Discover Oaxaca: Handcrafts & Folk Art

This guide explores the Mexican state of Oaxaca for its unique handcrafts and folk art. From pottery and woven rugs to wooden carvings and embroidered clothing pieces.

Oaxaca Artisans showing their handwoven crafts

For some, the name “Wahaca” rings a bell thanks to the UK fast-food chain that sadly sells anything but actual food from Oaxaca. Yet, this southwestern Mexican region is famous for its cultural and ethnic diversity. In fact, Oaxaca is the leading producer of handcrafts in Mexico, thanks to the abundance of raw materials and the numerous indigenous communities based in this area.

Whilst, other Mexican regions also produce fantastic craft-work —like Michoacán for textiles or Taxco for handmade silver pieces. It is Oaxaca the region that has got the widest variety across all artisanal trades in the country. Every little village in this region specialises in a particular craft. So, having an idea of what each village has to offer is crucial to be able to find what you’re after.

This guide explores the best places in the Oaxaca region to source beautiful unique handcrafts. Everything from pottery and wooden carvings to embroidered pieces and artisanal woven rugs.

THE OAXACA HANDCRAFTS & FOLK ART ROUTE

Even though it is not impossible to find handcrafts in Oaxaca’s city centre, is in the small villages outside the city where the production takes place. So, finding a local guide or a small agency to take you there is essential.

SAN ANTONIO ARRAZOLA: COLOURFUL ALEBRIJES

hand-carved and hand-painted fox by artisans from Oaxaca Mexico San Antonio Arrazola
Photo credit: alebrijes.co

This small town is home to the colourful wooden-carved pieces called alebrijes (pronounced: ah-leh-brie-hes). These pieces are typically animal figures, carved with wood from Copal trees since it’s softer and easier to work with.

SAN BARTOLO COYOTEPEC: BEAUTIFUL POTTERY

I found this work very interesting. The artisans make their pottery with local black clay. Using a technique called openwork and burnishing which gives every piece a nice sheen.


TEOTITLAN DEL VALLE: A RUG-WEAVING VILLAGE

Some of these carefully knitted and handwoven designs represent their gods and sacred animals. And the colours and dyes they make come from natural sources like plants and insects. So, almost every piece feels organic and natural.

However, many Fashion brands and Home & Decor firms blatantly copy the patterns that belong to their culture without giving them credit. So, it’s very important to support them to keep their art alive.

SANTO TOMAS JALIETZA: TEXTILES

People know this town for the embroidered textiles made with a backstrap loom. You can find artisans in the main square selling belts, handbags, embroidered items, sarapes (table runners) and huipils (traditional blouse).

Wearing a traditional handmade Oaxacan blouse

I would also recommend visiting the Museo de Arte Contemporaneo de Oaxaca, the Art of Oaxaca Gallery and the PreHispanic Art Museum which are located in the city centre. Their collections show the most relevant and recognised contemporary Oaxacan artists and incredible PreHispanic pieces.



I hope you enjoyed this post. Let me know down below which of these crafts is your favourite and which pieces caught your eye the most. Also, if you are planning a visit to Oaxaca, let me know if you buy any handcrafts at all! I’d love to know.

 

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