Textile Futures: Conversations Around the Dye Pot

Mariano Sosa Martinez and Rafaela Ruiz Guetierrez demonstrate at the Textile Futures public demonstration at the University of California, Berkeley Art Museum. Photo by Sita Bhaumik

CCA's Textiles Program hosted two respected members of the artist collective Centro de Arte Textil Zapoteco Bii Dauu -- Mariano Sosa Martinez and Rafaela Ruiz Gutierrez -- for its 2014 biennial event, Textile Futures 2014: Conversations Around the Dye Pot.

Textiles Futures promotes cross-cultural and cross-generational dialog geared toward locating and expanding the rhetoric around textile sensibilities and practices.

This year the CCA Textiles Program collaborated with artist and curator David Wilson with his ongoing project The Possible at the University of California, Berkeley Art Museum.

Cultural Exchange

Both in the United States and in the Oaxaca, Mexico, a growing interest exists in the revival of traditional natural dye techniques and in the experimentation with new recipes.

Because the Textiles Program maintains a robust natural dye curriculum through its spring semester course "Soil to Studio," taught by Sasha Duerr, we hope to build an ongoing exchange with Mariano Sosa Martinez and Rafaela Ruiz Gutierrez. 

On Friday, April 5, when Martinez and Gutierrez visited the CCA Community Garden on CCA's Oakland campus, they carefully examined the plants, inquired about the names and properties of each, and gathered materials.

The following day, in addition to dyeing with the natural materials they brought with them from Oaxaca, they experimented with the plants they had picked in our garden.

Student Workshop

The following day, Martinez and Gutierrez conducted a one-day workshop with Textiles students. Eighteen students worked side by side with the artists, learning traditional Zapotec natural-dye techniques using cochineal, indigo, and Mexican marigold.

These indigenous practices were carefully researched through conversation with Zapotec elders, and their use has been revived by Martinez,  Gutierrez, and the other artists of the collective since the founding of the organization 23 years ago.

The interest in reviving these practices was fueled by a desire to maintain cultural knowledge, to address ecological issues, to build economic opportunities for a community facing wide-spread emigration, and to create superior woven products that are the mainstay of the collective.

Public Demonstration

On Sunday, the artists offered a public demonstration of natural-dye techniques at the Berkeley Art Museum. To a packed crowd of over 70 attendees, Martinez and Gutierrez demonstrated their processes of dyeing and over-dyeing hand-spun wool with natural indigo, cochineal, and Mexican marigold to produce blues, reds, yellows, greens, and purples.

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Panel Discussion

A panel discussion on the Fritz Haeg rug followed in which the artists addressed the resurgence of traditional natural-dye practices and its economic and social implications.

Additional panelists:

  • Sasha Duerr, CCA faculty member, artist, and author of The Handbook of Natural Plant Dyes
  • Deborah Valoma, chair of CCA's Textiles Program at CCA, artist, and author of Scrape the Willow Until It Sings: The Work and Words of Basket Maker Julia Parker
  • Sita Bhaumik, writer and interdisciplinary artist