Last Saturday, 70 WARP conference-goers divided up and piled into four red vans to go on an all-day natural dye textile and weaving study tour that I organized.
At the Montaño family weavers who make beautiful bags
We left our Oaxaca hotel at 9:30 a.m. and didn’t return until after 7:00 p.m. (and in a rain storm). It takes much longer to move 70 people than it does to lead a small group of three!
Weaver Alfredo Hernandez wearing a wild marigold-cochineal dyed scarf
Of course, I couldn’t be on all four vans at once, so I had great help from dye master Elsa Sanchez Diaz, applied linguist Janet Chavez Santiago, and blogger Shannnon Pixley Sheppard who staffed the other three.
Lunch at Tierra Antigua Restaurant, Teotitlan del Valle
Thanks to them and a schedule that brought us all together for lunch and an end-of-the-day reunion, the day went off without a hiccup.
Program Chair Judy Newland adds cochineal to her indigo hair
We hopscotched all over Teotitlan del Valle and made a detour to Lachigolo to visit weavers I know who work in naturally-dyed wool and cotton.
Lola (Dolores) and Fe (Federico) demonstrate over-dyeing techniques
We got demonstrations of the natural dye process, tapestry loom weaving techniques using the fixed frame, two-harness pedal loom used to make rugs.
In the studio of Galeria Fe y Lola — Federico and Dolores
We saw the flying shuttle, four-harness loom that can make yards of cotton cloth with more intricate patterning depending on the sequencing of the foot pedals. The cloth woven for clothing and home goods.
Preparing warp threads for flying shuttle loom
Most importantly, we had the opportunity to meet each family, understand how they work in collaboration and in family units, and see how they are inspired to make very distinctive products from each other.
Francisco Martinez takes pericone — wild marigold — from dye vat
Every family has their own dye recipes and design adaptations. Some are doing very pioneering work, combining wool and agave plant fiber.
Aztecs used dyed chicken feathers to add color to white cotton – revitalized now
Some are doing very fine wall tapestries with 17 warp threads per inch. It is wonderful to see the range and variety of creativity and inspiration.
Alfredo’s son prepares bobbins for the loom — a family endeavor
Alfredo collaborates with Ayutla embroiderer Anacleta Juarez
Alfredo Hernandez weaves the natural manta with the finest cotton threads. Then embroiderer Anacleta Juarez creates the most detailed, intricate finely stitched work I’ve ever seen.
Wild marigold fixes with a local plant called marush
On day one, cultural anthropologist Marta Turok Wallace talked about the importance of collaboration to further innovation that will sustain tradition.
A shady respite along the way — Judy, Ana Paula, Gail, Patrice
Isaac and his mom, Maria de Lourdes, wash the wool before it goes into the dye bath
Wool tapestries with natural dyes, with Francisco Martinez
We gathered at the end of the day at the home workshop and studio of Porfirio Gutierrez and his family for traditional hot chocolate, bread, mezcal and a demonstration. Big thanks, Porfirio, for your hospitality to welcome 70 people!
Cochineal grows on prickly pear cactus paddles behind Porfirio Gutierrez
The family is working in wool dyed with natural plant materials and cochineal. They are innovating with rug designs that resemble a petate that incorporates plant fibers like jute and ixtle.
Two dye masters huddle: Elsa Sanchez Diaz and Juana Gutierrez, Porfirio’s sister
Wrapping up a petate design rug to go — a combo of jute and indigo!
In the courtyard, Francisco and Patrice talk about possibilities
Behind a wall, a flying shuttle loom workshop awaits us
Shopping for napkins and tablecloths made on the flying shuttle loom
Sales assistant in training!
Juana and her 6 months-old granddaughter
Cochineal dyed cotton out to dry on the line
Almost every weaver here knows how to prepare a demonstration using natural dyes. Many have the materials on hand to show visitors. Yet, it takes half the time to prepare wool using aniline dyes as it does to prepare natural dyes. The dye materials are 10 times more expensive.
Cochineal and indigo dye wool
Some say that about 10 to 15 Teotitlan del Valle families may actually use natural dyes in their work. (I don’t know the exact number.) If this is important to you, you may want to join one of our one-day study tours to take you to them. The price will be higher for these beauties, but there is a distinctive difference in color palette and quality.
On the van, WARP conference Oaxaca
WARP president Cindy Lair with Montaño family
The little red vans that could! Gracias, Silvia and Cesar.
One more post about the WARP Conference in Oaxaca, 2017, and the walking tour of the historic center that Janet and I led last Sunday. We explored the nooks and crannies, found paper earring for Louise, good strong coffee for Diane. In two outstanding galleries, we had talks from owners and managers about quality differences in materials, dyes, and hand-looming.
Tying pom poms on purse zippers, Montaño family
Thanks to WARP for coming to Oaxaca, and thanks to you for reading.