Textile Tour of Oaxaca, Mexico

By suzi click on Wednesday, July 12th, 2017 in On the Road. No Comments

In March of this year I travelled for a second time to the magical state of Oaxaca, Mexico and this time I concentrated on textiles. The tour was sponsored by Traditions Mexico click here specializing in textile and craft tours. Our tour was called Purpura, Silk and Threaded Flowers.

The highlight was Tehuantepec where they make those beautiful velvet and satin floral embroidered huipiles and skirts that Frida Kahlo made so famous. Her mother was from there and they still wear them for their festivals ask they are busy making and selling them in the nearby village of Santa Rosa.

In Huatulco, on the coast, we observed the rare and ancient process of gathering purpura panza, a cousin of murex, used to dye cotton a royal purple color. This was done by a Mixtec man who family has been doing this for uncounted generations. He gathers the small shells that contain the snail-like creatures attached to the large rocks along the shore and gently massages them to release the liquid that oxidizes when it hits the yarn skeins he is holding and turns it purple. Then he puts the shell back on the rocks where he found it. Because of this incredibly time consuming process the purple yarns are usually woven with a lot of other colors – mostly white. But how unique!

We also went to the small silk weaving village of San Pedro Cajones on a hilltop where a family was growing mulberry trees for their silk worms which made the silk they spin, dye and weave into beautiful shawls with knotted macramé fringes. The silk worms they use are descendants of those brought the Spanish centuries ago.

Other highlights included the Textile Museum and the shop Aripa in Oaxaca City. Also Teotitlan del Valle for dyeing and rug weaving demonstrations by Demetrio Bautista Lazo. I especially loved the cochineal dyeing which originated here.

Other great visits were with Macrina Mateo Martinez, the well-known red pottery artist, and her group of women who gather the red clay and make the classic shaped pottery in San Marcos Tlapazola; Yautepec to visit a woman who weaves designs that are so small and delicate she uses a needle instead of a shuttle, and to San Mateo to meet the daughters of the great master weaver Justina Oviedo who invented her own technique for weaving two entirely different designs at the same time on each side which her daughters are continuing to do. In Mitla we saw 2 brothers who use flying shuttle looms to make beautiful textiles and another village where they make elaborate candles.

And of course we loved the beautiful landscape, the ruins of Mitla, the Spanish colonial architecture, the COLOR, the markets, the delicious Oaxacan food and tasting the different mezcals. But most of all the beautiful, talented, friendly people, especially our guide and driver the multi-talented Alex Munuzuri.

Arts and Crafts in Ecuador

By suzi click on Tuesday, January 12th, 2016 in On the Road. No Comments

ECUADOR is a beautiful country where I recently travelled with 5 friends and discovered some wonderful artists and craftspeople making unique and wonderful things from the natural resources there.

My favorite was Carmen Orellanos a master weaver of vibrant ikats.  We visited her workshop outside of Cuenca.

Also very impressive was Eduardo Vega, world renowned master ceramic artist who has done some amazing murals in public places.  We visited his beautiful gallery and workshop perched on a hill above Cuenca.

In Cuenca we also found the panama hat workshop of Homero Ortega where we saw the laborious process of weaving with toquille straw (from the toquille palm) and all the finishing processes involved.  Needless to say we all bought hats.

In Riobamba we visited Marco who showed us how he crafts tagua nuts into other objects.

We also visited a workshop that works with balsa wood to carve, burn and paint figures of the animals that inhabit the country,  parrots being the most popular.

Also a favorite were the Canelos Quichua ceramics in the Madre Tierra workshop in Puyo.  The geometric designs which they paint on with a brush made from own hair and then rub with leaves and fire on a wood kiln are truly beautiful and entrancing.  I recently saw a fabulous exhibit of these ceramics at the Crocker Art Museum in Sacramento called Rain Forest Visions.

to see more about this exhibit click here


Guizhou, China – Miao Festival

By suzi click on Thursday, June 4th, 2015 in Events, On the Road. No Comments

Every year the Miao, one of the 56 ethnic minorities in China, have a festival called the Sisters’ Meal Festival in Shidong. It is a festival for young lovers who pass messages to one another thru sticky rice packets-the color denotes the message- and some have gifts that also send a message. But the best part is all the great costumes and jewelry they wear for the festival – layers of it. I also like that it started with the older women playing the drums and the way the young girls have updated it with their fancy high heels.

Ethnic Fashion in CHINA

By suzi click on Tuesday, June 2nd, 2015 in On the Road, The Look. No Comments

On my recent textile tour of China which was focused on the Guizhou and Yunnan regions, home to more than half of China’s 56 ethnic groups , I saw many women, especially the older ones, weaving, embroidering, dyeing and embellishing as well as still wearing their unique costumes. The type of adornment identifies which of the groups they belong to. Here are some of the more interesting things I found there.

Marston House & Gardens in San Diego

By suzi click on Sunday, November 30th, 2014 in On the Road, The Artful Life. No Comments




I recently went on a tour of this Arts & Crafts Style house built in 1905. One of the architects was Irving Gill who went on to become well known for his mid-century modern style. It was built for George Marston who founded the famous Marston Department stores in San Diego.  He was an important contributor to the development of San Diego and quite an important philanthropist to the city’s cultural heritage.  That earned him the title of “San Diego’s First Citizen”. His daughters (he had 5) lived in the house until their death at which time it would become owned by the city.  The oldest lived to 108.  I love the arts & crafts style, especially the pottery and furniture, and the house has many modern features that were ahead of its time.  You can go on tours and find it at the northern end of Balboa Park.



Creating an Artful Life is the Essence of Balinese Culture

By suzi click on Wednesday, October 15th, 2014 in On the Road, The Artful Life. No Comments

-Bali and Java were on the ancient trade routes between Europe, the Middle East, India and China. They have absorbed influences from all these civilizations. It is reflected in their art.

-Everyday they make offerings to their HIndu gods of good and evil. These gifts are made from palm leaves with fruits, flowers, incense and assorted sweets.

-Elaborate ceremonial decorations grace the temples and religious processions that take place every month.

-Food and drink is artfully presented using flowers, fruit, wood, and stones.

-Both ancient and modern interior spaces use wood, stone, painting and floral arrangements. Multiple living levels in their homes reflect the beauty of the terraced rice fields.

-Men and women wear beautiful batik and ikat sarongs. These weavings are a traditional art form.

-All Balinese are artists. Even farmers and bankers are part time musicians, dancers, wood carvers and weavers.They live with a sense of joy and pride in their world of The Artful Life.


On the Way to Santa Fe

By suzi click on Tuesday, August 5th, 2014 in On the Road. No Comments

On the way to the Santa Fe Folk Art Market I stopped in Winslow, Arizona with my friend Leslie Rakestraw
for lunch at La Posada, a recently restored architecturally significant landmark hotel designed by
Mary Jane Colter in 1930 and part of the famous Fred Harvey chain that helped pave the way for the
development of the southwest. I want to go back there and stay and eat again in the wonderful restaurant –
the Turquoise room. I highly recommend it!