Sunday, May 12, 2019

Joyce Wycoff
I am sad to say that Joyce Wycoff, creator of this blog, has passed the baton. I hope I can make the blog as interesting and fun and Joyce did. Thank you Joyce for all your efforts of behalf of Feria Maestros del Arte. Have fun in your travels and hopefully, we'll see you at the Feria in November.

Marianne Carlson, Founder, Feria Maestros del Arte

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

Roses and Revelations: Homage to the Virgin by Mexican textile artists

by Joyce Wycoff 

Update: If you haven't had a chance to see this amazing show, the date has been extended to April 28. Here is a short video which will give you a sense of it. Linda Hanna, organizer of the show, reports that it will travel to Coyoacán in November, 2019. We will give you details of that show when available.

Click here to view video of the show
More about the show:
A unique, textile exhibit honoring the Virgin of Guadalupe and representing the work of textile artists from 52 Mexican communities will open at the State Museum of Oaxacan Folk Art (MEAPO) in San Bartolo Coyotepec, Oaxaca in December. The inauguration will be at 1:00 pm on Sunday, December 9. The show will be up until March 15, 2019. (Date extended to April 28.)

Artist: Pascuala Vásquez Hernández
Zinacantán, Chiapas.

The Virgin of Guadalupe is an omnipresent theme in the work of Mexican artisans and began to fascinate Linda Hanna, conceptualizer of this exhibit, at an early age on her first trip to Mexico.

Artist: Faustina Sumana García
San Juan Chilateca, Oaxaca.

Linda explains, "I first became aware of the Virgin of Guadalupe during a trip to Mexico that my family took in 1959. I watched as the devout approached the Basilica on their bandaged and sometimes bloody knees. This made a big impression on me at the age of thirteen, even though I was not Catholic."
The reverence for Guadalupe, fascinated Linda and she began to study the Virgins history starting with the miracle of her revelation on the cloak of Juan Diego, a local indigenous man, to the banner made in 1810 by the priest Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla, featuring the Virgin in an effort to unite the people of Mexico in a struggle for independence, to her ever-present image throughout Mexico. 
Artist: Margarita Avendaño Luis
Pinotepa de Don Luis, Oaxaca.

After living in Oaxaca for a few years, Linda organized the first “Virgin Playday,” a festive gathering on December 12th (the Virgins saint day) in which women come together in her folk-art filled home to make their own sculptures of the Virgin. In 2017 there were almost forty participants and it triggered an idea.
Seeing women coming together to make art honoring the Virgin gave Linda the idea for creating a Virgin of Guadalupe exhibit featuring clothing made by individual, textile artists from various regions of Mexico and representing many different techniques. Because Linda knows so many textile artists she was able to pull together work from ten states of Mexico: Oaxaca, Chiapas, Colima, Guerrero, Jalisco, Mexico (State), Michoacán, Puebla, Tlaxcala and Yucatán. The exhibit includes not only clothing, but also accessories, such as bags, shawls and jewelry, items worn close to the heart.
Artist: Hever Martínez Velasco
San Pedro Cajonos, Oaxaca.

Linda describes how the artists have responded to being included in this project:
"In many conversations I had with the artists, I was moved by their sincere enthusiasm and the honor they felt at being given the opportunity to depict the Virgin. One artist even went to his church to have his thread blessed and to pray for guidance in capturing the beauty of his muse. 
Artist: Gildardo Hernández Quero
San Pablo Villa de Mitla, Oaxaca.

For most, this commission meant coming to terms with the limitations of an ancestral process and innovating in order to accomplish the desired result. For these reasons, there is a certain transcendent quality about these pieces that distinguishes this collection.
In addition to recruiting the artists and planning the details of the show, she plans to make it a traveling exhibition and will talk more about that and the show at the Oaxaca Lending Library at 5pm on January 4 and February 1.
Artist: Enriqueta Cenobio Calixto
San Felipe Santiago, Estado de México.

-- Linda Hanna has been an avid supporter of local folk art since she first moved to Oaxaca in 1997. Prior to that, she spent fifteen years working as a fiber artist and therefore has profound appreciation for the textile traditions and talent found in many Oaxacan communities. For the past 14 years she has acted as coordinator for the Oaxacan artists who participate in the annual craft show Feria Maestros del Arte. She operates a Bed & Breakfast out of her home:

Sunday, April 7, 2019

Huichol Center Nominated for Nobel Peace Prize

by Marianne Carlson
(Excerpts taken from the actual nomination)

Feria Maestros del Arte is proud to announce that one group we have supported since the first Feria, the Huichol Center for Cultural Survival and the Traditional Arts, has been nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize.

The Drugs Peace Institute (DPI) in the Netherlands is an organization that is qualified to nominate candidates for the Nobel Peace Prize.  Their sponsorship of the humanitarian foundation founded and directed by Susana Valadez highlights the contributions stemming from her anthropological background and the accomplishments of her life’s work with the Huichol (also known as the Wixárika) people.

Her representation of the Huichol people for their Nobel Peace Prize nomination attests to her steadfast commitment to mitigate the ominous threats that face the endangered Wixárika people and their enduring spiritual traditions. The DPI holds in high regard her 40-year commitment after marrying into the culture in 1977, to a problem-solving strategy that addresses the paramount importance of safeguarding the existence of the Wixárika First Nations people as a dynamic ancient Mexican tribe in the modern world.

Susanna’s dual existence as a U.S. born outsider who has lived for decades as a Wixárika insider, has placed her in a solid position of acceptance and strength to work on their behalf in the global arena, which she has done in good faith and to their satisfaction for decades.
Adriaan Bronkhorst of the Drugs Peace Institute, Nobel Peace Prize qualifier writes: "We are trying desperately to save the natural world, although we continue turning it into a garbage can. After all, what do our small efforts matter if governments and the captains of industry promote toxic waste on unimagined levels? 
The way out of the global ecological suicide and the economic model sustaining it seems almost impossible. Maybe it is, but as long as we believe in the possibility of a future for our descendants, we must look for alternative ways of development. The Huichol people do give us an example of a spiritually rewarding life coupled to a deep respect and devoted care for the natural environment, enabled by their wise and respectful use of the mind-altering peyote.

We are therefore happy to propose the Huichol people, represented by the Huichol Center for Cultural Survival and the Traditional Arts in the person of its director Susana Eger Valadez, for the nomination of the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize, in the hope that this candidacy will draw attention to the valuable example the Huichols offer the world.
Established nearly three decades ago within the rugged mountains of the Sierra Madre Occidental, The Huichol Center and its founder, anthropologist Susana Valadez, strive to empower both Huichol individuals and communities across the country to maintain their spiritual, artistic and cultural heritage by preparing them to coexist with the outside world on their own terms. With careful planning and education the Huichol people can thrive in today’s world without sacrificing their native traditions or language.

Despite very difficult present-day social conditions, as a first Nation, the Huichol people have preserved the spirituality of their pre-historic hunter past in an agricultural society. When focus is on the respect for the fundamental freedoms of religion and cognitive knowledge, the Wixárika ritual’s use of peyote can be appreciated as the rigorous ceremony of their most sacred quest for life on earth, and the road to return, enriched and empowered with spiritual knowledge and all the blessings of their Gods.

These people show us an exemplary way to use and preserve the mind-altering medicines of nature for the spiritual and physical benefit of its individual users and society at large. This nomination will hopefully obtain UNESCO protections of Wirikuta peyote lands and their other sacred locations of the Wixárika people.
Whether or not you agree with the Wixárika people’s use of peyote in their rituals is not what is of importance in this narrative. All of us who have participated in Feria Maestros del Arte and marveled and admired the incredible bead and string art of the Huichol, must agree that wherever they acquire their inspiration, the spirituality of these people is reflected in the love and detail they put into every piece of art they produce.

If you wish to read the entire Nobel Peace Prize nomination, please go to

Friday, March 22, 2019

New Artist: Weaving a life on a back-strap loom

One of the new artists at this year's Fair will be Ma. Trinidad González García, who tells us that the back strap loom was part of her life long before she was born.

Her mother and grandmother dedicated their lives to weaving to support the family. For this reason, her mother taught Trinidad and her three sisters the art of weaving from a very early age. When she was 10 years old, Trinidad began weaving ayates, rebozos and huipiles.


Thanks to this craft, Trinity and her sisters and brothers were able to study and complete a university education. Trinidad graduated as a veterinarian. However, unlike her sisters and brothers, she was the only one who decided to return to her roots.

For some years, she dedicated herself to her profession, but she never abandoned the threads and the loom, sometimes for additional income and sometimes just for the pleasure of creating. Sitting down to weave always made her feel more complete, more creative and more connected to the community.

Little by little, she began to notice that the loom made her feel more alive. She gave up her career and went back to weaving full time.

In 2013, with the support of her family, they opened their first Domitzu Handicrafts store, a family business dedicated to making handicrafts on the back strap loom. With a reputation for quality, the business grew and eventually added another store. Now, not just a family business, they are a social enterprise in which the community participates.

The loom has become one of Trinidad's most important treasures because it has brought some of the most satisfying experiences of her life. Not only has weaving given her the opportunity to win state and national awards, present lectures and give courses, it has also given her new dignity as an artisan and will leave an incredible legacy for her daughter.

The "Domitzu Handicrafts" team currently has 10 women: 7 artisans, 2 seamstresses and 1 designer, some weave full-time and others give free classes to community members. They are one of the few families that preserve the technique of "tres alzaderas" or "doble vista", techniques that, due to their complexity, are in danger of extinction.

The revitalization of the use of the back strap loom has allowed them to understand their identity as part of the people of Hñahñu, which, at the same time, has led them to acquire the commitment to preserve the trade.

The group has won many awards, among them:
  • Third place in the National Grand Prize of Popular Art in 2015 in Mexico City,
  • First Place in the Contest of Vegetable Fibers in 2015 in Campeche, Campeche,
  • Third place in the National Grand Prize of Popular Art in 2018, Mexico City.
Winning awards has become a family tradition. Trinidad's mother, Martina Garcia, has won the Presidential Grand Masters Award for Popular Art and her daughter, Frida Diaz, has won First Place in Mexico's Young Creators of Popular Art Contest.

Saturday, March 9, 2019

Fair Trade Art: Spread Happiness

National Geographic’s Novica has a startling mantra: spread happiness.

With a business model of connecting artisans to a global marketplace of socially conscious customers, Novica’s banner states: Over $90.2 million sent to artisans so far! 
They focus on both ...
  • happy artisans: Fair prices, no binding contracts, and the freedom to make a success of their craft by building a sustainable business. 
  • happy customers: Unique handmade products, great value, and the joy of helping to nurture and elevate the craft of global artisans.
From: Museo Textil de Oaxaca
After traveling for a few days with Linda Hanna, Oaxaca coordinator for Feria Maestros del Arte, we started talking about the idea of paying a fair price for the pieces of folk art we found along the way … and, of course, the whole idea of “haggling.” 

It seemed to be a good subject to write about and I was delighted to find that Novica already has ten principles in place. On their webpage linked below, they go into the details of how they implement each principle. 

What is Fair Trade? 

In simple terms, it's the belief that everyone should be fairly compensated for the work they do.
The fair trade movement has 10 guiding principles...
  • PRINCIPLE 1: Create opportunities for economically disadvantaged producers.
  • PRINCIPLE 2: Be transparent and accountable.
  • PRINCIPLE 3: Conduct fair trade practices.
  • PRINCIPLE 4: Pay a fair price.
  • PRINCIPLE 5: Guard against child labor and forced labor.
  • PRINCIPLE 6: Promote gender equality and non discrimination.
  • PRINCIPLE 7: Ensure good working conditions.  
  • PRINCIPLE 8: Provide capacity building. 
  • PRINCIPLE 9: Promote fair trade. 
  • PRINCIPLE 10: Respect for the environment.
Article by Joyce Wycoff, volunteer with Feria Maestros del Arte

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

What Is Mexican Folk Art? DRAFT

Is there a line where Mexican folk art begins and ends?

After a few days of traveling with Linda Hanna, the Oaxaca coordinator for the Feria Maestros del Arte, it would seem that there might be a distinction between "folk art" and "not folk art. 

Yesterday we met Brian Gregorio Corres in his workshop. Brian is a clay artist who was a winner of a Friends of Oaxacan Art (FOFA) exhibition in 2013. He won a study scholarship that gave him new insights. In 2015 his work was rejected as “not folk art.” 
Brian Gregorio Corres entry for 2015
I’ve heard similar stories which prompted the question, 
What is Mexican folk art? 
Marianne Carlson, founder of Feria Maestros del Arte provides a starting point:

Folk art is fixed in traditions that come from communities and cultures with shared values and traditions that express and foster cultural identity.

Folk art encompasses a range of utilitarian and decorative media, including cloth, wood, paper, clay, metal and more.

Folk artists are persons skilled in a form of handmade distinctive creations that can be either utilitarian or decorative. They embody the traditions of their culture and artistic techniques and are either taught by family or apprentice with artists. 

Wikipedia offers a general definition: Mexican handcrafts and folk art is a complex collection of items made with various materials and intended for utilitarian, decorative, or other purposes. Some of the items produced by hand in this country include ceramics, wall hangings, vases, furniture, textiles and much more. Interesting, however not very useful for determining the criteria for inclusion in the category of Mexican folk art.

After saying, "First, no one can agree on what it means,” one site goes on to define it as: "Folk art" is mostly utilitarian or decorative art created by an unaffluent social class of peasants, artisans and tradespeople who live in rural areas of civilized but not highly industrialized societies.

The Mexican Folk Art Guide offers this definition: Folk Art is the name given to the artistic creations made by peasants, indigenous people or craftsmen with no formal artistic training. A folk art item is handmade and has a functional purpose opposing an art object that is made for aesthetic purposes only. Most of the folk art creations are made by anonymous people but they can be identified with a region or ethnic group culture.

As Linda and I discussed this question, we came up with possible elements of a useable … and useful … definition: 
  • style … useful or decorative, figurative rather than non-objective (abstract) 
  • materials … local, natural 
  • creator … primarily self-taught, often from a long lineage of artisans and local traditions 
  • process … hand-made, small quantities
Another element that comes to mind is … for lack of a better term … connection. Connection to spirit, to the elements (land, water, sky, plants and animals) of the local areas, as well as to traditions of culture and religion.

So here’s the challenge: How would you define Mexican Folk Art? We will update this post with other suggestions.

Gayla Pierce offers thoughts (see comments) and a quote from Japanese philosopher Sōetsu Yanagi:

“It is my belief that while the high level of culture of any country can be found in its fine arts, it is also vital that we should be able to examine and enjoy the proofs of the culture of the great mass of the people, which we call folk art. The former are made by a few for the few, but the latter, made by the many for many, are a truer test. The quality of the life of the people of that country as a whole can best be judged by the folkcrafts.”
– The Unknown Craftsman – A Japanese Insight into Beauty, Sōetsu Yanagi, Kodansha International, New York, 1989

FYI ... here is the FOFA newsletter highlighting the young folk artist winners exhibition. It is a remarkable show if you get a chance to see it.

The new folk art exhibition Mostrando la Fuerza de Mi Pueblo (Showing the Strength of My People) opened on December 8 at the Museo Estatal de Arte Popular Oaxaca (MEAPO) in San Bartolo Coyotepec, Oaxaca. FOFA President Arden Rothstein, and Treasurer Deborah Huntington represented the organization at the opening celebration. The exhibition's sixty-six art pieces are the winners from FOFA-MEAPO's August 2018 competition. 

I was lucky enough to meet the young palm jewelry artist, Mónica Díaz Martinez. She will be showing her fabulous work at Feria Maestros del Arte 2019 ... November 8-10.

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

What does Mexican Folk Art mean to you?

Black pottery mona by Magdalena Pedro
When Marianne Carlson, founder of the Feria Maestros del Arte, was asked that question about what Mexican folk art meant to her, she responded with … 

“We’ve frozen your bank account!”

What?! Apparently those were the first words she heard on the morning she sat trying to write her monthly column for the newsletter. As the day unfolded, it got worse and worse.

Marianne explains how that question took her to a different place. “As I continued to bemoan my financial state of affairs, I swiveled around in my computer chair looking at the walls and shelves in my house. Without even realizing it, my thoughts turned from “what am I going to do?” to the happy memory of when I purchased my barro negro mona  (black pottery doll) from Magdalena Pedro in Oaxaca.

“Not only had I fallen in love with this doll, it launched a magazine column and a cover on the Lake Chapala Review Magazine in 2008.

“On a day when I really needed something to be happy about, I was reminded with just a glance, that each object I have purchased over many years has a wonderful story behind it. I have been fortunate enough to meet and spend time with each artist whose hands have molded, woven or formed the beautiful artwork that now resides in my home."

March 19th
is Artisan Day in Mexico 
(Día de Artesano)

Here's the idea ...
Artisans spend hours, weeks, often months creating their works of art. At Feria Maestros del Arte, you have the opportunity to meet the maestros in person, learn more about them, their work, and the pieces you’re buying from them.

Every day should be Artisan Day as their work constantly adds beauty and charm to our lives. However, those artisans never get to see what their work looks like in your home … or when you wear it . . . or even know how important it has become to you.

Since there’s only one official day … March 19th … The Feria wants to honor the maestros and the incredible work they do, and we’d like to invite you to join us in this celebration … so here’s the idea …
  1. Take a picture of a piece of Mexican Folk Art that you treasure. Show or explain what it looks like in your home … or better yet, take a selfie with the piece of folk art you are honoring.
  2. On March 19th, post your comments and photo/s to your Facebook page AND to the Feria Maestros del Arte Facebook page. If you know the artisan’s name, please include that in your thank you message.
  3. Tell them, briefly, what the piece means to you.
 Please join in the fun and honor your favorite maestro, 
piece of art, or just a comment in general. 


"Nahuatl Bújo" by Zeny and Reyna Fuentes was my first piece of 
Mexican  folk art and I think it brings me wisdom every day ...
or tries.
-- Joyce Wycoff

  • If you don’t know the name of the artist and you bought the piece at the Feria, you can find it on the Feria website … just look under the category (i.e. baskets, alebrijes, ceramics, textiles, etc.)
  • If all you have is a photo, that’s okay, too. Please post it.
  • If all you want to do is thank a maestro, just post your thanks.
  • You can post more than one picture and thank more than one artisan.
  • If you’ve had your eye on a piece of work, but haven’t been able to buy it yet, post the picture, and tell the artisan what their work means to  you.
  • What you post is entirely up to you, but we will try to make sure that if you note a particular artisan, they are aware of whatever you post. 

 Here are a few links that tell you more about Día de Artesano —