Inspiring C*O*L*O*R

When I first came to Oaxaca, Mexico in October of 2002, I quickly fell in love with the brilliant explosion of colors, sounds, flavors and the overall vitality I saw on the bustling streets. It was unlike anything I had seen before. So, to kick off my blog which will be highlighting inspiring people, places , and projects, I would like to focus on one of my favorite things here in Mexico: C*O*L*O*R!

Let the inspiration begin.

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As you are driving on the highway from Oaxaca into the picturesque village of Teotitlan del Valle, you quickly notice the signs outside many houses advertising handwoven rugs made of 100% lana (wool) and many also boosting natural dyes.  With all the beautiful colors on display in nature for us to feast our eyes on, do we often look at our everyday items and wonder what exactly created that hue we love so much? I was lucky enough to do a mini photo project here in Teotitlan while helping a friend to document her family’s rugs and the process of turning plants, insects, and other natural materials into a rainbow of colors.

Two things struck me as I looked, very impressed by this display of incredible craftsmanship. The first was, how did someone ever come to realize what in nature produced what color? Just think of the amount of knowledge humans have acquired about the world around them. The of knowledge of natural dyes, for example, is not something that happened by chance, but emerges from a life spent interacting intimately with the natural world.

The bodies of the cochineal insects are ground into a vibrant bright purple powder.

The second thing that struck me is the beautiful simplicity of nature. As I stood watching my friend’s mother grind the cochineal insect into a bright purple powder, I was amazed! Humans have become pretty savvy at recreating artificially the colors we see in the natural world, but it was humbling to see this process done entirely naturally. As I focused my camera in on the little gray bodies of the small insect, I noticed a dusting of the purple powder that famously is produced when the body is crushed. Incredible! Let me always be impressed by these simple displays of wonder available to us in nature.

As soon as my friend noticed I was so captivated by the little cochineal guys, she hurried to the back lot of the house, gathering other natural items used in the dyeing process and the bunches of the finished yarn that are destined be woven into traditional Zapotec rugs. Pomegranates and other fruits, tree moss, nuts, flowers, and other organic material provided an impressive color spectrum to photograph, but also gave me an opportunity to gain a deeper understanding of the weaving tradition and a new found respect for the work that goes not only into producing the brilliant colors, but also the tradition that is woven into the rugs.

Pomegranate and other fruits, seeds, plants, insects, and other organic material used in traditional dyeing.


More on Teotitlan de Valle and the weaving tradition:

DREAM WEAVERS: In the Mexican Village of Teotitlan, gifted artisans create a future from bright hand-loomed rugs. (http://www.smithsonianmag.com/arts-culture/dreamweavers.html)

Casa Elena Bed and Breakfast (http://www.arrierorugs.com/casaelena.htm)  Photos and information if you are thinking of a stay in the village.  Elena is fluent in English and is a wonderful hostess!

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