How Things Work

Remember those children's books? How Things Work? Well on my recent trip to Oaxaca, I got to see how rugs are made, and it was so fascinating!

One of the projects we're working on at the moment is a sixty-room hotel San Miguel, Mexico, and we want to use traditional, regionally-made rugs, so we went to Oaxaca, the textile center of Mexico, to source them.

As you can see in the photos, Oaxaca is beautiful! The photos above are near the town center, where we stayed, and the photo below is out in the country, where we drove to meet the rug producers. I couldn't get over the big, open sky and the mountains in the distance.

These are the actual looms that will be used to weave the rugs for our hotel!

Click the jump for the rest...

Each rug takes nine months to produce because the looms are operated by foot-pedals, and the pedals are calibrated to one specific person's weight, so each rug is woven start to finish by one person. If they get sick for a week, too bad. The rug will wait. There's something I love about that, in our age of internet and machines and expedited shipping.

The hotel operators, however, do not love that. In fact, they really don't get why we are using rugs that take nine months to make when we could just get them from like, Pottery Barn, in a couple of weeks. Alas, we think it's worth it. These rugs have a life and a story.

Here is Pantaleone, who runs the company, showing us how crushing the mold that grows on the cactus in their courtyard produces this richly hued berry color. They use it as one of their dyes! He then squeezed a lime into his hand and the acid turned the mixture bright orange!

The special cactus with its fancy mold...

Pantaleone showing us the various plants, like indigo and lavender, that they use for dyes. SO cool! Not many rug producers still use all natural dyes.

The resulting yarn colors, below. Also, on the left, that is the thing used to spin the raw wool into thread. We saw his mom doing it! Too bad I took those pics on someone else's camera since all I had was my iphone...

Speaking of his mom, the whole company is basically just made up of his family members. The other rug producers we met with were also family operations-- it really is still a traditional, artisinal craft down there! Handed down through the family...

After learning all about the process, we went through piles of designs he has done and came up with our own designs! We used motifs that he uses, but altered the scale or patterns slightly, selected colors that would match our decor, added borders and tassels, and voila! Rugs! Well, nine months from now...

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