Tag Archives: Oaxaca rugs

Wrapping Up a Week of Oaxaca Rug Exhibitions in North Carolina

Janet says that this has been a terrific week.  “We really liked being in Durham, Chapel Hill and Pittsboro to meet people all over the Triangle.  I noticed that people really like the Mountains and Rains designs because it has a lot of colors, and represents the traditional designs yet also reflects a contemporary look.  They also liked the small special designs that my father Federico wove because they are non-traditional and unusual.”

 

Tapetes Federico Chavez Sosa

 

This rug includes colors made from cochineal, pomegranate, marigold, pecan leaves, moss.

Janet also says that people who know about weaving and appreciate textiles and art are those who understand the labor and time that goes into creating them.  It was wonderful to welcome people to the exhibitions at Dos Perros Restaurant in Durham, at Erica Rothman’s home in Chapel Hill and at the General Store Cafe in Pittsboro.  We had so many people come to the General Store Cafe that we have started saying Pittsboro del Valle, because it is Janet  home away from home in Teotitlan del Valle!

Rug Gallery — Hand Woven in Teotitlan del Valle

These beautiful 100% wool, handwoven and naturally dyed rugs are for sale.  Most are woven by master weaver Federico Chavez Sosa and are 4 x 6 feet, and are $700 to $1,100.  I am happy to quote you specific prices if you are interested!

Blue-Indigo-Anil: Natural Dyes of Oaxaca

These traditional Zapotec Mexican rug designs capture the beauty of the landscape, replicate the stone carvings on the archeological ruins of the Oaxaca Valley, and convey the artistry of the culture.  The first rug on the left, Zapotec Eye of God, uses the natural dyes of indigo blue, the cochineal bug, and pomegranates.  All the rugs shown here are of the highest quality pure 100% churro sheep wool grown in the Mixtec highlands of Oaxaca.  The next rug (left to right) is called Thunders and Diamonds.  This is a very traditional design in the village of Teotitlan del Valle.  This rug is naturally dyed, too, with lichens, cochineal, indigo and pecans.  The next rug is the Square Snail, that uses all indigo in various shades.  The snail (caracol) here incorporates the greca or fret motif, a symbol that represents the stages of life:  birth, growth, death, and rebirth.  The next rug to the right of the Square Snail is called Contemporary, designed by Federico Chavez Sosa to incorporate the traditional Mitla ruins with a new look.  The last rug is Pina de Maguey.  The pineapple of the maguey cactus grows beneath the earth and is cultivated to produce both mezcal and tequila.  The Oaxaca valley is filled with maguey fields.  This rug, which Federico also designed, combines the traditional Zapotec Diamonds pattern with the interpretation of the maguey (or agave) plant.  is also completely dyed with indigo.  The color variations of indigo, from deep blues and purples to paler shades, results from the amount of indigo used and whether it is mixed with an acid or base.

These rugs are available for sale and can be special ordered in any size, up to 9′ x 12′

See my website and the Rug Gallery for more examples of great Mexican rug patterns.

Cochineal: A Very Short Story of “RED”

Wars have been waged, tributes paid, and civilizations overturned because of cochineal. Cochineal is one of the most valuable commodities on earth. Some say, it is more costly per ounce than gold. For the uninitiated, cochineal is used to dye fiber RED (and purple, pink, orange, and all shades in-between). Remember the Red Coats of the British Army — their coats were dyed with cochineal. Yes, cochineal is a “parasite,” I reply in response to a question recently asked. Aztecs had exacted fealty payments in cochineal from Zapotec and Mixtec subjects long before Cortes conquered southern Mexico. However, not soon after, the Spanish created a controlled world monopoly on the commerce of cochineal. The holds of galleons were filled with tons of dried powder to export to Europe, as a royal and middle class sought to bedeck themselves in red — symbol of power and prestige.

cactus-bugs.jpg

Where does cochineal come from?

A beetle grows and develops on the fleshy leaf of the prickly pear cactus. It becomes imbedded, morphs from male to female, lays its eggs, multiplies, and after about three months of development is ready to be harvested. In Teotitlan people call this beetle a bug. The bug is picked off by hand, dried, and then crushed. It is about the size of an ant. If you pick a live bug off the cactus, put it in the palm of your hand and crush it, it cactus-bugs-2.jpgoozes a deep, rich red, like the color of blood. Add lime juice or ash and watch a color transformation. It takes a g-zillion little dried bugs to make an ounce of powder. In the Chavez home, they crush the bugs by hand with a mortar and pestle.

Oaxacan rugs and textiles dyed with cochineal are much more expensive because of the cost of the dye. One can pay up to 50 percent more for a piece that is all naturally dyed with cochineal. Because of the costs, cultivation and preparation time, most weavers in response to market demands for cheaper goods, have put aside the traditional methods of dyeing with cochineal and are using aniline (commercial synthetic) dyes instead.

Oaxaca, once the center for cochineal cultivation, has been surplanted by Peru which produces the largest quantity of cochineal in the world. With renewed interest in cochineal by weavers, the cochineal farm just outside of Oaxaca city is cultivating and selling the little bugs. You can even find souvenir packets of them in gift shops on Alcala Macedonia.