It seems that the textile vortex has settled on Oaxaca, Mexico. For it is here that the indigenous weavers and natural dyers still create extraordinary textiles based on ancestral traditions and enriched by their beloved land. Last November, the International Shibori Symposium was held in Oaxaca City, and this June, the annual Weave a Real Peace (WARP) meeting will be there. Plus, two new books were released last Fall from Thrums Books: Oaxaca Stories in Cloth by Eric Sebastian Mindling, and Textile Fiestas of Mexico: A Traveler’s Guide to Celebrations, Markets and Smart Shopping by Sheri Brautigam.
WARP’s mission is to foster a global network of enthusiasts who value the importance of textiles to grassroots economies. Experiencing a case of textile travel wanderlust right now? Attend the WARP meeting in Oaxaca City, June 8-11, 2017, and stay for some post tours in the greater State of Oaxaca. I’ve been a member of WARP for eight years and it’s a friendly and inclusive group of global textile and artisan supporters. You do need to be a member to attend the meeting and the tours, but it’s a small price to pay for this textile immersion.
As is the case with many new places, it’s not easy ferreting out artisans or accessing them by the backroads, especially if you have limited time. Local guides, friends and fixers who know their way around a state, city, village or neighborhood are worth their weight in gold, providing you unbeatable access. Pre-and post-WARP meeting tours are being offered by three of the best Mexican textile tour guides:
- Stephanie Schneiderman of Tia Stephanie Tours is offering two tours, one to “La Chinantla” region and another to Tenancingo to meet the master ikat dyers, plus a one-day natural dyeing workshop.
- Eric Mindling of Traditions Mexico tours are “Textiles of the Mixteca” and “Velvet Flowers: Textiles of the Isthmus”.
- Norma Schafer of Oaxaca Cultural Navigator is offering 4 one-day workshops and other activities.
All three of these companies offer tours at other times of year so if you want to visit Oaxaca at another time, use them.
A Documentary Worth Watching
Watch Woven Lives: Contemporary Textiles from Ancient Oaxacan Traditions (read more here.) This documentary, produced by Carolyn Kallenborn in 2011, interviews contemporary Zapotec weavers from six different villages celebrating their textiles traditions. You’ll learn about the Zapotec influence on art and architecture, natural dyeing, La Grana Cochinilla cochineal farm, tapestry rug weaving in the village of Teotilán de Valle, backstrap weaving in Santo Tomas Jalieza, and the raising of silk cocoons and handspinning in San Pedro Cajones. Kallenborn will be speaking at the WARP meeting so by watching the video, you’ll be well prepped for her program and tours.
A Handspindle Gift
This is a common question from friends: “When you go to [fill in the country] can you bring back a handspindle?” I honor these requests but now I prepare myself. Handspindles are no easy thing to pack and carry home safely. They have sharp points at both ends, and depending on what type of handspindle it is, it can be short (about 8”-12”) or long (up to 18”). Textiles don’t break; spindles made of clay whorls with wooden staffs do. So I’ve learned to pack tubes (or acquire a bottle of spirits along the way so I can use the round container) to transport the spindles safely home. We have a few Oaxacan spindles left in the ClothRoads store.