It was at the Santa Fe International Folk Art Market in New Mexico last July when I rounded the corner and saw these amazing rugs. Yes, the rugs lured me in, but more so the beautiful smile of the artist and his approachable and warm manner. Within minutes of talking to Porfirio Gutierrez, I knew I had to travel to see his family make their traditional hand-woven textile arts during my upcoming trip to Oaxaca, Mexico.
Porfirio’s family lives in Teotitlan del Valle, a small village in the southern Mexican state of Oaxaca where about 80 percent of the state are indigenous – his village being Zapotec. The family are descendants of and participants in the rich Zapotec tradition of weaving.
It was the lure of their mission to preserve the use of plant and insect dyes, techniques that date back more than a thousand years in the indigenous Zapotec tradition. Unfortunately over the years there’s been a slow and steady migration from natural dyes to chemical dyes to save time and money. Not only were they seeing their heritage slowly slip away right before their eyes, but a growing concern about the environmental and health risks of synthetic dyes.
I’ve seen the natural dye process in several countries and I’m always intrigued and very much amazed with the brilliant colors that can be created by plants and insects. I’m always in awe of the amount of hard work and time it takes to make it all happen.