Oaxaca Indigo Dye Workshop Delights Penland School of Crafts Visitors

Penland2013_1-45Dyeing with the natural color of indigo was a highlight of the Penland School of Crafts textile workshop tour of Oaxaca in early November.  I brought this wonderful group  of women — all first-time visitors to Oaxaca — for a workshop with Eric Chavez Santiago and his parents at their family home in Teotitlan del Valle.

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Indigo is a plant that grows wild on the southern Pacific coast of Oaxaca in the village of Santiago Niltepec.  Before we rolled up our sleeves to immerse our hands and white cloth into the dye pot, Eric explained the process of how indigo is processed here by hand to get the intense color that you see in the photos.

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After Eric demonstrates how to twist, tie, bundle, fold, clip, band, and otherwise manipulate a white piece of cotton to get a pattern, each person takes their cloth and starts their own project.  Some choose marbles that are held by rubber bands.  Others fold the cloth like a sandwich of triangles. Some combine the two.

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It’s a surprise when we unroll them from the styrofoam tube.  Every resulting piece is unique and beautiful.  Perfect for a scarf or wall-hanging.

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I cannot say enough about Eric and his family, what an education and experience. I feel like I have new friends in Mexico. The personal contact and sharing make this such a rich and deep experience, not just learning a skill but really feeling the history of the culture and being charged by the experience. – Barbara Benisch

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During the workshop, Federico Chavez Sosa and Dolores Santiago Arrellanas give us a break and show us the process for tapestry weaving with a thorough demonstration.  The family only uses natural dyes to produce the rugs they weave.

We have two spaces left for a 3-day natural dye workshop in January, several spaces open for a 4-day tapestry weaving workshop that immediately follows.

We develop customized programs like the one for Penland for arts organizations.  Contact us to learn more. 

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2 Responses to Oaxaca Indigo Dye Workshop Delights Penland School of Crafts Visitors

  1. Hi Norma, I mentioned this before. The Nivon Fuentes family, accent on the o, became wealthy by controlling the Istmo production and trade of Oaxaca from the 1830′s until the 1880′s when German chemists cheaply replicated the indigo dye and put us out of business. Most of the great and great grand children live in Mexico including Oaxaca and some of us married and remarried Gringos and live in Texas, Illinois, California, Tennessee, So Carolina, Europe and New York. I am 74, live a few minutes from Central Park and have never forgotten that Antonio Nivon and Anastacia Fuentes were my great grand parents. Al Nivon ( Alejandro Iglesias Nivon)

    • Dear Alejandro, it is wonderful that you remind us of the rich cultural and historical traditions of Mexico, her artistry and artistic roots, and the mix of immigrants over the centuries that add to the amazing diversity of this country. Thank you for helping us understand and respect the past, as we look to preserving some of those traditions today.

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