The Magic of Chiapas, Mexico
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The state of Chiapas is as diverse as its people. It has a rich culture with history dating back to great Olmec cities that were later abandoned. At one time, Chiapas remained part of Guatemala and not until 1824 did it become a state of Mexico with San Cristobal de las Casas as its capital. 

 Rare quetzal bird

Rare quetzal bird

As far back as 1000 BC, Chiapas was home of the Maya. It is bordered by Tabasco on the north, the Pacific Ocean to the south, Veracruz and Oaxaca to the west and Guatemala in the east. It has the thickest rain forest in Mexico and is home to many species of reptiles, monkey, insects and birds--over 680 species including the rare quetzals, macaws, wild turkeys, deer, jaguars, wild boars, peccaries and tapirs. 

It is here that you see a wide variety of ethnic groups who still keep their traditions, languages and folklore alive. Ten groups speak distinct languages derived from the Maya, the Zoques' language is based on the Olmecs and each village in the Chiapas highlands has its own distinct dress. It is no wonder that there is a Textile Museum located in San Cristobal de las Casas where we will be going for two workshops next March. 

 A women weaving with a back strap loom

A women weaving with a back strap loom

The first is with Carla Sonheim, a Seattle-based artist who loves to draw imaginary animals. She will be combining her love of animals with creating journals made out of paper that we will be making with the Mayan women's collective, Taller Lenateros. While there, we will learn about some of the traditions and the folklore that the poet Ambar Past captured for future generations when she first moved to San Cristobal 45 years ago and started the collective. The room with their colored paper, dyed using natural ingredients, is swoon worthy. She is a fascinating woman, and you can read more here. There are so many animals native to Chiapas that will inspire Favorite Animal Artist books with Carla, March 16-24, 2018. 

 One of Carla's imaginary animals, Perhaps a quetzal may appear?

One of Carla's imaginary animals, Perhaps a quetzal may appear?

 Ambar Past, photo by Kathie Vezzani

Ambar Past, photo by Kathie Vezzani

The second workshop, March 24 - April 1, 2018 is with the very talented, soulful Katie Kendrick whose story telling and intuitive painting style will complement the storytelling, myths and customs of the native people. And for the first time with Bellissima Art Escapes, Melody Ross, whom many of you know from Brave Girls. She, too, is a truth finder and her stories are an integral part of who she is and how she lives. These are two very different artists but they are combining their skills to offer Fairy Tales and Archetypes. They promise a soul-deepening experience of painting, sketching, collaging and journaling the different dimensions of yourself through mixed media self-portraiture. Believe me, I have spent a week with these two at Bandon, OR. There will be a lot of soul searching to inspire your paintings. 

Did I mention that there is amber here? And that there are more than 50 different types of tamales in Chiapas? There's a 14-mile boat ride, too, where you will see butterflies (Carla!) sitting atop one of the three species of crocodiles native to Mexico and many birds roosting and flying along with us on our journey through the Sumidero Canyon. There are many colorful doorways and walls lining the streets of Chiapas. 

The door is open, won't you join us for a journey into a brave new experience?

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You can read more about my own trip to Chiapas here. For more information on Carla's workshop go here, and for Katie and Melody's, here. To register, go here

We hope that you will join us in what will be a trip of a lifetime. 

Spending a month with Gillian Lee Smith

Spending a month with Gillian Lee Smith

Bemis Spring Art Show and Workshops

Bemis Spring Art Show and Workshops