Last year, during my travels to Oaxaca, I visited an artisan workshop that specializes in making handmade rugs, dog beds, and hats.
Located in Teotitlán del Valle, Huella Carmin is run by an indigenous Zapotec family.
The Vásquez family values preserving ancestral traditions and has been creating their one-of-a-kind craft for five generations.
When I first arrived at the studio, I was greeted by Rey David––one of the designers and artists for Huella Carmin.
He had just arrived from the market and was making preparations for Día de los Muertos.
Within minutes of meeting him, he made us feel en casa (at home), offering us pan de muerto (day of the dead bread) and mezcal.
The mezcal was strong, but smooth and complemented the cooler temperatures and earthy atmosphere of the foothills of the Sierra Juárez mountains.
Decorated with Oaxacan green clay pots filled with cempasúchil flowers (marigolds) and flor de muerto (day of the dead flowers native to the region of Teotitlán del Valle), the smells were distinct, yet also felt familiar.
Rey David lit some incense and I was immediately filled with comforting memories of my grandmother.
The studio felt sacred and spiritual and I was excited to hear what Rey David had to share with us.
During our visit to Huella Carmin, Rey David patiently walked us through what it takes to make one Zapotec rug.
While I knew it was laborious, I was shocked to hear it typically takes a minimum of 150 working hours (or over 18 working days since the artisans dedicate 8 hours a day to the craft) to create one product from start to finish.
Rey David walked us through the entire step-by-step process and we were able to test the techniques for ourselves.
After completing the entire workshop, I’d have to guess it would take me at least one full year before I would be able to finish making my first product.
The process is intense and requires the endurance of an athlete and the patience of a true artist.
If you travel to Oaxaca, I seriously recommend visiting this taller (studio) so you can have a better understanding of this unique Zapotec craft and all it entails.
For now, I’ll share the details with you in this blog post.
The Step-by-Step Process:
1. Shearing Lambs
Huella Carmin specializes in creating products using natural resources.
Their process begins by shearing lambs, but don’t worry their methods do not cause harm to the animals and are sustainable.
After the wool fibers are collected, they are manually combed using special brushes (pictured below).
The wool is then cleaned so that the artisans can prepare it for the spinning wheel.
Afterwards, the artists spin the wool using a technique that involves holding the fibers with their fingers and controlling the thickness of the wool with the help of the wheel.
I tried this myself and can tell you ––– it’s NOT EASY.
I would guess that if I was given the task of converting 4.5 pounds of wool, it might take me all year.
Just for some perspective, creating one Zapotec dog bed takes nearly 5 pounds of wool and 35 hours to convert the wool into yarn.
Watching Rey David handle the spinning wheel with such ease and precision was truly fascinating.
2. Designing each piece
Inspired by their Zapotec culture, the Vásquez family has worked hard to preserve their ancestral techniques and traditional designs, while also creatively expanding their offerings to other products like dog beds and hats.
Creating new Zapotec-style textiles has allowed them to expand their consumer reach and attract new audiences, especially during the pandemic.
3. Preparing the items to be dyed
The artisans use all natural elements such as flowers, tree bark, seeds, fruits, plants, and insects to extract the vibrant colors for their pieces. Once the colors are created, the dyed yarn is washed three times to ensure that the dyes do not wash out in the future.
Preparing and dying the yarn takes about 18 hours.
4. Weaving using a pedal loom
The soul of the items starts to take shape during this process.
The artisans use a traditional pedal loom to weave their designs.
During the looming process, the artisans perform what they call a “Zapotec dance” pedaling their feet back and forth and moving the threads to create the designs of their ancestors.
If you’re not familiar with a traditional pedal loom, it’s exactly what it sounds like.
It’s a weaving process that involves using pedals and maneuvering them with your feet to weave the textiles together.
I knew it would take some level of physical labor, but I was most surprised to find out how much brain power it also takes to remember each step.
As a beginner, I needed Rey David’s help, but he explained that typically each family member jumps on a pedal loom by themselves and weaves the textile on their own.
Rey David taught me how to use the pedal loom and I can tell you from experience that it takes endurance to keep the momentum going.
While I wasn’t amazing at it, it was truly so much fun to participate alongside Rey David who was patient and made the experience both memorable and joyful.
Preparing the yarn and weaving the designs typically takes a total of 63 hours
5. Final Preparations & Stitching
Hand stitched finishes are given to each product, including a Nashun branded tag.
6. Material & Labor
All of Huella Carmin & Nashun’s products contain natural materials like cotton, wool, and vegan leather.Each woven dog bed is made of the following materials:
90% lambswool yarn
10% reinforced cotton fiber
Stuffed with recycled materials
Lined with cotton and polyester fabric
Each bed includes a 100% cotton tote bag for storing
Total time to make one dog bed 147 hours (over 6 days)
Huella Carmin & Nashun’s Products
In Zapotec culture, dogs are members of the family and should be treated as such.
The dog is seen as a companion both in life and in the underworld and should be given the same unconditional love that they give to their human family.
This is why, Huella Carmin, has chosen to launch––Nashun––a Mexican brand that offers high-quality pet products for your nashun.
Nashun is a Zapotec word, which literally translates to “spoiled” in English, but more accurately means “something you treasure and want to take care of in a loving manner.”
Huella Carmin and Nashun’s products also contribute to the development of artisan villages in Oaxaca.
Where to Purchase Nashun Dog Beds
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