Blue and white is universal.
A random comment about an earlier blog came from San Cristobal de las Casas in Mexico’s southernmost state—Chiapas, a place I have dreamed of visiting since I first found, and of course bought! some of their magical white on white embroidered textiles at the Hotel Santa Fe in Puerto Escondido many years ago, shot me into action.
Ironically, I only found that enticing message from Chiapas once. (Where did you go, Chiapas? Look what you made me do! Where you made me go!) And how I revelled in it! Thank you!
I had been invited to give a presentation on Japanese crafts at The-Not-To-Miss Portland Japanese Garden. And Portland Oregon and Chiapas Mexico are nearly next door to each other after all! Aren’t they?!
So I persuaded an adventuresome friend to join me on a week’s exploration of San Cristobal and places beyond and we came up gasping for breath.
A textile lover’s paradise, even if not always blue & white, San Cristobal burst with so much to see and explore! A charming ancient colonial town and textile heaven where women of indigenous tribes, dressed in brilliant colors and intricate weaves and embroideries, plied the streets with babies strapped to their backs and heavy layers of their own handmade creations piled over their arm to sell.
Our eyes couldn’t take it all in!
The extravagant skills of these simple country women creating textiles of universal beauty and wearing what they wore, overwhelmed us. The textiles were their identity. The village they belonged to. The traditions their families had taught them.
We visited one industrious woman and her cooperative in nearby Chamula, right, and were bowled over by the range and energy of their work.
All made by hand!
Traditional and modern comfortably combined.
She demonstrated her weaving and demonstrated how time-ignoring and labor intensive it was. Color and form and hand were inextricably bound producing intricate and wide ranging creations that were both quaintly traditional and unselfconsciously contemporary.
We prowled through the market every day always finding new marvels. The color and life! and humanity of the scene brought home the wonder and the message of things made by hand. Such abundant muchness of skill and imagination left us thirsty for more. We simply couldn’t have enough of the vibrant scene.
Everyday brought new surprises in San Cristobal. We found the market which was only textiles, jewelry, bags, paper wares and all things made by hand – just what I had finished giving a talk on – the power of things made by hand! – at the Portland Japanese Garden! We visited the market everyday and bought all we could. It was overwhelming and irresistible.
And behind it, wonder of wonders!
we found the exquisite Textile Museum, Centro de Textiles del Mundo Maya, established in 2012 in a graceful old reconverted 16th century convent that provided the background information for the sources of the crafts at the market. It is an elegant and eloquent home for the marriage of people today and heritage and legacy. It reassures women today of the integrity of their work and the importance of maintaining the traditions..
I went back to the magnificent world class museum again to see the sophisticated displays and videos and educational resources – something Japan would do well to emulate – quickly! before the Olympics in 2020!
In front of the museum was a beautiful shop with the best of the best represented — a cut above the things at the market, a step beyond. My precious adventuresome friend outdid herself and treated me to the over the top blue and white bedspread that I dreamed about after first seeing. ALL HAND MADE! I couldn’t believe that I would bring it home to Japan with me.
It is an indescribable wonder, and treasure.
And at the airport on our way home, more blue and white.
Chiapas! Textile heaven. Handmade paradise.
Everyday brought new surprises in San Cristobal. We found the market which was only textiles, jewelry, bags, paper wares and all things made by hand – just what I had finished giving a talk on – the power of things made by hand! – at the Portland Japanese Garden! We visited the market everyday and bought all we could. It was overwhelming! Irresistible!
And behind it, wonder of wonders!
we found the exquisite Textile Museum (proper name?) established in 2012 in a graceful old reconverted 16th century convent that provided the background information for the sources of the crafts at the market. Such a perfect marriage of people today and heritage and legacy, grounding women today in the past, reassuring them of the authenticity, the integrity of their work.
I went back to the magnificent museum again to see the sophisticated displays and videos and educational resources – something Japan would do well to emulate – quickly! before the Olympics in 2020!
Not really by chance, behind the handsome ornate church at the back of the market, we found what we had been looking for – the MayanTextile Museum: Centro de Textiles del Mundo Maya! An exquisite collection in a faithfully restored 16 century convent,. Convent of Santo Domingo de Guzman. Fully converted to house a world class textile museum in 2012, the marriage was made in heaven as each colonnaded section of the 2nd floor of the convent now houses a video room, a study center, a research lab, and finally the glorious Mayan textiles themselves, burning in intensity and intricacy, Elegant lacquer red drawer upon wooden drawer boasted one perfect example after another of costume and weave from the Mayan culture from Mexico, the Yukatan, and Guatemala to the south.
Textiles so intricate and alive, that I had to forgive them for not being blue and white.
And wait! It didn’t stop there. Blue and white appeared in crisp, sharp form in the museum shop, an architectural marvel in itself.
Sensitively conceived and rendered, the shop was filled with the height of the craftsman’s/woman’s art and bested the best of the market offerings. It was also conceived as a place of reference for weavers and dyers and embroiderers as well as visitors.
The staff was helpful in a gentle way and in their free time they stitched their own clothing like this beautiful blouse worn by the woman who helped us with my bedspread which my generous friend presented me with to take home and remember an unforgettable trip! On my bed, it makes me dream of Chiapas and its magnificent world class Textile Museum which I hope can be an inspiration for a similar institution in Japan whose lack of a textile museum is an astonishing oversight in a country where its textile tradition is so fundamental to its culture.
Dashing men wore the marvelous Chiapas textiles as well.
Blue and white all around summed up in a magazine we found that said it all in any language.
The journey continued on to New Yorkwhere we visited the just opened New Whitney Museum by Renzo Piano where old paintings were given new space and freedom and rapt attention.
Walking Man by Bill Traylor 1932 Montgomery Alabama in the glorious new gallery shone through with vigor unnoticed in its former bunker like quarters on the east side.
And China through the Looking Glass at the Metropolitan Museum was an incredible blast of energy from the past reconfigured in fashion and styleof today.
This reconstructed dress of blue & white shards made everyone stop and oooh!
What life can come from blue and white shards.
Above: Visitors’ stickers stuck to a board upon leaving the Metropolitan Museum in Manhattan.
The elegant glass pavilion at the New York Botanical Society in the Bronx, where the Frida Kahlo Diego Rivera exhibit attracted crowds of people. The transplanted house and garden from Mexico City and vibrant color sense were beautifully recaptured.
The heavenly BLUE of Frida Kahlo, faithfully reconstructed at the New York Botanical Garden.
Blue and white stripes at the iconic wabi sabi shop in Noho of
Paula Rubenstein. Japan indigo!
The blue bird is an irresistible piece of early American folk art.
I was so tempted
Blue skies on Bond Street New York above in North Carolina below.
Wherever I travel, wherever I go, the blue and white message is waiting for me. My eyes are programmed for blue & white. I first found it in Japanese and Chinese ceramics brought back to houses in Massachusetts by early ships captains when I was growing up in indigo jeans, and then enjoyed its full symphony in Japan where I have lived most of my life. But beyond Massachusetts and Japan, Blue & White is the message of the world. The message of the universe. It is a message of clarity, and purity teaching us that simple is the best and most beautiful.