This Year’s Buying Trip to the Village and Mucho Mas

by Susanna Starr

Having just returned from a visit to the weaving village, the images are strong in my mind. For some time my family of three grown children have been talking about getting together in Oaxaca when we did our next buying trip. Although they’ve come down to the weaving village individually as children and young adults for many decades, this was the first time they came down together. At this point in their lives, work and time are difficult to come by, so we started making arrangements, scheduling the visit and noting it into their calendars, many months prior to the anticipated trip.

Amy, Roy and Mirabai in front of Tlamanalli Restaurant
Amy, Roy and Mirabai in front of Tlamanalli Restaurant

Our Interwoven Lives with the Zapotec Weavers: An Odyssey of Love

The Zapotec Indian culture is a rich one, with many thousands of years of enduring traditions. Of all the traditions, family is probably the most important of the underlying structure of this ancient culture. My partner, John Lamkin, and I had recently published a beautiful book called Our Interwoven Lives with the Zapotec Weavers: An Odyssey of Love (sales@Starr-Interiors.com) which tells the story of my more than forty years of working with the same families in the village. John’s beautiful photographs accompany that journey. In it, I trace three generations of families that I’ve been so close to, as well as photographs of other weavers I’ve been working with, especially on the Line of the Spirit™, a special designer collection that has been an important part of what we do for more than twenty-five years.

Roy enjoying tortilla fresh from the comal Rosario, husband Faustino, Amy, Roy and Mirabai.
Roy enjoying tortilla fresh from the comal
Rosario, husband Faustino, Amy, Roy and Mirabai.

Having Mirabai, Amy and Roy accompanying us to visit each of the weaving families was not only important to the families, but to our family as well. When Roy and Rosario Mendoza met again,  thirty years had passed since they both were living in the Mendoza house in Oaxaca. but there was no problem in recognizing each other. Mirabai and Amy were down more recently, sometimes with their own children, but now there were not just two generations, but three. As close as I am to the original families and their grown children, it’s this third generation, the same age as my own grandchildren, that are moving beyond the life they were born into, while still honoring and practicing the cultural values that have continued for so many generations before them.

Armando in front of special "Tree of Life" which we purchased
Armando in front of special “Tree of Life” which we purchased

Now, through the hard work of their grandparents and parents, they have been afforded educational opportunities never before available to preceding generations. Although many of the young people of this age are still weaving, those who have been given the opportunities to study at universities are continuing on to become doctors, dentists, and studying for other professions.

I feel as proud of their accomplishments as I do those of my own grandchildren. The ties we have are strong ones and having our families together during this time was evidence of the warmth and friendship that goes far beyond just a working relationship. Living in the village, waking up to the sounds, visiting the market to buy our flowers and fresh produce, visiting the families we work with, having lunch at El Descanso and at Tierra Antigua with the Montaño families was joyful…and memorable.

The Montaños at El Descanso
The Montaños at El Descanso

Also memorable, was the evening we spent at the home of our good friends, Florentino and Eloisa Gutierrez. Their son, Juan Cristobal, who studied audio engineering in California, has put together a band and at Mirabai’s urging, decided to perform a concert for us. It was held in their spacious courtyard, with luxuriant flowers and plants providing the perfect backdrop for the concert. And, the younger Fidel Montaño was the lead singer. Writing their own music and lyrics and accompanied by a few other members of the band, the concert was outstanding.

Juan Cristobal, Fidel and their band, Km 1
Juan Cristobal, Fidel and their band, Km 1
Roy holding Alta's grandson Pablito
Roy holding Alta’s grandson Pablito

We spent important time with Alta Gracia, the dyemaker for Line of the Spirit™ since its inception and with her son Jaci and his wife Soledad. We visited with the wife of Felipe Lazaro who passed away recently and bought some of her specialties of roasted pumpkin seed bars, amaranth bars and light wafers and exchanged warm embraces. We visited with Maria and Eloisa Bautista whose recently married son, Jacobo now is following in the footsteps of his parents who have been part of the Line of the Spirit™ team since it began, more than twenty-five years ago when he was just a baby. Our family meeting with Jovita and her brother, Valentino and his wife, was affirmation of the ongoing relationship of our families, as it was with all the Line of the Spirit™ weavers.

Maria & Eliseo Bautista with Susanna and Jazi
Maria & Eliseo Bautista with Susanna and Jacinto

Having lunch at Tlamanalli, the acclaimed restaurant of world-famous chef, Abigail Mendoza, and her sisters, was another special event. In the kitchen, we cried together with their mother, Dona Clara, who lost her son Arnulfo, one of the most talented artists the village has ever known and one of our close friends. In the beautiful patio, we enjoyed some of their famous dishes at the traditionally decorated tables. The embraces we exchanged were heartfelt.

Our family with wife of recently deceased weaver Felipe Lazaro
Our family with wife of recently deceased weaver Felipe Lazaro
Our family looks on as art director, Jacinto Morales, discusses technical aspect with Juan Luis and his wife Paula
Our family looks on as art director, Jacinto Morales, discusses technical aspect with Juan Luis and his wife Paula

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Yes, this was a memorable visit, a testimony to what business can really bring as its reward. We have all prospered and its always a joy to see how the entire village has also prospered over these decades. But, always, its the personal relationships, the warmth and genuine caring, the being part of an extended family that is the real bonus. This is as much a part of our connection as anything else that we continue to be involved in together. The weavings they produce and that we sell to our clients who provide a home for them where they will be enjoyed and appreciated completes the circle. But the heart connection is what cannot be seen, just felt, and what endures.

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The year’s activities at Starr Interiors

by Susanna Starr

Beginning a new year always gives us the chance to look at the past one. Ours at Starr Interiors was a special one. We celebrated, all year long, our 40th anniversary. Where did the time go? Rather than trying to reconstruct the decades, our book commemorating the journey was published and is now being distributed. Reviews are still coming in and you’ll find the latest one below. I think it says it all.

There were a number of events including the book signing that took place in May at Starr Interiors, in June at Moby Dickens in Taos and in November at Barnes & Noble in Albuquerque NM. There were also magazine articles and newspaper feature stories. All in all it was definitely a celebratory year.

Book signing and photo show room
Book signing and photo show room

Many thanks are due to Leah Sobol for her job as gallery director. If everyone were to feel about their work as she does the world would be a better place. In addition to her strong sense of responsibility and commitment, she maintains the highest standard of keeping the gallery maintained to provide the kind of elegant presentation the rugs deserve. Not only is her ability as a manager always in evidence, but her heart involvement is as well. She is there to make sure everything runs smoothly, helps clients with their needs and provides individual consultations to ensure that client’s unique needs are specifically met. We are fortunate indeed that our team includes her important and ongoing contribution and concern.

Front cover
Front cover

Thanks to Susan Montgomery for the wonderful review of our new book, Our Inter­wo­ven Lives with the Zapotec Weavers: an Odyssey of the Heart . The review is published in entirety below. Susan’s website can be seen here.

 

Two Cultures, One Spirit:  A Book Review

by Susan Montgomery

Our Interwoven Lives with the Zapotec Weavers is beautiful memoir of lives and families from completely different cultures that have intertwined and enriched each other for several decades. The differences and parallels are eloquently expressed by author, Susanna Starr, and photographer, John Lamkin.

Susanna writes about her life as an artist and gallery owner in Taos, New Mexico, but she primarily focuses on her deep connections with Zapotec weavers in the small village of Teotitlan del Valle located about 20 miles from the city of Oaxaca in the foothills of the Sierra Juarez mountains in Mexico. The Zapotec people are the descendants of an ancient civilization that is indigenous to the Oaxaca region. In this remote village, many generations of families have been producing intricately designed, hand-woven rugs that are unique to their creators and their locale. Their materials come from the world they live in with wool produced by local sheep and yarn made locally with dyed, vivid pigments. Each rug is a work of art, reflecting both traditional and more modern, innovative designs.

After navigating mountainous dirt roads to find this village in the 1970s, Susanna Starr was so entranced with the weaving community she found that she kept going back and even established her own second home in the area. She developed a mutually beneficial business relationship with the Zapotec weavers, purchasing their rugs and taking them back to Taos to sell in her shop. But her relationship with the weavers became much more than business.

Susanna shared in their lives as their families grew and adapted to changing times. The book is roughly divided into her relationships with three generations of weavers—the parents (now grandparents) who are about Susanna’s age, their children who gradually took over the weaving business from their parents, and now the grandchildren, some of whom are becoming talented weavers themselves and others who are spreading their wings as they pursue education and careers.  But the beauty of this story is the closeness of these families, because wherever these children go they retain the cultural values and traditions of their community. In spirit and soul, they will always be part of their Zapotec village.  Throughout the book, Susanna discusses her own family and the differences and similarities she sees as her children, like the Zapotec children, grow and move into adulthood. 

In many ways, this is a travel book because the reader is transported to a small Mexican village and soon feels immersed in this warm and colorful community. It is a book about place, family, culture, traditions, and hope for the future. We are introduced to multiple generations in several families and we finish the book feeling as if we know them and would love to meet them too.

John Lamkin’s colorful, perceptive photos bring Susanna’s stories visually alive. We are able to not only see the beautiful rugs but to study the fascinating faces of the weavers and their families as they grow up and grow older, celebrating both daily life and the many traditional festivals that are so much a part of their culture.

This is a book you will want to read and think about over time. It is a book that will be at home on your coffee table or on your bedside night stand.  I know I would like to share this book with my family and friends, not only because of its unique story about creating art through generations but because it tells a story of how we are all more alike than we are different, about how the spirit in people can transcend cultures and generations, and about how our cultural values make us who we are.  It is so appropriate that the subtitle of this book is “An Odyssey of the Heart.”

This book can be purchased for approximately $20 in paperback or $30 hardbound from Amazon or ordered from Cynthia at Paloma Blanca Press (PalomaBlanca.Cynthia@gmail.com). It is also available through your local bookstores or any other online bookstores.

Susanna Starr is an entrepreneur, photographer, speaker, artist, and owner of Starr Interiors in Taos.  She is also owner, designer and director of the acclaimed designer weaving collection, “Line of the Spirit,” whose founding and development is described in her book.  Susanna’s articles have appeared in many publications and she is a member of the International Food, Wine & Travel Writers Association. Her website is www.SusannaStarr.com.

John Lamkin is an award-winning journalist and photographer who is also based in Taos. He is a contributing writer and photographer for many publications and a board member of the International Food, Wine & Travel Writers Association. His website is www.TravelWritingAndPhotography.com.

Photographs by John Lamkin.

Starr Interiors’ 38th Annual 1/2 Price Sale

THIS IS THE SALE YOU’VE BEEN WAITING FOR — OUR ANNUAL HALF-PRICE SALE ON RUGS, WALL HANGINGS AND PILLOWS! TAKE ADVANTAGE NOW OF THIS ONCE A YEAR, END OF THE YEAR SALE TO BUY THAT SPECIAL PIECE YOU’VE WANTED BUT HAVEN’T BEEN ABLE TO ACT UPON — UNTIL NOW…… STOP BY AND CHECK OUT OUR OUTSTANDING COLLECTION OR CALL AND SPEAK WITH EITHER LEAH OR FAITH WHO WILL BE HAPPY TO HELP YOU WITH ALL YOUR NEEDS, AS YOUR OWN PERSONAL SHOPPER.

575.758.3065 or 1.800.748.1756
email: sales@Starr-Interiors.com

Starr Interiors' Annual half-price sale
Starr Interiors’ Annual half-price sale

Starr Interiors website redesign & Summer Sale

Line of the Spirit Room -- Starr Interiors, Taos, New Mexico
Line of the Spirit Room — Starr Interiors, Taos, New Mexico

We are working on a more user-friendly version of Starr Interior’s website. Please bear with us for a while.

Currently the gallery is having a Summer Sale–30% off

For information please contact Leah at:
sales@starr-interiors.com
Phone: 800 . 748 . 1756 or
575 . 758 . 3065

An April, 2011 Visit to Oaxaca and the Zapotec Weavers – New Developments in the Line of the Spirit™

text and photos by Susanna Starr

Back to the mountains of northern New Mexico just in time to experience what we hope is winter’s last fling. The snow is still on the mountain tops.

Laguna Bacalar from Casa Estrella de Bacalar's Terraza ©Susanna Starr
Laguna Bacalar from Casa Estrella de Bacalar's Terraza ©Susanna Starr

It’s wonderful being home again with family and friends, but the recent visit to Oaxaca on a buying trip is still imprinted on my memory. After spending four idyllic and very quiet months at our beautiful home, Casa Estrella de Bacalar, on Laguna Bacalar in the southernmost part of the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico, it was a real change to be in the city of Oaxaca and especially, in the weaving village.

Casa de mis Recuerdos, Oaxaca MEXICO
Casa de mis Recuerdos, Oaxaca MEXICO ©Susanna Starr

Staying at Casa de mis Recuerdos with our hosts, Conchita and Moises was a delight. Many years ago they rented us the home in Oaxaca we loved so much and that we spent many happy months in over a period of many years. We’ve kept our friendship going all that time. Being with them is always special and the beauty that they’ve created at their Bed and Breakfast provides a delightful retreat from the bustle of the city while still in the heart of everything. Working out on the patio with Abi, our liaison of almost twenty years, gave us just the privacy and space to go over all our buying lists and be able to discuss our new weaving designs and share our mutual excitement.

As always, the highlight of our stay and, of course, our main purpose, is being with the weavers. This trip provided us with many new colors and designs and, most importantly, has launched a shift in our own designer collection, the Line of the Spirit™. Some years ago, we started a new “co-op” with the core weavers who had been working on the Line of the Spirit™ for almost twenty years.

Co-op Members - Oaxaca Mexico
Co-op Members - Oaxaca Mexico ©Susanna Starr

Now, we have cemented a new working relationship where they are taking complete responsibility for the production of this special collection and are making it official through a government sponsored program designed to help indigenous people become more self-sufficient. It is especially meaningful to the launching of Dux Tsunium, the Zapotec name chosen by the weavers in the co-op (in English: Our Thing).

Alta Gracia, Jazi & Abi -- Coop Meeting
Alta Gracia, Jazi & Abi -- Coop Meeting Oaxaca MEXICO ©Susanna Starr

The Line began with Richard Enzer working with the weavers, then both of us and finally just with me. So the pride that they have always taken will now be enhanced knowing that they now have the ultimate responsibility themselves. We discussed issues like the quality of the hand spun wool and everyone was in total agreement that it was the only kind that would be used. There was lots of laughter and obvious joy in launching the work of the “co-operativa.”

Jazi, Co-op Member Oaxaca MEXICO
Jazi, Co-op Member Oaxaca MEXICO ©Susanna Starr

We celebrated the new beginning with great plans for the future where the weavers will not only do the physical work of producing each piece on the loom, but securing the dyes and the yarn that result in the beauty and integrity of their work, going over each individual piece and taking the ultimate responsibility for creating something to be treasured by the ultimate owner of each piece signed with our trademark logo. Each person working on the project left with the gift of a living plant from our weaver, Alta Gracia’s, vivero (nursery) that will grow and prosper as they do.

So much more to be said about the trip, including wonderful comidas (meals) with the families who are some of my closest connections in Mexico. Being with their children and grandchildren keeps our connection strong. The teenagers are amazing, beautiful and talented with great plans for their futures. They seem to be outstanding students and several of the older ones have already gone on to study specific careers, anywhere from medicine to music.

Jovita - Co-op Member Oaxaca MEXICO
Jovita - Co-op Member Oaxaca MEXICO ©Susanna Starr

In the next post I will share with you some of the changes that are taking place in the village. And how it all has come about because of the magical circle, of producing these beautiful weavings, marketing them and ultimately of those unknown strangers who buy them, appreciating the unique expression of this art form as an enduring part of their home décor.

Line of the Spirit™  Rug on Co-op Loom
Line of the Spirit™ Rug on Co-op Loom ©Susanna Starr

Remembering Richard Enzer – Final Part

Remembering Richard Enzer – Part 3 – Final

by Susanna Starr

Read Part 1 Read Part 2

The following year, our work schedule together with Richard continued and now he was living in another house with much more room, while we continued living in the house that would be our Oaxaca home for many more years. There were still parties and art openings and dinners out at places like El Sol y La Luna which was a restaurant that featured local musicians as well as art exhibits on the adobe walls. Food was served in the indoor covered patio and being with Richard meant being with lots of people. He always seemed to have the aura of a rock star” and the years we spent together always seemed filled with ongoing adventure. Completely devoted to the work of the Line of the Spirit, being in the city was another thing and the circle of friends that we were constantly involved with was always a colorful one.

Richard Enzer & Susanna Starr in Starr Interior's Courtyard, Taos, New Mexico
Richard Enzer & Susanna Starr in Starr Interior's Courtyard, Taos, New Mexico

It was during these years that we formed the lasting friendship with Mitzi Linn who was Richard’s “spiritual adviser.” It was also then that we were introduced to Domenico and his friend, both of them fairly recently arrived from Italy. They cooked fabulous pasta dinners at Richard’s house, a prelude to the restaurants that Domenico would own and operate after he married a local Oaxaca girl, as beautiful as he was handsome. Domenico is now the owner of Pizza Rustica, a wonderful and well known restaurant housed in one of the old converted Oaxaca mansions.

Miriam got married to an architect that she met through the Line of the Spirit and left to raise a family. Abi took her place and I work with her still. She is my very close friend. Although Sergio moved on, we now have another art director who was just a child when we began working together with Richard. Jace is Alta Gracia’s son, which makes it very convenient since he’s working directly with his mother, our extraordinary dye-maker. He and his family are all still very involved in producing special pieces for the Line of the Spirit and Alta’s gardens are as magnificent as the colors she produces for the yarns that hang out to dry in the strong Mexican sunlight.

About five years ago we decided to change the name of our gallery from La Unica Cosa which we had for about thirty years, to our new name of Starr Interiors. We had a party to celebrate and much to my surprise and great pleasure Richard came. I cried, stirred by an emotion I didn’t know I had. He had been sick, I knew, and had survived a kidney transplant. He looked older, but so did I. I flashed back to one of the first openings we had for the Line of the Spirit shortly after we formed our partnership. Richard bought me a very special huipil from one of the seven regions of Oaxaca which I wore to that opening. It had been a number of years since we had seen each other, with Richard moving onto the Romanian project after our partnership ended, and my continuing with the Oaxaca project. It was emotional for both of us and his smile was a reminder of many times we had working together in those early years of the nineteen nineties.

I think, too, of the time when the telephone rang one evening and it was Richard. I knew immediately from his voice that something had happened but wasn’t prepared for the news that his son, Michael, had just been killed in a motorcycle accident. Michael was spending time with his Dad in Oaxaca and it was Richard’s hope that his involvement would continue. But that was not to be. It was a devastation that only a parent could know. Unfortunately, I knew from firsthand experience, having lost my own son, when he was younger than Michael, a number of years earlier.

Now Richard, too, is gone, having passed away last year. Hard living took a toll, I’m sure, but it was the kind of life he chose and I think he enjoyed it “to the max.” There were difficult moments but they always passed and whatever happened that appeared disruptive was always resolved. But his genius lives on in the continuation and flourishing of the Line of the Spirit. Shortly after we became partners, I recognized the need for a trademark which remains the identification for this stunning body of work. Although I have gone on to introduce some designs and colors of my own, the collection still retains his initial vision.

Alta continues to do her magic with making the colors. Abi continues to keep everything together in Oaxaca, Jace continues to visit each weaver on the project and supply them with the material they need to complete their individual pieces and the fine staff at Starr Interiors continues to present the Line of the Spirit collection in the three rooms that house the collection. We continue to use the hand-carded, hand- spun wools prepared on a drop spindle at a remote Zapotec Indian village high up in the mountains. How can I mention that village without mentioning their other claim to fame, the making of mescal in home-made stills. Which brings up the memories of going there with Richard to buy wool and sampling each of the offerings of special mescal from the various houses in that little village. What an adventure! That, too, is part of remembering Richard.

Remembering Richard Enzer 2

Remembering Richard Enzer – Part 2

by Susanna Starr

Richard Enzer & Miriam on our porch

Although pretty much wild and crazy, Richard was also very charming and convincing. There was very little that could be further from our minds than entering into a partnership with him. But Richard was firmly convinced that he needed to develop the Line of the Spirit beyond where it was at the time and that we would be the perfect partners because of our history in the village and relationship with the weavers. So, he sweet talked us into it!

After the agreement was signed and we were officially partners, we left for Mexico and showed up, as agreed, at Richard’s house in the city of Oaxaca. A party was going on. We were soon to learn that he always was surrounded by an entourage, mostly of artists, musicians and various other assorted people, some Mexican nationals, some friends from the States and some new friends he would make on a steady basis. Richard was enthusiastic about having us stay with him, but we quickly realized that we would need a place of our own. We would join him in the rounds in the village each day, but maintained a life that was a little less involved with other people.

The time we spent in the village was wonderful and we were introduced to various people we had never come in contact with before. There was Sergio, the art director, handsome and talented and from the village. Meeting him and his family was a special experience and we were to spend much time in the following few years together. The weavers who were part of the Line of the Spirit were very enthusiastic about the work they were doing with Richard and recognized that they would be involved in an entirely new art project that was carefully overseen by Sergio with lots of direct input by Richard, which they really appreciated. Although they hadn’t known us previously, they knew who we were and welcomed us into their homes with warmth and hospitality.

The team also included Miriam, a lovely young woman who quickly became a friend. She was the liaison person who handled all the money as well as distributing what was needed to the weavers working on the project. And then there was Alta Gracia, the dye-maker. Richard had spent quite a lot of time working with her with his sleeves rolled up, at the dye-pots. She was an important part of the team since the vibrant colors that she hand-mixed over an open fire were a cornerstone of the Line of the Spirit weaving collection.

Those were exciting and intense days, weeks and months we spent together with Richard and all the various people in our circle. Every day we would pick up Miriam and go to Sergio’s house where his wife, Thomasa would be stirring a pot of atole or coffee and feeding the babies. Then we’d make the rounds. That meant visiting each and every weaver working on the Line of the Spirit project, spending time with them as they worked on the loom, going over the designs and the colors to be used. It was an amazing and inspiring time, and we would often return to Oaxaca after dark, exhausted but elated. Richard exuded energy and it was hard for him to stop and call it a day when he was in the rhythm of working with the weavers. We would also spend part of the day with Alta, discussing the dyes and the nuances of the colors. She was a consummate artist at the dye pots.

Richard Enzer with Line of the Spirit, Corazo de Maguey tapestry

Everyone loved Richard, his enthusiasm, his willingness to work with each of them, imparting his vision to them and appreciating his pleasure with what they were producing. When pieces would come off the loom, they would be carried back to Richard’s house where we would examine each weaving, inspecting and admiring them. There was always an intimate connection between us, the team of Sergio, Miriam and Alta and, of course, the individual weavers and their families, including the children who seemed to delight in our visits. Now, twenty years later, many of the original weavers are still working on the Line of the Spirit and some of those children have joined the project, having become excellent weavers in their own right.

Remembering Richard Enzer

Remembering Richard Enzer – Part 1

by Susanna Starr

Richard Enzer in Zapotec Weaving Village
Richard Enzer in Zapotec Weaving Village

Everyone has moments in their lives that seem inconsequential at the time but, in retrospect, we can recognize the impact of that chance meeting or conversation.

It was an outdoor party held at Ellie’s house, just down the road from where I lived in the small valley of Valdez, just outside of Taos, New Mexico, that Richard Enzer rode into my life. I had been stumbling around in the woods, trying to get back to where most of the people were gathered in the open area around the house, unable to find my way through the dense vegetation. I was beginning to feel panicky.

At the moment I started to emerge into the warm sunlight, Richard got down from the horse he had been riding and, seeing my face, strode over and opened his arms to hold me. There were no words exchanged, just the comfort and security offered in that reassuring embrace, one person to another. For me, it was a defining moment and despite the various experiences we shared in the ensuing years, that gesture of kindness and recognition remained.

We each wandered off in different directions then at the party and during the following years. Living in a small town, I heard about him from time to time but it wasn’t until a number of years later that he reappeared in my life.

My partner and I had spent more than a dozen years building a business that involved our active participation in a small Zapotec Indian weaving village located in the mountains just outside of Oaxaca, Mexico. As the years passed, our business grew as did that of the people we worked with. We worked seven days a week and spent several months in Mexico every winter working with the weavers and building what developed into a small eco resort and retreat center in another part of the country, the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico.

During the years of the 1980’s, we were buying large quantities of beautiful hand-loomed rugs and wall hangings, carefully selecting each piece. We were receiving shipments regularly and had our own “bodega” or storage area. Here our extra inventory was carefully stacked and laid out. Shipments that were received at the shop were taken there to be unpacked, examined and admired again before putting them in their proper places.

It was on one of these occasions that we were unpacking a shipment, that we realized the rugs were not familiar to us. They were stunningly beautiful in deep rich tones of complex designs. It didn’t take us long to realize that they were Richard’s rugs that had been sent to us by mistake.

Although we hadn’t been in touch with him, we knew that Richard had been working in the same weaving village that we were, after a long absence from Taos, and designing his own rugs there. With the help of noted weaver and colorist, Rachel Brown of Taos, New Mexico, he developed a palette of deep, rich colors more reminiscent of fine oriental rugs than the colors and designs being used in the small Zapotec Indian village.

His experience working with the New York rug gallery, the Gordian Knot, expanded his design horizons with oriental design elements included in his own collection of Southwestern designs, which he called the Line of the Spirit. We hadn’t ever seen any of his collection but it was clear as we unfolded the pieces that day in our bodega, that Richard had gone far beyond anything being produced in the village and, with good reason, we were very impressed.

Tracking him down wasn’t difficult and we sent the shipment on to him. Not long after, he suggested that we look once again at some of his pieces with the idea of our purchasing them. We did and found it a perfect addition to our own fine collection at what was then known as La Unica Cosa (the only thing), now Starr Interiors. We loved the rugs and our customers responded to our enthusiasm and were soon buying from Richard on a regular basis.

It wasn’t very long afterward that Richard showed up at the shop one day with his art director from the village to lay out a proposition. What came of that discussion was the beginning of my long involvement with the Line of the Spirit, which continues to this day.