The beautiful hand-loomed rugs Talavera offers in our store are made by the Jiminez family, of Zapotec origin, who live and weave their "tepete" (rug) creations in the town of Teotitlan Del Valle, Oaxaca, Mexico. It was an adventure to visit their home, which is also their workshop, to select rugs and purchase them from this artisan family directly.
We were able to experience firsthand the beautiful yarns in a spectacular array of colors that they create, from nature--and we learned how the wool is died and then woven into handsome and well-crafted rugs in a variety of patterns, both traditional Zapotec and other newer patterns.
Lourdes, the family matriarch, explained one of the processes they use to make the intensely red dye, called cochineal. Cochineal is derived from what we know as a “mealy bug.” In this region, the cochineal thrives on cactus which the family raises on a farm nearby.
Their craft requires that they are deeply knowledgeable about natural substances (plants, animal, and earthen materials) and blending them for their dyes.
Clearly, this is a craft handed down through generations. In the cochineal process, the family harvests the insects when they are at their plumpest, being sure to leave the very biggest to procreate the next generation—very much like “seed corn.” The dried cochineal is then crushed in the traditional stone metate (see video below).
The rich dried blood, cochineal, is fundamental to the intense red dyes so admired in their rugs, and is used as well in blending to make other colors.
Weaving, using these richly colored yarns, is a family affair. Locating and befriending the Jimenez family was a pure joy both in learning their craft and receiving a wonderful, warm welcome.