Tag Archives: Mexican rug patterns

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.

Oaxaca Weaving Workshop: Day One

Karen Karuza arrived this morning to begin a four-day weaving and natural dyeing workshop with the Chavez Santiago Family, Francisco I. Madero #55, Teotitlan del Valle at their studio and gallery. Karen is an artist and has been teaching textile design at the Art Institute of Philadelphia for 20 years. Her son, Sebastian, age 14, who was born in Oaxaca, accompanied her. It was perfect because he could hang out with Omar Chavez Santiago, also age 14. Karen is not an experienced weaver, but took to the process instantly with expert guidance from master weaver Federico Chavez Sosa.

Federico and his daughter Janet Chavez Santiago first explained to Karen how the Zapotec loom is used and how it was warped. Then, they all went into the rug gallery where Federico and Janet pulled out many rugs woven with natural colors so Karen could see the choices of color combinations and patterns that she might use in the piece she planned to weave. Here, she could see the finished pieces woven by Federico, his wife Dolores, Janet, and sons Eric (age 24) and Omar.

Next, Federico and Janet took Karen upstairs to the area where the dyed wool is stored. Here, she could choose the colors she preferred. Then, they went back downstairs to the weaving workshop area where Federico showed Karen how to wind bobbins using the spinning wheel.

With Karen at the loom next to him, Federico then demonstrated the tapestry weaving techniques of Teotitlan del Valle, how to put the shuttle through the loom, use the foot pedals, and manipulate the yarn to achieve an even border. The two fourteen year olds, Omar and Sebastian, worked together to spin the wool onto bobbins that would be put into the shuttle.

As the family gathers around the loom, Federico teaches and coaches, Janet translates as necessary, and both father-daughter team encourage Karen as she begins the rhythm of weaving. Janet says, “When you have the idea how the loom works, it is easier to do it. It just takes practice.” Karen is learning quickly and after only a few hours, has created the beginning of a beautiful tapestry that she intends to use as a wall hanging when she returns home.

“This is really exciting,” she said. “I’m here because I want to be able to talk about traditional weaving techniques with my students and other textile faculty members. It’s professional development that will be very helpful in my work.”

After the 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. period of instruction is over, Karen, along with her son, gathered around the family table for comida — the mid-day meal — that included homemade sopa de elote con flor de calabassas and tasajo con queso, salsa y tortillas prepared by Dolores Chavez Arrellenas who is an extraordinary cook. Now, to get ready for tomorrow’s lesson, Omar is squeezing 100 limes by hand. The juice will be used to prepare the cochineal for the dyeing portion of the workshop.

Note: The workshops are held in the taller — home and studio — of Federico Chavez Sosa and his wife Dolores Santiago Arrellanos, in the village of Teotitlan del Valle, about 17 miles outside Oaxaca city. The gallery and studio is open daily, however, it is always wise to call ahead to make certain that someone is home! The phone number is (951) 52 44078. Add 011 52 if calling from the U.S.

Mexican Rugs: Another Pattern Language

There are about 40 rugs piled up in various corners of my house — in the entryway, the living room, my office, and a few packed away in the attic waiting for Eric’s return in October. We’ve decided to take photos of them and display them on the website: www.oaxacaculture.com

When you get there, just click on “Rug Gallery” to take you to the page. These will be offered for sale, too, and I’ve also included several beautiful decorator pillows in the offering. Keep checking back, because I’ll be adding more to the gallery this week and next. And, let me know if you have any questions.

All, except a few pieces, are dyed with natural materials or are handwoven using the undyed natural color of the sheep wool.

The traditional patterns express Zapotec mythology, iconography and interpretations of animals, insects, and other elements of the natural and mystical world. If you look closely, you will see a butterfly, lightening, mountains, rain, birds, stars, the eye of God, a cactus flower, the sun and moon, the caracol snail symbolizing communication, numerology, and more. Some of the designs are innovative and much more contemporary, and take elements of traditional designs as their foundation. The Chavez family are artists and every great artist continues to explore and develop their art form.

Do you think green builders and interior designers would be interested in knowing about these rugs for their clients, since all the materials used in their creation are natural?