Tag Archives: textiles

Textiles Front and Center: WARP

I’ve been a member of WARP (Weave a Real Peace) since 2017 when Thrums Books recommended that I organize an international textile conference in Oaxaca for the organization. Over the years, I have come to respect and embrace what they do even more — connecting textile artisans from around the world to support, encourage and promote creativity and economic opportunity. This is the WARP mission:

WARP is a catalyst for improving the quality of life of textile artisans worldwide.
We are an inclusive global network of individuals and organizations who value the social, cultural, historic, artistic, and economic importance of textile arts.

The international conference at Kent State University located about forty-five minutes east of Cleveland, Ohio just ended. It was a three-day, jam-packed event that included demonstrations, discussions, presentations, a marketplace filled with textiles for sale from all over the world, a fashion show, an auction, a gallery show, delicious food, and great networking among all of us — weavers, dyers, spinners, educators, collectors, makers, entrepreneurs, and social justice advocates. Now, I’m back in Albuquerque with my son, and will return to Taos tomorrow.

WARP is an inspiration and a place for us to share what we love. It is where we can talk about and see innovation and change. Kent State gave us a place to explore this — how design innovation melds with technology to create ikat, jacquard, and supplementary weft on technologically advanced, computerized looms. It is where we can understand how the Fibershed movement of farmers, fashion activities and makers influences a new textile economy — earth and people friendly, sustainable, and circular, minimizing fast fashion waste. It is how we can embrace the resurgence of innovation in the Rust Belt by meeting entrepreneurs like Faan‘s Aaron Jacobson, who started a Cleveland-based fashion company after working as an architect in China. They make low-waste, recycled, community-centric, eco-friendly fashion with everything sourced locally. We meet John Paul Moribito, assistant professor and head of textiles at Kent State. They open our eyes to creating textiles that speak to a Queer sensibility with beads, loose shimmering threads, evoking drag queen glamour. We talk with Praxis who created a community garden of indigo, involved children and the local neighborhood in natural dye activism to overcome the slave history of indigo culture in the USA.

This is also a place to share our concerns about what threatens hand weavers across the globe. As the global economy tightens its grip on the production of cheap goods made in countries that have no regulation for labor protections, and where often political prisoners are forced labor to reproduce what is authentic around the world, we must read labels and be vigilant about buying hand made. In this way, we personalize rather than depersonalize the shopping/buying experience.

Daniel and Norma, last dance of the evening

A highlight for me during this conference was seeing my friend, North Carolina ceramic artist-potter Daniel Johnston, who is engaged to be married to WARP’s executive director Kelsey Wiskirchen. I’ve known Daniel for almost 25 years, and met him when he was a young studio apprentice with Mark Hewitt Pottery in Pittsboro, NC. I attended Daniel’s first solo show in Asheboro, NC, bought some of his work and continued collecting, going to see his new kiln in Seagrove, and attending studio openings. Even as I was leaving NC, heading to New Mexico, I went to visit him and Kelsey before I left.

The great news is that they have purchased land in Abiquiu, near the Georgia O’Keefe home, and will be back and forth between NC and NM. So, once again, dear people whom I love are migrating to the southwest. In case anyone is interested, Daniel is represented by the Gerald Peters Gallery in Santa Fe. He has a major installation at the North Carolina Museum of Art sculpture garden, and is among the most decent, humble, and caring young men I know (similar to my son, Jacob). A perfect match for Kelsey who mirrors his attributes.

I delivered the last presentation of the conference, talking about and comparing the weaving traditions of two villages, one on the Oaxaca coast — San Juan Colorado, with a Chiapas Maya village — San Pedro Chenalho, just outside of San Cristobal de las Casas. We had a lively discussion about cultural appropriation and cultural appreciation, and I’ll be writing more about that as soon as a survey I’m conducting comes in. BTW, we have a few spaces open for both these textile study tours.

Next WARP Annual Meeting: May 16-18, 2024, Golden, Colorado. Join Us!

WARP Conference Marketplace, Kent State, Ohio

Yesterday was a travel day, from Taos to Albuquerque by car, then a flight from there to Denver to Cleveland. I arrived by bedtime and slept at an airport hotel, hauling one huge piece of luggage filled with Mexican textiles to sell at the WARP (Weave a Real Peace) Conference Marketplace. I got to Kent, Ohio, about an hour away, via Lyft. I’ve just finished setting up.

There are representatives here selling goods from Guatemala, Africa, Bhutan, Uzbekistan. Some haven’t arrived yet, so there will be more!

WARP is an international textile organization that I’ve belonged to since 2017, when we helped organize their Oaxaca conference. They promote and support the work of indigenous artisans around the world, offer scholarships and support for young talented artisans, and are committed to social justice. It is comprised of weavers, dyers, spinners, all fiber artisans, and collectors. Consider joining if you aren’t already a member!

Huipiles Sale and Furry Bath Mats Close-outs

Janet Chávez Santiago from Teotitlan del Valle is with me now in Taos. We were together last week in Nashville for a pop-up sale of Fe y Lola Rugs from Oaxaca. Then, we flew to Denver to visit friends and drive to Northern New Mexico early Thursday morning to return in time for me to do a reading at the Taos literary society, SOMOS. I received word on Friday that my essay, Lipstick, was accepted for publication in Minerva Rising Press. Another outlet for creativity!

I’ve been going through the textiles I brought back with me from Oaxaca and Chiapas in April and now want to offer them for sale. These are new and have not been listed before. Many are perfect for the hot weather in most places through the US. Stay cool with these finely woven gauzy huipiles and blusas.

How to Buy: Write to norma.schafer@icloud.com Tell me the item you want by number. Send me your mailing address. Tell me how you want to pay. Choose one of three ways.

You can pay one of three ways: 1) with Zelle and no service fee; 2) with Venmo or 3) with PayPal. If you choose either #2 or #3, we add on a 3.5% service fee which is their charge to us, and we will send a Request for Funds. We need your account information, either a phone number or email address or Venmo name. The request will include the cost of the garment + $14 mailing charge. We are happy to combine orders.

SOLD #1. Pinotepa de Don Luis weaver Viridiana created this pericone, purple snail dye, and indigo huipil. Very rare combination. It measures 27″ wide x 37″ long. All natural cotton. Beautiful drape. $395.

#2. This is a fuchsine dyed huipil from Pinotepa de Don Luis, very fine hand weaving on the back strap loom. it is silk and cotton. The silk takes the dye and the bleeding is an intentional part of the design. It is 32″ wide x 39″ long. Very collectible. $595.

SOLD. #3. From the village of San Felipe Usila in the Papoalpan region of Oaxaca that borders the Gulf of Mexico, this finely woven white on cream huipil is perfect for summer dressing. It measures 27″ wide x 36-1/2″ long. $295.

#4. Peach colored huipil from Xochistlahuaca, Guerrero is an Amusgo design that is hand woven with natural dyes. It measures 28″ wide x 34″ long. $155.

SOLD. #5. San Juan Colorado huipil from the Oaxaca Coast. Finely woven indigo with gourd dyed designs. Measures 31″ wide x 34″ long. $295.

#6. Dyed with wild marigold and brazilwood, this huipil from San Juan Colorado measures 30″ wide x 30″ long. $265.

SOLD. #7. An indigo crop-top from San Juan Colorado, dyed with indigo, tree bark and including native white cotton, with lovely crocheted detailing. Measures 28″ wide x 18-1/2″ long. $125.

Now for the Bath Mat Close-Out. I ordered these from a weaver felt-maker in San Juan Chamula, Chiapas. I thought they would make amazing furry bath mats or to use at the kitchen sink. I’m reducing them to the cost I paid for them, since I won’t be reordering these. Please choose by number.

Each one is $145 plus mailing. All hand-woven and then felted with the weaver’s feet who dances on the textile to felt it.

ORIGINAL! Mexico City Weekend Textile / Fashion Extravaganza, November 2023

We have dates! This tour is confirmed for November 15-20, 2023, 6 days and 5 nights. Please arrive by 3 p.m. on November 15. Registration is open to attend Original 2023. This will get you home in time for Thanksgiving! 

We are limiting this immersion experience to 10 savvy travelers who are interested in the Mexico’s indigenous textile design, and the merging of traditional clothing with contemporary, innovative fashion. This is the top national textile event in Mexico and encompasses the work of over 400 textile artists from throughout the country. 

What we will do and see!

  • Attend VIP opening night with special guests from Mexico’s textile world and a preview party
  • See the Catwalk — three of them — that features top designers and weavers showcasing their work
  • Enjoy three full-days of meandering aisles of handmade + designed textiles from throughout Mexico
  • Learn about textile design and development in private sessions we arrange with experts
  • Savor Mexico City’s culinary talents at a celebratory group dinner

The tour includes:

  • 5 nights lodging
  • 5 breakfasts
  • Invitation to VIP opening night event and ticket
  • Admission to Original for three days
  • Transportation to and from our hotel to the Original venue
  • Celebratory group dinner
  • Private discussions with textile experts
  • Textile guide expertise with Eric Chavez Santiago and Norma Schafer

Original was developed by Mexico’s Ministry of Culture as a way to take the offensive against the international fashion industry that is appropriating the cultural patrimony of Mexico’s indigenous weaving communities. The term cultural appropriation describes the process of copycat fashion for economic gain by international clothing designers. We have heard too often of designers coming to Mexico, copying a village’s ancient designs, then producing these garments with exact replicas of the weaving or embroidery patterns, putting them on the runway, and marketing them as their original pieces without offering attribution or compensation to the communities that attach their indigenous identities to this clothing. The event term, Original, references the true origins of Mexico’s indigenous designs.

Put in words of the Ministry of Culture:

Original is a permanent cultural movement, generated from the Mexican Government, dedicated to raise awareness for the value of the artisanal work and the rights of collective ownership; it aims to build a new ethic in the relationship of the artisans and their communities with the national and international design industry. Each year, Original brings together textile artisan women and men from the the creative towns and communities in al Mexico to showcase their work.”

Our long weekend together will include lodging, five breakfasts, a gala dinner, talks, presentations with cultural anthropologists and top artisans invited to participate in Original. The weekend will also include guide and translation services, visits to Franz Mayer and folk art museums, transportation, and expert educational experiences to go deeper into the language of cloth. 

Cost: $2,395 per person shared room; $3,195 single room. A $500 non-refundable deposit will secure your reservation.

To register, please send an email to Norma Schafer.

Reservations and Cancellations.  A $500 non-refundable deposit is required to guarantee your spot. The balance is due in two equal payments. The second payment of  50% of the balance is due on or before July 1, 2022. The third 50% payment of the balance is due on or before September 15, 2022. We accept payment using online e-commerce only. We will send you an itemized invoice when you tell us you are ready to register. After September 15, 2022, there are no refunds. If you cancel on or before September 1, we will refund 50% of your deposit received to date less the $500 non-refundable reservation deposit. After that, there are no refunds.

We accept payment with Zelle (no service fee), with PayPal or Venmo (with a 3.5% service fee). Please tell us which payment method you prefer, along with your account name or phone number. We will send you a request for funds to complete your registration.

All documentation for plane reservations, required travel insurance, and personal health issues must be received 45 days before the program start or we reserve the right to cancel your registration without reimbursement.

NOTE: All travelers must provide proof of vaccination for COVID-19 to travel with us. Please maintain all public health precautions. As COVID-19 is waning, mask-wearing is optional though recommended.

How to Register:  First, complete the Registration Form and send it to us. We will then send you an invoice to make your reservation deposit.

To Register, Policies, Procedures & Cancellations–Please Read

Scott Roth on Rug Weaving Art History in Oaxaca, Mexico–Part 1

Scott Roth and I have been friends for about 15 years. I met him a few years after I first arrived in Teotitlan del Valle, Oaxaca, in 2005. Scott is a legend. He is one of the early adventurers who identified the weaving talent in the village, and intuited that blankets and rugs could be repurposed into beautiful floor rugs with just a few modifications. He began working with a few weavers on designs and dyes for export to the USA to meet the nascent interest in what became known as Southwest Style. I want to tell his story, because it is an important part of the history of what Oaxaca is today. I’ll be publishing his writing in segments along with his photos.

1970’s Transition from Wearable Serapes to Floor Rugs

These are Scott’s words!

I first visited the village in January 1974, and returned in August and November that year to continue investing in their two-piece blankets (serapes) and wall hangings. At the time, there was only one man, Ismael Gutierrez, making textiles we would consider rugs today, with the tightness of weave that we find suitable for heavy foot traffic.

Above: Blanket, Scott Roth Collection, era 1974

The big surge of popularity of these weavings was just around the bend, when the Southwest design trend came on strong in 1980. In 1974, there were only two other Americans regularly coming to Teotitlan as exporters, but shortly thereafter ten fellow hippy boomers discovered the village, and found a way, like myself, to fund a romantically adventurous lifestyle.

Above Left: Flor de Oaxaca. Above Right: Escher tapestry

As is now in Teotitlan del Valle, most households strived to become financially independent, creating for the marketplace a unique wool textile through design, size, function and color palette. There was a wide range of images displayed by Teotitecos at the weekly Sunday Tlacolula Market, and also at Saturday’s market in Oaxaca city, which was a block from the Zocalo, on the streets facing the Benito Juarez Market.

Above: Aztec Calendar, 1930’s

In 1974, some of the prominent themes depicted in the tapestry weaving were based on the 1910-1920 Mexican Revolution, during which time greater civil rights and land reforms uplifted indigenous groups. These themes included figures from pre-Hispanic carvings of anthropomorphic gods and the very popular rendering of the stone-carved Aztec Calendar. These themes originated in the 1930’s and remained well into the 1970’s. Weavers of this era learned from their grandfathers who were the serape makers during the mid-1800’s when colonial period Saltillo-style serapes were in vogue throughout Mexico. A pattern from that pre-Revolution era, named Flor de Oaxaca, was the singular most popular design for the 5′ x 6-1/2′ two-piece serapes in 1975. It was a simplified version which fit in with mid-century modernist aesthetic.

Above: Saltillo-style serape, Flor de Oaxaca design, Teotitlan del Valle

Early 20th century European modern art readily translated to tapestries, with many interpretations  of Miro, Picasso, M.C. Escher, and Matisse found alongside pre-Columbian figures.  Isaac Vasquez (who died in 2022) told me how he wove commissioned tapestries for Rufino Tamayo, at the time Mexico’s most famous living artist. In the early sixties, Tamayo brought along his good friend from Paris, Pablo Picasso.  Picasso drew for Isaac a simple design of fish stacked in opposing directions like canned sardines.   The design,  Pescados Modernas, became one of the village’s most enduring best sellers.  

Above: Picasso’s fish interpreted for Teotitlan del Valle tapestries

Above: Matisse tapestry, Teotitlan del Valle, 1970’s

Pre-Hispanic figures from two books by Mexican anthropologist/designer Jorge Enciso, called escaletos, were the subject of favored small wall hangings, in black and white wool. If you know the 1980’s New York City pop artist Keith Haring, you know the power of tightly balanced positive and negative figurative work. I suspect Haring was influenced by the pre-Hispanic figures in Teotitlán’s Escaleto tapestries.    

Above: Jose Enciso designs replicated in Teotitlan weaving

There was a remarkable contrast between the bare minimum of material goods in any household and the highly spirited social exchanges one observed on the street. Everyone slept on the dirt floor of their one-room adobe house, unrolling a petate every night.  There was only one car in town, no running water or plumbing, no paved streets, most women over age 50 went barefoot, and people over 40 had a very limited grasp of Spanish.  Electricity had arrived in 1965,  but was used minimally.  I enjoyed visiting two households in which one weaver would, unaccompanied, sing songs for hours while he and other family members continued working on their looms.  A lively and cheery work environment!  A few years later the Teotitecos could afford cassette stereos, and this tradition of singing disappeared.  

Above: 1950’s-60’s Modernist home with Flor de Oaxaca rug on the floor

The next post will cover the decade of the 1980’s, when everything changed materially.   In retrospect, I observed in the 1970’s that much of the Zapotec lifestyle here had been as it was through the colonial period.  A good, but hard to find, anthropological study of the value system of the Oaxaca Valley Zapotecs was published in the late sixties titled Zapotec Deviance.  It contains insights as to what has helped maintain their cultural identity and sustainability this last half century.   

Here is a video interview with Scott you may enjoy!

Norma’s Note: I’ve lightly edited Scott’s narrative and photos, and inserted a few more details, like the recent death of Isaac Vasquez, innovative master weaver. Also of note, the colorful rugs shown here were made with churro sheep wool and chemical (synthetic) dyes, popular at the time, because they were cheap and easy to use. Before the industrial revolution in the mid-1800’s, serapes here were either made from the natural sheep wool (blacks, grays, beige, white, brown) or with natural dyes from local plant sources (cochineal, indigo, wild marigold, tree bark).

Above: This is master weaver Adrian Montaño from Teotitlan del Valle. He wove a vintage Covarrubias design in the 1960’s that I purchased in 2020. It hangs in my Teotitlan del Valle casita. Other examples from that era are included, and woven by him. The last photos is a traditional design created by Eric Chavez Santiago’s great grandfather Venustiano, popularized throughout the village. All in natural sheep wool.