Tag Archives: natural dyes

A World of Indigo in Albuquerque, NM

In Oaxaca, indigo is cultivated in the hot, sub-tropical climate along the southern coast in a town called Santiago Niltepec on the Isthmus of Tehuantepec. A leafy plant, it is usually found in the band around the world along the equator. For example: Africa. India. Japan. South Carolina. There are exceptions, as this Indigo Around the Globe exhIbition at the Albuquerque Museum describes the works of Scott Sutton, who is growing and dyeing with indigo in Taos, New Mexico, where I live when I’m not in Oaxaca. Nikesha Breeze, also from Taos, explores her own identity through Negro Cloth, the root of American blue jeans.

Nikesha Breeze sculpture, from cotton and raw indigo to blue jeans, homage to the enslaved

I love indigo. I look for it and collect it. i wore an indigo tunic woven and dyed by Sebastiana Guzman in Pinotepa de Don Luis to my son’s wedding. My sister and I traveled independently to Japan in 2019 on a quest for indigo. Same when I went to Gujarat, India — I had indigo on my mind. I’ve not been to west Africa, but I know Gasali Adeyemo, originally from Kenya who now lives in Santa Fe. He makes stunning shibori cloth that is featured in this exhibition, and that he sells online and at the International Folk Art Market.

Indigo isn’t really a dye. It is a pigment. It adheres to the surface of a fiber — cotton, wool, silk, etc. and requires no mordant (fixative). It is used to stain wood and concrete, too. An indigo bath needs to be kept at 90 degrees Fahrenheit and the delicate process requires oxidization in order to work.

Japanese indigo jacket embellished with sashiko

Indigo was the African cloth of royalty. It’s cultivation and harvest and transformation into a dye material was also dependent on the labor of African slaves who brought their knowledge to the Americas, exploited for economic gain by 18th and 19th century planters who exported it to England’s textile industry. At one time, indigo was the second most valuable export to Britain from the Americas.

Hispanic New Mexico, wool and indigo

In North and South Carolina, slaves were given indigo-dyed cloth to wear because of its durability and as a way to distinguished the enslaved from plantation owners. During the Civil Rights Movement, denim was reclaimed by African Americans who wanted to push against the pressure to dress in a way deemed “acceptable” by white peers.

in Japan, indigo jackets were worn by fire fighters because of its flame retardant properties. In the cold north islands cotton didn’t grow, so rough hemp was used to pad layered quilted fabrics that served as jackets and bed coverings. Known as boro, this cloth was pieced using salvaged indigo scraps, held together by stitches called sashiko, and handed down through the generations. A fashion born of poverty, it is now very collectible and priced in the stratosphere.

Early Navajo Dine weavers used indigo in the chief blankets they wove to keep them warm in harsh New Mexico winters.

Teotitlan del Valle, Oaxaca indigo rug

In Oaxaca, my family, Fe y Lola Rugs, uses indigo in the rugs they weave. They prepare the dye bath and dye hand-spun organic churra wool yarn skeins in small batches to get the most intense color.

Our family also offers natural dye workshops that introduce people to the chemistry of indigo.

i found this exhibition beautiful, comprehensive and satisfying. If you are coming to New Mexico, don’t miss it. Thanks to Nancy Craft for suggesting that I see it.

Artist Laura Anderson Barbata from Brooklyn, NY, uses indigo-dyed cotton brocade, printed cotton and machine embroidery from Oaxaca, to create costumes for stilt dancers. We also saw her work a few years ago at the Museo Textil de Oaxaca.

On exhibit through April 24, 2022.

Yes! I’m now back in Taos. Still snow on the mountains.

San Juan Colorado, Oaxaca, Where Textiles Tell Stories

San Juan Colorado is up the mountain about an hour-and-half from Pinotepa Nacional along the Costa Chica. It’s at the end of the road, so secluded that the Spanish Conquest and proselytizing priests didn’t reach here until much later. It’s why traditional backstrap loom weaving and natural dyeing have survived over the years.

Mostly women weave here, but some men are also learning. Girls start when they are around ten years old. Native wild preHispanic cotton grows here, too — caramel colored brown, mint green, creamy white make up the palette. White thread can also be dyed red with cochineal, blue with indigo, yellow with wild marigold, brown with nuts and bark. Brazilwood turns white cotton to a fucsia hot pink. Cooking cotton in an iron pot dulls the color. White becomes a soft grey.

We visit one of the oldest cooperatives, Jini Nuu. We gather in the courtyard under the shade of an almond tree The bark is also a dye material. Yuridia and Verónica welcome us. The older women are sitting on the ground, legs tucked under them, bare toes peeking out from their posahuanco wrap-around skirts, spinning cotton with the drop spindle, picking seeds from the cotton to get ready to spin it, and weaving on the backstrap loom.

Our group sits down for lunch. We are served tamales stuff with a local specialty of mangrove mussels and another type stuffed with chicken. There is a spicy beef broth soup, tasty fruit waters, avocado, Oaxaca queso fresco, and plenty of made in the comal tortillas. We are in foodie heaven. Our desert is a shot of Piedra de Alma mezcal.


Mid-afternoon we cross the village to visit Camerina and the Las Sanjuaneras cooperative where they weave beautiful gauze fabric and work only in natural dyes. Their oldest member is age 81 and their youngest is in her 30’s. Cooperatives are important social and economic organizations, offering ways to marketi and also provide mutual support.

Let us know if you want to go in 2023

Designs woven into the cloth are selected by each weaver. They I clise the flora and fauna of the region. Since we are near the coast, this includes crab, turtles, ducks, birds, stars, rainbows, mountains, scorpions, pine trees, corn plants, chickens. The row of women figures holding hands depicts solidarity. Shoulder decorations of zigzag depict the Feathers of Quetzalcoatl — the serpent god. The double-headed eagle has special significance: the duality of life, ting-hangs, man-woman, fertility.

In Reverse: Oaxaca to Me and Rug Sale

My goddaughter Janet Chavez is coming to Durham on April 26 and will drive west with me to Taos, New Mexico. I call this bringing Oaxaca to me! I’m excited because this will be her first road trip across the USA. We haven’t seen each other for over a year and there is a lot to catch up about. Janet is a linguist. She is tri-lingual and then some, speaking Spanish, Zapotec, English and a smattering of other Romance languages. She also gives presentations about preserving indigenous language and culture, helped develop an online Zapotec talking dictionary, and is affiliated with Haverford College.

Janet is also bringing rugs her family makes from hand-carded wool and natural dyes. (See feylolarugs.com) This includes medium and large sizes. Purchase now and Janet will bring your rug with her and ship from Durham, NC, next week before we hit the road. Remember, these are one-of-a-kind and all dyed with natural dyes — plants and cochineal. At Fe y Lola Rugs, they make all their own dye pots and color the churro wool yarn skein by skein. It is a slow production process. All sales go directly to the family! You are buying direct from the master makers.

We encourage you to purchase now since Janet may not bring all rugs shown with her, only those that sell in advance. Please purchase by Saturday, April 24.

To Buy: Please email me normahawthorne@mac.com with your name, mailing address and item number. I will mark it SOLD, send you a PayPal link to purchase. We will calculate shipping to your location from Durham, NC (a big savings), and send you an invoice for the total. Please DO NOT SELECT buying goods or services at check-out. We also accept Venmo and Zelle. I can send you a Square invoice (+3% fee) if you don’t use PayPal. All sales final.

Our family is a four generation lineage of weavers and natural dyers from Teotitlan del Valle, a Zapotec community in the state of Oaxaca, Mexico. Our rugs are one-of-a-kind, with complex designs that blend tradition with innovation, setting the standard for beauty and quality. At Fe y Lola, we tell stories through threads.

Twenty years ago, Fe y Lola took a risk and decided to focus on producing high quality wool rugs on a small scale. They invested in a sustainable weaving process that does not include toxic chemicals such as sulfuric acids and anilines, that are very dangerous for one’s health as well as for the environment. By conducting research on natural dyes, experimenting with local natural dye materials, and most importantly, rediscovering and re-learning ancient Zapotec natural dyeing techniques, they began to develop an exclusive palette of natural colors and combinations. Along the way, they had the opportunity to learn from and share knowledge with other natural dyers and weavers from all over the world, enriching their comment to their work and customers.

Norma’s Notes: I have lived with this family on their land in Teotitlan del Valle since 2005. Back then, I saw that what they were doing was extraordinary and unheralded. Over the years, they have continued to produce some of the best tapestry weaving in the village and are noted for their innovative color combinations, density of woven fiber, and rich, all natural colors. Supporting them in their efforts to become more well known has been my passion over the years because I admire their commitment, tenacity, creativity, and talent. Now, I get to watch how the children, who are now adults and the next generation of weavers, continue in the ancient traditions of their family and culture. Their rugs have added joy to my living space for all these years, without fading or discoloration.

2022 Oaxaca Coast Textile Study Tour

Arrive on Saturday, January 15 and depart on Monday, January 24, 2022 — 9 nights, 10 days in textile heaven! Starting at $2,895.

ONE SPACE OPEN!

We are hopeful for 2022! This tour is strictly limited to 10 participants –6 single rooms and 2 shared rooms.

At Oaxaca Cultural Navigator, we aim to give you an unparalleled and in-depth travel experience to participate and delve deeply into indigenous culture, folk art and celebrations. Our hope, too, is that we will all be well and it will be safe enough to travel to Puerto Escondido by January 2022. If for any reason we must cancel this tour, you will receive a full 100% refund. See notes below about COVID vaccination requirements to travel with us.

To register, please complete the Registration Form and email it to us. When you tell us you are ready to register, we will send you a link to make your reservation deposit.

Indigo and purple shell dye in Pinotepa de Don Luis
Handmade masks for Dance of the Tigers, San Juan Colorado

Cost is $2,895 per person shared room or $3,495 per person for private room. See details and itinerary below.

Please complete this Registration Form and return to Norma Schafer at norma.schafer@icloud.com to participate. Thank you.

This entire study tour is focused on exploring the textiles of Oaxaca’s Costa Chica. You arrive to and leave from Puerto Escondido, connecting through Mexico City or Oaxaca.

Natural dyes on back-strap loomed cotton, the finest handmade garments

We go deep, and not wide. We give you an intimate, connecting experience. We spend time to know the culture. You will meet artisans in their homes and workshops, enjoy local cuisine, dip your hands in an indigo dye-bath, and travel to remote villages you may not go to on your own. This study tour focuses on revival of ancient textile techniques and Oaxaca’s vast weaving culture that encompasses the use of natural dyes, back-strap loom weaving, drop spindle hand spinning, and glorious, pre-Hispanic native cotton.

The weaver and Kristy, who came on our trip from Australia

Villages along the coast and neighboring mountains were able to preserve their traditional weaving culture because of their isolation. Stunning cotton is spun and woven into lengths of cloth connected with intricate needlework to form amazing garments.

San Juan Colorado, Oaxaca, weaver who uses indigo and nanche tree bark for dyes

We have invited a noted cultural anthropologist to travel with us. She has worked in the region for the past 15 years and knows the textile culture and people intimately. We learn about and discuss motifs, lifestyle, endangered species, quality and value of direct support.

Our 2020 group and one of the weaving cooperatives we visit
Market meander, Puerto Escondido

What we do:

  • We visit 7 weaving villages in Oaxaca and Guerrero
  • We meet back-strap loom weavers, natural dyers, spinners
  • We see, touch, smell native Oaxaca cotton — brown, green, natural
  • We participate in a sea turtle release with sunset dinner on the beach
  • We swim in a rare bioluminescence lagoon
  • We visit three local markets to experience daily life
  • We travel to remote regions to discover amazing cloth
  • We support indigenous artisans directly
  • We attend Dreamweavers annual sale at Hotel Santa Fe
  • We escape WINTER in El Norte
Hand-painted Converse tennis shoes at Pinotepa de Don Luis art studio

Take this study tour to learn about:

  • the culture, history and identity of cloth
  • beating and spinning cotton, and weaving with natural dyes
  • native seed preservation and cultivation
  • clothing design and construction, fashion adaptations
  • symbols and meaning of regional textile designs
  • choice of colors and fibers that show each woman’s aesthetic while keeping with a particular village traje or costume
  • the work of women in pre-Hispanic Mexico and today
Rare skirt (posahuanco) fabric dyed with caracol purpura, cochineal and indigo

2020 Itinerary — Oaxaca Coast Textile Study Tour

  • Saturday, January 15: Fly to Puerto Escondido—overnight in Puerto Escondido, Group Welcome Dinner at 7 p.m. (D)
  • Sunday, January 16: Puerto Escondido market meander, lunch and afternoon on your own. Late afternoon departure for turtle release and Manialtepec bioluminescence lagoon with beach dinner.  (B, D)
We release just hatched baby Ridley turtles into the Pacific Ocean
  • Monday, January 17: Depart after breakfast for Tututepec to visit a young weaver who is reviving his village’s textile traditions, visit local museum and murals — overnight in Pinotepa Nacional. (B, L)
  • Tuesday, January 18: After breakfast, we go on to the weaving village of San Juan Colorado to visit two women’s cooperatives working in natural dyes, hand-spinning, and back strap loom weaving. Overnight in Pinotepa Nacional. (B, L)
  • Wednesday, January 19: After breakfast, we return to the mountain with a first stop at the Pinotepa de Don Luis market. Then, we visit the Converse shoe project where talented artists hand-paint footwear, carve gourds and make amazing graphic art prints. We have lunch with Dreamweavers cooperative members and caracol purpura purple snail dyers in their home, complete with show and sale, and cultural talk. Overnight in Pinotepa Nacional. (B, L)
  • Thursday, January 20: After breakfast, we travel up the coast highway into the state of Guerrero, where we visit two outstanding Amusgo weaving groups in Xochistlahuaca and Zacoalpan. They are working to revive ancient designs and incorporate locally grown native, wild cotton. Overnight in Ometepec. (B, L)
  • Friday, January 21: After breakfast, we begin our journey back to Puerto Escondido, with a stop at the Afro-Mexican Museum to understand Mexico’s Black history. We stop in Pinotepa Nacional for lunch and a market meander.  Overnight in Puerto Escondido. (B, L)
Understanding the slave trade and cultural history, Afro-Mexican Museum, Costa Chica
  • Saturday, January 22: This is a day on your own to explore the area, return to the Puerto Escondido market, take a rest from the road trip, enjoy the beach and pools, and begin packing for your trip home.  Overnight in Puerto Escondido. (B)
  • Sunday, January 23: Attend the annual Dreamweavers Expoventa featuring the Tixinda Weaving Cooperative from Pinotepa de Don Luis. Other regional artisans are also invited, making this a grand finale folk art extravaganza — a fitting ending to our time together on Oaxaca’s coast. Grand Finale Dinner. Overnight in Puerto Escondido. (B, D)
  • Monday, January 24: Depart for home.
Sea and insect motifs adorn collar embroidered with snail dye and indigo

Note: You can add days on to the tour — arrive early or stay later — at your own expense.

Cost to Participate

  • $2,895 double room with private bath (sleeps 2)
  • $3,495 for a single supplement (private room and bath, sleeps 1)
We visit the mask-maker, too
Picking native pre-Hispanic green and coyuchi cotton, Amusgos, Xochistlahuaca, Guerrero

Your Tour Leader: Norma Schafer, director of Oaxaca Cultural Navigator LLC, will again lead this popular tour. We sell out each year so don’t hesitate to register if you are interested in participating.

An intricate floral bodice, woven into the back strap loomed cloth, San Pedro Amusgos
Village chapel, Zacoalpan, Guerrero

Some Vocabulary and Terms

Sunset dinner on the beach, somewhere north of Puerto Escondido, Manialtepec Lagoon
On the Manialtepec Lagoon, a night it is bioluminescence–Let’s go swimming!

Who Should Attend

  • Explorers of indigenous cloth, native fibers
  • Collectors, curators and cultural appreciators
  • Textile and fashion designers
  • Weavers, embroiderers, dyers and collectors
  • Photographers and artists who want inspiration
  • Anyone who loves cloth, culture and collaboration

Full Registration Policies, Procedures and Cancellations– Please READ

Xochistlahuaca, Guerrero, where Amusgo women make extraordinary cloth
Shuko with award-winning coyuchi and cochineal huipil, Dreamweavers

Reservations and Cancellations.  A $500 deposit is required to guarantee your spot. The balance is due in two equal payments. The second payment of  50% of the balance is due on or before September 15, 2021. The third payment, 50% balance, is due on or before November 15, 2021. We accept payment using online e-commerce only. We will send you an itemized invoice when you tell us you are ready to register. After November 15, 2021, there are no refunds. If you cancel on or before November 15, 2021, we will refund 50% of your deposit received to date. After that, there are no refunds UNLESS we cancel for any reason. Then, if we cancel, you will receive a full 100% refund.*

We will send you an itemized invoice when you tell us you are ready to register. After November 15, 2021, there are no refunds.*

Required–Travel Health/Accident Insurance: We require that you carry international accident/health insurance that includes $50,000+ of emergency medical evacuation insurance. Proof of insurance must be sent at least 45 days before departure.

We require proof of COVID-19 vaccination.

History of the Mixtec nation and 8-Jaguar Claw Chieftain
Hand-carved jicara gourds, rattles and lamps

Be certain your passport has at least six months on it before it expires from the date you enter Mexico!

Fuschina dye, preferred by the women of Santiago Ixtayutla, Jamiltepec

Plane Tickets, Arrivals/Departures: Please send us your plane schedule at least 45 days before the trip. This includes name of carrier, flight numbers, arrival and departure time to our destination.

All documentation for plane reservations, required travel insurance, and personal health issues must be received 45 days before the program start or we reserve the right to cancel your registration without reimbursement.

Terrain, Walking and Group Courtesy: We will do some walking and getting in/out of vans. If you have mobility issues or health/breathing impediments, please let us know before you register. This may not be the study tour for you.

Indigo and coyuchi cotton huipil, detail

Well-Being: If you have mobility issues or health impediments, please let us know. Our travel to remote villages will be by van on secondary roads with curves, usually not for more than two hours. When you tell us you are ready to register, we will send you a health questionnaire to complete. If you have walking or car dizziness issues, this may not be the trip for you.

Traveling with a small group has its advantages and also means that independent travelers will need to make accommodations to group needs and schedule. We include free time to go off on your own if you wish.

Note: Itinerary subject to schedule change and modification.

AeroTucan, between Oaxaca and Puerto Escondido, a 35-minute ride

Mostly Mexico Mixed Bag Sale: Textiles, Jewelry

There are 29 items in this sale today. They include earrings, necklaces and bracelets, handwoven and natural dyed wool rugs from Oaxaca, and two beautiful pieces of clothing. It’s a mixed bag! All are reduced significantly as I prepare to make my move to Taos, NM. Prices start as low as $15. I hope you find something you like. Please scroll down to be sure you see everything.

To Buy: Please email me normahawthorne@mac.com with your name, mailing address and item number. I will mark it SOLD, send you a PayPal link to purchase and add $12 for cost of mailing. Please DO NOT SELECT buying goods or services — so we don’t pay commissions. We also accept Venmo, Zelle, and I can send you a Square invoice (+3% fee).

#1 Vintage 1950’s Mexican Sterling and Moonstone, 7″ long. $225 $165
SOLD. #2 Vintage Mexican Silver + Turquoise Bracelet, 7-1/2″ long. $135 $75
SOLD. #3 Vintage Raoul Sosa Designer 1970’s Bone Bracelet, 5″ inside, opening is 1-1/8″ $295 $195
SOLD. #4 20 Centavos Silver 1939 Mexican Coin Bracelet, 7-1/2″long. $125 $65
SOLD. #5 Oaxaca faceted onyx, pearl + sterling filigree. 3/4″x1/2″ $45 $37
SOLD. #6 Mexico Sterling silver filigree and garnet. 1-1/2″ x 1″ $20 $15
#7 Vintage cast sterling silver + pearls Butterfly earrings. 1-1/4″ x 2″ $55 $35
SOLD. #8 12K Gold filigree and coral. 1″x1/2″ $125 $90
#9 12K gold finest filigree earrings. 2″x1″ $235 $155
SOLD. #10 Oaxaca Chou design bead earrings 2-1/2″x1″ $45 $25

To Buy: Please email me normahawthorne@mac.com with your name, mailing address and item number. I will mark it SOLD, send you a PayPal link to purchase and add $12 for cost of mailing. Please DO NOT SELECT buying goods or services — so we don’t pay commissions. We also accept Venmo, Zelle, and I can send you a Square invoice (+3% fee).

SOLD. #11 Vintage 12K gold filigree, pearl, glass. 1″x1-3/4″ $225 $160
SOLD #12 Federico Jimenez Oaxaca signed turquoise and silver, 2-1/4″x1″ $225 $185
SOLD. #13 Mexican onyx and sterling button earrings. 7/8″ x 1″ oval $25 $20
SOLD. #14 Israeli designer Ayala Bar. 3/4″x1″ $50 $20
SOLD. #15 Sterling silver, India. 2″x1″ $55 $45
#16 Vintage Oaxaca Virgin of Soledad Sterling and White Heart Glass Beads, 19″ $385 $325
#17 India Vintage Rabari tribal necklace, adjustable. 26″ $135 $95
#18 Oaxaca, black hand-polished clay beaded necklace, 21″ $75 $65
#19 Vintage Morocco Bedouin Amber, Coral and Metal Necklace, 17″ $295 $195
SOLD. #20 Chiapas Maya Coin Necklace, Ties to adjust length. $25 $15

To Buy: Please email me normahawthorne@mac.com with your name, mailing address and item number. I will mark it SOLD, send you a PayPal link to purchase and add $12 for cost of mailing. Please DO NOT SELECT buying goods or services — so we don’t pay commissions. We also accept Venmo, Zelle, and I can send you a Square invoice (+3% fee).

SOLD. #21 New Mexico hand-cut/inlay turquoise, onyx, spiny oyster necklace, 20″ $185 $135
#22 New Mexico turquoise, coral + sterling pendant, $65 (does not include chain) $40
SOLD. #23 Oaxaca Black Clay Bead Mexican Coin Necklace, 20″ $65 $35

The four rugs below can be used on floor, wall, or to adorn furniture. Woven on a treadle loom by Taller Teñido a Mano in Oaxaca, Mexico, they feature all natural dyes created in the studio. Sturdy and beautiful.

#24 Indigo ikat + zapote negro, 22×33″ $295 $250
#25 Indigo, un-dyed wool, cochineal, pomegranate, 23×23″ $195 $155
#26 Indigo, cochineal, un-dyed wool, 23×36″ $285 $250
#27 Cochineal, indigo, marigold, pomegranate, 23×23″ $195 $155
#28 Chiapas designer Alberto Lopez Gomez, size small, 22″x25″ $495 $420 — featured at 2020 New York Fashion Week
SOLD. #29 Designer Camelia Ramos, Malinalco, Esto. de Mexico,
ikat poncho, 100% cotton, $175 $125