We had another wonderful chance to meet with Pastora in Teotitlán del Valle, Mexico to talk more about our upcoming collection! Teotitlán del Valle is a lovely little village well known for their textiles with centuries of weaving history and we love coming here whenever we can. The village is roughly 45 mintues away from Oaxaca city in the foothills of the Sierra Juárez mountains but this town is still a very small and rural traditional village. There are no traffic lights, no stop signs, and most roads are made of cobblestone. The indigenous community does not contain modern technology and many of the people still wear traditional garment and speak the Zapotec native language.
A little background on Vida Nueva: Pastora, the eldest of five sisters, leads the weaving cooperative, Vida Nueva, consisting of Zapotec women. Historically, only men were allowed to weave, but in the last 60 years women have been able to be a part of this tradition. It was difficult for women to gain respect in the weaving culture so Pastora founded this women's weaving group with the mission to create economic opportunity for women, preserve Zapotec heritage, and serve the community. Most of the women are widows, single mothers, or unmarried women that work to support each other.
This time around we also got to meet with more members of the women's cooperative. We spent the day learning about their history, their wool and material, and their weaving techniques. A lot of their patterns have been passed down for many generations. We also were truly honored that Pastora and her mother Sophia helped come up with names for our upcoming collection together. Look out for the piece named after Sophia, the head matriarch of the family! It was an amazing experience to be around such strong women and be immersed in their culture for the day. You can truly feel so much kindness in the community.
Pastora and her cooperative work hard to preserve the natural techniques used by their ancestors. They have dedicated a lot of research and time towards maintaining natural dying techniques using plants and insects from their garden including the cochinillas beetles. Vida Nueva is one of the few remaining cooperatives in Teotitlán del Valle that exclusively uses all natural dyes. Pastora took the time to show us how colors are made from these natural materials. This technique is slowly losing favor with local weavers switching from natural to chemical dyes.
Weavers demonstrated at the looms how they begin to weave the rugs and pillows. The textiles are created using pedal looms with the highest quality of wool. The patterns and designs on their rugs have been passed on for many generations. Each of their weavings are unique in its style and color. Weavers of this cooperative show great pride and passion in their work.
After spending time with some of the other weavers in the community, Pastora invited us back to her home where we sat down and shared a traditional Zapotec meal. It was delicious!! My Spanish is very limited, so it was a lot of fun trying to communicate with each other during dinner. Despite the language barrier, Pastora and her family were beyond welcoming!
Fun Fact: Vida Nueva Cooperative was actually one of our very first artisan partners when August Sage started! The August in August Sage came to be because of this initial visit in August 2017 to Vida Nueva. It was a very significant and meaningful month for us. It was the month we began our first journey. It was the month we decided to take on this adventure full time.
Pastora and the elder weavers of Vida Nueva
Group shot of elder weavers with the pedal looms
Pedal loom demonstration
Naturally dyed yarn. One of the few weaving groups left in Teotilán del Valle that still uses natural plants and insects to create dye. Pastora works hard to preserve this indigenous technique.
Spools of wool yarn ready for their next design
More beautiful naturally dyed spools of wool yarn
Different local plants that are used to create a dye
The home of Pastora and her family
Silvia, Pastora's sister, is getting ready to share a delicious Zapotec meal together
Traditional Zapotec meal