Monday, June 17, 2013 9:49 PM
Kinnon Family Trip Report 2013 - Shopping for Textiles in Oaxaca
One of the handcrafts we most wanted to find while we were in Oaxaca was its colorful textiles. Oaxaca is renowned for its intricately embroidered fabrics and woven rugs are we were certainly not going to return home without an armful. Within Oaxaca City itself there are literally hundreds of shops and vendors selling gorgeous textiles brought in from all over the state and I think I must have wandered into a good many of them as well as several textile exhibits and museums. Since this was going to be one of Rob's last days with us (having been called back to Playa to work with an important customer) we thought we would take another trip out into the valley to see where some of the work was being done. Within an easy drive south-east of the city are the villages of Teotitlan and Santa Ana de Valle, both known for their weaving, so that's where we headed.
Our first stop was to a home located just off the side of the road into the village. We spotted a man working his loom with a few rugs hanging on display so we stopped in. He was happy to show us what he was working on as well as the finished pieces inside. This was out first lesson on how to tell whether fibers had been colored with natural or synthetic dyes. He had some of both to show us, side by side, so that we would know what to look for. Of course, the rugs with natural dyes come with a much higher price tag as the pigments are much harder to obtain and more costly. I think without this information we would have been likely to spend too much on the wrong thing as some vendors did try to pass off rugs with artificially colored wool at inflated prices.
The church in Santa Ana de Valle with traditional decorations of Easter.
Exploring the vendors' stalls in Teotitlan de Valle
During the remainder of our trip, I tested out each vendor by asking if a
particular rug (one that I knew to be synthetically dyed) was done
with all natural pigments. The answer would tell me if I was going to
make a purchase or move on to the next. The rugs with artificial
coloring are just as lovely... if not more-so with their brilliant colors ... and require just as much time, effort and skill from the weaver. Still, you should know what you are buying. A little research goes a long way.
In the end, we only ended up with two small rugs (colored with natural dyes). Why? Well, they are heavy. Really heavy and with Rob going back to Playa, it would fall to me to transport everything back. More importantly, I didn't feel the need to buy so much right now, as I knew already that we were sure to return. ;)
Before leaving the valley I remembered a business card that I had picked up in the city from a Oaxacan family who specialized in the cultivation of silk, spinning it into thread and transforming it into beautiful fine woven textiles colored with all natural dyes. I recalled that the workshop was located somewhere in Teotitlan de Vale and while "Arte Seda", the shop/home of the Reynoldo Sosa family, is well outside the commercial zone of the village, we had little trouble finding our way. We arrived late in the afternoon, but the family welcomed us inside and were pleased to give us a tour of the facility and a complete explanation of the history of silk production in Oaxaca and how there are keeping the traditional methods of cultivation and weaving alive today. If you have ever wondered why fine handmade silk goods fetch such a high price tag, I highly recommend you watch this excellent video (7 min) "Rescate Seda" - Reviving Silk. The video features the family and the work of the Reynoldo Sosa family. It is a great narrative and really shows the care that goes into each and every piece.
The unassuming brick facade is easy to miss but for the nice signage.
We learned all about the history of silk production and trade in Mexico
Silk "eggs" spun by the silk worms.
Showing how the washed silk is spun into fine thread.
Many fine rugs, huipiles, lienzos (woven sashes), garments and shawls in traditional designs
Bombyx mori lepidopteran - better known as the silk-worm moth
It looks blue but this cochineal is used to create the vibrant red coloring in many traditional designs. What is cochineal? More on that later.
The Reynoldo Sosa family would be happy to have you visit their home and
production place featured in the video. They are located on Av. Juarez
# 4 in Teotitlan del Valle, Oaxaca and can be reached via email email@example.com. I highly recommend it!