Dyeing 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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.