Radiant Red – Natural Dye Workshop, 2015



September 30, 4 – 6 p.m. Join Wax and Wane fiber for this FREE hands-on natural dye class, and learn how to use Cochineal extract, an insect-based pigment, to make fabric art. Take  your piece home or leave it in the care of the artists for possible inclusion in a curated show in October. Due to increasing popularity of these workshops, arriving at 4 is recommended, as space is limited. All ages welcome. Children must be accompanied by an adult. 

Cochineal – 

There are many species of red-dye-producing insects used since remote antiquity, with American cochineal, Dactylopius coccus, becoming dominant in European and Asian luxury goods markets in the late 16th century. It is a type of parasitic scale insect that colonizes Opuntia cacti. They produce carminic acid, a substance that deters predation by other insects, which can be used to produce a luxuriant red dye that is very stable, and resistant to change from light, heat, or oxidation. It is superior to many of the plant-based red dyes, and was even more costly. The color red has long held symbolic and ritualistic significance, adding to Cochineal’s importance as a dyestuff.

Cochineal was domesticated, and farmed by indigenous producers using delicate and painstaking manual labor to breed the insects then pluck them from the Opuntia pads. The species ficus indica, which can be found in our desert collection, is the most commonly utilized on these farms. Cochineal became Mexico’s second-most important export in the Colonial era (second only to silver).

Demand fell in the 19th century, with the invention of synthetic reds. There has been a resurgence in popularity recently for dying foods and cosmetics, as many synthetic red dyes have been found to be carcinogenic.

“Indian Collecting Cochineal with a Deer Tail” by José Antonio de Alzate y Ramírez (1777)

Full Workshop Series:

July 22, 4 – 6 p.m. – Indigo Dreams
August 12, 4 – 6 p.m. – Purple Desire
August 26, 4 – 6 p.m. – Magenta Magic
September 9, 4 – 6 p.m. – Green Tea Ecoprinting
September 30, 4 – 6 p.m. – Radiant Red

From Indigo Dreams workshop, July 22