Telar de cintura, Santo Tomás Jalieza
Zona arqueológica de Mitla
Hilos pintados con tintes naturales
Nopales con cochinillla
Torno de pedal, San Miguel, Cajonos
Pollos blancos y hilos amarillos, Teotitlán
Seda crillollo y chine, Cajonos
Rebozos, pintado con tintes naturales con puntas, San Miguel Cajonos
Hilos de algodón por los mallas, Mitla
Telar de chicote, Mitla
Contemporary Textiles from Ancient Oaxacan Traditions

Chapters of Woven Lives


Historical Perspective: The Zapotec Artisans in Oaxaca

Drawing upon the richness of sights, sounds and beauty of the people and the region our journey begins in the City of Oaxaca, in Southern Mexico. Oaxaca maintains a proud tradition of fine textile arts and has provided valuable trade goods for centuries. This section will provide a brief history and cultural context of the indigenous Zapotec people and their traditions of art, and design. Evidence of the long history can be seen in the two thousand year old temple ruins in the town of Mitla which show a clear connection between their ancient architecture and contemporary woven pattern.

Natural Dyeing

Natural Dyeing with Native Plants, Minerals & Insects - Santa Ana del Valle (more...)

Primo Aquino Cruz, from the village of Santa Ana del Valle, is a seventh-generation weaver His reputation as an artist has reached international status. Primo, who frequently teaches workshops on weaving and natural dyeing, will in this section demonstrate how to achieve richly colored wool yarns using native plants such as pericón (yellow), indigo (blue), pomegranate (black) and the small cochineal insect (red). Starting with the gathering of plants in the wild, Primo will show the process of creating extracts that can be used and shifted to create an infinite array of glorious colors.

Cultivating the World’s Most Brilliant Red Dye: La Grana Cochinilla Cochineal Farm, Santa María Coyotepec (more...)

For millennia the Zapotecs have been cultivating cochineal, which yields the world?s most brilliant natural red dye. Ancient codices show evidence of cochineal-dyed cloth being paid as tribute more than a thousand years ago. After the Spanish conquest of the Aztec Empire, cochineal exported to Spain was worth more by weight than gold. By the seventeenth century, it was traded as far away as India and became Mexico's second most valued export after silver. Cochineal insects feed on the nopal cactus. This dyestuff is produced almost exclusively on small farms where the cochineal insect feeds on the nopal cactus. We well visit a present-day cochineal farm just outside of the city of Oaxaca, to observe the cultivation process.


Pre-Hispanic Weaving: Backstrap Loom - Santo Tomas Jalieza (more...)

In the village of Santo Tomas Jalieza we visit the busy studio of Abigail Mendoza Antonio in order to see one of the oldest weaving techniques still in use in Oaxaca today. Using strands as delicate as sewing thread, Abigail weaves the finest and most intricate of patterns on small backstrap looms. Her exquisite work has won national awards and has been featured in international publications. Working from her well-lit patio workshop, Abigail and her family design and produce woven strips that are exquisite on their own or can be sewn together to make wider fabrics. On larger backstrap looms, they also produce wider fabrics for bags, table runners and other functional items that they sell in local markets.

Silk Weaving

The Little-known Art of Silk Weaving in Mexico: San Pedro Cajonos (more...)

High in the Sierras above the central valleys we find the family studio of Moises Martinez where three generations of weavers work together to produce brilliantly colored sumptuous silk fabrics. We will see how they cultivate the silk worms, hand spin the thread from the cocoons, naturally dye and weave these delicate fibers. Moises’ family is also known for its complex hand knotting and finishing of the fine silk cloths and for making contemporary jewelry from a combination of silver and silk cocoons.

The Colorful Silk of the Bienhi Cooperative of the Village of San Miguel Cajonos (more...)

Nearby, in San Miguel Cajonos, a group of families has joined together as the Bienhi Cooperative to create a viable income for the people of the village. Coop members produce silk textiles with striking contrast colors and rich hues. They have incorporated both machine spinning of the fine silk threads and the use of floor looms to speed up the weaving process. We will revisit the natural dyeing process and learn how it is adjusted to work with silk.


Rug Weaving: The Extraordinary Textiles of Teotitlán del Valle (more...)

Teotitlán, the most famous of the weaving villages, is known throughout the world for its sophisticated color combinations and beautiful wool tapestry rug weaving, We will see works by several artists in this community.
Federico Chavez Sosa teaches workshops in weaving and natural dyeing both in his home studio and in the U.S. Federico will show his rug designs and demonstrate tapestry techniques with his vibrant naturally-dyed wool yarns on a loom in his bright courtyard studio.
We will also visit the Bii Dauu Cooperative where the weaving and dyeing are very contemporary in feel yet still retain a Zapotec design sensibility. Bii Dauu is also dedicated to creating a balanced life that is supportive of social, cultural and economic development. All members of this cooperative use only natural dyes in all of their products. We will visit a home workshop that utilizes solar panels and passive solar technology for dyeing and over-dyeing large quantities of yarn to create stunning color combinations.


Rapid Fire Fly Shuttle Weaving for Small Scale Production - Mitla (more...)

The weaving studio of Rodrigo Hernandez is filled with the rhythmic clacking of the loom as the weavers produce more than 5 meters per hour of hand-woven lightweight cotton fabric. The speed of production has allowed for unique opportunities for custom small scale production, and partnerships with foreign textile designers who feature the patterns and colors in custom garments and woven fabrics.


Planning for the Future: Weaving Traditions of Oaxaca Embrace a Global Community

In this chapter, we visit local stores that feature the best of the innovative Oaxacan textiles which bridge ancient traditions with contemporary sensibilities. Textile artists share their insights into how they are developing their work and markets to survive in global economy. Experts from the Textile Museum of Oaxaca discuss the museum as a meeting point between people, traditions, crafts, design and contemporary art by looking to the past to move forward into the future. (more...)