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Since its creation in 1958, the Baile Flor de Piña (aka, the Pineapple Dance) has been bringing audiences to their feet at the Guelaguetza every July.  The energy and choreography is a cross between the Rockettes and Busby Berkeley, but the costumes are pure Oaxaca — the Mazateca and Chinanteca huipiles are a showcase of color, design, weaving, and embroidery from the Papaloapan region.

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Flor de Piña, La Guelaguetza – July 2015

The Mazatec and Chinantec peoples are 2 of the 16 indigenous groups living in the state of Oaxaca.  For those who are as captivated by their textiles as I am, the Museo Estatal de Arte Popular Oaxaca (MEAPO) in San Bartolo Coyotepec currently has a fabulous exhibition, La Piel de Mi Raza, which features more than 55 Chinanteco and Mazateco textiles from the Papaloapan — some over 200 years old.

Mazateca huipiles are recognized by their hand-embroidered bird and flower motifs.

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Mazateca huipiles

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“Everyday” Mazateca huipil from San Miguel Soyaltepec

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“Dressy” Mazateca huipil from San Felipe Jalapa de Díaz

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“Everyday” Mazateca huipil from San Miguel Soyaltepec

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Antique Mazateca huipil from San Pedro Ixcatlán

The Chinanteca huipiles are woven on backstrap looms with the bird, tree, Quetzalcoatl, and geometric designs embroidered or brocade woven into the piece.

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Chinanteca huipiles

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“Dressy” Chinanteca huipil from San Juan Bautista Valle Nacional

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Antique Chinanteca huipil from San Felipe Usila

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“Dressy” Chinanteca huipil from San Felipe Usila

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Antique Chinanteca huipil from San Felipe Usila

The exhibition is located in the upstairs gallery of MEAPO and runs until November 10, 2017.  By the way, if you haven’t been to the Museo recently, you are in for a surprise — the first floor has been divided into several galleries, allowing for multiple exhibits and providing for a more intimate experience.

And, for the fascinating and controversial background of the Flor de Piña, read Stephanie Schneiderman’s article, Baile Flor de Piña & Guelaguetza: Cultural Preservation.

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Wool was brought to Teotitlán del Valle in the 16th century…

Spun into yarn…

Dyed with natural dyes…

In the 20th century, less labor intensive aniline dyes were introduced…

However, now many weavers are returning to their roots — harvesting and using natural dyes.

The history, culture, and art that is yarn is alive and well and living in Teotitlán del Valle.

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In June, I finally had a chance to meet fiber artist, Carolyn Smythe Kallenborn.  In 2012, I’d been captivated by and wrote a small blog post about her “Tormentos y Sueños” exhibition at the Museo Textil de Oaxaca.  So, I was thrilled to meet her at the Weave a Real Peace (WARP) annual meeting held this year in Oaxaca.  We chatted a couple of times during the conference, but it was the final evening, as many of us were standing in the lobby of the hotel waiting for the business meeting to begin, that Carolyn provided us with a real treat — renown weaver Erasto “Tito” Mendoza, from Teotitlán del Valle, delivered a tapete that was to be used in a collaborative work with Carolyn.

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We were all in awe as he unrolled his creation for us to behold.  ¡Espectacular! was the response from all.  Then Carolyn began describing how she would use mixed media to embellish this woven illustration of the balance of Mother Earth.  However, aside from a hazy picture in my mind, I really had no idea what the finished work would look like.  Then synchronicity came to pass… an announcement that the fruit of their collaboration, Equilibrio/Balance, had won the Surface Design Association, Award of Excellence at the International Fiber Arts VIII exhibition at the San Francisco Bay Area’s Sebastopol Center for the Arts.  And, best of all for me, the show coincided with my Bay Area visit.  Without much difficulty, I managed to persuade B (of Week in Oaxaca fame), who had fallen in love with the tapetes of Teotitlán AND lives in Sebastopol, to accompany me to the exhibition a few days ago.

 

Equilibrio/Balance traces cycles of nature: water through earth and sky; elements of previous life, feeding new growth; and the conversation between the mountains and the universe above.  — object label

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This is one of seventy pieces in this International Fiber Arts show.  Like Equilibrio/Balance, most of the works are not only visually stunning, but also have much to say about our world and contemporary life.  If you are in the Bay Area and love textiles, I highly recommend making your way to the Sebastopol Arts Center by September 3, when the show closes.

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On day 2 of introducing B to the sights, sounds, and flavors of Oaxaca, I turned to the professionals at Discover Oaxaca for assistance.  I had met the owners Suzanne Barbezat (author of Frida At Home) and her Oaxaqueño husband, Benito  Hernández, several years ago through friends and knew they were licensed guides.  And, as coincidence would have it, they were good friends of B’s god-daughter and her Oaxaquaño husband in California.  The choice was easy and the rave reviews on TripAdvisor were icing on the cake.

Thus, Wednesday began with Benito picking us up in a comfortable, spacious, and air-conditioned van.  Our day’s first destination was Mitla, the second most important archeological site in Oaxaca and home to amazingly intricate grecas (fretwork).  However, as we headed east on Mexican highway 190, Benito was a fountain of knowledge — much of which was new to me.  This was going to be good!

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Grecas (fretwork)on the outside of the Palace at the archaeological site at Mitla.

For almost an hour and a half, Benito led us through the site — always explaining, answering our questions, and letting us marvel at what was before us.  We could have stayed for at least another hour, but we headed back west on 190, to Yagul, an archeological site I had previously never visited.  Several friends told me they experienced a deeply spiritual sense and that it was a must see.  We barely skimmed the surface (definitely a place to return to), but the sun was hot, archeological overload was setting in, and hunger beckoned.

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Ballcourt at Yagul — the biggest in the valley of Oaxaca.

Next stop, Restaurante Tlamanalli in Teotitlán del Valle — the renown restaurant of Zapotec cooks, Abigail Mendoza and her sisters.  Using time honored methods and recipes refined over generations, the Mendoza sisters have elevated and brought worldwide recognition and respect for their traditional cuisine.  It was a delicious and tranquil interlude.

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Metates used at Restaurante Tlamanalli to grind ingredients for mole and more.

Tearing ourselves away, Benito, B, and I climbed back into the van and drove to the center of the village to see Templo de la Preciosa Sangre de Cristo, another of the countless churches throughout Mexico built on top of a sacred indigenous site.

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Templo de la Preciosa Sangre de Cristo, sits atop Zapotec ruins at the base of Picacho, the sacred mountain in Teotitlán del Valle.

My intent, during our visit to this village, known for its weaving with wool, had been to visit several of the weavers I know — including Fidel Cruz Lazo, Antonio Ruiz Gonzalez, his brother Sergio Ruiz Gonzalez, and the family of Samuel Bautista Lazo.  However, we were running short of time, and B had been following my adventures with the family of Juana and Porfirio Gutierrez Contreras and had poured over the family’s website, so stopping at their home and workshop was a priority for him.  Porfirio was back in the USA, but Juana and her husband Antoño gave their always excellent explanation and demonstration of their work with natural dyes.  And, yes, B couldn’t resist purchasing a wonderful rug (though not the one pictured below)!

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Woven wool tapete (rug) by Porfirio Gutiérrez Contreras.

On the way back to Oaxaca city, our last stop for the day was at Santa María del Tule to see the world famous Árbol del Tule.  This Montezuma cypress (Taxodium mucronatum; Ahuehuete in Nahuatl) has the largest trunk of any tree in the world, is thought to be between 1,200 and 3,000 years old, and is home to hundreds, if not thousands, of birds.  It is quite a sight to hear, let alone see.

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Looking up at the Árbol de Tule in Santa María del Tule, Oaxaca.

We left Oaxaca city at 9:15 AM and didn’t return until almost 6:00 PM.  It was a full, informative, and terrific day.  Next up, day 3 —  another delightful day out of the city with Benito.

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Tomorrow, May 18, museums worldwide will be celebrating International Museum Day with special events around this year’s theme, “Museums and contested histories: Saying the unspeakable in museums.”  According to the IMD website, The objective of International Museum Day is to raise awareness of the fact that, “Museums are an important means of cultural exchange, enrichment of cultures and development of mutual understanding, cooperation and peace among peoples.” 

While Oaxaca has many wonderful museums, textile lover that I am, I would like to honor the day by looking back at several exhibitions I had the pleasure of viewing at the Museo Textil de Oaxaca — and a current one, too!

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Tormentos y suenos” (Storms and dreams) by Carolyn Kallenborn – August 3, 2012

Exhibitions ranged from works by individual textile artists to themed shows displaying textiles from the museum’s permanent collection and those on loan.

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“Transcomunalidad. interventions and collaborations with stilt communities and craftsmen” exhibition by Laura Anderson Barbata – March 1, 2013

Item labels and detailed descriptive booklets have been extremely helpful and, in the case of collections by individual collectors, their field notes were fascinating.

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“Irmgard Weitlaner Johnson: a life dedicated to textiles” – Costal (bag) was acquired by Irmgard in 1949, is said to be one of the most well preserved examples from the Valle del Mezquital, Hidalgo and, given the design, is thought to have been a wedding gift. – Nov. 21, 2014

The museum not only collects, preserves, and exhibits, it also holds workshops, lectures, expo-ventas (exposition and sales), and has provided a platform for issues of importance to textile artists, especially from the indigenous communities of the state of Oaxaca.

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El Delirio del color Oaxaca en los años 1960″ – Huipil mazatecas from the Tuxtepec district – Apr. 19, 2015

Exhibition openings often have included receptions, with an occasional performance art presentation thrown in.

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“Hilo Rojo 3047” an autobiographical installation by Ornilla Ridone – May 21, 2016

Museums can be a place to help shape community identity and bring different community groups together, a catalyst for regeneration through the creation of new venues and civic spaces, and a resource for developing the skills and confidence of members of those communities.  — Museums Association

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“Tekstil” current exhibition by textile artist Trine Ellitsgaard – Piece titled “Serpiente y abanicos” (Serpent and fans) – May 6, 2017

In observance of this year’s International Museum Day, the Museo Textil de Oaxaca invites textile artists and designers, academics, students, and the general public to participate in a conversation exploring the questions, “What is plagiarism? What is a copy? What is collaborating? Is ‘to collaborate’ synonymous with ‘to employ’? What has been the role of the copy in the development of craft goods?”   May 18, 10:00 AM to 2:00 PM in the Claustro of the Centro Cultural San Pablo — next door to the Textile Museum.

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Artisans from the eight regions of Oaxaca have moved their hand-crafted textiles, pottery, wood carvings, jewelry, and more into the previously mentioned booths near the top of the Andador Turístico (Alcalá/walking street) and Paseo Juárez el Llano (Llano Park).  Not all the signs are in place, but the artisan vendors are.  The exposition and sale will run through the last Guelaguetza performance (August 1), so today’s mission was just to do an initial reconnaissance — to check out new vendors, see what I absolutely cannot live without, and connect with some of my favorite vendors.

Samuel Bautista Lazo

First up were the artisans in Llano Park, where I rendezvoused (stall #70) with my old (though he’s young) friend, Samuel Bautista Lazo, from Teotitlán del Valle.  As I’ve mentioned before, I met Sam and his family during my first visit to Oaxaca in 2007 and (of course) bought two tapetes to bring back to the San Francisco Bay Area.  The rugs returned to Oaxaca with me when I moved here in 2009.  Between then and now, Sam has gotten his Ph.D. in Sustainable Manufacturing at the University of Liverpool (yes, England!), returned to Oaxaca, and is currently helping his family market and manage Dixza Rugs & Organic Farm — their weaving and Bed & Breakfast business.

Daughter of Amalia Martínez Casas

At one of the stalls along the Alcalá, I spotted the unmistakable work of Amalia Martínez Casas from Tamazulápam del Espíritu Santo, a mountain village in the Mixe.  Alas, it was her daughter staffing the booth.  She assured me that Amalia’s health was okay, but that she’s getting old and had decided not to make the tiring journey down from the mountains into the city.  I have several huipiles and a serape of Amalia’s but I must admit, I am very tempted to add another piece to my oft-worn collection.

Honorina Goméz Martínez

Lastly, I stopped by to greet Honorina Gómez Martínez and Pablo Martínez Martínez from Santa María Tlahuitoltepec, also in the Mixe, and just a few miles up the mountain from Tamazulapam.  It never ceases to amaze me how clothing styles vary dramatically in Oaxaca, not only from region to region, but also from village to village, within the same region.  You may remember, Doña Honorina Gómez was a leading spokesperson in the plagiarism dispute with a couple of French designers, which the embroiderers of Tlahuitoltepec eventually won and which prompted Oaxaca’s congress to declare indigenous costume and language as part of the state’s “Intangible Cultural Heritage.”

However, a new charge of plagiarism is being reported— this time, against Argentine designer Rhapsodia — for copying designs from San Antonino Castillo Velasco.  When I return to the expoventa in the next couple of days, I will have to ask one of the artisans from San Antonino about it.  Besides, I’ve always coveted a dress from San Antonino.

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Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales are in the rear view mirror,  December is upon us — only twenty-three more shopping days until Christmas — and the shopping frenzy in el norte continues.  Thanks, but no thanks, I say.   I prefer this…

Weaver from the Katyi Ya'a Taller Colectivo de Algodón Native (Collective workshop using native cottons)

Weaver from the Katyi Ya’a Taller Colectivo de Algodón Native (Collective workshop using native cottons)

On the Friday after Thanksgiving, I took leisurely stroll down to the 2-day expo-venta (exposition and sale), sponsored by the Museo Textil de Oaxaca and held in the tranquility of the Centro Cultural San Pablo patio.  After much oohing and ahhing and talking with many of the artisans, I headed up 5 de mayo to one of my favorite pocket courtyards and the shops tucked in along its garden path…

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5 de mayo #408 – home to tapetes (rugs) at the Fe y Lola gallery and Seasons of My Heart retail store, among other small shops.

I won’t reveal where or if I bought anything — I wouldn’t want to spoil any Christmas surprises!  What I will say is… I prefer strolling to rushing; personally meeting and paying the artisans for their work to handing over a credit card at an impersonal department store; and, perhaps most of all, experiencing the pride radiated by an item’s creator when I admire their work.

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The celebration of Día Internacional de los Pueblos Indigenas continues in Oaxaca this weekend, with music, dance, food, and an artisan expo-venta (sale) in Jardín El Pañuelito.  As I walked through the exposition, one woman’s embroidery drew me back for a second look.  I was especially drawn to a huipil that had been hanging next to the one below.  It’s not in this photo, because one of the “Diablos” from the Santiago Juxtlahuaca dance troupe (who were performing later) had already volunteered to climb up on a chair to take it down for her to show to me.

However, before I could get my money out, a delegation of dignitaries came by for a photo shoot.

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This popular and exceptionally talented woman is Carmen Vásquez Pérez, from San Mateo Yetla, Valle Nacional, located 172 kilometers northeast of Oaxaca city in the Papaloapan Region.  According to the article, Mujeres preservan bordado en Yetla, the village is surrounded by waterfalls and lush vegetation and is rich in Chinanteca customs.

P1130484Doña Carmen learned to embroider as a child and has been instrumental in an effort to preserve and promote the local traditional designs and techniques.  As you can see below, her workmanship is exquisite.

P1130489 After returning home and doing a little research, I’m even more pleased with my purchase.  And, by the way, I did not “bargain” — my new treasure is worth every peso of its 600 peso price tag, and then some!

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Today the Museo Textil de Oaxaca is celebrating its seventh birthday with live music (of course!), nieves (ice cream), and an expo-venta of tie-dye and batik textiles from Nigerian born, Gasali Adeyemo.  The exhibition and sale culminate a week-long artist-in-residence, in which he taught a 5-day workshop — I’m kicking myself I didn’t take it — and a Friday evening presentation, “African Blues, Mi Vida en Indigo” — which I did attend!  Gasali’s work is spectacular and his face glows when he talks about the traditions, technique, and love that goes into his work.

P1080889P1080985P1080984Note the orange blouse above; it beckoned to me and I couldn’t resist buying it.  The technique is batik on a brocaded cotton that has been dyed with the bark of a tree found in Nigeria.  The name of the tree in the Yoruba language is Epo Ira, which, according to Gasali roughly translates to, “tonic iron tree,” as it is also used medicinally to cure iron deficiency.

By the way, for those of you who are going to the International Folk Art Market in Santa Fe, NM in July, Gasali and his beautiful textiles will be there.

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It’s been one year since the passing of maestro Arnulfo Mendoza Ruíz.

Tejedor de los sueños by Charles Barth

Tejedor de los sueños by Charles Barth (alas, with reflections from other pieces)

To honor his life, an exhibit of works by his friends, colleagues, and family was inaugurated at La Mano Mágica on March 13, 2015.

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His older son, Gabriel Mendoza Gagnier, curated this amazing collection of paintings, weaving, and artesanía.

Assisted by Arnulfo’s companion, Yukiko, the opening featured, not only amazing art, but also mezcal, tamales, and surprise entertainment by Carnaval dancers from San Martín Tilcajete, wearing masks carved by some of the well-known carvers from the village, including Inocenio Vásquez and Jésus Sosa Calvo.

Jésus Sosa Calvo had carved the signature entry sign for La Mano Mágica and recently, unasked, came by to freshen up the paint that had faded over the years under the intense Oaxaca sun.

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While, in the words of Manuel Matus Manzo,  Arnulfo Mendoza may have gone on “to meet the Jaguar and the god Murcielago,” the dreams of his magical hands remain.

Finally, this beautiful poem by Alberto Blanco from the exhibit’s catalog…

Mitades a Arnulfo

I
La mitad de la tierra
no sueña con la luna.
La mitad de la luna
no sueña con el sol.

Si la luna es la trama,
y si el sol es la urdimbre,
esa tierra es la tela
donde acaso se vive.

II
La vida es la comedia
ya la muerte es el drama,
pero el textil de siempre
es la urdimbre y la trama.

La mitad de la vida,
la mitad de la muerte:
una tela tejida
con un hilo de suerte.

 

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Last Friday, I walked over to the B&B, El Diablo y la Sandía and walked into the highlands of Chiapas.

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It was the first of a 3-day expoventa of textiles by El Camino de los Altos

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and Chamuchic, two weaving collectives from Chiapas.  Their colors and designs are sophisticated and I wanted them all!

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Alas, the budget limited me to two pillow covers that have joined two solid colored brocaded covers that I bought at a similar expoventa a year and a half ago.

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I think they look great under my beautiful poncho woven by Amalia Martínez Casas.

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Congratulations to one of my favorite weavers, Amalia Martínez Casas from the mountain village of Tamazulápam del Espíritu Santo, winner of the 13th Popular State Art Prize “Benito Juarez” 2013.  The award, presented several days ago by Oaxaca governor Gabino Cue, recognized and honored her work using the backstrap loom, using cotton thread and wool dyed with indigo and banana peel, to weave the traditional costume of Tamazulápam in the Mixe.

Three or four times a year, an artisan fair is held in Llano Park.  Puestos upon puestos of pottery, wood carved alebrije, jewelry, and textiles are on display.  It was here, two years ago, where I first discovered the exquisite work of the tiny and talented weaver, Amalia Martínez Casas.

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I couldn’t resist buying this huipil; a subtle black on charcoal grey that looks both traditional here in Oaxaca and very hip with black leggings and boots in el norte.

And, then the next time, even though the dye was a little uneven, I couldn’t resist buying this short huipil — the color had me at, hola!

Her well-crafted technique and finely drawn designs are sophisticated, be they executed in subdued huipiles or brilliant red serapes.

Every time I wear one of her works of art, people ask, “Where is it from?”  “Who made it?”  “Where can I get one?”  I’ve pointed several friends to her stall in Llano Park during artisan fairs and last week, at the request from a friend in California, I bought this one.  The slight green tint will be perfect with her red hair.  (Yes, this one’s for you, Louise!)

Photos of the award ceremony can be found HERE and video is available HERE.  (Amalia Martínez Casas can be seen beginning at 6:00 minutes.)  And, for more of her creations, check out a blog post Chris did last January.

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For lovers of textiles and Mexico, the latest online issue of the magazine, HAND/EYE (love the title!), has a terrific interview with friend and textile designer/collector/researcher, Sheri Brautigam.  The article, Documenting the Lives of Textiles, covers a wide range of topics, including preservation and revival of traditions and concerns re traditional versus modern designs.  As would be expected, given the subject matter, it includes lots of photos!

 

Documenting the Lives of Textiles

BY Annie Waterman | October 10, 2012

Close-up of traditional shawl

Courtesy of Sheri Brautigam

An Interview with Sheri Brautigam

Textile expert, Sheri Brautigam, shares with HAND/EYE Online, her experience as a documenter of “living” indigenous textiles. 

HAND/EYE: How did you first find yourself in Mexico and documenting “living” indigenous textiles?

Sheri Brautigam: I went to the university in Mexico City in the 60’s and that was the beginning of my lifelong relationship and many in-depth experiences with Mexico. This time, I was training Mexican English teachers through the English Language fellowship with the U.S. State Department—sort of like the English Teachers’ Peace Corps. My location was in a small town in the State of Mexico—Atlacomulco, surrounded by many different indigenous villages. When I went to a nearby village Mazahua ‘Saints Day’ festival and saw the amazing garments the ladies were wearing, I started my documentation.

H/E: How did you first get into becoming a researcher/ textile collector?

SB: I had a textiles design studio (surface design textiles) in San Francisco for about 18 years, so I had been collecting world textiles since the 1960s. That was when they were readily available from world travelers. I have loved and been involved with textiles most of my life and always want to know how these beautiful things are made … and now in Mexico, it’s even more exciting to see them in context. 

H/E: What sort of future do you predict for the world of traditional textiles? What changes have you noticed over the years? 

SB: I’m very hopeful that many traditional Mexican textiles will survive and become even finer. This I have seen in Oaxaca and Chiapas. When appreciation comes from the outside world and the artisans can earn money, they have an incentive to keep producing. The more money they can earn from superior work also encourages some artisans with higher skills to train their children. The more affluent indigenous people become, the more pride they have in their own culture and the continuation of their textile traditions.

Certainly some of the indigenous will leave their village and go to the towns and cities to work and wear jeans and t-shirts—but when they come home they will wear a huipil for the feast day. It’s their cultural identity.

Click HERE to read full article.

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Even though the Guelaguetza is over, textiles continue to be on my mind — actually I can never get enough of them!  So, a few days ago I walked down to the Museo Textil de Oaxaca to see the current exhibition, “Tormentos y Sueños” by Carolyn Kallenborn.  While not a Oaxaqueña, the respect she has for and inspiration she draws from the weavers and textile traditions of Oaxaca are obvious.

Kallenborn explains, “The pieces in this exhibit speak to the beauty and interaction between opposites.” (my translation)  The works are at once, complex and simple, using detail and negative space — much like storms and dreams.  Photographing a whole piece proved too much for my novice skills, thus I hope close-ups of these four pieces will whet your appetite.

If you are, or will be, in Oaxaca, I encourage you to see the whole!  The exhibit runs through November 9, 2012.

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The textiles of Oaxaca are currently on center stage, both literally and figuratively, during these 10 days of Guelaguetza festivities.  And perhaps, besides drawing in much-needed tourist pesos, the Guelaguetza plays an important role in the appreciation and preservation of Oaxaca’s textile traditions.

Delegation from San Andrés Huaxpaltepec, District of Jamiltepec, in the Costa region of the state of Oaxaca.

However, the textile traditions of Lebanon have not fared so well.  According to the article, The End of the silk road, by Ana Marie Lucas and posted to Now Lebanon, silk production, which dates back to the Middle Ages, is on death’s doorstep.  Only two artisanal workshops remaining today.  However, along with the Italian Embassy, the Mexican Embassy, Alfredo Harp Helú Foundation, and Textile Museum of Oaxaca are coming to the rescue.

“We wanted to share our experience with the Lebanese,” Mexican Ambassador Jorge Alvarez Fuentes told NOW Extra. “When I saw the House of the Artisan closed and in need of more attention I thought this was the perfect place to exhibit both Mexican and Lebanese items,” he explained.

“Aside from the exhibition, we wanted to organize two conferences and a workshop of how to dye the silk with natural pigments. This way many people will be able to see how the Phoenicians could extract the purple dye from the Murex shell,” he added.

According to Héctor Meneses, head of the Textiles Museum in Oaxaca, there are surprising similarities between the Lebanese and Mexican traditions in terms of pigment extraction. Mexicans extracted the red dye from a species of snail, very similar to the purple dye extracted by the Phoenicians from the Murex shell. “The difference is that in Mexico, this process is still alive and it’s being used,” he said during a conference.  [Read full article HERE]

FYI:   Alfredo Harp Helú is a Mexican businessman who, like his cousin Carlos Slim Helú (world’s richest man), is of Lebanese extraction.  Harp Helú maintains a residence in Oaxaca and, besides his foundation funding the Textile Museum, he and his foundation are involved in several other philanthropic projects in the state of Oaxaca.

h/t to Margie Barclay for the article.

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