The Mexican Governement has created FONART in 1974 (National Fund for the Development of Arts and Crafts). Although it is dedicated to support and promote traditional artisans work we have to say we didn't find much information about it on travel blogs. However, some artisans in Mexico have an incredible knowledge and know-how and we thought we could relay on our blog the work of some of them whom we have met during our travel.
Around Oaxaca de Juarez there are many villages and communities that have a long history of making traditional arts and crafts: Mitla for the textile, Teotitlan for the carpentry, Coyotepec for the ceramics, Tilcajete for the wood...
We were interested to get to know more about the textile production so we decided to go to Mitla. For centuries the textile production relied on "backstrap loom" inherited from ancient Mesoamerican Culture. In 1940, with the introduction of the pedal loom, production became massive. From then on Mitla became one of the most important textile producing centers in the region of Oaxaca.
Here is the textile corridor promoted by FONART, but there are actually many more tailors in the village. We had the chance to meet with Alejandro Méndez in his ARTELAR's workshop.
Alejandro Méndez is the 4th generation of tailors in the family. The workshop was created by Don Emiliano Méndez, they make mainly scarves and 100% of its production today is going to The Textile Museum of Oaxaca.
His style ranges between the autochthonous, with the traditional figures of Mitla textiles and modern designs. Alejandro gave us as an example a scarf onto which each pattern was related to specific elements such as Corn or Cacao which are essential in the Mexican culture.
One of the workshop's own techniques is “el teñido en partes” (dyeing in parts), a method that involves a great deal of tying work on threads before coloring. All the colors are organic, for example they use cochineal for red colours. In May 2018 Don Emiliano Méndez was awarded the Achievement Award in Popular Art Oaxaca, by the State Museum of Popular Art of Oaxaca.
If you ever passed by Oaxaca de Juarez, we encourage you to go and explore the villages around to discover local arts & crafts. You probably will visit the Textile Museum, but experiencing the workshop is one step further and gives you an opportunity to meet with local people :-)