We settled into the workshop studio of the Chavez Santiago family to hear about the planting, cultivation and preparation of indigo on the coast of Oaxaca in the village of Santiago Niltepec.
Some people called it tie dye, but we know better since the technique was originally developed in Japan. Lots of ways to make designs and patterns in the cloth that will resist the dye that coats its surface.
It is a long seven month process to grow the indigo plant. It needs the right soil and climate plus the knowledge of how to extract the blue color from the plant so that it becomes a stable and strong dye.
The Museo Textil de Oaxaca now has an excellent exhibit and video that explains the fermentation, dye extraction and drying process. What you end up with is a hard chunk of material that looks like coal. It’s then ground into a powder and carefully added to a water bath so that the oxygen molecules are not activated.
After we use rubber bands, string, marbles, beans, nuts, and just simple folding to create the pattern, we tie a string to the cotton cloth to submerge it gently into the dye bath. It stays there for about twenty minutes. Those who used the folding technique wrapped their cloth around styrofoam cylinders.
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At the end of the workshop we enjoyed a tapestry weaving demonstration with Federico Chavez Sosa and his wife Dolores Santiago Arrellanas who operate Galeria Fe y Lola in Oaxaca city. Its amazing to see how they color all their wool with natural dyes and use the color together to make extraordinary, vibrant carpets.