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.