeavors.  She goes on to say that, “Today, writers also need to be able to handle Social Media – Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn—plus all sorts of electronic information systems.

Her nonfiction book, Real Birth, took Greene eight years to complete. Memories of Light and Lateral Drift, two volumes of poetry, were published after years of getting up at five o’clock in the morning before her family awakened, then writing for two or three hours in solitude before turning to the responsibilities of getting children fed and ready for school.

Greene knows how difficult it is to try to negotiate the many incongruent parts of a writer’s life. Her advice:  “In order to write successfully, you must first schedule writing time. Writers must selfishly honor that time regardless of all other commitments.”  She also believes that grammar is at the core of knowing one’s craft.  She includes optional grammar mini-sessions in the writing retreat.

Writers must also have a commitment to lifelong learning.  “A writer’s education is never complete,” she says.  “Writers need feedback, need to understand the business side of writing, and show always focus on improving technique. This happens over a lifetime.  Writers are marathon runners, not twenty-yard sprinters. It is why attending a professional development program like our women’s writing retreat can be so important and essential, no matter what your level or personal accomplishment.”

And for her next project? Greene is at work on a collection of open letters of advice and inspiration from a range of poets, from the “old masters” to the “younger, less established who are looking to find their way.” The book will offer guidance for emergent poets that is now offered at some of the best writing programs. She is now in the process of searching for a publisher! Does that sound familiar?

Resources:  See Robin Greene’s website! You can Order Augustus: Narrative of a Slave Woman from Amazon