Oaxaca Tales: The Textile Museum, Weaving with Duck Down and other textile tales


More textile discoveries at the 10th International Shibori Symposium in Oaxaca, Mexico. Several exhibitions of historical and indigenous textiles were featured at the Museo Textil de Oaxaca, with spillover exhibition areas in the San Pablo Cultural Center.

Perhaps the most intriguing exhibit centered around a mystery textile discovered by at a flea market in the 1980s. Entitled The Plumed Weavings, its centerpiece is, quoting the Textile Museum signage,  “the ‘tlamachtentli de Madeline’, thus named in honor of Madeline Humm de Mollet, as it was she that discovered it in a Puebla flea market towards the end of the 1980s. The tlamachtentli is only a fragment of what must have been a most extraordinary huipil; notwithstanding, among its threads we were able to discern the technical sophistication and the aesthetics of indigenous art from over 300 years ago. Only five other textiles with similar characteristics as this weaving have been documented; three of them are located in Mexico, one in Rome and another in New York. All six are Mexican… and share a very special peculiarity; each one has different varieties of cotton thread that have been twisted or spun with duck down.

…While it is possible to find the use of feathers in other regions of the world (like the Andes, the Amazon, the islands of the Pacific and even in western USA) all indications are that plumed threads are exclusive to Mesoamerican culture, and in particular, to the cultures that established themselves in what we now know as Mexico.”

The research into these textiles was then shared with current day weavers from Puebla, Guerrero and Oaxaca. The exhibition displays examples of modern-day pieces resurrecting these almost long lost techniques. An excellent set of videos documented the process.


The work of two master weavers were the most impressive to me. They are Roman Gutierrez, from Teotilan des Valle in Oaxaca, and Noe Pinzon and Alexandro de Avila, from Oaxaca. This cape is by one of these artists. Note the duck down yarn in the border elements here and in the opening photo.


The work of two master weavers were the most impressive to me. They are Roman Gutierrez, from Teotilan des Valle in Oaxaca, and Noe Pinzon and Alexandro de Avila, from Oaxaca. This cape is by one of these artists. See detail below.



Interesting to see both sides of this textile.



A textile made of duck quills, amazing.


San Pablo Cultural Center, Oaxaca


After looking at textiles in the Cultural Center, it’s easy to “read” this wall of cactus as yet another textile example.

Additional exhibits focused on the use of resist dye techniques globally. Here are a few favorite pictures. Many other pieces were just as sublime.


A map showing the stunning variety of indigenous traditions within Oaxaca.


The region’s variety in indigenous dress



Beautiful example of indigo-dyed, Meso-American shibori, or resist dyeing. Very finely woven and large.


weft brocade


A perfect example of one of the large-scale ikats from Central Asia, ones that first inspired me to explore resist dyeing.


Above (front) and below (reverse side.) These remarkable cloths were made by Justina Oviedo Rangel, born in 1938, San Mateo. She mastered traditional techniques and forms, then expanded to use the reverse side to create another design- by the use of complex double weave. Ingenious! Difficult!



historic Shibori (resist-dyed textiles) shown in teh Cultural Center, which was restored to retain earlier frescos, shown here.


Wonderful roof-level installation of “Bandhani Flags,” at the Cultural Center in Oaxaca. According to the flyer associated with the exhibit, “in 2003, dosa collaborated with artisans in Kutch and the National Institute of Design in Ahmedebad to employ women who were displaced by the 2001 earthquake, utilizing their traditional techniques”


  1. bronwen May 20, 2017 at 7:48 am #

    Thank you for this wonderful posting! Your photos are exquisite and capture a sense of pause and awe that I may have missed in my visit to Oaxaca. I googled your name from a caption in Elin Noble’s book on Dyes and arrived at your page and your blog. How delightful! I too attended the International Shibori Conference but missed many things you have so expertly captured. Thank you. I gives me a return visit beyond my own photos and journal.

  2. Astrid Bennett July 22, 2017 at 10:03 pm #

    Thank you, Bronwen, for your comments! Oaxaca was a wonderful interlude and still continues to radiate.

Post a Comment

Your email is never published nor shared. Required fields are marked *