Artisan Organization: Alberto Ruiz
"Hola! My name is Alberto Ruiz García and I'm from a town in Oaxaca dedicated to weaving. I am the fourth generation of my family to practice this craft. I remember as a child I watched my father working on the loom while my mother and grandmother carded and dyed the wool so that the men could weave it.
"First the sheep are sheared, and this is done twice a year. We pick out any twigs and burrs and wash the fleece. Then we card it with two large wire brushes so that it is soft and can be worked on a wooden spinning wheel. We wash it with amole, a plant that grows in the sierra. It releases a lot of foam, and in this way the wool doesn't lose its purity. If we washed it with commercial soaps, the wool would lose its shine and wouldn't absorb the natural dyes as well. This removes the impurities and natural grease. We then spin it and dye it with tints from the cochineal insect, pomegranate peel, bark from the huajal tree that thrives here, as well as oak and pecan bark. Stones, dried flowers, almost all the rocks and flowers here yield natural colors.
"To achieve the dyes, we soak the materials in a big pot of water and let it sit at least a month. Then we set it on the fire to boil. We immerse the hanks of yarn for half an hour and then we take them out to dry. The wool is washed once more to fix the colors.
"The long, narrow bobbins we use are made of reed, and we wind the yarn on them to weave it. We first warp the handloom, and then we begin to weave the rug. Depending on the size, it can take a long time to finish. A small rug can be made in two or three days, but a large one can take six weeks to weave.
"My wife and I work together in our home. We help each other, and in this way we can finish our rugs sooner. I especially like diamond motifs, as they represent a kind of maguey coat of arms seen at Monte Albán. They exemplify my Zapotec heritage.""