For three days I am immersed in natural dyes with Elsa Sanchez Diaz who teaches our Oaxaca Natural Dye Workshops through Oaxaca Cultural Navigator. We make 32 different colors starting with a base of gray and white natural wool.
The natural plant and vegetable materials we dye with include palo de brazil (Brazilwood), nogal (walnut), cochineal (the red insect found on the prickly pear cactus paddle), caoba (mahogany bark), palo de aguila (alderwood bark), palo de mora (fustic), pericone (wild marigold), granada (pomegranate) and añil (indigo).
Using a combination of base dyes and over-dyes, we make color variations of red, purple, orange, pink, yellow, green and blue. Based on the wool color and number of dips into the dye bath, the color will be light or intense.
For the complete three-day workshop, the first day is mostly preparation of the materials, starting with making the skeins of yarn. We learn about the history of natural dyes in Mexico, how the pre-Hispanic indigenous people used the dyes, and the symbols of the colors.
(We also offer One and Two-Day Dye Workshops)
To understand the entire dye process, Elsa says that it is important to begin with all the basic preparation steps. This is a time-consuming process and to be a natural dyer one must have patience. This is something we learn in Mexico daily.
On the street below the rooftop terrace where we work sheltered from the sun at the outdoor dye studio, I hear the sound of a high-pitched whistle. It’s the knife sharpener, Elsa says. Other street sounds signal the coming of the gas man and tortilla vendor.
Elsa says even when she uses the same recipes, the color will vary slightly each time. This is handmade, after all! Color intensity depends on the pH of the water, the dryness, age or freshness of the plants and fruits, and the natural shade of the wool. This is chemistry, for sure.
Plus, when there are natural tannic acids in some materials like mahogany, indigo, fustic and pomegranate, the color is stronger.
Day One is a complete introduction to the two most frequently used dyes, pericone and pomegranate, and getting into the mindset of natural dyes, says our participant Rhiannon, a textile and jewelry designer from Canada. But, you don’t have to be experienced or a professional to learn … and have fun with color.
Oaxaca Natural Dye Workshop. We can schedule your experience when you come to Oaxaca.
Mexico City Architecture: Luis Barragan House Photo Essay
True Confession: In all the years I’ve been visiting Mexico City, I never made it to the Casa Luis Barragan in Colonia Condesa. One of the benefits of staying in this neighborhood is to make a pilgrimage to the home where this disciple of Corbusier lived. You MUST make a reservation in advance to visit. Only small groups go through the house and studio with a guide.
Textured and adjoining smooth walls add drama
Luis Barragan, winner of the Pritzker Prize, is one of Mexico’s most famed architects who influenced an entire generation of architects, including Ricardo Legorretta, has volumes written about him. His work is documented with great photography. I hope you read more.
What fascinates me is how he uses space — sometimes spare, sometimes cluttered, always calculated. His brilliant and punctuated use of color is incorporated into serene, cloistered rooms. I am surprised to move from small, intimate spaces into large living areas with high ceilings, walls, partitions, bringing the outdoors into the interior. There are design lessons to be learned here for how to live with a few, very meaningful objects.
Center piece. Lots of tables and niches and nooks to settle into throughout the house.
Twenty foot ceilings make small rooms larger.
Photo of Barragan, exceptionally tall, posing on floating staircase
The Miguelito Chair, designed by Barragan
Floating staircase leads to small study on second floor from library
Intimate, small library, cozy, comfortable
Painting by friend Mathias Goeritz is like a mirror
Color, louvered doors accentuates space transition
Rooftop terrace at Casa Luis Barragan
Stunning hot pink wall is backdrop to blooming vines
Mexican flowering vine Copa de Oro
Tonala, Guadalajara hand-blown glass globes reflect in every room
Luscious color in entry way, detail
One small lamp illuminates Barragan’s private dining room
Barragan, a very private man, loved his solitude. His small, dark, private dining room is like a cloister. Extremely tall, very religious, he designed spaces with small door frames and low ceilings, requiring him to bend as if in prayer, as he moved through his home and studio.
Reflection from inside to out, bringing the spaces together.
Collection of old ceramic mezcal jars are focal point of small patio
Patios have small water features, either fountains or large lava rock or ceramic bowls to collect water, that reflects nature.
Hot pink door opens to verdant green space.
My sister Barbara in the living room through the glass.
Warm colors of studio — he painted skylights and windows yellow
Outside a neighbor’s house, a whimsical sculpture
I love these globes. You can buy them in patio shops throughout the USA.
Sister Barbara in silhouette. Large windows bring green to interior.
Studio space is used as a gallery for featured shows now.
Where we are staying: In a penthouse apartment owned by Nai, with a terrace overlooking the treetops and rooftops of this walkable neighborhood. I highly recommend this location. See it on Air BnB.
We are getting around using UBER. Most rides are under $4 USD. Safe, on-time, dependable, secure.
Posted in Cultural Commentary, Mexico City, Photography, Travel & Tourism
Tagged architecture, casa, house, Luis Barragan, Mexico City, photographs, studio