Tag Archives: Cochineal

Natural Dye Workshop Yields Glorious, Colorfast Textiles

Working with natural dyes like cochineal that yield red, indigo blue, wild marigold (pericone) and fustic to give us yellow, is like being a pastry chef and following a recipe.  It helps to know a little chemistry or have a willingness to learn.

DyeWorkshopJan_Group-37

Indigo dye bath percolating

Eric Chavez Santiago, who is one of Mexico’s most knowledgeable natural dye experts and our workshop leader, takes us through the steps to use a non-toxic process to mordant wool that we will  use to dye cochineal, fustic and wild marigold.  Wool that we dye with indigo requires no mordant but another set of intricate steps that will guarantee a result of intense blue and its variations.  See the green bloom in the photo above. The chemistry here is to allow no oxygen to enter the dye bath. Stirring is a no-no.

DyeWorkshopJan_Group-32 DyeWorkshopJan_Group-27

The intense colors we get depend on a number of factors, including the original color of the natural wool, the amount of dye for the recipe, the length of time in the dye bath, the number of dips, how little dye is left in the dye bath, and whether we use an acid (lime juice, for example) or a base (baking soda, alum or ashes).  Eric has developed an extraction technique for the cochineal that yields the most intense, concentrated color.  The extract can be saved and refrigerated for later use and then refreshed.

DyeWorkshopJan_Group-14 DyeWorkshopJan_Group-28 DyeWorkshopJan_Group-57

In the three-day Oaxaca Natural Dye Secrets workshop, we go through the basics and then tackle more advanced dyeing techniques using acids, bases, and over-dyeing.  Over-dyeing is when you first dye your fiber with the base color such as red (cochineal) or yellow (fustic or wild marigold).  The red is then dipped in the indigo dye bath to yield various shades of purple depending on the shade of red.

Next Workshop:  March 6-12, 2014

DyeWorkshopJan_Group-90 DyeWorkshopJan_Group-88

This is not a complex process, but requires attention and following the recipes.  By the end of the workshop, participants have color samples with specific formulas/recipes for all the shades from yellow to green to pink to red to orange to purple to blue.

DyeWorkshopJan_Group-92 DyeWorkshopJan_Group-83

DyeWorkshopJan_Group-94

During the workshop, we also experiment with shibori dye techniques using indigo with 100% cotton fabric.  The resulting pattern depends on how we fold, wrap, package, or tie the fabric.  Some use rubber bands, string, marbles, sticks, and other materials to manipulate the design.

DyeWorkshopJan_Group-81 DyeWorkshopJan_Group-79 DyeWorkshopJan_Group-77

Everything depends on whether the material is a protein (animal) or cellulose (plant) fiber.  Cochineal only works best with protein fibers that are mordanted in advance.  Indigo is not really a dye but a stain and only coats the surface of the fiber (which you can see through a microscope).  Indigo works well with protein AND cellulose fibers.  And, wow, does it attach to everything it touches!

DyeWorkshopJan_Group-89  DyeWorkshopJan_Group-70

Assisting Eric with the workshop is his wife, Elsa Sanchez Diaz.  As his partner in life and this workshop, Elsa takes detailed notes about the formulas that Eric is using so that there is a record of the colors achieved.  She also helps the participants to complete their samplers with tagged formula notes at the end of the workshop.

DyeWorkshopJan_Group-46 DyeWorkshopJan_Group-36

Our participants come from Pennsylvania, Virginia, Northern California, and Kansas.  They include novices and experienced fiber artists/dyers.  Several had never been to Oaxaca before.  One is an English professor, another a faculty member in architecture and interior design, another a mixed media artist, and two professional weavers.  Everyone came away with a great experience and more information than they ever dreamed possible.

DyeWorkshopJan_Group-43 DyeWorkshopJan_Group-52

Next Workshop: March 6-12, 2014 

If you can’t attend this workshop, let us know!  We can possibly schedule the next workshop to suit your travel schedule.

Color Intensity of Natural Dyes from Oaxaca Sources

Today I changed the banner of the blog to give you a picture of the range of intense colors we got from the natural dye workshop we just completed with Eric Chavez Santiago.  Eric is one of Mexico’s most knowledgeable dye masters and his techniques include how to extract the color without wasting it.

DyeWorkshopJan_Group-74

We started with three colors only — cochineal, indigo and fustic — red, blue and yellow.  By over-dyeing and using various shades of natural wool, plus the chemistry of using an acid or a base with the color, we were able to get the amazing, rich colors that you see in the banner photo. They are all colorfast.

DyeWorkshopJan_Group-24 DyeWorkshopJan_Group-61

I will be writing more about this in the next few days and publishing more photos.  But in the meantime, I wanted you to see what our group accomplished during this three-day workshop.

DyeWorkshopJan_Group-37

The next natural dye workshop is in March 2014. Let me know if you want to participate.

DyeWorkshopJan_Group-11

 

Oaxaca Natural Dye Workshop: A Gift of Color From Mother Nature

Several months ago Australian home furnishings designer Lauren Bennett contacted me about taking a natural dye workshop in Oaxaca with her business partner Genevieve Fennel.  Lifelong friends with a passion for textiles, they started the Sydney-based company Walter G & Co. almost two years ago, importing textiles from India to market a home decor line for resale to designers and shops.  In India they work primarily with Rajasthan artisans who use indigo, saffron and madder dye.  They wanted to learn more about natural dyeing in Oaxaca with indigo, cochineal, and wild marigold, including how to ensure color stability.  Their goal was to compare techniques and processes between the two regions, become more informed, and better direct their textile business.

DyeWorkshop-9 c Norma Hawthorne DyeWorkshop-20

In Oaxaca, there are few more knowledgeable about natural dye chemistry and applications than Eric Chavez Santiago.  As director of education at the Museo Textil de Oaxaca, Eric works with indigenous artisans to preserve the textile traditions of the state.  He  comes from a family of Zapotec weavers in Teotitlan del Valle, and early in his career developed over 100 recipes for cochineal that his father Federico Chavez Santiago uses to dye the rugs he weaves and sells at Galeria Fe y Lola in Oaxaca city.

DyeWorkshop-5 c Norma Hawthorne

L to R: Tempe, Lauren, Eric, Lara, Genevieve

Lauren and Genevieve arrived this week along with two friends, Lara Zilibowitz and Tempe McMinn.  With Eric as their dye master, they rolled up their sleeves and jumped into washing, dyeing and over-dyeing wool skeins over the two days we were together.

DyeWorkshop-6 DyeWorkshop-3 c Norma Hawthorne

Eric’s teaching style is both didactic and hands-on.  He carefully explained the history of dyeing in Oaxaca, the differences between dyeing with protein (animal) and plant fibers, types of mordant, issues of toxicity, and small batch vs. production work.  He showed examples of cochineal recipes he developed that are tagged with proportions.  The two-day workshop focused only on dyeing protein fibers like wool, alpaca and silk.

DyeWorkshop-2 c Norma Hawthorne

During the first day of the two-day program, we made a 10%, 20% and 70% cochineal dye bath and then did the same for the wild marigold, which is called pericone here.  You’ll see more of day two of the workshop when we made a indigo dye bath and our blue hands in a later post!

DyeWorkshop-16 c Norma Hawthorne

L to R: Lauren and Genevieve

Eric explained how the pH of the dye bath and the temperature of the water are essential for a successful result.  He also demonstrated how the color of the wool  influences results.  White, beige, gray and brown wool will determine the ultimate color of the fiber when it takes the dye.  Eric shared his recipes and we were on our way dyeing skeins that he had mordanted in preparation. DyeWorkshop-10 c Norma Hawthorne DyeWorkshop-18 c Norma Hawthorne

Lauren, Genevieve, Lara and Tempe all said that Eric’s explanations and demonstrations are easy to understand and they loved being able to fully participate — hands-on.  Plus, they said, he speaks great English, so the learning experience was wonderful.  Eric offers a step-by-step approach with intermittent review of concepts so no one is left behind if the chemistry becomes a bit complicated.  He loves sharing Oaxaca’s dyeing traditions and wants people to be as excited about natural dyeing as he is.

Stay tuned!  We are planning more dye workshops. If you want a customized workshop especially for a group of people, please let me know and we will try to make it happen!

DyeWorkshop-8 DyeWorkshop-4

Cochineal is native to Oaxaca and the state of Puebla.  It was tribute paid by the Zapotecs to the Aztecs.  After the conquest, the Spanish took it to Peru, which is now the largest producer of cochineal.  Cochineal is colorfast if mordanted properly.  It is very precious and costs about 1,500 pesos for a kilogram of dried bugs — that’s about $60 USD a pound.

Yellow is the least stable color to achieve, says Eric.  Without proper mordanting, it can degrade the fibers and fade. Wild marigold, native to Oaxaca, yields a strong, stable color.  Today, we worked with cochineal and pericone to get about 20 different shades based on the wool color, strength of the dye bath, and the process called overdyeing.

Next post:  indigo, king of blue, color of royalty (along with purple, which we will talk more about, too.)

 

 

 

 

Film Review: Woven Lives—Contemporary Textiles from Ancient Oaxacan Traditions

This documentary film is a visual feast for the senses that takes us on a sensory journey across Oaxaca, Mexico.  Here we meet the exemplars – the outstanding artists, artisans, and curators who are keeping the weaving traditions alive.  This film captures sense of place, history, culture, and diversity.  It creates a vital thread from past to future, linking the emotional and aesthetic work that goes into the creative process with the economic implications of survival for the art and the culture.

Featured are extraordinary weavers who work on the two-harness floor loom, the back-strap loom, and use fly shuttle weaving.  We learn about the process of cultivating, spinning and weaving silk.  We understand the environmental and sustainable responsibility for using natural dyes, and the importance of finding world markets to sell so that the culture endures.

The film features several of my favorite weavers:  Federico Chavez Sosa, Erasto “Tito” Mendoza Ruiz, and Abigail Mendoza.  It also includes commentary by my friends Eric Chavez Santiago, education director at the Museo Textil de Oaxaca, and Janet Chavez Santiago, a linguist and weaver. (Federico’s rugs are available for sale on this web site in the Gallery-Shop Here)

There is so much that this 1:16:19 DVD film by University of Wisconsin-Madison professor Carolyn Kallenborn covers in such a relatively short period. And you can choose to watch in English or in Spanish.

We hear the Zapotec language spoken and how its revival is a way to sustain cultural traditions. We appreciate weaving as a community endeavor to support generational continuity.  We learn how designs are created on the tapestry loom extrapolated from archeological stone carving.  We see how the cochineal bug is cultivated on the prickly pear cactus and the chemical oxidation of indigo.  To ground us, life in Oaxaca is interwoven throughout.

We discover how American students can intern with Oaxaca weavers for cultural exchange.  We realize that it takes 20 days to hand spin enough silk to make one shawl and five days to weave it.  We come to value the time and energy it takes to work by hand — to wash, card, spin, dye and weave a quality textile.

Carolyn Kallenborn’s in-depth film is ambitious, comprehensive, and compelling.  It is a must-see for every lover of woven art, every student and teacher who is involved in the creative process, and all who want to know more about Oaxaca and its extraordinary textile traditions.

To order your own personal copy, go to www.wovenlivesoaxaca.com or www.vidaentretejidas.com

Federico Chavez Sosa’s handwoven rugs made with naturally dyed wool are available for sale on this web site. Click on Gallery Shop Here under the photo banner.

Review by Norma Hawthorne, Oaxaca Cultural Navigator LLC,  www.oaxacaculture.com

 

 

 

Other Uses for Cochineal Besides Lipstick Color

“Interesting. I knew carmine was used to manufacture ink and to add color to some foods and drinks. It’s used a lot in Oaxaca for Sweet Tamales (Tamales de Dulce) and to add color to Nicoatole ( A form of dessert), for Buñuelos during Christmas, and now lipstick. Nice. Greetings”  — from my friend Moises.

Range of cochineal colors

Anyone know what else?

A squished cochineal bug with lime juice