Chiapas to Oaxaca – Textile Connections Changing Lives

For many of us a whole new world opens up when we travel. Weave A Real Peace helped two young Maya women, Claudia Pérez Pérez and Celia Arias Pérez travel from Chenalhó, Chiapas to Oaxaca for the annual meeting in June. This was only the second trip for both young women outside of Chiapas and they were deeply moved by the hugs and good feelings generated during their time with WARP members.

During our Friday meeting one of the topics we discussed was the pros and cons of outsiders wearing traditional clothing, including the huipiles of Maya tradition. Here are Claudia’s thoughts, in her own words.

We feel very comfortable when we see a foreigner wearing our blouse. We think that she isnt an egotistic woman, that she doesnt feel that she is better than us. I feel very happy to see that she wears it on her body, that she has a good heart for us. We think that she honors us, that she has great caring for us, that she gives us a lot of support.
                                                            Claudia Pérez Pérez of Tsobol Antsetik, Chiapas, México, June 2017

Both Celia and Claudia gathered ideas from our Saturday tour to several Zapotec weaving and dyeing families in Teotitlan del Valle, including new ways to talk to visitors who come to their co-op’s meeting house in Chenalhó and how they might develop a museum in their meeting house. Christine will give them a boost by returning textiles she has collected from the coop since the 80s to build a collection. I am waiting in line to share my background in museum anthropology and exhibit design – can you see my hand waving?

Upon their return to Chiapas Claudia gave an hour and a half long report on the trip. In a very Maya way she gave an hour-by-hour rundown for the entire 5 day schedule! Claudia since has taken a major step to continue her education. Since dropping out of middle school at 14 to marry she has regretted that decision, but on Saturdays she now attends a school in San Cristóbal, studying computing and English. She loves the experience and Christine is confident Claudia will become a leader of women in her community, following in her mother’s footsteps.

Celia and Claudia were a delight – new friends from Mexico to support and cherish for the work they do in their communities. Christine Eber has spent years working with the women of Chiapas and continues to offer support to them in many ways, including establishing Weaving For Justice in Las Cruses, New Mexico. We thank Christine for sharing this story of how our members create and support connected textile communities. The photos were also shared by Christine.

Celia and Claudia enjoying the Oaxaca experience.

Next month we will learn more about Weaving for Justice, a volunteer non-proift organization in Las Cruses, created to assist the members of the cooperatives in Chiapas to continue living on their ancestral lands in sustainable ways that respect their lands, language (Tsotsil), and traditions.

In the meantime, think about how you create a connected textile community – local, global or in-between and share your story with us on the WARP blog!      Judy Newland, WARP board member

 

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

…..

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 

 

Traditions of Slow Clothing in Central Mexico

This is a guest post on slow clothing by author and textile collector Sheri Brautigam.

The concept of slow clothing – hand-made artisan clothing – has been a reality for most of the world until very recently. Commercial goods either weren’t available or too expensive for people in developing countries to buy, so making your own garments from cloth you had woven, or even further back, animal skin you had scraped and cured was the norm.

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Natural Dyers Gather around the Dyepot. Photo Credit Sheri Brautigam

Has it become a buzz word now because we have become aware of the realities of sweat shops in Asia, employing mostly women, who work long hours under wretched conditions to be paid very little per piece they construct? All this so we can buy a dress for $19.99? Our American culture has the luxury of asking these questions because we have options. But the real question is: Are we willing to pay a fair wage to someone to construct our clothing and are we willing to wear it day in and day out like most of the world?

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Mazahua women in Naturally Dyed Quechquemitl Capes. Photo credit Sheri Brautigam

Either it was pure luck or my destiny to end up in an area of central Mexico with spectacularly dressed Mazahua indigenous women, who appeared at the market and on special religious holiday occasions. After several such encounters I decided to find out who they were and found my way out to their little town. Unbeknownst to me, I was about to experience ‘REAL slow clothing’. Were these brightly dyed handwoven embroidered garments for sale? I was told they were very difficult to make and probably weren’t for sale, but there was a revival project going on to teach some of the techniques necessary to make the elaborate and heavy costume.

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Regina being tied into her skirt. Photo credit Sheri Brautigam

This visit turned into a several month documentation of a very old ‘traje’/costume made of hand spun wool, which was then dyed with natural indigo, cochineal, and wild marigolds. The skirt length was easily 3 yards long, woven on a back-strap loom and weighed close to 15 lbs. The top was a small poncho type caplet called a ‘quechquemitl’ – very unique to central Mexico but with antecedents way back to pre-Columbian times. The Mazahua ladies were on the verge of losing the skills necessary to make these ‘trajes’ which are an important part of their cultural identity but worn now mainly for their ceremonies and festivals.

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Spinner using a drop spindle to process wool. Photo Credit Sheri Brautigam

The story goes, that a young Mazahua girl, in order to take her place in the community as a woman/adult, needed to hand-spin the wool for her traditional ‘traje’. This probably took a bit of time as the two pieces weigh close to 15 lbs. She didn’t necessarily need to know how to weave but needed to promise something in return ‘treque’ /exchange- some thing she could do or had, perhaps (chickens?) to trade the woman weaver. Then it needed to be sewn together and embroidered on the edges. Perhaps her grandmother did that for her. After all it was 18 feet and had to be finished at each end. A ‘traje’ went through ‘mucho manos’/many hands and usually took at least a year to make.

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Weaver using a back-strap loom to weave skirt panel. Two panels of this size will be sewn together to create the full skirt. Photo credit Sheri Brautigam

Today very few young girls are drawn to learning the skills to make this costume, so they borrow their relatives older pieces for the fiestas. Sadly there is acrylic knock-off material that mimics the fine stripes and colors of the heavier hand woven skirts. It’s now popular and the go-to material if you need a skirt as they are so much lighter to wear and so affordable.

Will REALLY slow clothing survive in this Mexican Mazahua village? There will be a semblance of the highly complex and laborious costume because after all this is how they identify themselves and their community from other Mazahua.

 A years worth of labor passing through many hands to make one spectacular costume!

REALLY slow clothing. Would you be willing to pay to have them made?

Sheri Brautigam is a collector, and documenter of traditional textiles of Mexico. She was training Mexican English teachers when she first started following her textile passion and visiting many famous Fiestas, artisan fairs and markets all over Mexico.

cover-webShe has just published: “Textile Fiestas of Mexico – a travelers guide to Celebrations, Markets and Smart Shopping” – THRUMS – available on Amazon.

Visit her blog to learn more about slow clothes and Mexican Textiles: 

 http://livingtextilesofmexico.wordpress.com

Etsy Shop for collector textiles:

www.etsy.com/shop/livingtextiles

Thrums Books

Thrums Books
306 N. Washington
Loveland, CO 80537

(970) 685-4964
linda@ligon.org
www.thrumsbooks.com

Contact person: Linda Ligon

Wholesale Accounts Available

Thrums-1Thrums Books is a world of textiles in books and other media. Which do we love more: traditional publishing or traditional textiles? It’s a draw. Tangible books —well made, made to last, beautiful photos, thoughtful page design, deep content—we love making them. Handmade cloth—expressions of people and cultures and the timeless touch of human hands—that’s what our books are about. Thrums Books are available through our sister company, www.clothroads.com.


Cultural Cloth

Cultural Cloth
W3560 State Rd. 35
Maiden Rock, WI 54750

(715) 607-1238
info@culturalcloth.com
www.culturalcloth.com

Contact Person: Mary Anne Wise

Wholesale Accounts Available

Cultural-Cloth-3Cultural Cloth collaborates primarily with women throughout the developing world to produce exquisite home textiles and personal accessories. Our colorful retail shop is filled with gorgeous textiles. The shop is a test kitchen where we cook up products that have a sustainable chain of production. Products that test well become eligible for wholesale production targeted to a select group of nationwide retailers. As lifelong textile artists, we understand the demands of our market and are available for consultation on product feedback, design, and development. We offer tours to Guatemala to "buddy up" with the Mayan women whom we’ve taught to hook rugs and successfully shepherded them through the International Folk Art Market application process.


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.

Tajikistan Bound Part One: The Loom

Cindy Lair at her office at Schacht Spindle Company. She spent a year in traveling by armchair to assist a rural community in Central Asia.
Cindy Lair in her office at Schacht Spindle Company. She spent nearly a year traveling by armchair to assist a rural community in Central Asia.

This is the first of a two-part post about Cindy Lair’s efforts to get a donated loom to Tajikistan. Cindy is the WARP’s board chair and the Planning Manager at Schacht Spindle Company, a loom and spinning wheel manufacturer. Part two will be posted on March 17.

I have spent a great deal of time in Central Asia over the last several years, not literally, but in my mind. I have neither the time or the money to travel, so for me, my imagination must suffice.

During Weave A Real Peace’s 2011 annual meeting, Marilyn Murphy of ClothRoads asked if I could help ship a loom to Tajikistan to support a group of village weavers. I have spent the last two decades working at Schacht Spindle Company, a spinning wheel and loom manufacture in Boulder, Colorado, so I know a thing or two about shipping looms.

The Loom Arrives

The loom had been donated in the hope that it would assist the weavers in Tajikistan make their sumptuous kid mohair blankets. I was expecting a functioning loom dismantled for shipping. What arrived was an old counterbalance loom that sadly would not be of much use.

The loom when it arrived
The loom when it arrived

My curiosity and inability to leave well enough alone got the better of me. With only a photocopy of the once functioning loom, I began the journey of reconstruction. Old looms are like puzzles, and everyone’s curiosity about the partially set-up loom was piqued, inspiring help and generosity of spirit that makes me proud to work at Schacht.

Marilyn had sent me a photo of a weaver and her daughters holding up a beautiful kid Mohair blanket. At a ClothRoads trunk show held at Shuttles, Spindles, and Skeins in Boulder, I was able to see and feel this blanket for myself. What an incredible pleasure! It was so luxurious, I wanted to cocoon myself in it and never ever move again.

The blanket was made by ten weavers that share a single loom. I posted the photo of the blanket and its makers nearby to remind myself and others that this effort was a shared journey. Although these weavers and I may never meet, our lives have intersected making us a part of each other’s journey.

During the reconstruction process, I was stumped by the braking mechanism made of beautiful old cast iron. No matter what I did I could not get it to fit on the loom. I did some research on the internet and dug through the library of books at Schacht and my personal collection with no results.

Deborah Chandler, founder of WARP, came to mind. Maybe she had run across a similar breaking mechanism during her year’s of work in Guatemala? Deborah emailed me photos of a field solution she has encountered many times—a stick jammed against the beam to keep it from moving. That made me laugh, and was my kind of solution! However, I wanted something more functional than practical for the women of Tajikistan.

The assembled loom!
The assembled loom!

In the end, I used a modified braking system similar to one that is used on Schacht looms. After a month of trial and error, the loom was back in working order. We replaced some of the wood parts with metal to be sure that the loom could withstand a lot of use and so that the parts would be long lasting in a place where woodworking tools are scarce.

Shipping The Loom

I labeled and photographed all the parts during disassembly to make reconstruction as easy as possible. While I was at work on the loom, our shipping expert was looking into costs and box sizes. How indeed would the loom get to Tajikistan?

Whenever I give tours of Schacht I like to start with shipping, because the design of the final product must adhere to shipping restrictions dictated by the companies moving the product. All countries have rules and regulations about the size and shape of product moving into and out of their borders.

Our first information was that Tajikistan would only accept packages of certain dimensions. This loom was far too tall to fit the requirements. I began to ponder how to reduce the size and the height of the loom without compromising performance. Fortunately, I hadn’t sawed the loom in half yet when we received new information based on volume that would allow us to meet the requirements. YES!!

The photo of a Tajikistan weaver and her daughters that kept Cindy inspired. Photo courtesy of Marilyn Murphy
The photo of a Tajikistan weaver and her daughters that kept Cindy inspired. Photo Courtesy of Liba Brent.

Off the loom went until it reached Istanbul where it stayed put for a month until the Turkish airways decided to start flying to Dushanbe again. After a long truck journey, the loom was finally delivered to the Mountain Societies Development Support Programme. What a satisfying experience!

Coincidentally, Dushanbe, Tajikistan, is a sister city to Boulder, Colorado. Boulder was the recipient of a stunning tea house built by Tajik craftsmen. When the annual Weave a Real Peace meeting was held in Boulder in 2012, we began our conference at the Tea House.

The loom is hard at work in its new home, in the Tajik Pamir Mountains where it will continue to serve to increase the status of women. I was able to help this small mountain community thousands of miles from my home, because I have a specific set of skills and access to a community of experts that know a thing or two about making and shipping looms. Anyone with a willingness to learn and share their skills, can become involved in a project that can better the lives of others. For this WARP member and armchair traveler, all that was needed was an opportunity to use the resources in my own neighborhood.

Stay tuned for part two of this post, and discover what Cindy learned from her research about the many funding agencies that support this one small community of shepherds in Tajikistan. To purchase yarn from Tajikistan, click here.  To learn more about projects such as these, like WARP’s Facebook page. To learn more about WARP, visit our website. To see more photos from Tajikistan, visit our Pinterest page.