I traveled in many parts of Mexico during 2014, saw lots of artisans, met lots of wonderful people, including some very cute kids, and took lots of photos, so I thought you might be interested in some of my days...
This is Chiapas in early February. I love the hand made textiles of Chiapas and every time I go, I find more women's cooperatives. This time I visited six cooperatives and found so many skilled artisans, many weaving at their back strap looms. It's a bit of hike to get there from Mexico City or Oaxaca but it's so worth it. The folk art is excellent, the food delicious and the atmosphere clean, colonial and European-esque.
Everywhere I go in Mexico I visit artisans in their homes, their studios, their market puestos, or in their creative environments. The above photos are just a few of the hundreds of skilled Mexican artesanos that I have been privileged to meet. They are hard-working people, with joyful outlooks on life and so appreciative of others loving and purchasing their work. I revisit some people almost every time I go to Mexico and others, once a year or every couple years, and I am always greeted warmly and with an offer of a cafecito or a shot of tequila. Zinnia Folk Arts exists because of them and I am very grateful.
The homes and studios of most Mexican folk artists are very modest, often on unpaved roads, commonly living in dirt floor homes and some times creating folk art as a side job, in addition to farming or something else. When I am searching for a particular artist there can be lots of misses in terms of finding the exact address, because so many people in rural Mexico live on a named street but without a house number, for example, many artisans I visit are on Calle Juarez s/n or "sin nombre" (without a number) so it's not uncommon to knock on lots of doors and ask neighbors for the location of the particular artisano I'd like to visit. Finding people is one of the fun and unique challenges of the job!
Here are just a few of the many things I've found over the last year that reflect the joy I see every day when I'm in Mexico. I'm frequently asked if I'm afraid to travel in Mexico. And my answer is, No. I am not Mexican and I understand that my answer might be different if I were. And I also always make the point that I'm careful and I don't do stupid things (wittingly anyway--I did accidentally miss a flight on my last trip).
The Mexico I know is the warm and generous people, the incredibly efficient bus system, the clean and safe but inexpensive hotels and their staff, the smiles of welcome when artisans see me coming and know I will be buying, the simple, delicious and cheap food, and so many other positive things. I have never had any run-ins with the police (except when the Federales helped my friend recover her purse which she left in a taxi in Mexico City--yes, she got it back!).
Mexico is a big country and there are good people and bad people there, just like in every other country in the world. I choose to not be afraid of one of the most interesting places in the world!
You may know that I've been in the shop at 826 West 50th for almost three years! The space changes as the folk art changes so here are a few shots of some of the colorful merchandise we had during 2014. That fabulous bike in the second photo is not mine but belongs to a woman who decorates it every year (those are fake flowers) and rides around the neighborhood spreading smiles. Both of the Otomi bedspreads in these photos are gone, most of the tin bird candleholders are gone and all of the ceramics are gone but there's new folk art in the shop now, so stop in!
2014 was the year I hired two part-time helpers to cover for me while I'm in Mexico and to work on Sundays. I was so lucky to find Leslie and Paulette. They are dedicated, warm, helpful, thoughtful people who have almost as much love for Zinnia Folk Arts as I do. They have both been great assets to the shop and positive, enjoyable people to be around. So thank you to them!
Other people--Roy, Connie, Marla, Jean--have been there for me since the beginning and I know will always be there.
We had several events in the shop this year and here are a few photos of one of the most popular ones--making Frida Kahlo headbands and sugar skull face painting. And how about those good looking smiles?
So, thank you all for your interest and support. Thank you for permitting me to follow my bliss.