Curious crafts in Oaxaca

Exploring small towns in Oaxaca is quite the adventure. Driving through them, they all kind of look the same. Dusty and deserted, they make you wonder what the people are up to. Then you stop and enter the dark, unobtrusive buildings. They suddenly spring to life with marvellous creations hidden inside, and you are hooked.  You want to see more…

Teotitlan del Valle

First, squish a dead dried up bug, then sprinkle water on it. It will turn bright red! Then add lime juice and it will turn a shocking orange. Put on a little baking soda and you’ll have purple.

For blue, it isn’t quite as exciting. You just dry an indigo plant and use it like chalk.

This is the process still used by traditional Oaxacan carpet weavers to make their natural tints.

Here in Teotitlan, the entire population of the town works together as a coop. Every member of the community participates preparing the wool, whether hand carding, cleaning, spinning, or dying it.

Then on big wooden looms, they weave this wool into beautiful traditional carpets. Some of the younger generation are now making newer modern designs, but they still incorporate the age-old methods to create them.

Mexcal factory

Mexcal, hmmm, very interesting! It is actuallypretty good, who knew?  In many of the ‘home breweries’ they demonstrate how they make this smoky liquor. The procedure hasn’t changed since they first discovered that the agave cactus had ‘magic properties’. Mexcal is made using the heart of the plant, which looks like a giant pineapple. A horse does most of the work, going around and around in circles, pulling an enormous stone wheel, which mashes the plant and extracts the juice. The mash is then cooked in wood ovens giving it a musky, smoky flavour. Finally it is put into big vats and left to ferment.  For extra flair – they add a worm to every bottle!

San Bartolo Coyotepec

Entering the workshop, pictures and news clippings immediately grab your attention. Images fill the back wall like a page in a giant scrapbook. The focus of this homage is captured in a brilliant ebony clay sculpture.

Doña Rosa was a small Mexican woman who made a humble living making simple items in clay. But in the 1950s, it occurred to her to try something different. What would happen if she polished the clay before firing it? Experimenting with this, she found that instead of the usual dull gray colour, it turned a shiny black.

With this discovery, she changed the life and economy of her friends and neighbours.

Now her community of Coyotepec is known throughout the world for the ‘Oaxacan black pottery’ they produce.

 

San Antonio Arrazola

A tiny little town with grand ideas!

Carvers create wild fantasy figures from wood. They can be disassembled and reassembled easily, like a puzzle. They are painted in very colourful intricate designs.

These extraordinary figures are known as alebrijes. They can be very small simple figures or huge complicated creations.

As in many of the small towns in Oaxaca, the members of the community get together in workshops and produce and sell the items in a coop. The men generally carve the figures and the women paint them.

These wooden treasures are just plain fun!

The skilled artisans of Oaxaca are known and respected worldwide. It is easy to see why…

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Comments on: "Curious crafts in Oaxaca" (4)

  1. Venae Warner said:

    Did you meet “mama?” in Teotitlan?

    • Afraid not Venae. We visited a carpet making co-op where a young family was working. They demonstrated the age old techniques while their toddler stole the show with his cute shenanigans!

  2. mary kralovec said:

    Sue. You take me back to my days of wandering through Oaxaca. What joys!!! Have fun on your wild spirit Mexican trip.

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