In early March of 2018 I traveled to Chiapas on a week long textile tour with Norma Schafer and Sheri Brautigam, two Mexican textile experts. I've been to Chiapas several times and have always loved the intricate style of back strap weaving by Mayan women of the highlands of Chiapas. The reason I wanted to go on this textile tour was to visit the more remote villages outside of the city of San Cristóbal de las Casas and to learn more about the textiles I love so much. It was a delightful trip; 10 women in addition to our trusty leaders, excellent tour guides who gave us so much historical and political background on the state of Chiapas while we were riding the 1-2 hours away in our mini-van, discovery of new artisans, trying new restaurants and meeting women from all over the United States, Mexico and Australia who shared an interest in this type of traditional women's work.
Shop here for handmade textiles from Chiapas
The view from our street in San Cristóbal de las Casas.
This is an outstanding example of backstrap loom weaving on the wall at the Museo Mundo Maya.
Norma Schafer, our intrepid leader
Wall at the Women's Cooperative in Tenejapa, Chiapas
A traditional Mayan cemetery located in Romerillo. The Mayan cross (the Ceiba tree) joins the Catholic crosses on the rim of the hill. Both sides of the hill are covered with graves. The wooden planks are doors that keep the souls of the deceased where they should be and are removed on Día de los Muertos to allow the spirits to rejoin the living.
Wearing a black wool skirt typical of the town of Chamula, the aunt of our tour guide showed us the back breaking work of weaving on a loom that is tied to a tree and held taut by the belt around the lower back.
This lovely young woman made some of the blouses I now have in the shop. She and her husband, two young daughters and mother-in-law live in Aguacatenango, Chiapas about two hours from San Cristóbal de las Casas. She made and is wearing the traditional blusa of her town.
The fabulous (and fragile) ceramics of this remote village were in the taller of Juana Gomez Ramirez, a Great Master of Mexican Folk Art who specializes in clay jaguars. The fish were so beautiful against the bright blue of the floor.
Jolom Mayaetik, a beautiful women's cooperative about 30 minutes away from San Cristóbal de las Casas. This coop has been one of my favorites for many years.
The unique chals of Zinacantán. These are women's shawls folded on a line inside a small shop. The large tassels are tucked behind. These are machine embroidered which is no small task--each one is unique and reflects the design and skill of the woman who made it.
One of the women on the tour had the brilliant idea of giving reading glasses to the women weavers we met along the way. We all brought readers from home to be donated to the various women's cooperative leaders. They were asked to share them with the most needy women. This photo captures a weaver trying on readers of different lens strengths.
Someone else had another brilliant idea. She brought a Polaroid camera and took photos of the weavers with their children or friends and then gave them the photo to keep. This was taken at a Women's Cooperative in Magdalena Aldama, Chiapas.
A skilled artisan embroidering in the sunlight in Magdalena Aldama. And wearing a gorgeous huipil.
Pom poms are everywhere in Chiapas! This is at the main mercado in San Cristóbal de las Casas. There are literally hundreds of pompom vendors in the market, on the street and in all of the shops. They are fun and cheerful and they will be arriving in the shop when the shipment arrives!
One of the walking streets of San Cristóbal de las Casas at sunset.