Preserving Textile Arts and Culture in Oaxaca
Preserving the art of natural dyeing is not only important to the art itself, but also to the preservation of a culture. These dyers and weavers from Teotitlan del Valle, Oaxaca, have been practicing their craft for centuries, and fortunately have been passing down knowledge for generations. Thanks to their commitment to teaching and practicing, the knowledge of natural dyeing has been preserved and artists practicing natural dyeing has been steadily growing over the last decade.
It is important to our movement in slow textiles and circular fashion to perpetuate and grow this knowledge by experimenting and sharing our own journey.
Here is an excerpt from the original article posted by the New York Times, "In Mexico, Weavers Embrace Natural Alternatives to Toxic Dyes":
“We’d talk about the stories of the plants,” Mr. Gutiérrez, 39, recalled. “Where they grew, the colors that they provide, what’s the perfect timing to collect them......In this small village near Oaxaca, known for its hand-woven rugs, he and his family are among a small group of textile artisans working to preserve the use of plant and insect dyes, techniques that stretch back more than 1,000 years in the indigenous Zapotec tradition.......
Textile artists in many countries are increasingly turning to natural dyes, both as an attempt to revive ancient traditions and out of concerns about the environmental and health risks of synthetic dyes.
Natural dyes, though more expensive and harder to use than the chemical dyes that have largely supplanted them, produce more vivid colors and are safer and more environmentally friendly than their synthetic counterparts.
To be sure, natural pigments are not always benign. The plants they are extracted from can be poisonous, and heavy metal salts are often used to fix the colors to the fabric. The dyes fade more quickly from sun exposure than chemically produced colors, arguably rendering the textiles less sustainable.
But environmentalists have long worried about the damaging effects of the wide array of toxic chemicals — from sulfur and formaldehyde, to arsenic, copper, lead and mercury — routinely used in textile production.
Runoff from textile factories pollutes waterways and disrupts ecosystems worldwide. And long-term exposure to synthetic dyes — first discovered in 1856 by an English chemist, William Henry Perkin — has been linked to cancer and other illnesses