Tag Archives: weaving


Back on the Taos Mesa. Cooking extravaganza food fest for Thanksgiving Day. We are a family crowd of 13 people. Grateful. Thankful. Appreciate all friends and blog readers. Enjoy the day. We have much to appreciate. Wishing you a day filled with good food, good friends, good family and abundance. Sending abrazos fuertes.

Don’t forget to check out our Shop Small Sale! Use discount code thankful2023.

At Original, Textiles from Chiapas Tell Stories

A group of us spent five days at Original this past week. This is a textile extravaganza in Mexico City that honors indigenous weavers and designers from throughout Mexico. With over 1,000 artisans showing and selling what they make, to say the event was mind-boggling is an understatement. The show also featured pottery, lacquerware, copper, basketry, jewelry, and so much more.

We needed five days to do justice to Original! The event was held at Los Pinos in Chapultepec Park. It is the former residence and grounds of Mexico’s past presidents. When Lopez Obrador took office five years ago, he converted the mansions and grounds into a cultural center accessible to all.

Prominently featured were the textile makers of Chiapas. They work on backstrap looms as wide as their hips. Each finished length of cloth is then meticulously sewn together using intricate needle stitching that when complete looks like embroidery — but it isn’t!

Chiapas Textile Study Tour 2024

A highlight was our meeting with Alberto Lopez Gomez, a weaver, designer, and one of the volunteer event organizers. We sat together under the shade of a large tree just beyond his exhibition booth while he showed us an extraordinary teal blue and black collector’s huipil and explained the meaning of each symbol in the cloth.

This particular huipil tells a story that is significant in his village, which is part of the municipality of Magdalena Aldama, one of the most accomplished weaving villages in the region.

Alberto talks about how important snakes are in Maya symbolism, and points to the first row of design in this huipil. Then he shows us Señor de la Tierra, Lord of the Earth holding up the universe. The next image is one of a bat, which is a messenger in his culture; after that is the corn god named Culiacán, then the sun, mother and father, representing the family.

There are images of clay pitchers used to water the field crops, and triangles denoting the four cardinal points.

Diamonds also represent flowers, corn, and large stars that depict the cycle of planting. Farmers arise in the pre-dawn and are guided by the stars. When stars smaller in the sky, ancient farmers knew the rainy season coming and it was time to plant.

Snakes, worms, and caterpillars are highly respected in Maya mythology and used for traditional medicine. Mayas also honor the underworld, and this is also reflected in the designs.

In this huipil, we also see white orchids, which are gathered in the mountains by the elderly. They are the only ones allowed to collect these. The orchids are the border design around the collar.

Chiapas Textile Study Tour 2024

If a garment has fringes or tassels, these represent the braided hair of the women. This particular textile is very special, Alberto says, because it represents the story of his pueblo.

He now works with over 200 weavers in various municipalities in Chiapas.

We visit Alberto in his private home studio in San Cristobal de las Casas during our Chiapas Textile Study Tour. We have spaces open and invite you to join us as we explore the Maya textile culture of southern Mexico this February 2024.

ORIGINAL 2023 Textile Extravaganza: 400+ Mexican Artisans

Coming up in Mexico City from November 15-19, is ORIGINAL. This is a major textile and folk art event that will attract visitors from all over the world. We have organized a long weekend tour to Mexico City that will take us to ORIGINAL every day where we will meet and have private conversations with some of the leading fashion and textile artisans in the country. Want to come last minute? We have a space for you! Send an email.

Yesterday afternoon I went to visit my dear friend Arturo Hernandez in Mitla. We sat for a couple of hours in his studio, sipping tea, talking about design and making. He is one of the invited artisans participating in ORIGINAL. The Mexican Ministry of Culture has organized and promoted this event and in order to attract the best artisans from throughout the country, most of whom do not have the funds to travel to Mexico City and cover meals and lodging expenses, is underwriting costs to enable them to participate. Arturo will travel by bus with two huge packages of handwoven and naturally dyed rebozos, throws, bedspreads, and ponchos.

Arturo modeled the multi-colored poncho, all made with natural dyes, that he will wear for the Pasarela, a fashion parade, that we will see for the opening.

Appropriation of what Mexico calls its cultural patrimony — textile designs that are centuries old and part of a community’s identity — has pervaded the fashion industry. This expoventa, held at Los Pinos, the former home of Mexican presidents in Chapultepec Park, seeks to overcome this practice by bringing indigenous textile design to the forefront.

During our tour, we will discuss the history of Mexican fashion, indigenous design and creativity, what is and isn’t cultural appropriation, meet and talk with cultural anthropologist Marta Turok, designers and promoters Alberto Lopez Gomez, Remigio Mestas, 1/8 Takamura, and Ignacio Netzahualcoyotl. We will have plenty of time to walk the expo, take in the catwalks, and dine at some of the finest restaurants in the Centro Historico. As if that isn’t enough, our friend and art historian Valeria will guide us on a narrative tour of the Diego Rivera murals.

Here is an excellent article, Mexico fights plagiarism, that I recommend that you read. The article features Ignacio Nezahualcoyotl, who we will meet and talk with at ORIGINAL 2023.

Southwest Road Trip: The Last Trading Posts

We wanted to call this The Trading Post Tour! We went to five.

In the mid-1800’s and well into the early 20th century, there were more than 300 trading posts dotting southwest United States of America tribal lands, mostly in Arizona, New Mexico, and Utah, where Native Peoples lived. Usually owned by Anglos, they were thriving centers for commerce and a robust social life. It was here that Native Americans picked up their mail, purchased Blue Bird flour for fry bread, sold their goods or pawned them for cash or to trade for food and supplies.

Trading posts were first established by trappers, who got furs and food. In trade, Native Americans received guns, ammunition, cloth, beads, metal cooking utensils. It began as a barter system. Mostly, they were on Diné-Navajo reservation, in rural areas with little access to goods. Sometimes the system meant that First Peoples had either a credit or debit at the trading post. Prices might be higher, but it was easy access close to home. Trading post owners were integrated into the community. Many married local women.

To visitors today, trading posts offered an off-the-beaten path adventure to meet artisans and to buy blankets, rugs, jewelry, pottery, baskets, and other handmade goods that were not redeemed. Pine nuts, too, were a valued commodity. Trading posts also took in saddles, rifles, boots and spurs, plus farm and ranch equipment. The trading post also offered a market to the world beyond the local, sending goods off to Denver, Santa Fe, Albuquerque, Phoenix, Dallas and Houston, for example, where those who appreciated Native American made pieces could have access.

Today only about a dozen trading posts remain. They have closed down, Les Wilson, owner of Two Gray Hills Trading Post told me, because people now shop at Walmart, Dollar General, Family Dollar, or Costco. With the car, shopping in the larger towns is more accessible and less expensive. In addition, tribal groups, now better organized, emphasize the importance of buying from and supporting Native owned businesses. Most trading posts are, and continue to be operated by Anglos.

Before we left on the Southwest Road Trip, I researched the trading posts that we might find along our routes. We also just encountered some along the way, using online searches to see if there were any in the general neighborhoods we would be traveling through.

Our first find was Hubbell Trading Post in Ganado, Arizona, established in 1878. We stopped here on the way from Zuni Pueblo to Hopi Pueblo, after spending the night in Gallup, NM. Operated by the National Park Service and designated a National Historic Site, the trading post is much like it was at the turn of the 20th century. The old wood floors creak as you walk through the general store section into the two back rooms filled with handwoven Navajo rugs, katsina dolls, baskets and a treasure trove of jewelry, some of it vintage.

On the route between Monument Valley and Mesa Verde where Highway 160 and US 64 meet is Teec Nos Pos Trading Post, established in 1905. It’s pronounced Tease Nas Pas (NOT Teak Nose Pose). We almost passed it and did a quick U-Turn into the parking lot to explore. The general store stocks Blue Bird flour, canned goods, cereals, dried corn, blue and yellow corn meal, fresh meat, and a dairy-refrigerator case. You can also buy super glue, batteries, and automotive oil. You get the picture. There are two side rooms adjacent to the general store. The first holds glass cases of new and vintage silver and turquoise jewelry.

The second room is locked and behind the check-out counter. This is the rug room, almost like a vault, featuring fine weavings and a few really high end vintage pieces of jewelry. These rugs feature the designs of the local region, colorful and geometric, plus others from Ganado, Two Grey Hills, Klagetoh, and Burntwater. Click this link for a History of Navajo Rug Weaving. We were too buy shopping to take photos!

Once we got to Mesa Verde, we were tempted to continue to follow the trading post trail to Bluff, Utah, where we would find Twin Rocks Trading Post and Cow Canyon Trading Post, both said to be the real deal. In Durango, Colorado, there is Toh-Atin Trading Post, said to be superb. We just didn’t have time to detour to explore more.

When we got to Canyon de Chelly, we stayed at the Navajo owned Thunderbird Hotel, where the restaurant caters to a local crowd. One night at dinner there, I serendipitously struck up a conversation with Anthony Tallboy, whose turquoise necklace I admired. He told me he was a blue ribbon award winner for his weavings at the Gallup Intertribal Indian Ceremonial, and added Toh-Atin Trading Post carries his work. That’s where he and his family go to buy their jewelry because the selection and prices are best. Yes, there is a trading post at the Thunderbird Hotel!

Our last stop was to Toadlena Trading Post. We circled back on our way to Chaco Canyon since we were in the vicinity. It was closed when we went there on Indigenous Peoples’ Day. Twelve miles from the highway, it’s worth a visit. The store manager is a local Navajo woman. The owners live near Taos. They have a huge selection of rugs, a good selection of new and vintage jewelry, and the shelves are stocked with staples for those who do not have the means to travel the distances to Gallup or Window Rock for shopping.

There is a similarity between the Teotitlan del Valle rugs I am most familiar with and those from Navajo weavers — they both use churro sheep brought to the Americas by the Spanish. The Navajo use the vertical loom, and traditionally women are the weavers. In Teotitlan del Valle, the Spanish taught the Zapotec men to weave on the two-pedal floor loom, also called a tapestry loom, imported at the start of the conquest. I have read that the Navajo learned to weave when they were in exile and hidden by the pueblos along the Rio Grande valley during their expulsion and the Long Walk. Navajo mythology tells us that Spider Woman taught them to weave as part of their creation story. Spider Rock at Canyon de Chelly honors this oral tradition.

The same carding paddles are used to clean and soften the wool. The drop spindle is used to make the fine warp and weft threads. The Navajos use a wool warp whereas the Zapotecs use a cotton warp. The binding off of the rug is different in both cultures, too. What I noticed is that there are about 12-15 warp threads per inch on the Navajo textile. A standard Zapotec rug for floor use has about six warp threads per inch and the weft yarns are much thicker, making for a sturdier piece to walk on.

How to identify a Navajo rug? Read what Weaving in Beauty has to say!

I bought two small rugs, one from Two Grey Hills Trading Post and one from Teec Nos Pos Trading Post, each representing a different regional style. I won’t use them on the floor!

I want to add that Perry Null Trading Post in Gallup, NM, is a mind-blowing experience. They do a robust business and have many satisfied Native American clients who both buy and sell there. The pawn business is still in operation. The selection is beyond imaginable. We hear from one of our favorite traders, Zuni native Holly Coonsis from Bahti Indian Arts in Santa Fe, that Perry Null is reputable and honest. We have known Bahti for almost thirty year, first discovering them in Tucson, their original gallery, when our parents lived there. It is our first choice because their prices are fair and their quality is the best.

I also want to mention that we believe the best artisans are sending their work to galleries and it is difficult to find highest quality pieces at the pueblos unless you know an artisan in particular and make an appointment in advance to visit her or him.

I’m leaving for Oaxaca on Monday. This is the last post for the Southwest Road Trip.

Next up: Oaxaca Cultural Navigator collaborates with Oaxaca Learning Center to establish a named scholarship! We are excited about this opportunity to support a student dedicated to attending university.

LAST CHANCE! Huiples Sale

Please purchase before Thursday, August 10. We will be mailing from Pinotepa de Don Luis, on the Oaxaca Coast, this Friday, August 11. Still some amazing, hand-woven beauties to carry you through the heat of summer!

Monica contacted me this week and asked for help to sell her hand-woven, naturally dyed cotton huipiles and blusas. She is from the Oaxaca coast village of Pinotepa de Don Luis and is married to Rafael Avedaño, the son of the famed purple snail dyer Don Habacuc Avedaño. Rafa learned how to milk the purple snail from his father, extracting the dye and then putting the snail back into the water to regenerate. They dye the hand-spun native white cotton right there on the rocks along the tide pools near Huatulco. Monica is a master weaver and creates stunning, well made and airy garments perfect for the heat and humidity along the coast. Yes, it’s even hot there in January — the coolest month. Stay cool as the heat overtakes us, too!

P.S. We still have one space open in our January 2024 Oaxaca Coast Textile Study Tour.

There are still many days left in summer and it’s likely that this heat we are experiencing will not let up for quite some time. A perfect time to adorn yourself in something hand made, sustainable, and elegant. These clothes are easy-to-wash-and-wear, and will allow your body to breathe while still looking fresh. Each one is one-of-a-kind! You know you are supporting a Oaxaca weaver directly when you purchase.

Here’s how it works: Monica sent me photos that I am posting here with dimensions and prices. Please order by August 10, 2023. You will pre-pay and I will add on $20 mailing cost. If you order more than one piece, I will combine mailing. Monica will then send me a package of all to take to the post office.

How to Buy: mailto:norma.schafer@icloud.com Tell me the item you want by number. Send me your mailing address. Tell me how you want to pay and include your account name, email or phone number. Choose one of three ways.

You can pay one of three ways: 1) with Zelle (no service fee; 2) with Venmo or 3) with PayPal (3.5% service fee for either one). We will send a Request for Funds (tell us how your account is registered). The request will include the cost of the garment + $17 mailing. If you want more than one piece, I’m happy to combine mailing.

Please measure carefully. We are unable to accept returns since we will have already paid the artisans. Width is measured across the front. Length is measured from shoulder to hem. Thank you!