Natural Dye Workshop with Michel Garcia and Sustainable Dye Practice

A film series and discussion forum dedicated to the science and practice of natural dyes and pigments using sustainable methods.

Colors of America: Cochineal workshop with Yoshiko I. Wada

Textile scholar and WSN President, Yoshiko I. Wada recently taught the art of natural dyeing with cochineal, at the beautiful UC Botanical Garden in Berkeley.

Cochineal has been used in the Americas over centuries and some of it’s earliest use has been traced back to the Aztec and Mayan civilizations. Cochineal’s deep red color comes from the tiny scale insects who live on opuntia (nopal) cacti. These are photos from a nopalry (cochineal farm) that Team WSN team visited in Oaxaca! The cochineal used in the class was procured from this farm.

The workshop began with context setting – the history of cochineal colour, the way it’s farmed as well as how to prepare it for dyeing.


                The class listening intently to Yoshiko; Photo Credit: Anu Ravi

Yoshiko explained and demonstrated three distinct methodologies/recipes to derive different reds and crimson, across a variety of substrates (different types of wool and silk).

In the afternoon, the participants  got the opportunity to see key segments of the Colors of Latin America film as well as make some maya blue pigment!

In the end, all participants received a swatch book with the various samples made during the day.


Skeins out to dry; Photo Credit: Anu Ravi

Here’s what participant Carol de Boer had to say about the class.

Can’t begin to tell you what a positive experience this was for me. Yoshiko is an inspired instructor. I loved her explanations, She and her team are so kind. I was blown away by the other participants/so talented and accomplished. Thank you for an inspiring day!

Fellow participant Karen Vournas had this to add…

 I really enjoyed the class and was amazed to see all the variation achievable from the same dye. I’m particularly interested in how the symplocos differs from alum and how it affects the discharge effect with leaf color extraction prints. Also, since I’ve only used gallnut tannin, I want to do some comparisons with myrobalam and printing over it with and without iron. Lots to think about, and lots to do. Thanks for a great day.

For those who’d like to experiment with cochineal or maya blue from the comfort of your home / studio, you can always check out Michel Garcia’s Colors of Latin America DVD.

Happy dyeing!

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This entry was posted on October 23, 2015 by and tagged , , , , .
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