For the absolute best quality weaving, and some truly beautiful pieces you should visit Los Baúles de Juana Cata – owned by local textile legend Remigio Mestas Revilla. Remigio has been an advocate for the local weaving industry for over thirty years and the store is a selection of pieces from the weavers he supports. Most of the textiles are very traditional in shape – scarves, wraps, huipils and belts – but you will find a number in more contemporary colours. I'd say almost all use natural dyes. Be prepared to pay though. I'm by no means travelling on a strict budget, but I baulk at paying the prices here. The small handwoven scarves start at about 1,900 pesos (approx $160 AUD). I've thought about this a bit, as I have indeed paid more for collection pieces in the past, so I wasn't sure why I wasn't prepared to here. I think it's mostly the colour palette. Lots of earthy, muted, dusty tones... Not really my thing.
Along with the textiles there will usually be rooms dedicated to alebrijes (Mexican folk art of brightly painted wooden creatures), tin work (mirrors, decorative pieces, jewellery boxes) and the black pottery Oaxaca is famous for. These stores are definitely aimed at a tourist market. The quality is good and the prices are reasonable.
|Left to right: Aripo, Casa de as Artesanias de Oaxaca and Huizache|
Last, but not least, getting out into the villages. This is really where you can get into the makers own stores (homes) and ensure the money is getting directly to the craftspeople. One word on this however, as you drive into Teotitlan del Valle (or especially if you go there on a tour) there are a couple of large rug houses on the way in. Many of these hire out piecework to locals who are not paid nearly as much as if you buy from them directly. If in doubt, get advice from the textile museum before you go. Another alternative is to do an En Via tour. Contact them before signing up so you can organise to go on a day they are visiting a weaving family. Teotitlan del Valle is the village known for its treadle-loom woven rugs.
If you're interested in pieces woven on the backstrap loom, you'll find many huipils in the stores that are done with a single colour warp and weft, then using different coloured threads as supplementary wefts to make patterns. The Navarro Gomez family, based in Santo Tomas Jalieza use a different technique where a number of coloured warp threads are used with a contrasting weft to make the patterns. See here for more detail. You can visit the family and if you're lucky enough you'll get a weaving demonstration along with being able to buy products from a fairly extensive selection. Santo Tomas is on the way to Ocotlan – see details in the next paragraph – you'd then catch a moto-taxi (tuk tuk) to the house.
|From left to right: Embroidered blouse from San Antonino Castillo Velasco; huipil woven on a backstrap loom with supplementary weft; cochineal-dyed wool-woven rug from Teotitlan del Valle.|
And what about buying in a general market in Oaxaca or from someone selling on the street? Yes, you're likely to pay a lot less (I'm talking stupidly cheap), but there's no way of vouching for the quality, especially with the embroidery threads. Some of the threads we've been working with here aren't the best quality and the colours really do run when put in warm water. Not great when you've purchased a bright, beautifully stitched white blouse that ends up a dyed mess. This might not always be the case though and the stall holder just may not have access to another venue to sell their wares. If you have a discerning eye and see a piece you like, then I'd probably risk it.
Aripo – Garcia Vigil 809
Artesanias "Viki" – Libertad No. 1, San Antonino Castillo Velasco and the main shopfront is on Av Castillo Velasco on the right hand side, second block in, if you're walking from the main road into Ocotlan (Puerto Angel)
Casa de as Artesanias de Oaxaca – Matamoros 105
Etnico – M. Alcala 206-H. They also have a website
Juan Manuel Bautista – SHOWROOM Alcalá Nº 505. BOUTIQUE Alcalá Nº 201 Int. 103. Also on Facebook
Los Baúles de Juana Cata – This shop is in a small courtyard centre – Oaxaca Casa Vieja – on Calle M. Alcalá, right in the centre of town.
miku meko – Allende 207 and also on Facebook
Museo Textil de Oaxaca – Exconvento de San Pablo Hidalgo 917 esquina con Fiallo.
Navarro Gomez family – Benito Juárez No. 42, Santo Tomas Jalieza
Sylvia Suarez – A Gurrión 110, Centro, www.silviasuarez.com
Huizache – Corner of 101 Murguia and M Alcalá, also on Facebook