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

A Postcard from Tinkuy

At right, Doña, Katie, and Dorinda
At right, Doña, Katie, and Dorinda sort dye plants during a natural dye workshop with Nilda Callañaupa during Tinkuy.

In the past few blog posts we have seen a recurring theme that travel leads to stronger connections among weavers of different nations.  Katie Simmons sent this remembrance of one instance during her recent journey to Tinkuy a gathering of weavers in Cusco, Peru. Katie and other WARP helped raise funds to support Doña Maxima’s journey to Tinkuy.  Thanks to everyone who make this cultural exchange among weavers possible. To see more photos from the gathering, we have Tinkuy board on our Pinterest page. 

I sat still among a sea of color gazing at the elaborate clothes for a celebration that I know nothing about.Weavers wear unique hats, skirts, made in styles of weaving and spinning unfamiliar to me. In this crowded room, I make eye contact with fellow WARP members without whom I would not be here. Although many here are strangers to me, we all share a common bond through cloth making. I am in the middle of the Tinkuy: A Gathering of Weavers.

Wandering over to join a spinning circle, I am sad that I left my pushka (drop spindle) at the hotel. Lo and behold baskets of pushkas and fiber are available! A coffee colored alpaca fiber speaks to me and sit down to start spinning. Bolivian, master weaver Doña Máxima spindle is already filling up in the moments it took me to choose my fiber. She stops only to start my spindle and goes back to her work. Dorinda Dutcher, founder of PAZA gets caught up in the moment and joins in the spinning. All around us people are spinning. Some are learning for the first time, while others have been spinning their entire lives. Laughing together, Doña helps Dorinda untangle her yarn.

The spinning contest starts with dances in between. Doña Maxima takes second place, spinning almost five yards in the allotted time.  During the last dance the dancers on the stage flow into the audience. Doña is swept up, then Dorinda, I turn to get my camera and I, too, am pulled into the dance. As a dancer myself I relish that shared experience. I have no pictures of that dance. It is a rare moment for the three of us to dance with weavers from around the world, but it is not needed because I will always hold that dance in my heart.

Katie Simmons is a member of the WARP Governing Board. 

If you are interested in learning more about the weavers of Peru, be sure to pick up a copy of Faces of Tradition: Weaving Elders of the Andes by Nilda Callañaupa Alvarez and Christine Franquemont, with photographs from Joe Coca.  It is a treasure. 

Weavers Wanted

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Watch this fifteen minute as Roy Rylander talks to community members of San Antonio about their communities challenges and possibilities.

A WARP member sent us a clipping about a community in Belize looking for weavers to volunteer in their village.  We reached out to Roy Rylander, a community organizer in this small village, for more information. 

In 2008, Rod Rylander decided to retire in the small community of San Antonio Rio Hondo, located on a narrow island in Belize near the boundary of Mexico.  This remote village is home to about 60 families. Rod served there as a Peace Corps volunteer from 2000-2002.

As a member of the community, Rod has initiated many different projects to support the village in which he lives . The villagers grow very little of their own food, so Rod started a community garden using raised beds made from discarded tires. He has converted an old school bus to a community center where young children have access to a small library and a computer. He and a host of volunteers teach the local school children how to read and basic computer literacy skills. The bus has a small apartment that houses volunteers that can live rent free while volunteering a few hours a day in the community center.

Recently Rod introduced weaving and sewing classes to help village women build craft skills to create more opportunities for earning income to support their families. High school students must commute to school and the cost is too much for some villagers. Income made by the women from selling the products would help with transpiration costs.

“My weaving skills are very limited although we have made some neat bags” says Rod. The villagers have access to sales venues in Belize City and has formed a relationship with ENACTUS, a marketing club at Texas Women’s University to create markets in the United States. Rod is interested in increasing the skill level of the weavers so that they can create a professional product that the women can produce and market.

Rod finds volunteers through word of mouth and via Workaway, a website that connects volunteers to projects worldwide. It helps if you can speak Spanish, but most villagers can understand some English.

To learn more about the project, visit Workaway to read testimonials from past volunteers or visit Rod’s website www.sanantoniobelize.com

If you enjoy reading stories like these don’t forget to renew your membership to support the work of WARP. 2014 renewal letters are going out this month. WARP is offering a $20 gift membership for new members if payment accompanies your renewal. Consider a WARP membership as part of your holiday gift giving. WARP is the gift that keeps giving!