Monday, March 19, 2012

Artesanos of Oaxaca

More pics from the Mexico trip! We visited several artesans in and around Oaxaca. One day we visited a family of rug weavers. They start with merino wool roving, card it, spin it, dye it (at this place, they used only natural dyes), then weave it on looms. The end result? Lovely rugs!



Here is one of the weavers we visited, demonstrating wool carding. 
He also showed us all the various things they use for natural dyes, like marigold petals, mushrooms, and cochineal insects.  I was very interested in the dyeing process, since I dye wool fabric for my own hooked rugs. I have done a little natural dyework, but most of the time I use chemical dyes.



Bowls of dye ingredients.

The cochineal is a scale insect found on cacti. Cochineal is known for producing a stunning carmine red when squashed up, but you can create other colours with it by adding reactive agents. For example, lime powder turns the red to purple...

Yes, I squashed up some cochineal in my hand, then rubbed in some lime. Voila!



Here he is demonstrating spinning.



Here's a pattern for a jaguar rug, before it is traced unto the loom.



Lovely blue rug in progress.



Here's Gordon pondering which rug to buy. We ended up with one very similar to this:


The weaving is of excellent quality and the colours are all natural.  This family has been weaving for generations.


On another day, we visited the woodcarving workshop of Jacobo and Maria Angeles Ojeda.

The carvings are made from copal wood.



After the carving is finished, the piece is soaked in gasoline to kill any insects in the wood.



They use natural and artificial dyes and paints for this work. Here are some colours made from cochineal; yes, the same cochineal used for wool-dyeing! Amazing how many shades you can get from a squashed bug.



The women who paint the fine, intricate decorations on the carvings are young, with excellent eyesight.

 

This talented young woman was working on a stunning jaguar carving.


Here's a YouTube video from this very workshop:






We also visited a workshop where they make barro negro pottery, in San Bartolo Coyotepec, just outside the city of Oaxaca. Dona Rosa was the woman who discovered the process for burnishing the black pottery so that it fired with a shiny finish. Her family continues the tradition. One of her granddaughters-in-law did a demonstration for us...



They make this pottery without a wheel. The potter spins it by hand on a concave plate. When they piece is finished and has been allowed to air-dry for  a period of time, the exterior is burnished. Then the item is fired in a kiln, resulting in the shiny black pottery made famous by Dona Rosa.



Sometimes the potters do intricate cutwork in the pottery.



She made it all look so easy. The sign of a true artisan/artist!

And of course we bought stuff! A beautiful hand-painted coyote woodcarving...





All the designs are actually Zapotec symbols. I have a little chart explaining what they all mean.


This is from the artists' website:

 "A maguey cactus thorn is sometimes used to jab up to two or three thousand dots per figure. Each piece is unique in size, color and design, and meticulously created by hand."

It's very fine work.


And I couldn't leave Mexico without a barro negro duck!





Lots more Mexico photos to come.

Speaking of ducks, Eugenia is doing well. She was trying to put weight on her splinted leg today. Not much success, but she is moving the whole leg more, and standing up on her good leg. We took her cage outside for the afternoon so she could hang with the other duckies in the sunshine. It was very hot today and I saw a butterfly! A butterfly on the last day of winter. And maple syrup season is already over. Whacky weather.



28 comments:

  1. Beautiful and amazing. Your trip to Mexico reveals more and more wonders.

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  2. What an awesome experience for you to see the whole process. I experienced this when I bought soapstone carvings for the Govt. when I was in the north. I only wish I'd bought more for myself.

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    1. I always wish I'd bought more on trips! I try to restrain myself. :)

      I am envious of you working up north. We have trips planned for the far north! I have been to Alaska but not the Canadian north. I'm dying to go.

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  3. I couls spend money on these crafts, especially the rugs

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    1. There was some really lovely weaving there!

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  4. Did you end up having to pay excess baggage? Beautiful things.

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    1. Amazingly not! I was ready for it but I was a mere half a kilogram under the 25kg allowance. I was telling Gordon off for bringing his backpack instead of a bigger suitcase! :)

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  5. Such great work they are doing. I could use a rug, a pot and so on *smile*.

    Hugs
    Elna

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    1. It's always fun to shop in Mexico!

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  6. Wow, that was so interesting to hear all about all those crafts. I think I like the wood carvings the best. The rugs are gorgeous though. Thanks for such a good report about your trip. That was terrific. Take care.

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    1. Marg, the wood carvings were my favourites too. :)

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  7. Very unusual artwork. I like the pose of the duck you bought, and it's so shiny it looks like metal. The coyote is also really nice with that subtle turn of its head and intricate paint design.

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    1. We fell in love with that coyote! :)

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  8. ....and the moral of this tale is to take empty suitcases with you! What incredibly beautiful things...I'd be hyperventilating in the stores.
    Great news about Miss Eugenia...warmth works wonders.
    Jane x

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    1. Gordon said she was hopping around on her good leg this morning. He thinks she's a little better every day. Let's just hope that things are going well under the bandage!

      And yes, don't overpack on vacation if you want to bring stuff home with you. And of course it's all relatively cheap down there!

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  9. What lovely crafts, I especially like the woodcarving.

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  10. Sometimes it's fun just to say Oaxaca. Properly, of course.

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    1. Hahaha! Too true!
      "Oaxaca!"
      "Bless you!"

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  11. Beautiful crafts. The rugs are amazing, and the wooden carvings. It would be so hard to choose. By the way, that was a great purple heart you drew on your hand!

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  12. ooh, very pretty. love the colours!

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    1. Me too! Nothing beige in Mexico, except maybe the sand!

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  13. The coyote and duck are so beautiful. Wonderful photos.

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  14. I love this post and the photos. The artwork is simply exquisite.

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    1. We had a great time there. I love all the art.

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Thank you for all your comments, which I love to read!