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A ‘Maker Residency’ at Dixza Rugs Organic Farm: A collaborative collection of bags made with traditional Zapotec woven rugs

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Earlier this year I closed the doors of my workshop to spend 6 weeks in Oaxaca, Mexico on a search for design and craft inspiration. This search lead me to the indigenous village of Teotitlán Del Valle in the Central Valley of Oaxaca where the community is renowned for their ancient Zapotec culture and tradition of weaving. 

I was welcomed by a Benizaa family of weavers at their home, Dixza Rugs Organic Farm; Mario Bautista Martínez and Leonar Lazo González and their two sons, Samuel Bautista Lazo and Celestino Bautista Lazo. A remarkable family who despite the constant laborious demands of their working farm life, opened up their home with boundless generosity and laughter. They quickly named me ‘Ali-no-Spanish’ and teased me incessantly for it. Over 4 weeks (with 2 weeks interval surfing on the south coast) they patiently taught me about Benizaa culture, the weaving and natural dyeing techniques of Teotitlan and the stories behind the traditional Zapotec patterns. In a month I only scratched the surface of understanding the vast depths of their heritage and craft skills, yet even an introduction revealed perspectives and practises I had never encountered before. 

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When Sam and I first made contact in the UK we talked about an informal residency, combining our respective knowledge of bag making and weaving. For the last week of my stay we fixed up their old Singer sewing machine and trawled the city of Oaxaca for fabric, leather and tools. Once I was set up in a makeshift outdoor workshop in the courtyard of the farm, I set to work on a collaborative collection of bags in the golden valley light. The family and everything they’d taught me was my inspiration, their daily farm tasks and activities were my brief. I created a bag for each of them with the local materials we’d sourced in the markets and an original woven Tapete of their choosing. 

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Leonor Lazo González

Mother, weaver, natural dyer, market stall owner and Molle master

A lightweight bag with both tote and backpack options for going to and from the morning market. Using a Tapete made from local sheeps wool that was dyed with Cochineal, coffee and nut shells. The diamond represents ‘The Eye of God’ that means seeing the world in a state of balance and harmony to bring wisdom. 


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Mario Bautista Martínez

Father, farmer and master weaver

A day pack for carrying rope and food while herding cattle in the valley. Using two tapetes - one with a pattern that depicts rain, the other that depicts the land and corn seeds. After studying Mario’s current rucksack, we could see the front panel was vulnerable to bushes and thorns so I placed the tapetes on the side panels to avoid abrasion. In their native language Dixza (words from the clouds) cow is ‘vaag’, pronounced bag. So this is the ‘vaag bag’ - bag bag.



Samuel Bautista Lazo

Eldest son, farmer, weaver and sustainable manufacturing PHD

Sam travels around the world giving talks on the history of Benizaa people and sharing the stories and lessons that can be translated from the rugs woven patterns. This duffle bag for working aboard was made with pieces salvaged from a large rug that had been nibbled by a mouse. In this pattern the two red symbols represent butterflies and in Zapotec culture, butterflies are wisdom. When a flower is open and ready, butterflies come to it; when a person is ready and open, wisdom comes to them.


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Celestino Bautista Lazo

Youngest son, farmer, weaver, accountant, dump truck driver and horseman

As well as his many roles at the farm, Celes raises horses with natural horsemanship techniques. He leads horseback tours through the mountain valley, sharing his knowledge of the local landscape, plants and farming. I built him a messenger bag made with an indigo dyed tapete to be worn both over the shoulder or strapped to the saddle while riding. Complete with a snack pocket and reinforced leather base for lunch on the rough ground.  

(Unfortunately Celestino’s bag wasn’t ready in time for these photographs but you can find the finished result on our Instagram stories)

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We are currently working on a follow up collection based on this maker residency to be exhibited in Cornwall, UK this October. Updates coming soon on our social media…

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Photography by Ilan Sanchez

Alison GoodmanComment