Monday, May 05, 2014

The Colors of Oaxaca

Back in November, a woman named Mary Stanley walked into French General and told me she and a couple of her good friends took groups of woman to Oaxaca every winter...I immediately said "I'll come with you" and signed up on the spot.  I don't think Mary thought I was serious...but later that evening, I was having dinner with Amy Butler and Edith Minne from Renaissance Ribbons and I mentioned I was going to Oaxaca and they should come with me...they both signed up on the spot as well.  There was just something about Mary...something about the idea of the color of Oaxaca in winter..and something about escaping to Mexico.....that had me under a spell.  I called Mom and Molly and mentioned the trip to them, and they signed up it turned out to be a group of 12 women that all went to Mexico in the middle of February for an adventure like no other!

From the moment we arrived, I was smitten with the color, culture, food and people...I knew I was in a land that was going to open my eyes and inspire my senses.  On our first walk into town to go to the market I saw more color than I had seen in a lifetime in Los Angeles!

Luckily, both of my traveling companions were up for anything - so we roamed the markets, and the street vendors...looking for treasures.

I was unprepared for the amount of weaving the Oaxacan's do...I had no idea it was such a thriving business and filled with such history.

Beautiful rugs hanging everywhere...

Mexican tiles on every floor...

The lovely woman who sold their food and crafts in the market every morning...this sweet lady was selling Mexican chocolate...I bought a handful and then asked if I could take her picture...she was so gracious.

Another beautiful woman in the market at Teotitlan del Valle...we asked her about her braids and she took them down to show us how she wove them with colorful silk ribbon every morning.

And...more Mexican tiles....

Inside the church in Teotitlan...

We stopped in the beautiful church in Teotitlan and were amazed by the wax flowers...we had no idea that later that afternoon we would be visiting the family who made these flowers for all of the churches.

Our visit to the Reynoldo Sosa family, who are reviving silk weaving,  turned out to be a highlight of our trip to Teotitlan.

The looms in the backyard...these are just two, of probably 15 looms that are set up and in progress of making full sized rugs.

We ate lunch at the traditional Zapotec restaurant, Tlamanalli, run by two sisters, who serve up some of the best Chicken Mole I have ever had.

Not to mention the Mezcal...

More tiles....

I loved the handmade clay strainer.

After lunch we visited Mariano Sosa Martinez and his wife at their family home.  Upstairs, outside on the patio, Mariano showed us how he cultivates the cochineal bug on nopal (cactus) and then dries them to make a deep berry pigment.

Here are some of Mariano's naturally dyed wool skeins, I brought most of these home to start my own rug.....

and the wool that was cleaned and waiting to be dyed.

On our way home, we stopped off to visit one of the great masters of Oaxaca, Viviana Alavez, who makes wax flowers for the churches and celebrations in her home town of Teotitlan.

Viviana works with her two daughter-in-laws...they sit together laughing and talking as they carefully make hundreds of wax flowers in their backyard.

I purchased a set of beautiful beeswax pillars that were cut from one large cathedral candle.

Viviana's son was weaving while we visited...nothing like a handsome weaver using vegetable dyed wool to inspire your rug weaving!

Of course, I couldn't leave Mexico without filling up my suitcase with handfuls of beautiful textiles...

The antique huipils, the traditional garment worn by the indigenous women, were some of my very favorite...and the reds and pinks were to die for!

But of course, the natural brown cotton was spectacular too!

I treasure our time spent in Oaxaca and cannot wait to return!  If you are interested in joining Mary Stanley and Syd McCutcheon on one of their textile tours, please write to me at and I will send you their information.