Tuesday, June 23, 2009


Juana Cano Sebastian is the leader of a group of women in the remote Indigenous village of Turicuaro, Michoacan where they weave fine beautiful cotton rebozos, (shawls), napkins, and bedspreads on a backstrap loom. The photo on the left was taken when Juana delivered about three dozen rebozos to me that were ordered by the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. She traveled about an hour by combi (micro-bus) to meet us at our hotel, Meson de San Antonio in Patzcuaro, barefoot as usual, greeting me with her usual warm embrace. We placed our order with Juana and her daughters, who are also skilled weavers, a month before on our first visit to her village, which is located in a remote Michoacan valley that looked to us like our version of Paradise. Several friendly townspeople assisted us in our search for her house, and because it was the rainy season, the women were weaving inside. Normally the backstrap looms are tied to a tree in the patio. One of Juana's daughters is weaving below while two of Juana's grandchildren were running around outside.

Juana learned how to weave from her husband’s aunt, and then taught her daughter-in-law, Aurelia Martinez Vargas, and her daughters, Ana Luisa, Isidora, and Socorro. The women of Turicuaro, which has about 1,800 inhabitants, have been weaving fine rebozos similar to these for hundreds of year. The women soak the cotton yarn in a large tub of water mixed with “almidon” which is a corn starch. They rinse and dry it, and then form the yarn into balls. The Turicuaro weavers make rebozos with stripes, or solid color rebozos that are sometimes of the deshilado style, which means literally "un-threaded" but what we might call lacy or see-through. The intricate designs of flowers, bread, and chickens that are tied and created in the ends of the rebozos reflect the natural surroundings and daily life of the village. The work is delicate and beautiful ... it's mind boggling to me how they remember the pattern of the ancient designs.
I will be exhibiting a large selection of beautiful Turicuaro rebozos at the 2009 Santa Fe International Folk Art Market on July 11 & 12. For more info. on purchasing them, take a look at the TEXTILE pages of www.mexicobyhand.com.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Paper Mache Pirate Skeletons from Patzcuaro, Mexico

This pirate guy on your left is a recent creation of one of our favorite artisans in Mexico who makes calaca or skeleton figures-- Jose Andres Chavez of Patzcuaro, Michoacán. He makes chefs, punk rockers, doctors, all kinds of sports figures (basketball, soccer, baseball, golf, and football), brides and grooms, and of course beautiful Catrinas.
He is the guy who made the amazing life-size figures (like the one on the right) that are the prominent decoration at the peña Colibri, the great folk music club in Morelia's Centro Historico. There you can hear quality musicians perform Cuban and Mexican music every night of the week, and see a fine performance of Michoacán's Dance of the Viejitos (dance of the little old men) around midnight on Fridays and Saturdays.

But that's not my point here. This creative artist, Señor Chavez, is always trying out new ideas. So he made the pirate last year when Pirates of the Caribbean starring Johnny Depp was so popular, but then right after that, we had some real modern day pirates who started to commit some horrible violent acts...so pirates didn't look all that much fun anymore. But now I find out that there's an annual Pirate Festival that takes place in June, right here in the S.F. Bay Area, about a half hour from where I live! Thousands of people go every year, and appear to be nuts for all things pirate. I assume that most of them believe that "the only good pirate is a dead pirate". Well, the guy above...is definitely dead. Should be a popular item for these folks' Day of the Dead celebrations, don't you think?

Mr. Chavez also made us some San Francisco Giants figures, player #25 to be exact. Barry Bonds skeleton figures--plus a lot more--are also available at www.mexicobyhand.com.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Embroidered Blouses

It's a common sight in Michoacán. Women and girls sitting on small chairs,while they embroider beautiful blouses, called guanengos here in the Meseta Purepecha. They sit next to the burnished pots that are made in their village of Cocucho...hoping to sell them to tourists who flock to Uruapan during the Palm Sunday crafts fair (see post of April 12 for more) or to Patzcuaro for Day of the Dead.It's always a good time to go if you want to see a large selection of fine guanengos, and here are some samples.

The first one pictured below won a prize at the concurso, but the others are also quite beautiful.

The blouses below were made by women from Erongaricuaro and Tocuaro, two villages on the shores of Lake Patzcuaro. The women also embroider rebozos and beautiful shirts for men. Please contact me if you'd like to see more and if you're interested in making a purchase-- check out www. mexicobyhand.com to see our current selection available for sale.