Thursday, November 1, 2007

Weaving Demo at the Notre Dame.

On Tuesday, October 30, 2007, I attended a weaving demonstration. Here is the info:

Federico Chavez, Eric Chavez Santiago and Elsa Sanchez Dias, Zapotec weavers from Teotitlan del Valle, Oaxaca, Mexico will offer a free loom-weaving and wool-dyeing demonstration and exhibition of available textiles created by the artists.
The Chavez Family Weavers handcraft carpets using methods developed by their ancestors. They use natural products from the land around them to weave traditional Zapotec patterns with wool from locally-raised animals and all-natural dyes — mesquite, cempazuchil (marigold), aƱil (indigo), and cochineal(insect), the source for brilliant shades of red. Zapotec designs have great cultural, social, and historical significance for the people living in the Valley of Oaxaca. The Chavez family, weaves ancient designs such as Diamonds, copies of the carvings found at the nearby Mitla ruins, the Undulating Eye, the Tree of Life and many more.

This program is sponsored by the University of Notre Dame Institute of Latino Studies and the Snite Museum of Art.

I got there just before 5:30. I was actually there early enough to get a seat. They had more people attend than they were expecting I think, because there were twice as many people as seats. It was very interesting the Eric Chavez, the son, gave a slide show presentation with history on the state, town, customs/celebrations of Oaxaca, Mexico (pronounced Wha-hock-a). Then he explained spinning, dying and weaving and his personal journey into natural dies. The name of his village, Teotitlan del Valle, literally translates to Village of Weavers. Just about everyone in his village is either a weaver or does something to contribute to the process. He explained that there were too many villagers (past and present) that were showing up with some kind of cancer. It was finally linked the fumes from the huge vats of synthetic dyes that are necessary for the villages livelyhood. So he went around trying to find out more about natural dyes, even though it is not as economical. Most villagers knew nothing and when he went to one of the ones who did, they refused to teach him, because it was like a specialty for their family and passed down generation to generation. So he decided to experiment on his own. So he showed slides of the different plants and or insects used to create the different color groups. He even offered a thank you to the family who wouldn't help him, because by going out on his own, he was able to come of with over 90 different variation on red alone. This other family was only producing their "traditional" colors. He has carefully been documenting all his different recipes for the different colors. He said his village was now having the problem that the current new generation of teenagers are not wanting to learn the weaving process. He himself, almost got out of it several years ago, before he started experimenting with the dyes and got introduced to going to various colleges to lecture and/or teach workshops on his techniques. He has a 14 year old brother who was balking at learning to weave. Eric explained that when his father taught him, the first design he was expected to do a traditional rug, which was extremely intricate and very hard. So he understood what his brother was going through. He decided to teach his brother himself. And started him out with more simpler, non-traditional designs. His brother has really started to enjoy what he does. In fact on Eric's last trip to the US, his brother sent 2 rugs along to sell. When they sold, he wanted Eric to buy him a red IPod. Eric says it funny to see his brother at his loom, weaving while listening to his IPod. Eric hopes to someday start up a school for weaving, where he can teach others the weaving process. The Chavez family had brought along some of their rugs and blankets to sell. Although they were beautiful and I would have loved to have one, the least expensive one I saw was $160 for a small throw rug. And they went up from there. Still out of my price range. Several of my quilting and weaving friends attended too. It was a very interesting program. I did take photos, but as usual, I haven't downloaded them yet. Will do that soon.

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