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“Sunset”

November 15, 2017

This is probably on the top 3 of my self-made colorways. I dyed a batch of wool once with a mix of various acid dyes. the result was a salmon pink with distinctive orange hues and some pink concentrated bits. It reminds me of the sunsets in the summer, seen from my parents’ home. One skein in this colorway is available on the Etsy shop. As usual, 100% local Portuguese Merino.

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Weaving Workshop in Teotitlán III

October 23, 2017

The last installment of pictures from my amazing time at Federico’s studio. This time dedicated to the naturally dyed colors that adorn the studio (can you tell I love indigo blue?).

 

 

 

 

 

Weaving Workshop in Teotitlán II

October 21, 2017

Churro yarn comes from the spinners wound up in balls of variable sizes. Before being dyed it needs to be unwound and sorted into skeins. Then it is off to scouring.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Weaving Workshop in Teotitlán, Oaxaca I

October 19, 2017

 

Last week I finally finished and hung my tapete, the tapestry I made while I was in Oaxaca

I went to Teotitlán del Valle to learn from Federico Chavez Sosa, one of the most reputed weavers in town. I spent 4 days at Federico’s studio, learning and practicing weaving in a pedal loom.

The first step was to come up with an idea for the design. Federico showed me a range of his own work and of traditional Zapotec motifs. I started figuring out what I liked and what would be feasible. I also got to pick the colors from the many skeins of churro yarn in the studio (all hand spun, single ply and naturally dyed by Frederico and his family).  On the second day, we looked at some Portuguese mantas online, comparing patterns with Teotitlán’s, speculating about techniques. That gave me more ideas and I kept improvising throughout the whole work. As colors and patterns joined, I realized many of my choices were reflecting what I was seeing outside in Oaxaca. Blue skies, (seasonal) green all over, the angular shapes of the structures at Monte Albán, and the bright pink of the cochineal bugs I had watched grow in a farm some days ago. Not to forget the bright lightning bolts over the hills and the stormy days – I think this is where the purple and yellow section came from.

 

 

Federico is nothing short of an experienced, talented and welcoming teacher. He knew when to help and when to let me figure it out by myself. I took little notes (mostly for a later future), but demonstration and practice is the only way to really learn. I saw progress by the day. Faster, neater and better. I was proud I made the second half of the tapestry almost ‘by myself’.  I was setting things up and correcting mistakes all alone, by the end. And then there was just the pure joy of being in the middle of looms and yarn for five hours each day. Federico’s family studio forms the inner courtyard of their house, with light coming in from above all day long. I often forgot to take breaks and just kept going, five hours straight. Afterwards, I had a hearty lunch at a local restaurant and collapsed for an hour. Weaving on a pedal loom is physically exhausting, not to speak of the attention to detail that tapestry weaving represents for a newbie like me.

 

 

Throughout the time I was there I got to talk to Federico, Lola and their son Omar. We compared notes on textile arts and life in Oaxaca and Portugal and I got to learn about the entirety of their process. They very kindly put up with my ‘Spanish’ (really, it’s Portuguese with an accent) and I got to ask all types of questions about weaving, yarn, but also the community and life in Teotitlán. It was a pleasure and an honor to learn from a world-rank artist like rederico. His work is creatively stimulating and technically impeccable. It is also part of this vibrant community that insists on keeping its textile tradition alive and moving forward, in spite of the challenges. It is an inspiration to see a place where textile arts are associated with social prestige and where people really push for the economic viability of textiles. I hope one day in the future I will have my own loom so I can continue exploring Portuguese and Zapotec weaving traditions.

I arranged my workshop through Oaxaca Cultural Navigator, but you can contact Federico directly by email to schedule a workshop or a visit (galeria.feylola@gmail.com). Fe y Lola (the official name of the studio) also have a wonderful space in downtown Oaxaca where you can see and purchase their rugs and tapestries (5 de Mayo 408, Oaxaca Centro). They do beautiful custom work on a regular basis. One of my short-term dreams is to have Federico weave a rug out of my handspun Churro. That would be an incredile piece. These tapetes are exactly the kind of textiles I love the most: big, elaborate, time-consuming and not to be taken lightly. These are the kind of textiles that are to be appreciated and treasured by generations.

More pictures coming soon.

 

 

 

 

Os Nossos Fios…. em Inglaterra – Our Yarn…. in England

September 6, 2017

É sempre uma grande alegria receber noticias dos nossos clientes e da nossa lã! Algumas das nossas meadas de merino Português – em tons de amarelo, tingido com cascas de cebola – acabaram por integrar estas lindíssimas tapeçarias da artista inglesa Rebecca Robinson. As peças destacam-se pelo perfeito equilíbrio na textura e nas cores, todas obtidas a partir de tinturaria vegetal. Mais fotos do trabalho da Rebecca Robinson aqui.

It’s always a great joy to receive news of our wool making its way across the world! Some of our Portuguese merino skeins – in yellow onion-skin-dyed tones – became part of these wonderful wall hangings by English textile artist Rebecca Robinson. They are striking in their perfect balance – both of texture and of color, which is 100% naturally dyed. You can see these and other works by Rebecca Robinson here.

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All pics © Rebecca Robinson

Teotitlán del Valle

August 13, 2017

 

 

 

 

Teotitlán del Valle is the wool mecca of Oaxaca. A relatively small village, about an hour away by bus, Teotilán is internationally known for its Zapotec weaving tradition.

I decided to stay in Teotitlán for a week. I was expecting to encounter a rich fiber tradition. But I was not quite prepared for the vitality and ubiquity of weaving. Everyone weaves, everyone has (several) looms and there are wool skeins drying on the terraces in the middle of the day. Things are not what they used to be, of course. The pictures below, from the local museum, show wool processing in Teotitlán. That no longer happens. Handspun yarn comes from other regions of Oaxaca. Machine spun comes in trucks from Puebla. All 100% wool though, with a characteristic churra single ply texture. There are problems with wholesale prices, tourist tours and toxic dyes. Young people leave the village and there is drought. But there is always a loom working. Weaving is still very much a socially valued skill.

 

 

 

 

Oaxaca: Ethnobotanical Garden and El Tlapanochestli Cochineal Farm

August 4, 2017

When I boarded my tiny plane to Oaxaca in Mexico City I realized I had very little idea of how this trip was gonna go. I had read about Oaxacan textiles, heard much about the city from friends – but I had never even been to Mexico. What did I know, really?  My Spanish was mostly Portuguese with an accent and I had one week in the city with no settled plans. I didn’t really have any clear expectations about what would happen.

Maybe this is what made it such a rich and surprising trip. I learned a lot – and not just about textiles. I enjoyed suprising (to me) food, like chapulines and the meandering conversations with old ladies on the bus. On my first day I decided to join a guided tour of the excellent Ethnobotanical Garden in the city center (see giant cacti above). The tour was a great introduction to where things in the market come from, to what you can make from what and to the current state of many local artisanal traditions.

The next day I decided to venture out to the nearby town of Santa Maria Coyotepec and visit El Tlapanochestli, a Cochineal farm and research center. The place was quite deserted which meant I got a full guided tour and got to ask tons of questions. Oaxaca is the birthplace of carmine colourings. Much of the city was built on the wealth generated by the colonial exploitation of cochineal, which was domesticated and perfected there long before. I learned about the process of growing nopales – the cacti cohineal feed on – and of reproducing cochineal bugs. It’s very labor intensive and caring for these tiny bugs is pretty much like caring for chickens or other domesticate animals. The result is the best palette of reds, pinks and purples ever: a real feast for the eyes.

 

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