Reds, Glorious Reds: The Cultivation and Use of Cochineal for Dye in Oaxaca, Mexico
Cochineal is a scale insect that lives on the pads of Prickly Pear Cactus (genus Opuntia) and
whose body and eggs contain carminic acid, an historically important natural dye. To the Maya and Aztec people of Mexico and Central America, cochineal dyed textiles were created as early as the second century BC and dried cochineal insects were paid first as annual tribute to Montezuma in the 15th century as recorded in Codex Osuna. Second only to silver in value, cochineal was then sent back to Spain by the conquistadores after they defeated this powerful ruler. Spain maintained a monopoly on this magnificent red dye source for several hundred years. Carmine, a dye and pigment produced from cochineal, was used to dye Catholic cardinals’ robes and the uniform jackets of English Redcoats.
Having dyed with imported cochineal for years before traveling to Oaxaca, Mexico, for the 10th International Shibori Symposium in 2016, Kris was particularly interested in seeing cochineal being raised commercially on a farm south of the city. In nearby Teotitlan de Valle, a Zapotec town famous for its handwoven rugs, those weavers using natural dyes often include shades of orange, red, pink and purple produced by cochineal insects in their rugs. Take a virtual trip to a Mexican cochineal farm to learn more about the history and use of these amazing (female!) insects and see examples of the rugs that glow with the cochineal dye colors.
About Kris Nardello
Blending advanced degrees in both art and science education, dyer, weaver, spinner, quilter and retired middle school teacher, Kris is often found foraging for native California plants and mushrooms for her natural dye pots. The dyed yarns are used for weaving small tapestries and rugs using traditional Scandinavian patterns as well as knitted garments. The indigo-dyed shibori and eco-printed fabrics are used for boro stitched bags, pieced quilts, garments and fabric collages. She has studied Zapotec rug techniques and symbology with Porfirio Gutierrez and works in Martha Stanley’s studio with 5 other weavers. Kris is currently the secretary of the Santa Cruz Textile Arts Guild, part of the Northern California Handweavers Guild.
Our May Guild meeting will be on the 4th Thursday this month (May 26) due to CNCH. This will also be our first in person meeting this year!
Our guest speakers will be you, our guild members! This will be an extended show and tell. Share what you’ve learned at CNCH, both in and out of the workshops. What is grabbing your interest right now? What are you exploring? We want to hear from you! So bring your projects and stories.
While masks are no longer required in indoor spaces, we do encourage using a mask, asking that you do what is comfortable and safe.
Our March speaker will be Miriam Omura. Miriam is a textile and visual artist who works with many types of media, including weaving, fabric and photography. She will be speaking to us about her unique warp painting technique. Miriam will first describe the technique she uses and then take us on a journey through some of her pieces and their stories.
Memories result is a translation that acts as an interpretation of an event. As an immigrant, I have found my place through trying to understanding culture and place. This began with my past work, which dealt with personal identity through memory and family history connected to England and Sri Lanka. In recent years, that focus has shifted to exploring broader overlapping concerns that intersect with identity and social issues. Building on ideas of perspective and perception developed in my past work, my current imagery attempts to understand and ask questions about who and what makes up society around us. In looking for a way to comment on issues that will invite conversation and further investigation on the part of tthe viewer.
The memories we recall can be intentionally or accidentally distorted, changing without our realization. When memories are retrieved, they fuse with other memories to produce an unclear view that sits between truth and fiction. As a memory is recalled, it becomes layered and reshaped by the chemical process of retrieval in the brain. It is my hope to visually capture these ideas within my work, showing the intangible aspects of memory.
Also of interest is her story about moving from being working in museums to becoming an entrepreneur.
During this hour long hosted video presentation, weavers, dyers, knitters, and spinners of the Peruvian highlands who are cooperative members of the Center for Traditional Textiles of Cusco (CTTC) are featured. The focus is on the preservation and revitalization of their traditional textile arts—including some techniques dating back to the Incas. These include the Andean way of spinning, dyeing, and knitting, as well as the tools to create belts, bands, textiles, woven edges, and skirt borders. Through the video clips and images, the weaving of doubleweave, ikat, tapestry, and discontinuous and supplementary warps are also highlighted.
This video program is narrated by ATA board member and well-known doubleweave author and teacher, Jennifer Moore. In addition to the video presentation, one or two ATA board members will be present on the scheduled Zoom call to field questions in real time at the end of the video. The total program, with the Q&A, is about one hour.
“Textile Traditions of the Peruvian Highlands” is an inspiring virtual visit to the weavers, spinners, knitters, and dyers of the Peruvian Highlands. It is an opportunity to “travel” to this part of the world and be exposed to the area’s unique traditional textiles and cultures.
Although weaving and dyeing are two distinct textile skills, the combination and integration of these processes one can vastly expand a design vocabulary. The result is a more complex and personalized finished textile. Applications for these weave/dye combinations include ikat, woven shibori, and cross dyeing. The primary focus of this talk will be the use of natural dyes, but synthetic dye use is also applicable. Catharine will share her thought process, her dye choices, and talk about the evolution of her woven and dyed work over more than 40 years.
Catharine Ellis has been a weaver and a dyer for over 40 years. After three decades of teaching the Fiber Program at Haywood Community College in NC she is now dedicated to studio work, focusing on natural dye processes. She also does specialized, selected teaching, in the U.S. and internationally. Recent projects include teaching natural dyeing in Guatemalan through Mayan Hands.
Bold graphic line, zig zag stripes and scalloped selvedges are striking characteristics of wedge weave. Instead of weaving perpendicular to the warp, as is usual for tapestry, wedge weave is an eccentric weaving technique where the wefts are woven at an angle to the warp. In wedge weave the patterned design and weaving structure are inextricably connected.
In her presentation Deborah will discuss the brief time when some Navajo weavers experimented with this “rouge” technique and the influence that their work and this style has had on her and other contemporary weavers. She will show images of Navajo wedge weaves and of her own work in wedge weave and that of other contemporary weavers experimenting with eccentric weft techniques.
Deborah Corsini has a lifelong passionate interest in the study of textiles, textile cultures and the making of textile art. A weaver for over 50 years she is a studio artist exhibiting her works nationally. She holds a Masters in Textiles from San Francisco State University and a B.F.A. from California College of Arts (and Crafts.) She has taught weaving and tapestry at City College of San Francisco and workshops in various textile techniques such as tablet weaving and wedge weave at the Richmond Art Center, the Mendocino Art Center, and the Conference of Northern CA Handweavers. She will be offering a workshop in wedge weave in the upcoming CNCH in 2022. Deborah has been lucky to have had two textile related careers. As the former Creative Director of P & B Textiles and a textile designer she honed her sense of color and design and appreciation of patterns both printed and woven. As the former curator of the San Jose Museum of Quilts & Textiles she gained a deeper respect and appreciation for the history of quilts and the ever-evolving contemporary fiber art scene. She is active in the community and continues her studio practice in Pacifica, CA.
The Programs Committee is happy to announce our 2021-2022 programs. At this time, all guild meetings will be conducted via Zoom until it is safe to meet in person again. Meetings are on 3rd Thursdays of each month, beginning at 7PM. Zoom links are available in the Member’s Calendar.
Ginger Summit has been a creator for all of her life, from weaving, creating spirit figures and musical instruments out of gourds (author of over 7 books on gourds), and creating community (Los Altos City Council and Mayor). Her latest venture is creating art with felt.
Ginger will share with us her journey through felt, how she developed her own process for
working with both wet and dry felt, and some of her favorite pieces, from self healing to commercial pieces. One of her recent pieces, “Walk by A Mountain Stream” was accepted into Handweavers Guild of America (HGA) Small Expressions 2021, an annual juried exhibit featuring contemporary small-scale works. The exhibit showcases works created using fiber techniques in any media, not to exceed 15 inches (38 cm) in any direction, including mounting, framing, or display devices.
Black Sheep member Barbara Shapiro will share the productive burst of artistic output inspired by moving her studio in January 2020 and by current personal and political events. The sequestration that Covid forced upon us all brought forth lots of new work in several series. Unfinished and abandoned projects from years ago were seen with new eyes and finally finished. Newly discovered materials inspired different ways of working. And as always, Indigo colored her materials. Barbara hopes to inspire you to look at your own work in new ways as you enjoy this saga of 20-21 in her studio in the time of Covid.
Since ancient times, human beings have observed the world around them and found recurring patterns in nature. The Golden Proportion, the Fibonacci Series, symmetry movements, tessellations and fractals are some of the mathematical ideas that have found their way into art and architecture for thousands of years. In this slide show we will see examples of how these ideas have been used throughout history, various cultures, and particularly in contemporary fiber art.
From the first time that Jennifer sat down at a loom, she was drawn to the orderly universe of colored threads and the rhythmic repetition in the process of weaving. Because of her background in piano and pipe organ, she felt an immediate affinity with this new stringed instrument whose patterns flowed from her hands in the form of color and design rather than sound.
Jennifer has developed new methods of setting up and weaving doubleweave and made it accessible and understandable for all weavers. Her techniques and systems for working in doubleweave can also be found in my book The Weaver’s Studio: Doubleweave and in her online courses.