Weaving Through a Garden

Weave a Real Peace members visited the Oaxaca botanical garden in June during the 2017 Annual Meeting

 Guest post written by Gail Ryser

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The thing that I love about visiting a botanical garden is how easily the landscapes and vistas transport you across space—to different climates and other places around the world, sometimes familiar– sometimes not. And the really cool thing about visiting an ethno-botanical garden is that you can be transported across space and time, because this kind of garden also showcases plants used by people. Such was my experience while visiting the Jardín Etnobotánico in Oaxaca City, Mexico. This city is a perfect place for such a garden; it is a UNESCO city of Culture, and is in one of the most bio-diverse regions of Mexico.

The only way to visit this garden is to be part of a guided tour. As our fabulous guide Georgina Rosas led us on winding paths through the 2 plus hectares, we learned that the creation of the garden was a collaboration between artist Francisco Toledo and anthropologist Alejandro de Ávila Blomberg; it is part of the Santa Domingo Cultural Center.

The garden is a showcase of plant diversity organized by climate zones, and of innovative and practical installation features that are prime examples of cutting edge sustainability. Renovation of the church grounds and building of the gardens included a passive rainwater catchment system that directs rainwater from the roof of adjacent buildings to an underground cistern (below a huge plaza) with a capacity of over 1 million liters. In an experimental setting a large geothermal temperature-controlled glass-greenhouse with roof access through a central stair, protects several species of plants and trees.

There is another story expressed in the plantings of the garden; one that reflects regional history and intentionally symbolizes cooperation and resistance experienced by native peoples. Domestication of corn from a grass known as Teosinte and squash began in this region around 10,000 years ago. Today, 47 of the 57 varieties of native (non-GMO) corn are in the State of Oaxaca. We are told that the garden also hosts rare and endangered species (perhaps the reason plants are not labeled). Georgina also takes us through a forest of prickly pear cacti ‘guarded’ by walls of columnar cacti. Prickly pear supports cochineal, a small insect that produces an intense red dye. The dye played a major role in the economic development of Spain during the 16th century. Only silver was a larger export from the New World to Madrid.

Thank you to Alejandro, the director of the Oaxaca Botanical Garden, for allowing WARP to use these photos.

 

Gail Ryser lives in Tucson, is an archaeologist specializing in paleoethnobotany and perishable fibers. Her research area is the central Andean coast. She is an active water-harvester, seed saver, and gardener.

PO Box 87351 Tucson, AZ 85754 glryser@gmail.com

Catharine Ellis at Growing Color-Natural Dyes Symposium

WARP member, Catharine Ellis, will speak at the event Growing Color- Natural Dyes From Plants Symposium in North Carolina.

 

The Growing Color Event

This event will be hosted by the North Carolina Arboretum. Here’s how to get involved if you are near Asheville!

Where: The North Carolina Arboretum, 100 Frederick Law Olmsted Way, Asheville, NC 28806-9315

When: November 5, 2016

Timing: 9:00 am – 4:00 pm

Admission: Registration Fee: $70 Member/$75 Non-Member

Catharine, Sarah Bellos and Ashley Case are the featured speakers for this event. Anne de la Sayette is the keynote speaker. Along with the speakers, there will also be vendors and exhibits. Find out more and register here.

A little bit about Catharine

Catharine taught the professional textile program at Haywood Community College for 30 years. Since retirement she has continued to learn and to teach, researching and developing new applications for the use of natural dyes in her own textiles and her classes.  The study of natural colorants has taken her to France, where she has assisted in the filming of the Natural Dye Workshop DVD’s with Michel Garcia, to India for a natural dye master class with Maiwa Handprints, and to China, where she recently completed a residency at the Jinze Art Center.

Natural Dyes

Catharine has always combined both weaving and dyeing in her work and is the author of Woven Shibori, with a new, updated version of the book focused on natural dyes, released in 2016.

After attending the 2012 WARP conference in Boulder CO Catharine and Donna Brown, in collaboration with Debra Chandler and Mayan Hands, began a project to teach natural dying in Guatemala. More details of that project can be read in an article published by The Journal for Weavers, Spinners, and Dyers.

http://www.ellistextiles.com/media/journal_natural_dye_project.pdf

Catharine serves on the Board of Directors of the Textile Society of America in addition to being the founder of the Western North Carolina Textile Study Group. Currently, Catharine is working on a book on natural dyeing, with co-author, Joy Boutrup. It is intended to be a handbook for the studio dyer.  Schiffer Press will publish the book.

Where to find more of Catharine’s Work

Website: http://www.ellistextiles.com/resources/ 

Blog: https://blog.ellistextiles.com 

 

Tajikistan Bound Part Two: The Program

This is part two of a post by Cindy Lair’s, Chair of the WARP board, efforts to get a loom to Tajikistan. In the previous post, Cindy talked about helping to get a donated (nonfunctioning) loom to Tajikistan. The loom was destined to assist a group of rural women who weave incredible mohair blanks. Before she tackled the loom project, she wanted to learn as much as possible about the program that would ultimately make use of the loom. By studying this one project, Cindy gives us an insight into the intricacies of international development. To see more photos from the project, visit our Pinterest Page.

Tajikistan shepherds show off their colored angora goats.  Photos Courtesy of Marilyn Murphy
Tajikistan shepherds show off their colored angora goats. Photos Courtesy of Libra Brent

The project in Tajikistan focused on a small group of shepherds in the mountainous regions of the country. An effort to improve their breeding stock for fleece weight and quality and to establish small scale fiber processing was started by Dr. Liba Brent, a sociologist from Madison, Wisconsin, under the auspices of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD).

Fleece for sale.
Fleece for sale.

Hang with me here, there are a lot of long names and complicated cooperative relationships. The IFAD is a specialized agency of the United Nations dedicated to eradicating rural poverty in developing countries. The IFAD has many different grant programs available to fund agricultural related development. One of the available grants is the Community Action in Integrated and Market Oriented Feed-Livestock Production in Central and South Asia. The International Center for Agricultural Research in Dry Areas (ICARDA) is part of a global partnership under the umbrella of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) applied for and received the Feed-Livestock Production grant. ICARDA’s involvement in the region attracted the attention of the Mountain Societies Development Support Programme, a branch of the Aga Khan Development Network dedicated to improving the life of the people of the mountainous oblasts of Tajikistan.

Collectively, all these complicated funding, research, and development agencies and organizations were seeking to promote the rights of women through increased skill development and access to global markets and income opportunities. In particular, one focus of ICARDA’s is value chain management for sheep and goat farming communities in Central Asia. Value chain managment—also called value added agriculture—focus on creating more value at the “farm” gate, so that producers receive more money for their good. Value is added transforming raw goods into finished projects by increasing the quality of the goods that may already be in production.

A spinner transforms mohair fiber into yarn.
A spinner transforms mohair fiber into yarn.

In the past three years, these collective efforts, have raised the income of participating families by as much as 50%. For example, in 2010, Dr. Brent arranged for semen from the top buck at the 30th Annual Angora Goat Performance Test Sale in Texas. This buck’s clean fleece weight produced 13.1 pounds of fiber with a lock length of 7.2 inches! This hearty fellow helped improve the fiber of the Tajik goats. In turn, the women of the village transform the improved fleece into yarn that they used to weave higher quality blankets. These efforts enhanced women’s standing in their families by enabling them to become wage earners.

As I learned more about this project it became closer to my heart, since a large portion of the project involved not just weaving, but spinning, as well. It motivated me to do my part to get them better tools to support their families.  Since they only had one loom that ten weavers had to share, sending them an additional loom essentially allowed them to double their production.  How’s that for impact, and all of this was accomplished without every leaving my community.

To purchase yarn from Tajikistan, click here.

For more information about the funding agencies, visit these websites:

IFAD www.ifad.org

ICARDA www.icard.org

Aga Khan Foundation www.akdn.org

To learn more about projects like these, like WARP’s Facebook page. To learn more about WARP, visit our website. To see more photos from Tajikistan, visit our Pinterest page.