Rocio’s Blog (English)

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June 11th, 2014 

Come Along with Me

I would like to invite you to come along with me on my new adventure in Guatemala…!!!

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My name is Rocío Mena, and I will be spending the next two months in San Rafael, Guatemala, helping a community of Mayan women dye cotton yarn with natural dyes.

 

 

 My Love of Natural Dyes

Natural dyes are my passion! And for me, they represent magic on earth!

Seeing the process that transforms a plant into a dye color, observing the alchemy that takes place in an indigo vat or the way a cloth turns from green to blue when in contact with oxygen! Those are the things I enjoy the most.

“Alchemy is a rainbow which bridges the gulf between the earthly and the heavenly realms,between matter and spirit. Like the rainbow, it seems close enough to grasp, but it will retreat if you pursue it solely so that you may find a pot of gold…”                       – Stanislas Klossowski de Rola –

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Oxygenating indigo leaves to make the pigment

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Organic Indigo vat (banana)

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Eco-dye

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cochineal: different colors, different mordants

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Silk scarve dyed with: weld+indigo+myrobolan/iron stamp

A Dream Come True!

But let me tell you a little bit more about myself and how I ended up doing this…

I’m originally from Mexico City, where I studied fashion design, and then I continued a Master’s degree in Lyon, France. I was studying in Lyon for a year and a half, and then instead of doing an internship in a Fashion Brand in Paris, I decided to go south.I went to a very small, charming town called Lauris, located between Avignon and Aix-en- Provence.

I stayed there for almost 6 months! Learning about Natural Dyes at a Natural Dye Organization called Couleur Garance

Being there was a dream come true!!

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Castle and gardens situated in Lauris

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Sunflowers

I learned a lot about natural dyes, and I had the chance to meet and learn from Michel García, a natural dye expert, recognized worldwide.

Michel Garcia has released 3 DVD’s, you can find them at Natural Dye workshop. The newest one is “Colors of Provence”.

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Lauris association and boutique

I was supposed to do a fashion internship! But it was amazing how I ended up involved with chemistry and botanic. I was in contact with the dye plants in the botanical garden, and I could really see the process that goes from the plant to the color in the cloth. That was very important for me, because it made me realize that sometimes we don’t know where things come from, or how they are made.

Living and growing in the city keeps us away from the essence of things.

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Lauris, France

There are some interesting videos , one is called “La route du Pastel” and the other  Michel Garcia talking about the gardens in Lauris  (these two videos are in French but well worth watching!).

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My view of Lauris, France

The Natural Dye Project

A year later, I met Catharine Ellis and Annalisa Jensen, back in the Natural Dye Symposium in Lauris. They told me about a Natural Dye Project in Guatemala, and that they needed someone who could speak Spanish and work with the women involved, to help get consistant natural dye colors dyebath after dyebath so that these yarns could be sold to weavers in the United States.

I was very interested in it, and after talking to Catharine only about five minutes. I ended up joining them in Guatemala last March 2014. It’s amazing how we meet people, and how the universe sends us opportunities where we couldn’t ever imagine they would be!

More to come!

Coming next….My initial visit to Guatemala and what I learned.

Please be sure to register to receive my blogs so you won’t miss out on any of my new adventures in Guatemala with The Natural Dye Project.

Rocío Mena

 

June 13th, 2014

Versión en español

 Arrival in Guatemala!

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Guatemala’s view form the plane

So I ended up going to Guatemala last March to work for a few days with the women of San Rafael and help them with the Natural Dye Project.

Deborah Chandler received Donna Brown, Diane de Souza and me in Guatemala City. I had never met them! I arrived to Guatemala, just trusting and excited to meet new people. interested in the same things I am interested in!  Naturally dyeing and community support.

 

San Rafael

Deborah took us to San Rafael, a small settlement four hours away from the capital! We spent four days with the women. Our main goal was to try  to figure out why they weren’t achieving the bright, vibrant natural dye colors they should, on the cotton yarns they were using.

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On our way from Rabinal to San Rafael

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Elvira’s house, where we did the dying last march

The Natural Dyes Project

It’s important to mention that this Natural Dye Project started a year ago, when Donna Brown and Catharine Ellis traveled as volunteers to Guatemala in order to teach these women the process of natural dyeing so that they could support their income as weavers. They sell their handwoven products to Mayan Hands, at a fair market price. Deborah Chandler, who lives in Guatemala City and is very involved with the Mayan Hands organization, made this possible.

Mayan Hands is a fair trade organization founded in 1989. They work with over 150 women in eight Guatemalan communities.

Brenda Rosenbaum, a Guatemalan/American woman is in charge of it. They will help these women sell cotton yarn kits in the USA. More about that interesting project in a later blog, so stay tuned as I report from the field.

Catharine and Donna taught the women in San Rafael how to dye with natural dyes last year. The idea is to sell cotton yarn to increase their income. Which is less than one dollar per day.

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Dying yarn

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San Rafael, Guatemala. Small settlement 15 min away from Rabinal

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yarn dyed with cochineal

Troubleshooting!

We went to Guatemala this year, because they were having trouble;  the colors were very pale. After having a lot of theories about why they weren’t getting the right colors, we finally were able to solve the mystery!. The mystery? We discovered that they were using baking soda, instead of soda ash !!! In English we can’t really see how they made that mistake, but in Spanish the words are very similar:  carbonato de sodio (soda ash)/ bicarbonato de sodio (baking soda)

So that was the main problem! They weren’t mordanting with the proper product!

Those days were a success, we got the beautiful natural dye colors and then I could see that the women were now very interested in the project!

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yarn dyed last march: cochineal,indigo,osage orange,pomegranate, madder, pomegranate/osage orange+indigo for greens.

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Dying yarn with cochineal

I can communicate with them in Spanish (even if their first language is Achí, a Mayan dialect) And that’s how I ended up with this Natural Dye Project (Tintes Naturales)

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All together at the end of the workshop!

If you want to hear more about this first trip to Guatemala, you can visit the Dyeing2weave blog written by  Diane DeSouza. You’ll find amazing photos and stories!

My trip to the United States

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Blue Ridge Mountains, North Carolina

It’s also important to mention that last month, I went to the WARP (Weave A Real Peace) conference in St. Louis, Missouri. I then spent almost three weeks with Catharine Ellis. She invited me to her beautiful home in Asheville, N.C. We spent that time testing natural dye formulas and learning more about natural dyes so that I could be ready to pass this information onto the women in San Rafael!

 

She taught me a lot!! And it was an amazing experience!! Catharine was great and I enjoyed meeting a lot of interesting people!

Preparing myself.. the last preparations!

So here I am for now, in Mexico City, my hometown, preparing for my journey. I’ll be in Guatemala next week. Sharing my experiences and adventures with you!

So don’t forget to register to receive notice of whenever I post a blog, so you too can be part of  my adventure!

I’m sure I will be learning a lot from these women and from this experience, and I hope I will be able to help them too.

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Sunset in San Rafael

Until next time, Adios!

 

June 19th, 2014

Versión en español

Arrival to Guatemala

“This is going to be much more of an adventure than you thought it would be….”

It was the first thing Deborah told me when she picked me at the airport last Sunday morning.

The reason? Actually, I didn’t have a place to stay for my next two months in San Rafael. Normally, I was supposed to be staying in an empty house next to Elvira’s. It was her uncle’s house.

But for some reason I couldn’t stay there anymore.

I was shocked!  So we were just hoping for the best, hoping we would be able to find something when we arrive.

I stayed in Guatemala City for two days, meeting people, learning how to wind balls, how to measure them, and other interesting things in the “Mayan Hands” office.  It was great!

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View from Deborah’s house

On the road!

On Tuesday morning, Deborah and I left Guatemala City. It was an entertaining 4 hours drive.

I was just so impressed by how the landscape changed compared to last time I was here. The rainy season has arrived, so now everything is just like so GREEN! Breathtaking!

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Rabinal from the distance

Miracles

I was a little bit nervous… I really had no clue of how I would be spending my time and where I would be living the next couple of months. We had some clues of people who could be able to help us find a place for me to stay. So when we arrived to Rabinal we started looking.

But imagine our surprise when we found out that the women from San Rafael already had the answer! Gilberta told us that the women, the five of them, would be taking turns to host me, which means I will be staying a week or more with each one of them, at their home.

I’m just very excited! I’m going to be able to really meet the women, and see how they live. I can’t think of a better way to spend these two months!

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San Rafael, Guatemala

 Dance and color!

There’s a festival going on right now in Rabinal, so we had the chance to see a lot of traditional dances, kids performing with traditional costumes and masks, a Mayan ceremony, a parade, and of course we drank the traditional beverage called “chilate” (made out of corn and chocolate)

Colors are everywhere! And it’s just amazing to see the mix between the Mayan traditions and the catholic ones.

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Rabinal

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Kids wearing traditional costumes

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Mayan ceremony

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Women selling “chilate” (traditional beverage)

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Parade

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parade

At the end of the ceremony, the queen of the festival said some words in Achí ( a Mayan dialect) and in Spanish. With reverence,she said:                                                                                                                                                                           “Corazón del cielo, Corazón de la tierra” (Heart of heaven, heart of earth)

What a wonderful phrase I think!

I can’t find a better phrase to start my journey with.

Coming next!

Tomorrow I will be going to Fulgencia’s house. She will be the first one to receive me. I can’t wait to get there and tell you more about my adventures…

Don’t miss the next post next week.                                                                                                                                                                  Until next time!

 

June 26th, 2014

Versión en español

Women carrying baskets on their heads while crossing the mountains and the river. Gorgeous shining stones, lightning bugs and green mountains… This is how my life looks like this days!

A whole different world from the one I’m used to.

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View from the mountains

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Fulgencia weaving on her backstrap loom

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the view from Fulgencia’s house

Fulgencia’s house

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Fulgencia

I’ve been living at Fulgencia’s for the last few days and it has been a great experience for me. Life begins at 5:00 a.m., when the women go to the “Molino”, to grind “maíz” (corn). Then they start preparing “tortillas”,.  They call this procedure: “tortear”. Twice a day, every day this is their life.

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Tortillas on the wood stove

 

 

Actually they tried to teach me how to “tortear”. But apparentely I’m not very good at it! I hope I’ll get better with practice. It was amazing for me to see this, cause even though I’m mexican, I’m from the city , and I wasn’t familiar with this process.

 

 

 

 

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Fulgencia preparing the tortillas

The first day

Let me tell you the story of how we carried things from Elvira’s to Fulgencia’s house. I thought we would have to ask for a pick up or something, because we are talking about 5 women and pounds and pounds of yarn, plus extra materials.  But instead they decided to do it their way! Carrying the yarn and stuff on baskets on their heads. I was so impressed!

We walked for half an hour like that, crossing through the mountains and  across a river. I was having trouble doing that without any baskets on my head! Imagine them!

They look gorgeous wearing their “cortes” (traditional skirts) and the baskets on their heads, walking in the most gracious way.I understood that the clothes they use fit perfectly in their everyday lives.  Somehow crossing  the many rivers is easier when you are wearing a “corte”.

This is the only picture I have for now:

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Elvira and Gilberta carrying supplies on their heads

Languages

They are always speaking in “Achí” (Mayan dialect), and that has been challenging for me, because most of the time I don’t undestand anything they are saying!

It’s easier for me to communicate with children and men, I guess because they speak spanish all the time when they go to school or to work. And I think the women are not used to speaking spanish, since when they are together as a group, they don’t need to.    That just surprises me , I wouldn’t have thought it would be like that!

I know that in other houses they only speak spanish, but we’ll discover that later.  For now my whole world is in “Achi”.

 

The family

Let me tell you about Fulgencia’s family. They are very kind and loving people, and I’ve been able to see how close they are as a family.

Fulgencia and her husband have three children: two boys (14 and 18), and a girl (16).

Her  husband works in Guatemala City, which is hours away, so he only comes home on weekends. The entire family is always involved with whatever a family member is doing.  The other day,  we were winding  yarn to be dyed and the oldest boy was very excited to be helping us.

Her husband also helped us all weekend long, giving us his ideas on how to solve various problems that arose. It is so encouraging to see the whole family involved in every aspect of each other’s lives.

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Fulgencia’s daughter preparing “tamales”

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Fulgencia’s son helping with the yarn

Sons of Corn

It’s amazing to see how their life is! So far away from technology and so close to nature. To the essence of things! They know the process of everything they eat and do.

And this week I could really appreciate this by following the process of corn!      After all, mayas call themselves “Los hijos del maíz” (the Sons of Corn)

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Maíz (corn)

 

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View from the top

Coming next week

We’ll start dyeing at Elvira’s house next week, and then I’ll be probably moving to Bertha’s house.        Don’t miss out on my new stories!

 

 

July 3,  2014

versión en español

At Home With Fulgencia & Her Family

Fulgencia and her family

Fulgencia and her family

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Fulgencia’s mother wearing traditional skirt and “Cinta”

My days at Fulgencia’s house are gone….twelve days have already passed!
Time passes very quickly and there are just so many experiences to tell.

Fulgencia's house

fulgencia’s house

Simple things like bathing on the river, walking on the mountains, or picking shiny stones on the road are part of my everyday life.

shiny stones from the river

shiniy stones from the river

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women carrying baskets on their heads

Memorial

Last week I attended to a memorial, they were celebrating a year of someone’s death. It was a very interesting and overwhelming experience.

A mix between the catholic religion and the Mayan traditions.

The celebration was taking place in someone’s house, they women spent all morning preparing “tamales” (traditional food made of corn and pork) and “tortillas”.

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women making tortillas

At noon, the ceremony started, there was an old man in charge of it.

when the ceremony started

when the ceremony started

It was just amazing to see them praying in achí (a Mayan dialect) with candles on their hands, in a very devoted way!

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alter with candles and flowers dor the deceased

We were there all day long, with prayers each three hours.

People kept coming with flowers for the death man, and they all went away with “tamales” (that’s the tradition).

praying outside

praying outside

The most overwhelming experience happened that night, when they were praying in the dark with candles on their hands. And at the same time there was a sick woman on the other room, so some of them were praying while the other ones were all worried looking for plants and alcohol to heal her.

people praying

people praying

It was just too much for me!

The next day Fulgencia told me the woman almost died, but at the end she got better.

My next blog will get us all back to work and dyeing, what I feel most comfortable doing! This certainly was an interesting cultural experience like I’ve never had before.

See you soon!

Wilaa Wiim   (good bye in achí)

 

 

July 10, 2014

versión en español

Dyeing yarn

Watching the depot

Watching the pot

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osage orange

Last week we started dyeing. We walked between 35 to 40 minutes to get to Elvira’s house, we took the regular road, crossing the river and walking in the middle of nature. The women carrying all sort of different things on their heads, from packages to plants.

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On our way back to Fulgencia´s house

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On our way back to Fulgencia’s house

The dyeing was great! We dyed 25 pounds of yarn using indigo, osage orange, cochineal and madder.

Keeping their eye on it all the time

Keeping their eye on it all the time

It was a new experience for me, being in charge and making so many decisions.

I wasn’t used to it! But I’ve learned a lot and I hope to get better!

So many things to plan ahead!

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Indigo vat

Cochineal coming out of the depot.

Cochineal coming out of the depot.

The first day we forgot the balance at Fulgencia’s house. And that was very problematic, because we are doing everything by foot.

We also had an issue with soap. We were using a neutral soap, and that’s not easy to find here.

When we arrived at Elvira’s we found out they had run out of soap, so we tried to buy more, but for some reason we couldn’t find more of the same neutral soap.

Elvira lives in San Rafael, so we were far away from Rabinal (the biggest town nearby.

Yarn dyed with cochineal, indigo and osage orange. What a beautiful rainbow of color!

Well, that’s how our first day dyeing started! But thankfully at the end everything turned out to be ok.

I really want to thank Diane, Donna and Catharine for answering my questions, and specially to Deborah for helping me and making this communication possible.

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cochineal

Moving to Bertha’s

On Monday I moved to Bertha’s, I started my day by taking a bath on the river and weaving on the back stripe loom. (I started my back strap weaving lessons with Fulgencia).

Abelina and Bertha carrying my luggage and stuff

Abelina and Bertha carrying my luggage and stuff

Abelina and Bertha carrying my luggage and stuff

In the afternoon, Bertha and Abelina arrived and we moved everything to Bertha’s.

At his point I thought I couldn’t be more impressed. But seeing Abelina and Bertha carrying my things on their heads was really impressive.

Two cultures meet: Abelina carrying my luggage

Two cultures meet: Abelina carrying my luggage

Abelina carried my 18kg luggage on her head, while Bertha was carrying my bed on her head too. They crossed the river like that!

Crossing the river of beautiful stones

Crossing the river of beautiful stones carrying my luggage on their heads

 

I really insisted on renting a pick up. But they refuse.

They just kept saying:  “it’s not heavy! It’s nearby!

Coming next…

 My new experience at Bertha’s house, right now I’m still getting use to it.

A new family, and new stories!

We will be doing the next step… counting and winding yarn!

See you soon!

Wilaa Wiib’   (good bye in achí)

 

 

July 13th,2014

Versión en español

Threads of life

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Preparing the yarn for weaving!

This week has been all about threads…about winding balls, counting yarn and weaving on the back strap loom.

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preparing the loom…

I’ve been thinking that winding a thread is just like life.

We continue turning and turning on the wheel of life just like we do on a winder, until we find a knot or a problem on our way, and that’s when we just stop.  Suddenly, we don’t know what to do and we start making the knot or the problem bigger and bigger. Instead of just trying to undo the knot, simply by loosening the threads.

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threads

When I was learning to wind yarn on the wheel, they told me it was very important to never tightening the threads. Sometimes it seems like there’s no way to continue and we get stuck. But we just need to find other way by loosening the threads.     Flowing! Like the river! Like in life…

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Preparing the yarn for weaving

This is one of the many things I’ve learned here! We should keep living! Flowing without making knots.

I’ve been observing how they weave on the back stripe loom; they received some new orders so they ‘ve been weaving and weaving beautiful scarves.  I really like the back strap loom, actually I ‘ve just finished my first piece.

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I’ve just finished my first piece on the back strap loom

Maiz, mazorcas y más (Corn)

I spent this last week at Berta’s house. Living in this house was a different experience, they speak Spanish almost all the time, so it was easier to communicate. The past few days had been about learning and discovering how things are done here.

I learned how they prepare atol (traditional beverage made with corn) and how they prepare some other traditional dishes, like boshbol ( leaves full of corn).

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Boshbol (leaves full with corn)

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Preparing dinner

 

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straining “atol”

I also got to see “the Molino” where they go every morning to grind corn for making “tortillas”.

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“Molino”- grinding corn…

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“Molino” seen from the outside

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Corn ready to make “tortillas”

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I found out that a regular family buys approximately 100 pounds of corn each 10 days. It’s amazing how their whole life turns around corn. Everyday I get more and more evidence on how their whole alimentation is based on corn.

Almost all of them have cornfields, and they eat from their own crop  or 9 or 10 months depending on the season, and then they have to buy the rest on the market.

Berta was saying the other say:

“We prefer to eat the corn that comes from our own field, because somehow it tastes better and we get more out of it. When we eat from the land we have worked, it has more uk’ux (heart).

It’s the heart of earth!  ” uk’ux ulew”      The holy mother earth!

Right now they are worried because it hasn’t been raining, Rain is very important in this season because it’s the harvest time, so if it doesn’t rain soon, all the harvest will be gone and the prices will increase a lot next year.

Coming next…

I’m moving to Abelina’s house this weekend. She is Berta’s sister so I’ll be just next-door.

Days pass so quickly! I can’t believe my days with Berta are over, but I have met wonderful people and I leave with my heart full of great memories!

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Berta’s family and me

 

 

 

July 23th, 2014

versión en español

Dying & Dyeing

Last week started with a funeral, a woman from San Rafael had died.

When somebody dies here, all town attends to the funeral and the different ceremonies.

The first night we went to the “velorio”, which takes place in the house. We prayed the rosary and we made company to the family while eating bread and drinking coffee.

It was kind of an adventure to get there, because we had to walk though the mountains in the middle of the night to get to the house, just with a flashlight to see our way.

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The funeral, people carrying the body

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The funeral.. on our way to Rabinal

The next day we attended to the funeral. It started at noon, when the family members gave “pinol” (traditional food) to hundreds of people in their home.

Then we walked from their house in San Rafael down to the cementery in Rabinal (2 hours walk). The volunteers (all of them men) were carrying the body in the front, and we all walked behind them while a band was playing.

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The funeral.. on our way to Rabinal

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The cementery , and “the ancianitos” praying!

It was a very interesting experience! The “ancianitos” (old wise men) were in the front, saying a lot of prayers in “achi”, and making reverences to the four cardinal points. They did that like 4 or 5 times on our way.

 Dying

The next day after the funeral, we started dyeing yarn!   We started by scouring and mordanting the yarn, but also by  making a lot of tests!

A few days before I did something crazy, I decided to buy 400 avocado pits from a guy in the market.  Actually we are trying to replace the tannic acid with avocado pits for the mordant part. The tannic acid is the most expensive product, so that would be perfect.  I think women can get this pits for free on the avocado season and let them dry.

We started by slicing them, and then they had the idea to grind them on a cheese grinder and it worked perfectly.

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Slicing avocado pits

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Avocado pits

We also made some tests on rayon and organic cotton.

Indigo crisis

We dyed with cochineal, osage orange, madder and indigo.   All the other colors were a success! But we were really having troble with indigo. This time we made an organic vat made with banana juice (last time we tried with mangos and it worked well).

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Abelina peeling the bananas for the indigo vat

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Banana juice

We made two indigo vats, but we were having trouble to achieve the same shades of blue. With the first pound we got beautiful dark blues but then it was difficult to get even colors.

We let the vat rest, we added more sugar (hot banana juice) and more lime. And when we got back like 4 hours later, the vat was even worst!

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Women using leaves to carry hot pots from one place to another

The indigo wasn’t reduced!

At first I was desperate! But after trying a lot of different things, I just decided we should try a new one.

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Indigo reflections!

At the end we were even making jokes about how the indigo was sick and had died!

So, I don’t know what happened to that vat, it just made me realize that dying with Indigo, specially with an organic vat, is really a challenge.

The women are a little bit worried about Indigo, they don’t really understand it. But I will try to change that! It’s just a matter of practice!

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Indigo vat

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dyed yarn

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dyed yarn


Good bye Abelina

I’moving to Elvira’s today. So I’ll say goodbye to this wonderful family, Abelina’s family is wonderful. She has three daughters (Leily,Mishel and Karen) and one son (Edwin).

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Abelina’s family and me (wearing corte)

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Abelina and her daughter Leily

Mishel is 8, and we got along really well! She’s very nice and cute!

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Mishel (Abelina’s 8 year daughter)

I won’t be on this side of the mountains anymore. I’ll miss that!

It’s very far away from town, but full with nature and amazing landscapes.

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View on our way to Abelina’s home

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View on our way to Abelina’s house

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Abelina’s house

To go anywhere we need to walk like 30-35 minutes through the mountains.

Don’t miss my new adventures at Elvira’s… and more dyeing is coming!

Wilaa wiib’ (good bye in achí)

Rocío

 

.July 30th, 2014

versión en español

The four cardinal points

For mayas, the four cardinal points are sacred! They refer to them, and they bless them in a lot of ceremonies!

To me they represent their love to mother earth and nature.

This week, I changed my direction too, I’m staying on the other side of the mountains and closer to town. at Elvira’s house, the place where we have been dyeing since the beginning.

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Elvira’s corn field

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Corn field

Last Thursday we started our day by watching the MAIWA Documentary “Blue Alchemy, Stories of Indigo”. It’s a great film, and it shows stories from all different parts of the world.

I made the translation for them, and they were really touched by the part filmed in Mexico, where they could see an indigenous community dying with Indigo. The women of this community in Mexico make a cross before dying with indigo, just like a blessing, over the pot.

They really liked that, because to them the cross represents the four cardinal points. So now each time we start an indigo vat, we make a cross and we bless the cardinal points.

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Indigo vat

By watching this movie they could really understand where Indigo comes from and how people from other cultures and other parts of the world dye.

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Women reading the books

They are very interested in Natural Dyes, I’ve showed them some books and they really want to learn more about them.

They are even asking for some seeds to plant!

 

Everyday life

After watching the movie, we started dyieing. And we didn’t stop! Not even on Saturday or Sunday!

We dyed aproximately 70 pounds of yarn!

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Dyed yarn

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Cochineal, osage orange and madder

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Yarn at Elvira’s house

We had some problems…

I decided to grind the dried avocados pits on the coffee machine, but it didn’t work out! And I broke it!

Fortunately, I found out that in the same place they grind corn everyday, they have a coffee grinder. So we went there and they grind it for us! Problema solved!

But we did have to grind the cochineal by hand…

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Abelina and Fulgencia grinding the cochineal (red cochineal hands)

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 It’s really amazing how hard they work and how they do everything with a smile on their mouths!  Always laughing and making jokes!   That’s really something to learn from them.

They never stop, when they are not dyeing, winding balls or weaving, they are taking care of their animals (cows,ducks,hens,pigs), or working on their fields. Plus the normal housework because they all have kids and they need to take care of them.

Good quality is very important to them! and they pay a lot of attention to that.

They told me the other day: “Quality is very important because we want our clients to be happy with the product. If it’s not good enough, we need to find a solution and get better”

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Women packing the kits


Their persistence is incredible!

 Coming next…

We’ll keep up winding balls and making packages !

The kits are already out there! And they are selling like crazy!

Friendship Towel photo from HW

Example of the towels you can make with this kits

You can find them  by clicking here  or in this address:

http://www.cottonclouds.com/shopping/kit_info.asp?id=3074&cat=Weaving&panelID=2

Don’t miss my next days here! I will be moving to Gilberta’s and lots of new adventures.

Wilaa wiib’ (good bye in achi)

Rocío

 

August 7th, 2014

versión en español

Hearts working together!

This last week was crazy!

We have been dyeing , winding and packing to get more kits ready.

We were expecting the Handwoven magazine article until september, but for some reason we don’t understand, the article came out earlier.

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Women winding balls at Elvira’s house

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Some of the packages ready to go!

So that’s why we only had some kits ready. But we have been working a lot to send more kits as soon as possible!  We finished 117 kits yersterday! Now we just need to wait for them to arrive to the U.S.!!!!

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Abelina carrying the yarn and boxes form one place to another.

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Kits ready to go! Women smiling, the work is finished!

 

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Women packing the kits

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Elvira and Berta packing kits

 The Friendship towel kits

This project started like 5 years ago, and since then,  a lot of volunteers have been working to make this possible.

Catharine Ellis and Donna Brown came down here last year to teach the women more about Natural Dyes, and then last march Donna Brown came back for a week with Diane de Souza and me.

The towels were designed by Sarah H. Jackson.

Irene Schmoller from Cotton Clouds is helping to sell the kits without any profits at all.

There’s also all the Mayan Hands team in the U.S (Anne Kelly), in Guatemala city (Julio Cardona), and Brenda Rosenbaum, the founder of Mayan Hands.

And of course Deborah Chandler, this couldn’t have been posible without her.

All this people working together to make this Project succeed!

Featured in Sept/Oct 2014 Handwoven

Featured in Sept/Oct 2014 Handwoven

The kit includes 11 balls dyed with different Natural Dyed colors: Dark cochineal, light cochineal, osage orange, natural, madder, light indigo, dark indigo and osage orange+indigo (green).

It also includes the instructions on how to weave 4 beautiful towels.

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Kits ready to go!

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Kit seen from the back, you can appreciate all the different colors!

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Friendship towel kit

TO READ MORE ABOUT THIS KITS  click here.

TO ORDER FRIENDSHIP TOWEL KITS  click here.

But of course we couldn’t be talking about this Project and the Friendship towels without this 5 incredible women: Fulgencia, Berta, Abelina, Elvira and Gilberta.

They had faith in this Project since the beginning, and they have continued working hard, even if they didn’t have any profit on the beginnning.

This last week we discovered I should have been spending 13 days instead of 12 on each women’s house. So I returned one more day with each one of the women.

Just like a perfect review for you to meet them:

Fulgencia

IMG_4295She’s the mother of three children: Chente (18), Glenda (16) and the youngest one (13).

They all go to school but the boys need to work some days by night, making bread. Glenda has   a Mayan Hands scholarship. Her husband works in Guatemala city, and he only comes home every two weekends.

They have a beautiful house on the other side of the river. It’s called Chisaliá.

I could describe Fulgencia as a joyful woman! She is very responsable, she always arrives on time and she really pays attention to the details. His husband is very good at fixing things, so they also fix bicycles and different things.

The children are always helping their mother. They all like winding balls! Glenda has learned how to weave from her mother, it’s amazing to see how the knowledge passes form one generation to another. Between them, they only speak in “achi” (mayan dialect), but they spoke to me in Spanish.

Fulencia & Family

Fulencia & Family

Berta

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She’s is a single woman, she decided not to get married, so he lives with their parents ans youngest sisters.

She takes care of her nephew, he’s one year old.

She’s a Little bit clueless ¿?, she’s always running form one place to another doing things.

She is very smart!

It’s easier for me to communicate with her! In this house they speak achí, but also a lot of spanish. She has two younger sisters living in that house. Miriam is 16 and she’s in highschool and Irma must be like 23, she’s studying at the universtiy to become a professor. We really got along well!

They live on the mountains, far away. Togo to town we needed to walk like 30-35 minutes and then take a pick up. That’s the same for Fulgencia and Abelina.  They have hens and chickens to sell, as well as pigs.

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Berta’s family and me

Abelina

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She is Berta’s sister, she lives just next door. She has 4 children. Three girls: Mishel (8 ), Karen (14) , Leyli (19) and one boy: Edwin ( 16).

Leyli has a Mayan Hands scholarship.

I got along very well with those girls, specially Mishel! Abelina’s husband also works in Guatemala city, he spends some time in here and some time in the city.

In this house they only speak in spanish!!

Abelina is very good at math, ans she is kind of the secretary of the group. She is charge of writing everything down on a notebook. (all the dyeing procedures)

 

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Abelina’s family and me

Elvira

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Elvira lives closer to town. To go to town you only need to get a pick up ( you don’t need to walk between the mountains).

She has 2 boys: Misael (12) and the oldest one ( 14).

Her husband left to the U.S eight years algo , but she barely hears from him. She’s alone to do all the tasks, because she doesn’t have any girls, to help her cook or clean.

She wakes up very early in the morning to milk the cow, and then she makes cheese to sell. Her parents leave very close to her, like 10 minutes away.

She’s always running from one place to another feeding the ducks, hens, pigs, etc. We dye at her house, this is the place wher ewe have been dyeing since the beginning!

Gilberta

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I haven’t lived with her yet. Maybe this weekend!

She’s finishing her house!!! She will have a new house to live! Exciting! So we are waiting for her to finish her house, so that I could go spend my last days with her.

She is a very joyful and active woman!

She is the leader of the weavers, she started the Weaving Project like 12 years ago.

She has one daughter! She’s already and adult.

 

 

They are all very honest, kind and responsable women!! and they all want to improve their income, so their children could have a better way of life.

And of course, they all get along very well! They are very good friends.

This was a longer post, but it was worthed, for you to be able to get closer to this women.  Next week I’ll be going to Gilberta’s…

I only have a week and a half left!

 THIS JOURNEY IS ALMOST FINISHED!

Don’t miss my last stories!

Wilaa wiib’

Rocío

August 16th, 2014

Sacred threads, Sacred Lifes

 “Thread is sacred! He knows, and he feels…”

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View form Gilberta’s house

That’s what the women told me, when some of the threads we dyed with cochineal were full of knots, just after we finished washing them.

We were all trying to fix them, and while doing this, they told me:

 “ Threads know…they always know when we are in a hurry or when we are not happy. That is why we need to be in a good mood while working with them.

Right now, the thread is mocking us, because we were desperate to go, and now we are full of knots.

 When we are not happy, is better no to continue weaving or working, because the thread can feel it, and it gets difficult to continue.

 When we are weaving and we are in a hurry, it takes us more time to finish! And when we are weaving without any pressure or bad emotion, everything flows and we finish very quickly.”

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cochineal

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Fulgencia working with threads

All this time, I was very impressed with their ability to untie knots. They do it in such an easy way! Flowing, like dancing with the thread!

Unlike me, sometimes I can  spend  a lot of time trying to untie a knot, without any luck.

Now I understand it! They are like having a conversation with the threads…. And they have a natural skill to work with them!

That’s the way they interact with the world and with nature! Flowing with life…

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Abelina weaving on the backstrap loom

A couple of weeks ago they told me a similar thing about corn.

They say that is better to eat the corn they have planted. Because that way it has more “ uk’ux” , more HEART!

That’s how the old wise mayan men call it.

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Elote (corn)

They say you can feel the connection with corn, because you saw the plant grow and you worked the ground.

It’s like having a connection with all living and non living things! They feel and they listen …and LIFE talks to them in amazing ways.

I eat “Elote” (corn) in Mexico, but I buy it on the stores… This week I ate “ elote” here , they brought it from one of their fields. It was coming fresh right from the field to my hands.

And it’s amazing to tell you… it feels different…!

I would like to think that maybe I felt the corn’s “uk’ux”(heart).

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Elote (corn)

Gilberta’s House

I just moved to Gilberta’s, she has finished her house! Unfortunately I will be staying here only for 6 days! (instead of 13, as I did with the other women).

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Gilberta’s brand new house

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Gilberta

There’s no electricity yet! So we are using candles. It’s a different experience, and I think is ideal to spend my last days here this way… More connected to everything and without any technology.

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Gilberta’s house by night… no electricity!

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candles..candles!

This is my last week here in San Rafael! I can’t believe it.. time passes so quickly!

I’m leaving on Monday.. and it’s sad to think about it.

We have been dyeing this week, in order to make a review, and see if they have any questions!

But I think they are more than ready to continue on their own!

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yarn dyed with cochineal and madder

So don’t miss my last post next week! We’ll be having a goodbye party on Monday!

Deborah and Julio (From Mayan Hands) are coming!

Wiila wiib ‘

Rocío

 

August,19th,2014


The beginning of the end…

This journey is almost finished…

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The river in San Rafael

I left San Rafael yesterday, it was a sad goodbye but I leave with my heart full of joy and great memories !

The women prepare us a great meal! They prepared a soup with turkey in it, and some tamalitos (made of corn).

Deborah, Julo and Damaris were there, and we all celebrated at Gilberta’s house.

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Women cooking

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Deborah, Damaris and Julio

It was a busy day, the women arrived to Gilberta’s at 6 in the morning to start cooking. They were all smiling and making jokes,as they always do!

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preparing “tamalitos”

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women cooking

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Berta and Elvira preparing tamalitos

The women gave me a gift! A beautiful black huipil!

They are so nice, I was very moved…

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Abelina teaching me how to do some weaving techniques

They also help me to set up the warp on my backstrap loom, so I could be able to weave on my home back in Mexico.

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Abelina setting up the warp

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Me, weaving!

At the beginning of the day we were all very happy, Deborah and Julio arrived at 11am, but as the hours passed we started to feel sad. I couldn’t believe I was leaving that day!

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Eating and having a good time at Gilberta’s

But the hours passed quickly and by 3 in the afternoon, we had to go.

We all had tears in our eyes… it was a very moving goodbye!

But I know it’s not a goodbye.. it’s just a see you later!

 

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Mishel, Karen and me

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The women and me (and the Handwoven magazine)

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The women and me… the goodbye!!

I’m in Guatemala City right now… feeling kind of strange!

I spent 2 months living with these women and I got used to everything. Things like making tortillas, seeing women carrying stuff on their heads, or walking on the mountains became normal to me.

It’s amazing how we get used to things!

And here I am.. back to the city, and normal things like taking a shower with hot water seem amazing to me!

It was a great experience! One I will never forget.

Our paths cross for a few months, weeks, days, hours…. Seconds! But I will carry these women and their families in my heart for life.

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Berta, Elvira, Fulgencia, Abelina and Gilberta (from left to right)

I learned great lessons and meeting these women with great souls, so connected to nature, will make me a different person.

And I hope you will carry  a little bit of these women in your heart too…

This week Deborah will take me to visit some other places in Guatemala, and I’ll be finally going back to my place in Mexico City on Saturday.

So I say “wiila wiib” (goodbye) to you for now….

This is the END of this adventure… but I’m sure the BEGINNING of more!

 “We travel, some of us forever, to seek other states, other lives, other souls.” – Anais Nim-

Wiila wiib’

Rocío Mena

 

 

Sharing stories and dreams  

  May 18th,2015

It’s been a long time since I last wrote…

Since I left Guatemala….Oooh those wonderful days!!!

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I came back to my home in Mexico City and I continued with my different natural dye projects, always inspired by my Mayan friends.

But magic always appears in my life in such wonderful ways. I’ve always thought that everything happens for a reason, and that the people we meet, and the things we do are no coincidence. Life works in mysterious ways.

All the wonderful women I met in the “Tintes Naturales Project” (the Guatemalan and the American) have made a difference in my life, and I will always carry them in my heart.

Helped by my American friends, I will be travelling to the U.S. in a few days.

I will be talking at this years WARP (Weave a Real peace) meeting in San Francisco. I will have the opportunity to share my experience during my days in Guatemala and to talk about the Importance of textiles in this country.

I will be giving cochineal workshops as well. Irene Schmoller and Robin Lynde organized a cochineal workshop at the Meridian Jacobs Farm in Vacaville, California.  Donna Brown organized another in the Denver area at Recycled Lamb, Golden, Colorado.

Cochineal Dye Workshop Meridian Jacobs2

I’ll be teaching a Cochineal Workshop in California and Colorado 

Plus a slide show presentation of my experiences with the women of San Rafael, Guatemala.

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In the Bay Area?  Come hear my presentation on

“The Importance of Textiles to Grassroot Economies in Guatemala”

I trust this will help the women from Guatemala sell more kits!

This Project has helped them to earn a fair wage for the first time.  At the end of 2014 they have earned twice the money (in just 3 months) that they normally do just by weaving the whole year.

They are now selling 3 different types of Friendship Towel kits for both rigid heddle and 4-shaft looms! Now you can even weave vestsjackets and baby blankets!! Cotton Clouds will have these kits at the WARP Annual Meeting May 29-31, 2015.  Also available online at Cotton Clouds.

vest

Friendship Vest by Lois Weaver

jacket

Friendship jacket by Lois Weaver

baby blanket

Friendship Baby Blanket by Robin Lynde

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So I hope to see some of you there!

May our paths cross one day, so we can share stories and be part of the same dream for a moment… a fragment of time in this awkward and wonderful world.

Rocio Mena

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2 thoughts on “Rocio’s Blog (English)

  1. Rocio, enjoyed readi g about your adventures. Know that Donna and Diane have been your lifeline as they are so knowledgeable. Fabulous that you are there to help the weavers and dyers.
    Ediwna

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