FOFA's Recent Folk Art Competition: Showing the Strength of My People
One Artist's Story: Meet Josefina Lazo Gutierrez
In August, 11 FOFA volunteers from New York and California worked in Oaxaca with the staff of the Museo Estatal de Arte Popular de Oaxaca (MEAPO, State Museum for Oaxacan folk Art) to organize FOFA's 5th young artist folk art competition, "Showing the Strength of My People." Aimed at providing recognition to folk artists ages 30 and under, FOFA volunteers and MEAPO staff registered and interviewed the 132 artesanos who submitted their original (and remarkable) pieces for judging. Once the judges' results were in, we traveled to more than 45 destinations to interview the winners and honorable mentions. Nearly two-thirds of the participants (78 out of 132) were first time contestants, and about one-third (45) were age 16 and under. It was a special honor to be so warmly received by the artists and their families, and to see firsthand the home workshops where they work. Here is the story of one new FOFA artist.
Josefina Lazo Gutierrez (Honorable Mention, Textiles)
woven by Josefina Lazo Gutierrez
When Josefina delivered the beautiful red and indigo wool
(shoulder poncho) woven in a child's size to the museum in August, she explained that this was her first time competing because she had been too busy raising her three young daughters.
Age 30, Josefina knew this was her last chance to qualify as a "young artist" in one of FOFA's contests. Encouraged and assisted by her husband, Juan Carlos, who specializes in natural dying of wool, Josefina chose to create an article of clothing of great historic significance in her Zapotec culture: a hand-woven, hand-tied queshquémitl, traditionally worn with a skirt. As with the better-known embroidered huipil blouses, over the centuries each indigenous pueblo developed its own queshquémitl style - embroidered, woven, tied - as part of its identity. Few indigenous women in Mexico dress this way today, and in many towns no one knows how to make a queshquémitl any longer.
Josefina grew up in a weaving family, but until she met Juan Carlos, she dedicated herself to dried flower art. Juan Carlos grew up in Mexico City, with Oaxacan parents. He decided to return to his roots in Teotitlan del Valle.
Josefina, Juan Carlos and their three daughters
Josefina and her husband are also helping to keep alive traditional dying techniques. Not having learned dyeing as a child, Juan Carlos enrolled in a course at the Centro de Arte Textile Bii Daüü, a small organization in Teotitlan dedicated to preserving the region's weaving practices. There he learned how to make dyes from the cochineal insect, the wild indigo plant, Mexican tarragon, pomegranate, walnut and the (untranslatable) marush plant.
Cochineal insects on the nopal (left); Natural dyes yield brilliant colors (right)
Josefina and Juan Carlos made an intentional decision to live on the outskirts of town, close to nature, where they both weave,
prepare all their own dyes from plants that they cultivate and harvest on their own land, and raise their three daughters. They welcome visitors and happily share their enthusiasm about their work.
On the outskirts of Teotitlán del Valle
Josefina wants her daughters to
live rooted in their community and culture. "Winning isn't the most important thing," she said, "I want my daughters to see what a woman can do and what a woman can be."
FOFA Holiday Folk Art Sale and Mezcal Tasting
FOFA's annual holiday folk art sale and fundraiser is Friday, November 9, 6:00-9:00 pm, in Park Slope, Brooklyn. Mexican food, mezcal, meet visiting folk artists, be the first to shop. The sale continues on Saturday November 10, 11:00 am - 4:00 pm. Details and tickets,