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Posts Tagged ‘weavers’

Without a doubt, blogging about living in Oaxaca has brought a myriad of fascinating, knowledgeable, and just plain fun people into my life.  Thus, after meeting through my blog a couple of years ago, Kalisa Wells and I finally met in person last week at a textile talk at the Oaxaca Lending Library.  Given that we both love textiles, we arranged to rendezvous a couple of days later at a Museo Textil de Oaxaca expo-venta.

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While I was acquainted with the work of most of the artisans from Oaxaca on display, I was unfamiliar with the weaving of Ahuirán, Michoacán.  Kalisa has a long history with traveling, living, and loving Mexico — including Michoacán.

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So, with great enthusiasm, she whisked me off to the booth of Purépecha weaver Cecelia Bautista Caballero and her daughters, Ángeles Rodriguez Bautista and Araceli Rodriguez Bautista — where Kalisa was greeted like a long lost sister and I was warmly welcomed.

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Among other innovations, Cecilia brought back the pre-Hispanic Purépecha tradition of using feathers in weaving.  Multiple layers of individual feathers are hand sewn into the fringe of many of her beautiful backstrap woven rebozos (shawls) — providing an ethereal elegance to these staples of women’s attire in Mexico.

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One of the daughters soon had us draped in these works of art, where we drew a crowd — some of whom also couldn’t resist being wrapped in the beauty of these exquisite pieces.  Meeting new people almost always leads to learning new things and experiencing culture in more personal ways.

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I’m still in el norte, now on the west coast in the San Francisco Bay Area and it’s grey, raining, and cold.  The rain is a much needed gift in drought stricken California, but the ground has rapidly become supersaturated and this morning’s news reported a giant ficus falling across Mission St. in San Francisco, taking down streetcar lines.  I immediately flashed on Oaxaca’s ubiquitous, often topiaried, ficus trees.

However, I headed out into the storm and tuned into a Spanish language music station (I must be missing the soundtrack of my Mexican life) and was reminded today, January 6, is El Día De Los Reyes Magos (aka, Epiphany), when the Three Kings bring gifts to the children of Mexico.

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My (grown) children received their gifts on December 25, not January 6, and last year each received a tapete woven by the talented Sergio Ruiz Gonzalez — brother of Antonio, who wove my new rug.  In the photo, that’s Sergio, his beautiful wife Virginia, and his lovely mother Emilia (of Lila Downs’ El Palomo del Comalito video fame).

However, I did receive an (unexpected) gift today — my former piano teacher (and forever friend) Greg Johnson stopped by to catch up.  And, besides his always upbeat and delightful company, he brought me his new CD, Crystalline Thrilled.  The guys of Glass Brick Boulevard are fabulous (as always) and guest artist Carlos Reyes shreds it on violin.  Check out Carlos playing  with Glass Brick Boulevard at the CD release party.  What a great regalo I received!

 

 

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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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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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When it seems as if we are surrounded by fear, hatred, and violence, it’s good to step back, look around, and remind ourselves that there is also generosity, love, and beauty in this world.  And so I give you my exquisite new mohair tapete (rug), custom woven for me by Antonio Ruiz Gonzalez.  It turned out even more beautiful than I imagined!

Antonio Ruiz Glz. and family standing in front of rug

Here is Antonio (on the left) in front of my new rug with his delightful family, including his brother Sergio (on the right) — from whom I’ve bought several small tapetes.  More about the latter, later!  Should you find yourself in Teotitlán del Valle, do stop by the family workshop (Av. Juárez No. 107), where Antonio, Sergio, and their father Zacarías weave their magic.

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Blog post as catharsis…

Saturday was a sad day in Oaxaca.  It brought the completely unexpected death of one of Oaxaca’s most talented artists, Arnulfo Mendoza Ruiz.  He was only 59.  I knew him a little, peripherally through my blogger buddy, Chris, who has known him and his large Zapotec family in Teotitlán del Valle (his sisters are well-known chefs) for many years and with whom he had been collaborating on a project.  Arnulfo had a well-known store and workshop called La Mano Mágica on the walking street here in Oaxaca, which showcased, not only his artistry (paintings, exquisite weavings, metal work, and more), but also the cream of Oaxaca’s artesanía and artist community.  We would occasionally stop by or he would hail us from the doorway — always with twinkling eyes, mischievous smile, and well-worn fedora atop his head.

Black bow above closed doors of La Mano Mágica

Today, the doors are closed.

As I’ve mentioned several times before, ritual and tradition play central roles in all aspects of Zapotec culture and it was amazing to watch it being expressed on Saturday.  Arnulfo died in the morning and by the early afternoon, friends, family, and many of the major artists in Oaxaca, were gathered in La Mano Mágica.  At one point, there was mournful chanting by several men in the gallery where his casket lay, later a band played, people came and went in the main workshop room, and in the room behind, his sisters prepared and served chicken covered in black mole, rice, tortillas, and atole.  The women busied themselves with the ritual of preparing and offering food, but allowed the tears to well up when condolences were given.  However, the men in the family sat or stood in clusters in the other two rooms, and remained stoic.

Mourners in church plaza, El Picacho in background

Under the embrace of El Picacho

According to belief, the funeral was held the next day.  As we drove out to Teotitlán del Valle on Sunday, the winter sky’s usual puffy white clouds had turned dark and gray and a few tear drops fell from the heavens.  There is a tradition of dimming the lights on Broadway to honor the death of a prominent member of the theatrical community.  And, yesterday, it felt like Mother Nature desaturated the color of Oaxaca a little in honor of Arnulfo Mendoza Ruiz.

Casket being carried into church

Led by the solemn sounds of a band, pallbearers carried the casket from his home high atop a hill in Teotitlán del Valle, down the steep and winding cobblestone streets, to Templo de la Preciosa Sangre de Cristo where a mass was celebrated.  And then, all processed to the cemetery.  The anguished sobs, as his body was lowered into the earth, were heart-wrenching.  Like laughter, I think grief is contagious, as it reaches into our heart, takes hold, and shakes the continuum of feeling in each of us.  And so, tears welled-up in my eyes.

Floral wreath with ribbon reading, "Descansa Arnulfo"

Rest in peace, Arnulfo

Today, I continue to feel drained and very sad.  I didn’t know Arnulfo well, but feel humbled by the fragility of physical life.  I keep reflecting on how each of us tries to bring meaning to this temporal physical existence.  Arnulfo was a flawed man and was chased by demons, but in his creativity and nurturing of the arts, he left the world a little better than he found it.

Chris’s farewell blog posts to his friend are especially touching:   A sad day – Arnulfo Mendoza (1954-2014) and Another sad day – Arnulfo Mendoza (1954-2014).

And, here are two online obituaries (in Spanish):  Adiós a Arnulfo Mendoza and Oaxaca de luto por la muerte de Arnulfo Mendoza.

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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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