What better way to get behind-the-scenes than to travel to an international convening of textile enthusiasts (weavers, dyers, spinners, scholars, and other ilk) in textile rich Oaxaca, Mexico, last month for the annual WARP (Weave a Real Peace) meeting. WARP members, scholarship winners and regional artisans came together to celebrate textiles and learn about the cooperatives and foundations working in the state of Oaxaca. This vibrant city was a perfect backdrop for this event with its fabulous food and drink (think mezcal), textile shopping, stunning Colonial architecture and friendly folks willing to share their culture, country and an amazing array of art. Even the tropical storms held off allowing us an amazing experience.
San Pablo Cultural Center
The meeting was held in the gracious spaces of the San Pablo Cultural Center, right across the street from our lovely accommodations at Hostal de la Noria. The Museo Textil de Oaxaca also sits across the street and both the Museo and the Cultural Center are part of the Fundación Alfredo Harp Helú Oaxaca. Marta Turok, keynote speaker, shared her methodology gleaned from years of work collaborating with a wide variety of artisan groups.
Fundación Alfredo Harp Helú Oaxaca
Eric Chavez Santiago and Lorena De la Piedra discussed the work of the foundation during the Friday meeting. Eric was born and raised in the Zapotec weaving village of Teotitlan del Valle and while at university he developed over 100 recipes for cochineal dyeing. He was the founding director of education at the textile museum before starting his new venture at the foundation to create a space to sell Mexican folk art. Andares del Arte Popular opened in May right before we arrived and the beautiful space provides a sophisticated and inviting setting for a variety of Mexican folk art. I think I visited five times in the space of a few days! Lorena is a sociologist who works hand in hand with artisans along side Eric developing programs and selling events (expo ventas) to connect artists and their products with new markets.
Another speaker at the WARP meeting was Ana Paula Fuentes. She directs the CADA Foundation which strives to strengthen cultural heritage through social design. The foundation was founded over worries about the loss of cultural patrimony and local identity. One of its goals is to document artisanal communities and work as collaborative partners to develop products that can compete in the marketplace while maintaining the culture and skills of the community. CADA works with the Mixtec community of San Pablo Tijaltepec to design strategies to support embroiderers and potters and connect them with local and global markets. By documenting the processes and the stories behind the products, the foundation can share their experiences and a work methodology with other organizations.
Claudia Muñoz is founder and creative director at Chamuchic, designing, developing and marketing a line of handmade accessories in collaboration with a family of 19 women from San Andrés Larríanzar in Chiapas. Operating under ethical trade concepts, artisans receive the fair and timely payment for their work. The Chamuchic mission focuses on the dignity of the women through their textile tradition while celebrating the beauty of their fabrics, and finding a harmonious balance between its past and its present. Claudia presented the Chamuchic project: Cultural, Design and Ethical Challenges during the afternoon session.
Why We Do What We Do
I think Ana Paulo Fuentes sums up nicely why all of us at WARP, ClothRoads and the Oaxaca cooperative and foundation leaders do what we do. Around the world there are unique communities that are at risk of losing their knowledge and ancient, traditional artisanal techniques due to the overwhelming and devastating nature of some aspects of globalization. Creating strategies that allow for the continuity of traditional techniques requires organizations and designers to work together with communities to create markets that value their skills and their products.
Join ClothRoads and Weave A Real Peace in supporting textile makers and cooperatives around the world. We commend the work of these young Oaxaca leaders who are collaborating with regional cooperatives and leading foundations and thank them for sharing their stories.
Stay in touch and we’ll see you on the cloth road soon.
Judy Newland is a monthly blog contributor to ClothRoads, a WARP board member, and ClothRoads colleague. She’s been working in textiles for more than thirty years as a maker and later as a textile historian. With a background in textile history and museum anthropology, she brings a deep cultural engagement to everything she produces.