Weaving Process

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Wence Dying Wool

Teotitlan del Valle, Wence Martinez’s birthplace in Oaxaca, Mexico, was a Zapotec weaving center long before the Spanish arrived. When the Spaniards’ sheep and standing treadle looms arrived in the village, however, the native people took to these new tools and materials immediately. More than 500 years later, the village has an international reputation for its dedication to their traditions and their craft.

Wence uses traditional hand-spun wools from Oaxaca in all of his work. During his visits home to Teotitlan, he travels two hours from the village to visit his favorite spinners and collect undyed yarn. He’ll take home whatever range of subtle natural colors — gray, dark brown, cream, tan — the spinners have on the day of his visit. Reserving the most special, difficult-to-find shades, Wence then dyes the wool himself, allowing the natural variations to influence his final color.

Vegetal dyes play an important part in his work. One of his favorites, a rich gold, is achieved with lichen. It’s pictured below, growing on Mount Picacho in Teotitlan del Valle.

Swiss aniline dyes round out his palette with deep reds, blues and greens. A gifted colorist, Wence approaches the dyes the way a painter would approach his paints. He mixes and plays with the colors, creating a palette of unique, rich hues that cannot be found elsewhere.

Wence has had extensive formal studies in wool dyeing, and the Martinez Studio guarantees that the colors will not run. For commissions, Wence will hand-dye the wool to order.

Martinez Studio wool is never bleached, as it would strip the protective qualities of lanolin. Each work is washed before it leaves the studio, which provides care instructions to reassure professional rug cleaners that they may wash the work with water. Dry cleaning should be avoided, since the natural lanolin keeps dust on top and prevents spills from soaking in.

Wence and Sandra Martinez will happily and expertly service their work at their Door County, Wisconsin-based studio.

View Wence at work: