On November 14th I had the opportunity to meet two weavers, Jaime an 8th generation Zapotec weaver and his partner Joey, at their home in Lathrop in the Central Valley of California. What a nice day!
They are producing modern Zapotec textiles in the traditional way on looms build by Zenon Hipolito, Jaime’s father. I was invited into their home/studio. There I saw the three hand-built looms in what would otherwise be the living room of their condominium.
Three hand built looms in the main room
A loom being set up for weaving. The reed of bamboo was made by Jaime’s father.
The wall behind the looms had hand-dyed skeins ready to be used.
Cochineal and other traditional colors are used.
Jaime, Joey and Ev show some tapestry cushions
A rug woven by Jaime's grandfather
Joey’s interpretation of Jaime’s grandfather’s rug
Color variations from natural dyes add life to the tapestry.
An original rug based on traditional designs
Rugs to mug rugs: a sample of the weaving done by Jaime and Joey
Handmade shuttles in progress crafted by Zenon Hipolito, Jaime’s father
A spinning wheel made by Zenon Hipolito
Cochineal beetles hang on a rack on the front porch feasting on cactus pads...
ready to be harvested for a traditional red dye. A plastic cover keeps them warm.
Jaime plucked a beetle with its protective covering, crushed it, to show the red it produces.
Cochineal beetles provide "insulation" to protect them from heat and cold. These beetles in their insulation have been harvested from the cactus pods.
We had delightful and decadent lunch about a half mile away from their house...and bought chocolate.
There was another loom in the garage that Jaime’s father was rebuilding to accommodate their current orders. Not only does he build the looms, he also makes the shuttles by hand and has built a spinning wheel which Joey uses to spin some of their rug yarn. Many of their yarns are hand-dyed.
On the front porch they carefully tend cactus pads which are home to cochineal beetles. These beetles produce an ancient natural dye that is hard to come by. Zenon, Jaime’s father, harvested the beetles and cactus pads in the Los Angeles area. The cactus pads are hung from a wooden frame that is carefully covered with plastic sheeting to keep the temperature from dropping too low in California’s inland valley. The beetles create a fluffy white covering which protects them from drying out it the dessert. When the beetles grow into a large colony under their protective fluffy coating, they are harvested, dried, and eventually ground into a powder that produces a lovely red dye.
My weaver/friend Ev went with me. We were treated not only to an amazing array of their work but also to their wonderful hospitality.
The day ended with lunch at the Ghiradelli Chocolate factory just a half a mile a way. What a trip!