Houses in Oaxaca

27 July 2019

A colonial era building I recently visited because it was the venue for a small crafts fair.

The city of Oaxaca was started by the Spanish is 1528  and still has many buildings of the colonial period even with its many earthquakes.  This lovely old architecture makes the city is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a popular tourist destination.

All the writings I can find about Spanish Colonial architecture in Oaxaca are about the churches, missions and convents.  Masterpieces made by the Spanish crown and Catholic church, paid for by Oaxacan cochineal and built by the local indigenous people who were converted to Christianity.  What is interesting to me is what the Spanish colonial homes were like and how they influence the style of homes in Oaxaca today.

One can see some of the grand colonial homes today as many have been converted to museums and mini-malls. Typically these have a small entrance from the street that leads to an open courtyard surrounded by columned portico and behind that rooms.  They remind me of the Roman atrium style houses we studied in Latin class. Besides the open central courtyard these houses have few windows and a small secluded entrance, any opening to the street is likely to be covered by a massive door or iron grill (reja).  Some of these features continue in current Oaxacan homes.

A historic interior courtyard currently used to park cars. Convergence of Colonial Spanish influences and US car culture.


The climate and geography also influence the architecture.  The climate here in the Central Valley of Oaxaca, at 5000 ft in the tropics, is mild year round and no heating or cooling is required.  That is the benefit of being in the mountains, the catch is there are few level places to build.

A street next to a market connecting two principal thoroughfares. Obviously not open to motor vehicles.

Many places in Oaxaca are only accessible by foot as I found out while house hunting.   Floors often have a random step up or down, a constant falling hazard.  My small house, so called one story home, had 4 different floor levels when I bought it.


The windows of this historic building make you wonder what is the level/s of floor inside.

As the historic center of the city has gotten crowded the houses have gone up, two stories or more, on smaller pieces of land.  I saw a small house built on 6m x 6m piece of land, not even in the center of town.  It had 3 bedrooms, a balcony and everything needed for a family of 4, each room on its own level; not a tiny house but a new dimension on split level homes.


The  interior courtyards have either disappeared or been  transformed  into a smaller open space, but still paved.

The first thing that most Oaxaqueños do when they buy a piece of land  is build a wall around the perimeter of the property.  A wall with foundation and support columns.  This is an sizable expense for most people here. Once the wall is completed  you can live on the land; improvise a shelter, outhouse, have a barrel for water, cook in the open and plant corn, beans and squash on the land, ie., live.

Step 1. Build a wall around the perimeter. Sturdy gates to the street.

When more funds are available you can make a proper room in a corner, by just adding two more small walls and a roof. The roof and floor usually extend beyond the room to create a little sheltered area much like the portico.

Step2: Build a room in a corner.

This is what I saw at the humble home of my first weaving teacher.  The corner room has a window and door facing the porch which is where a floor loom and yarn were stored.  Later a second room was added right next to the first, also with a door and window facing the now extended porch.  When the kids graduated from college they build a weaving studio and a bathroom.

Stage 3: Adding a family weaving studio.

The studio has open walls on two sides and a large window like opening to the street, which closes with sturdy wooden shutters.  The columns inside the studio support the roof and the backstrap looms.  My weaving teacher was accumulating building materials to add two more rooms on top  of the two existing ones. Many buildings have rebar sticking out the roof so that additional stories can be added.

Most houses have been built piece meal, including the one I bought.  My house has a perimeter wall and  two different kinds of roofs, one made with bricks and arched (boveda) and other  a concrete slab.  The boveda is the older style so I think that that the first part of the house was built, in a corner of course.  The main street runs across the top of the house and a side street is to the left, a neighbor shares the wall on the right. The only existing door faces the back open area that was covered in gravel and used for parking, accessed through large metal gates on the side street.

This style of building limits the windows.  By ordinance windows are not allowed to face a neighbors property for privacy reasons.  Windows can face the street but increase the perceived vulnerability of the house.  Or windows can face your own open space, ie., the remnants of the courtyard. Because this house is on a corner and there is open space in back,  windows are possible on 3 sides.   The previous owner kept a 5 m strip of land at he back of the property and first built a wall of adobe and now has a two story building there.  No windows overlooking my place.

The grey adobe wall was built to define the new property line. The metal structure is an apartment over the workshop/garage. No windows overlooking my house.


Luxury Fibers and Dyeworks

12 December 2010

Luxury FiberS





Fleece, raw and washed

            Alpaca: Huacaya, Suri-white, colored, dyed

            Angora: white, colored



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            Alpaca; Suri,white, fine

            Alpaca; Suri,beige, fine





                        Huacaya, brindle, 2ply sport

                        Suri,white, fingerling

                                    white, Lopi-type

                                    caramel,+10% Tencel, 2ply

                                    milk chocolate, +10% Tencel, 2ply

            Alpaca 50%,Merino 50% white, 3 ply

            Angora, white,hand-spun


                        natural cream, singles

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            Cashmere 20% Merino 80%, natural 2ply



            Hand dyed

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            Orvus Paste


Leclerc Bergere 24” rigid heddle looms and accessories


Open Tuesday 1-6 PM  Call for an appointment or directions, 937.767.8961.




6 July 2006

My passion has always been textiles and making them. I describe myself as a MAKER, I derive great pleasure from making textiles. I spin, knit, weave, sew, embroidery, and dye. During my previous career I still made things from cloth. I remember getting up before work so that I could sew…nothing else could get me out of bed so early. I’m not very interested in images, I find patterns far more fascinating. Mostly I make things to wear. I like transforming the 2-D cloth into a 3-D wrapping for the body. I have spent a lot of time thinking about the cloths we wear as our most intimate environment and the façade we chose to present to the world.
Making cloth has been women’s work for 20 000 years, and they did it by hand most of that time. I feel a connection to these previous clothmakers when I use a process they used or I see even a fragment of cloth that is still blessed with its makers life force.
I started ENTWINEMENTS IN 1983 to market my hand-woven clothing. In 1989-90 I began selling my shibori. Pleated silk shibori was new to the market and there were many obstacles to over come. I did a lot of research and innovation to make the design and caliber of the work something I’m proud of and a delight to see and wear. I have built the publics’ confidence in my work by consistent quality work and guarantees. I have a Ph.D. in chemistry and use my technical expertise to select quality dyes and tested procedures.
ENTWINEMENTS shibori is known for its sophisticated coloration. The pleats are one color on the top of the pleats and another in the valleys, so as the silk moves and spreads the color that you see changes. So by wearing the Entwinements silk you give it a new facet, iridescence.
I am the author of SHIBORI, creating color and texture on silk. I write articles for several publications on topics such as discharge, dyeing with acid dyes. I lecture and have taught weaving, dyeing, shibori. I am a member of American Association of Textile Chemists and Colorists, American Craft Council and Color Marketing Group.
In my previous career I was affiliated with La Unversidad del Zulia, Maracaibo Venezuela, École Polytecnique, Paris, France and Antioch College, Yellow Springs Ohio.
If you want to know more you can download a complete resumé and artist’s statement.