Two women in village market, shopping for Day of Dead altars from upcoming book by Starr Interior’s owner, Susanna Starr, photos by John Lamkin.
“It began with Love. It grew with Love. And with Love, it continues.
INTERWOVEN LIVES traces the parallel paths to prosperity and friendship set in motion when author and New Mexican gallery owner Susanna Starr first fell in love with the weavings of the Zapotec Indians in Teotitlan del Valle, and then with the weavers themselves. Knowing nothing about buying or selling, Starr embarked on an odyssey of the heart that led to a 40-year inter-generational relationship between her own American family and the Mexican families she came to appreciate as deeply as their inspired weavings.”
Well, our new book is finally under way. It’s a memoir of Susanna Starr’s three generations of working with the Zapotec Weavers of Oaxaca Valley. The photographs will be mostly by me. We haven’t decided on a title yet. Stay tuned for more updates and how to order.
June — It’s finally summer and our historic courtyard is abloom with flowers to augment the bird and fish weavings we’re featuring for June. It all looks so very bright and cheerful after the winter cold. The birds are happy, too!
In celebration of spring in Taos, New Mexico, Starr Interiors is featuring Pre-Columbian images from one of its finest collections of weavings. Starting back in the seventies, we acquired what has to be the most extensive collection under one roof of the work of Isaac Vasquez, internationally renowned Zapotec Indian Master Weaver.
This feature piece of the Serpent and the Jaguar was done by him shortly before he appeared at Starr Interiors some years ago where we held an exposition of his work. It was and continues to be an honor to show the work of this famed weaver. The pieces being shown this month encompass images from various Zapotec codices including the Borgia, Dresden and the Nuttal codices. Their intricacy and detail go far beyond what most people associate with Zapotec weavings. These represent an art form at its finest and we are delighted for the opportunity to present this show.
Meeting don Isaac so many years ago was the beginning of a long relationship and we are extremely proud to be able to represent this outstanding collection that has spanned decades. Along with the late don Emiliano Mendoza, these two men produced some of the finest art weavings their village has ever known.
Included in this show are Vasquez, Mendoza and several other outstanding Zapotec weavers.
PRIVATE COLLECTION OF PRE-COLUMBIAN DESIGN TAPESTRIES BY MASTER ZAPOTEC WEAVERS NOW FOR SALE!
We are now offering for sale our museum quality private collection of these weavings. There are about fifty pieces in this collection and we will sell them as a group or individually.
According to Susanna Starr, Starr Interiors owner,
“This amazing collection of some of the finest weavings to have ever been produced in the Zapotec Indian village of Teotitlan del Valle is now being offered for sale, either as a complete collection or by the individual piece. They were produced in the late nineteen sixties and early nineteen seventies by three master weavings.
Emiliano Mendoza, who passed away in 1990, wove some of the finest interpretations of images from various ancient codices, primarily the Borgia codex. The complexity of each piece and the perfection of their execution reflects the pride and dedication of this important weaver and outstanding human being, honored in his village as Mayordomo.
His son, Arnulfo, a master weaver in his own right, worked with his father to produce what could be deemed the most valuable piece ever to have come out of the village. Measuring 9’4”x9’4”, this piece is done in angora wool, in the finest detail possible on a loom. It is the Ritual Sequence from the Borgia Codex. His own weavings from the seventies are taken from his original paintings in his own distinct style, but done with the same amazing attention to each detail.
Isaac Vasquez, another acknowledged master weaver is also represented in this collection. Now in his eighties, he is not weaving much any more. His work, however, appears in many collections and has received recognition for many decades both in the United States and Mexico.
I started collecting these weavings individually over a period of about ten years during the nineteen eighties knowing, even at that time, that they would never be done again. They were never woven for the mass market but, rather, as an artistic expression of the individual master weavers, being sold to collectors who could appreciate their intrinsic value.
The many pieces of the Mendoza family were acquired gradually and I remember vividly purchasing the original images of Arnulfo’s paintings that he had given to his father, don Emiliano, who decided to sell them to us under very emotional circumstances. He obviously was very proud of them and they were especially meaningful to him.
Now the time has come to divest myself of this amazing collection and, for the first time, offer them for sale as a complete collection or on an individual basis. They are a treasure, as they tell the story of ancient cultures of the Americas before the arrival of the Spanish. The codices that inspired these weavings are the only ones to have survived the Spanish conquest, the others being burned. To have them interpreted in these amazing textiles has been a labor of love, probably never to be duplicated individually and, definitely not, as a complete collection.
The Zapotec Indian culture goes back many thousands of years. Many of the temples that they built are still standing, the most notable, Monte Alban in Oaxaca. They have produced enduring work in metal and stone, gold and silver, and jade. These tapestries represent a continuation of recorded art in fiber.”
An example of this fine work was done by the late Emiliano Mendoza and his son Arnulfo. The piece, woven in alpaca wool, took a few years to complete.
You can contact us at sales@Starr-Interiors.com for more information.
It’s spring here in Taos, New Mexico and viewing this outstanding collection would be an excellent excuse for a trip here.
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
Before doing a recap of the year, I want to go back to the last buying trip in Oaxaca, in the early part of the year. As always, visiting the village, seeing all the new and exciting weavings and, most importantly, visiting old friends, is an ongoing joy in my life. This buying trip was excellent once again with beautiful acquisitions from the Montaño family, including the work of Fidel, Pedro and Alicia as well as their father, Edmundo. Visiting Armando and Juan Gutierrez, sons of Felipe, also provided an abundance of new colors and designs, as well as warm embraces. And Efren Lazo’s ranges of bright reds are always outstanding.
But, at this point in the lives of all my weaving friends as well as my own, the most exciting thing that’s happening is the third generation. Edmundo and Felipe and I go back more than 35 years. Armando, Juan, Fidel, Pedro, Alicia and Efren were small children then. Now they’re running the businesses and their own children are launched into the world. This generation has the advantage of making other choices. Diego Montaño, Pedro and Karina’s son, is producing a line of his own small, deluxe, finely woven pieces, several of which are now featured at Starr Interiors. But his older sister, Diana, has chosen a different career.
We were sitting at Pedro and Karina’s new house, restaurant and showroom enjoying some of her wonderful cooking, when we saw someone start up the entry and then veer off to the side. “Oh, that’s Diana,” said Karina and called out to her daughter who didn’t want to disturb the clients at the restaurant. Once she heard her mother and saw that it was us, she resumed walking in. I was stunned. I’ve known her since she was born 22 years ago and have seen her during all these years, but all of a sudden it seemed that I was seeing someone new. This tall, beautiful young woman is now studying medicine and was wearing her hospital “whites.” As I write this, I feel the same emotion I had then, which was so very powerful that my eyes filled with tears. I was so proud and so very happy not only for her and her accomplishment, but for her parents and, by extension, her grandparents, my friends, Alicia and Edmundo.
The story of each of these families deserves a separate telling. They are the core weavers that I’ve been working with for almost four decades, each of whom has been a meaningful part of my life as well as providing the base for Starr Interiors’ collection of fine weavings. The weavers I started with, my oldest friends from building businesses together, are now much less active than they used to be, although still involved as I am. The second generation has now taken the active roles and the third generation is exploring completely new paths of their own. But the tradition of the village remains strong and vital with every generation participating in festivals and special events which are the life’s blood of the village. They maintain the traditions that go back thousands of years with honor and respect for their deepest meaning. Zapotec is a language that continues to be used. As they do all this, they are very much a part of the 21st century.
While we were there, we were privileged to attend a special ceremony at the church where Edmundo was honored as head of the new committee. In an ancient ceremony that passed the staff to the new person in charge of the governing committee, the meaning of governing was reaffirmed. The person chosen for this task was picked because of his ability to add to the guidance of the village in a caring way with complete dedication to his office. There is no pay involved. Those who are chosen for the committee which governs village matters for a period of several years, and especially the head of the committee who has received the ceremonial staff, take their responsibilities seriously and work for the common good of the entire village, including preserving the customs, traditions and many celebrations as well as working with the president of the municipality.
Although it is men who traditionally take on this responsibility (for thousands of years the women have been taking on the responsibility of the home and children), the women have a strong presence in preparing the cauldrons of drink called tejate and the labor intensive preparation of tamales . All of them are dressed in their best embroidered huipiles (blouses) and traditional skirts, while the men wear their traditional straw sombreros. The bands that play the Zapotec music are an important part of any festival or ceremony. Most of them are weavers who are musicians as well. Music, like weaving, is an important part of the culture, also developed over thousands of years.
Ceremonies of this kind are held in the church, a structure built by the Spanish more than five hundred years ago on the remains of what originally was a Zapotec temple. Fortunately, some of the original work is still to be seen in the arches, on the walls, and on parts of the exposed foundation. The glyphs and geometric designs of their ancestors is a reminder to the people of the village of their heritage which they keep alive through their ongoing continuation of customs. For us, it is a glimpse into the wealth of that heritage.
Susanna Starr – owner of Starr Interiors, photographer, speaker, artist, writer, holds a degree in philosophy from Stony Brook State University of New York. She lives in Northern New Mexico. Susanna is the author of the book: Fifty and Beyond: New Beginnings in Health and Well-Being published by Paloma Blanca Press and is a board member of the Travel Writers Association.
For the past several years, during the acclaimed Taos Wool Festival, Eloisa and Florentino Gutierrez and Hugo Gonzales Gutierrez have set up a weaving demonstration in the historic courtyard of Starr Interiors.
This year, they will be weaving from 12 Noon to 4 PM on October 6th and 7th, which is the weekend of the Wool Festival. It will be a great opportunity to meet the weavers, enjoy the Wool Festival and the beautiful early fall weather in Taos, New Mexico at the base of the Sangre de Cristo mountains.
Starr Interiors has been handling an extensive collection of the work of Florentino Gutierrez for several decades and his hallmark palette of soft, intermediate tones of butter yellows, greens, rusts and salmons have pleased many clients who have chosen rugs and wall hangings. They range in size from small 2×3 sizes to large room size rugs as well as table and floor runners. There is also an array of his ever popular accompanying pillows.
In tune with the Remarkable Women of Taos, the gallery will present Eloisa’s contribution – a special collection of very fine, intricate 2’x3′ weavings. She is one of the earliest of women weavers in the village where, traditionally, they have not been working at looms. In this summer of Remarkable Women of Taos, we are pleased to include Eloisa and her fine work.
Hugo’s large “Tree of Life” weavings have been purchased for a number of collections. There are generally just one or two of these produced each year, since they are time consuming and difficult to make, and are much sought after. The complex pattern of birds and animals created in a vertical format make for a stunning wall hanging as well as a special and unique runner.
If you can’t be there in person for this event and taste some of the traditional Oaxacan hot chocolate that Eloisa prepares, please check out the website to see some of the new pieces they’ll be bringing. But if you’re entertaining the notion of a few days or more to spend “away,” please make sure you stop by on Saturday and/or Sunday for this special yearly event at Starr Interiors.