Tag Archives: tapestry weaving

El Dio del Maize: Corn God of Mexico–Rug Weaving

This afternoon Federico Chavez Sosa completed this extraordinary handwoven 100% wool rug created with natural dyes and cut it from his loom.  It is a complex design that requires special skill to execute the curves and circles to perfection.  The piece measures 32″ x 57″ and is $500 USD. Dyes are from the cochineal bug, pomegranates, wild marigold and the natural color of sheep wool. Federico is a master weaver from the Zapotec village of Teotitlan del Valle, Oaxaca.   Since I am in Teotitlan now, I would be glad to bring it back for you and ship it from North Carolina after August 1.  We can arrange payment with PayPal.

Baptismo, Mercado, Massaje: Just Another Day in Teotitlan

The sound of familiar music drew me to the doors of the village church and another celebration.

[My guess is that village life is a mutual support society.  Families support each other by providing and paying for the services needed to sustain the constant celebration of life.  There is incredible joy for families, and economic benefit to those who create the music, food, flowers, and the red and blue striped tent rentals that mark the homes of celebrants throughout the village.  Okay, so the music is a little off key, but I can assure you that the cake will come from the best pasteleria and the tamales from an expert cook.]

I took my seat at the back of the church as the service was coming to a close.  The band led the way, playing full throttle.  Behind them came the family — father holding a little girl about one year old dressed in white, a huge smile on his face, his wife next to him was beaming, beautifully dressed in a gauzy pink floral dress and gold jewelry.  The rest of the family trailed behind them.  As they approached, I smiled and said, felicidades.  He stopped, asked me where I was from.  Carolina del Norte, I replied.  Oh, my brother worked in Raleigh for a while.  Why don’t you join us at the party, just follow us to our home.  I thanked them, and expressed my regrets.  I had a massage appointment with Annie that I couldn’t miss.  But, I was astounded at the generosity of the invitation, and reminded myself that this is what Teotitlan life is about — generosity and inclusion.  I joined the procession as it curled for a block or two along with abuelos wrapped in tradition jaspe-style woven shawls, tias from Tehuantepec bedecked in gold and high heels, and then peeled off.

First, a stop at the pasteleria to order my New Year’s Eve birthday cake, an all chocolate affair that would feed 20.  Then, I noticed the chocolate cake topped with flan double layer extravaganza and ordered one of those, too.  Federico was in the rug market today and I thought I would join him for a few minutes before heading off to Annie’s up the hill.  The Chavez Santiago family displays and sells at the rug market intermittently depending upon whether there is a celebration, trip to Oaxaca, or a commission to finish that might take priority.  Today the market was filled with tourists, and as a gringa sitting in the stall with a Zapotec weaver, I guess I was somewhat of an anomaly.  The English-speakers asked me where I was from, and from there it was easy to start the conversation about rug quality, natural dyes, cultural preservation, Spanish conquest history, and conserving authentic weaving and dyeing traditions.   I met a bi-lingual man from Texas who brings his children to Mexico to teach them about their cultural history and traditions.  He wanted to show his daughter rug weaving techniques so he went to the house where Dolores and Janet were weaving.  Another family from Cancun stepped in to visit and placed a custom order.  It was a good day.

Tuk-tuk time for me.  I hopped into one of those little three wheel red moto-taxis that ply the village lanes and we huffed and puffed over the cobble stones, across the river, onto the dirt and stone road that leads to the hillside where Annie lives.  I am entering shiatsu heaven.  First a bit of tea and talk, then I’m down on the mat.  When I emerge an hour later, magically all my back pain from carrying talavera tile in my backpack is gone.  I’m light footed down the hill, gaze at the golden stumps of shorn cornstalks dazzling in the last moments before sunset, stop at El Descanso for a bowl of fresh vegetable soup and agua de pepino con limon, and arrive home just in time to greet Eva Hershaw, a university student applying to graduate school, who came to Oaxaca to create a photo documentary of people who grow traditional maize (the non-bioengineered kind).  We had been carrying on a correspondence and I suggested that she first connect with Itanoni, the Oaxaca bakery that only uses native corn.  I invited her out to the village telling her that everyone here grows corn just like they did 6,000 years ago.  She joined us at the kitchen table as we were finishing late comida, and she met the Chavez family and talked about her project.  We will help her connect with local farmers and invited her back to join us for the Las Cuevitas new year celebration on December 31 and January 1.

It is a good day!

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.

Earth

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.

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

Weaving Workshop: Dancing on the Loom–Oaxaca

Imagine! A hands-on weaving workshop in Teotitlan del Valle, Oaxaca, Mexico, with master weaver Federico Chavez Sosa.  Federico’s daughter Janet, who co-teaches the workshops, is fluent in English and a university student of languages and linguistics.  All instruction is translated for easy understanding. The Chavez family’s oldest son, Eric Chavez Santiago, is director of education at the new Museo Textil de Oaxaca (textile museum).   Photos on this page are from recent workshop.  Most participants had never been at a loom before!  We welcome both experienced students and beginners for an extraordinary week living in a Zapotec village and weaving on a tapestry loom.

Click here:  See Norma’s complete Oaxaca Weaving Workshop: Dancing on the Loom Photo Album

“The workshop was an incredible program. I have enjoyed the whole process! Thank you very much for your hospitality and for sharing your talent, knowledge and wonderful teaching.  A special thanks to Dolores for her succulent meals.  I would recommend this program to any friend.  This has been an unforgettable week.” –Giovanna Balarezo, New York City

Upcoming Dates — Accepting Registrations Now:  Beginners Welcome!

  • Saturday-Friday, December 26, 2009-January 1, 2010 (Workshop is Mon-Thur, Dec. 28-31)
  • Saturday-Friday, February 20-26, 2010 (Workshop is Mon-Thur, Feb. 22-25)

Workshop tuition is $965 per person, including lodging (double occupancy) and many meals.  Workshop is limited to 5 participants.  4 days of instruction, Monday-Thursday.  6 nights lodging, Saturday-Thursday.  Arrive Saturday and depart Friday.   Bring a friend and you will both receive a 15% discount.

Please see my website:  www.oaxacaculture.com for registration form

Includes 22+ hours of personalized instruction, 5 participants maximum enrollment, for weavers, knitters, natural dye aficionados, artists, teachers, university students, parents and children (over age 10 when accompanied by an adult).

Cost includes 6 nights lodging, 6 breakfasts, 4 lunches, supplementary notebook of information and resources, plus lots of extras.

If you don’t see dates to fit your schedule, contact me. We can arrange a customized schedule. email: normahawthorne@mac.com

Dancing on the Loom” was a marvelous experience; not only did I learn the essentials of weaving and dyeing, but I have the opportunity to see people engaging in the building of a sustainable production.” — Akilah Zuberi, Philadelphia

Workshops are limited to 5 participants, with personalized instruction from master weavers Federico Chavez Sosa and his family. You are invited into the Chavez family home and studio workshop. Not only will you learn the way Zapotecs have been weaving for over 500 years, and dyeing for millenia, you will be experiencing village life through a very unique and personal perspective.

The Chavez family have traveled and exhibited throughout the United States, are in the permanent collections of galleries, museums and artists, including the Snite Museum of Art at the University of Notre Dame. They have exhibited and lectured widely, including at the National Museum of Mexican Art (Chicago), the San Jose (CA) Quilt and Textile Museum, the American Tapestry Alliance, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Purdue University, and the University of California at Santa Cruz.

Andrea Ford’s Photo Album: Oaxaca Weaving and Natural Dyeing Workshop at the NC Arts Incubator, October 2008

“The very best workshop I ever attended.  The sincere generosity of the Chavez family is just astounding. The patience, expertise and instruction were of the high level!  Many thanks to Federico, Dolores and Janet, and our coordinator, Norma Hawthorne, for making this all possible.” — Sue Szary, Siler City, NC

See www.oaxacaculture.com website for bios about me and the family

Who Should Attend: weavers, artists, knitters, designers, teachers, university students, anyone interested in weaving and natural dyeing techniques, and sustaining indigenous art forms using ancient technologies

Level of Experience Necessary: These are small group, hands-on workshops that can accommodate varying levels of expertise, from beginner to advanced student. Because the size of each group is limited to 5 people, you will receive individualized instruction and coaching from the master weaving family of Federico Chavez Sosa. More experienced weavers can create more complex projects.

Each student will be assigned her or his own loom for the session. The loom will be dressed (warped) and ready for you to begin weaving upon arrival. Materials include your choice of naturally dyed wool yarn from which you will weave a sampler textile that can be used as a wall hanging, pillow cover, or comprise the body of a purse or shoulder bag. You will select the wool from colors dyed with pomegranates, pecans, mosses, indigo, and cochineal.  Our participants have created amazing textiles that range from 18 inches to 30 inches in length.

What People Say … Kathy Trent from California arranged a customized, one-day workshop with her 7-year old daughter during a recent visit to Oaxaca.  Here’s what she said,

“Dear Norma, Kristin and I had a lovely time with the Chavez family.  Janet is a “gem!”  She is so patient and gives great instructions.  I enjoyed the whole experience and would like to visit again.  Thank you again for arranging everything.  The whole day was one that my daughter and I will never forget!”

What You Will Learn:

  • Traditional Zapotec weaving techniques, patterns and motifs that produce squares, stripes, diagonals, circles and color gradations;
  • Use of the two-harness pedal loom and shuttles;
  • Practice weaving simple or more complex patterns, depending upon your level of experience;
  • The cultural history of rug weaving in Teotitlan, ancient wool preparation techniques, natural dyeing methods, and how to discern synthetic dye use
  • Participate in natural dyeing demonstrations to see how the range and variety of color is developed from native plant materials;
  • Complete a finished textile: cut the sample tapestry from the loom, clean the wool tapestry, twist and tie the fringes; and
  • Work under the expert guidance of weavers whose family has been creating extraordinary textiles for generations.

Arrive in Oaxaca on Saturday, travel to the village and settle into your B&B.  Sunday is a free day to arrange an optional guided visit to the Tlacolula market or to explore the region on your own.

Weaving Workshop: Days One Through Four

9:00 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.

Day One, Monday: Arrive at the Chavez Family Studio for an orientation and demonstration of Zapotec weaving patterns and techniques to create squares, stripes, diagonals and circles. Choose your loom and select the colors for your tapestry. Prepare the bobbins. Begin your project. More experienced weavers will work with Federico and and his family to create more complex patterns.

Days Two to Four, Tuesday-Thursday: Participate in demonstrations and then practice using the two-harness pedal loom using a variety of shuttles to make more complex patterns and greater variety of colors, experiment with using the equipment on your own, learn dyeing techniques using cochineal, indigo, wild marigold (pericone) and moss. Learn how to count threads to create a circle or square within the overall design. Finish off your piece by cutting it off the loom, rolling and tying fringes.

What Is Included:

  • All weaving equipment and supplies to create a finished wool tapestry sampler that is approximately 18” wide by 24” long
  • 22+ hours of supervised instruction in English by renowned master weavers
  • An educational reference notebook of workshop materials to take home with you
  • 4 lunches: Afternoon lunch (Comida), snacks, beverages daily for four days
  • 6 nights lodging (double accomodations) with daily breakfast in Teotitlan del Valle at a lovely and comfortable bed and breakfast within easy walking distance of the Chavez Santiago Family studio
Optional:
  • Guided visit to Tlacolula Sunday market, afternoon village walking excursions that may include visits to an organic farm and weaving cooperative, meeting renown painters and weavers; guided visits to Friday Ocotlan market; guided visit to Mitla archeological site and village
  • Additional nights lodging and single supplements available.

Complete Itinerary

Saturday: Arrive in Oaxaca, travel by taxi (on your own) to your bed and breakfast in Teotitlan del Valle. Explore the village on your own.

Optional Sunday Guided Visit to the Tlacolula Market (pre-workshop): Your guide will meet you at 10 a.m. at your bed and breakfast for the bus trip to the Tlacolula market. Transportation costs not included. Take comida (lunch) in the Tlacolula market.  Additional $40 USD per person.

Monday-Thursday: Oaxaca Weaving Workshop: Dancing on the Loom at the home and workshop of the Federico Chavez Santiago family.

Options Can Be Arranged: visits to the archeological site Mitla, additional nights of lodging, day trips to outlying crafts villages. Transportion included.

Cost for the 6-Night/5-Day Program is $965 USD per person, double accommodations.  Additional nights lodging can be arranged at $40 per night per person.

Contact: normahawthorne@mac.com for more information and to register.

How to Register: A $300 USD deposit is required to reserve your space.

Final payment of the balance is due 30 days before the start day of the workshop. If the final balance is not paid within 30 days before the start day of the workshop,we reserve the right to treat the reservation as cancelled. Any registrations made within 15 days of the workshop date must be paid in full at the time of registration.

If cancellation is necessary, deposits are refundable, as follows:

Any cancellation by a participant must be made in writing by email. Deposits may be refunded

  • up to 30 days before the workshop start date, less a $100 cancellation fee.
  • After that, deposits are not refundable.
  • If cancellation is necessary, you may apply the deposit to a future workshop scheduled in the same calendar year. We reserve the right to cancel or reschedule workshops, in which case you may choose a 100% refund or to apply the tuition to a future workshop.

Personal checks are accepted. We can also accept payment with PayPal. Contact us for details.

What Is NOT Included:

  • Transportation in/to Mexico, Oaxaca and Teotitlan
  • Local transportation costs (bus, taxi, collectivo)
  • Gratuities and fees
  • Trip insurance, medical expenses, hospitalization, and other fees
  • Evening dinners, snacks, liquor
  • Optional afternoon side trips and excursions

Upon registration for the workshop, we will provide you with:

  • Transportation options to get from the Oaxaca airport to Teotitlan del Valle and your bed and breakfast
  • A walking map to the Chavez casa and contact information.
  • A list of recommended lodging in Oaxaca, in the event you wish to extend your stay or arrive earlier.
  • A list of recommended reading, a seasonal packing list, and travel tips to make your journey easier and more fun
  • Immunization, Visa and passport information, How to Get There, weather information, money exchange

Note: Zapotec weavers use the pedal loom, which they stand at to work. People who have difficulty standing for any period of time, or who have back problems are discouraged from attending. Many of Teotitlan’s streets and alleyways are cobble stone and/or dirt, with many uneven surfaces. It is a several block walk between lodging options and the weaving workshop. Please bring appropriate walking shoes.

Optional Activities:

Friday Market, Ocotlan with stops in San Martin Tilcajete and San Tomas Jalieza; cooking classes; temezcal bath; Spanish lessons; hiking to Mt. Picacho and the Presa; birdwatching in Benito Juarez; visit to Cochineal Farm; a day in Arrazola and Atzompa; handmade paper factory in San Augustin Etla; visits to 2,000+ year old Zapotec archeological sites: Mitla, Dainzu, Yagul. Customized day trips can be arranged before or after the workshop. Prices quoted upon request.

Optional Fee-Based Services to Be Arranged:

  • Pre- or Post-Workshop day trips to craft villages and regional markets, that includes transportation and visits to renowned artists and artisans in San Martin Tilcajete, Arrazola, San Tomas Jalieza, and Ocotlan

Documentation

U.S. Citizens traveling to Mexico are required to carry a current passport, valid for at least three months after your re-entry to the U.S. It is your responsibility to obtain proper documentation. If you are not a U.S. Citizen, contact the Mexican embassy, consulate or national airline of Mexico for entry requirements.

Trip Insurance

Please consider purchasing travel insurance. Unforeseen circumstances of getting to Teotitlan del Valle could cost you more than you expected. In the event of an emergency or natural disaster caused beyond our control, trip insurance will cover any unexpected expenses.