Throughout the week we
spent several days with our wonderful guide, Juan, visiting 3 villages that
specialize in Oaxacan crafts. At the end of our first field trip day we visited Teotitlan de Valle, known for it’s amazing woven wool rugs and natural dyes.
At one studio we
were given a wool spinning and dyeing demonstration by a lovely woman of
Zapotec descent – carding the wool, spinning it into yarn (I was the volunteer
who made a fool of myself trying this) and natural dye techniques. Most of
their carding, spinning and dyeing was done outside in a partially covered
courtyard, right off the road.
This matate is stained a glorious deep red from grinding cochineal to make red dye. (I blogged about this color and the book, A Perfect Red last May. Another book worth having a look at is Color: A Natural History of the Palette which explores the origins of many of the paints and dyes in our studio kits.)
They had a lovely indoor space that housed
hundreds of their beautiful woven rugs as well as their family alter.
was built into one end of the room – a long tiled counter top covered with
large framed pictures of Guadalupe and Jesus on the cross, a smaller framed
picture of Our Lady of Soledad (patron saint of Oaxaca), flowers, several
retablos and family pictures. Juan explained to us that in the Zapotec
tradition, visitors would be brought into the home to this place of honor upon
their arrival where many formal greetings were exchanged before the official
business of the visit was conducted. My favorite greeting that he expressed to
us was this, “My heart rejoices in your presence.” I thought that was lovely
way to start any visit.
The beautiful photo of the alter above is by Laurie Zuckerman, a wonderful photographer and alter artist that was part of our group. She has an incredible Dia de los Muertos show going on right now at Virginia Tech University, in Blacksburg, Virginia. If you are anywhere near there, go see it.
My next blog post will take you to Ocotlan for pottery visits.