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OUR ARTISANS

José Jiménez

Natural, traditional, handmade, unchanged for centuries, the craft of Jose Jimenez is a unique and dying art. Ikat is the practice of resist dyeing, wrapping wool or cotton tightly with fique, a plant native to the Andes, before dyeing the exposed fabric. The intricate patterns reflect a culture’s beliefs, values and traditions. In Latin America, earliest known Ikat works were found in Pre-Columbian Peru. Some of the earliest cultural and economic developments in the Andean preceramic period were spinning and weaving of wool and cotton.

The whole process is natural, even the colors are derived from natural dyes. For example, shades from deep purples to bright neon looking pinks come from cochineal, a small insect that lives, feeds, and eventually dies on cacti throughout much of the Andean region, Mexico, Peru and Ecuador. The insect is harvested once dead from cacti, then dried, and mashed into a purple paste.

 

The word cochineal is derived from the Latin word coccinus, meaning scarlet-colored. Mr. Jimenez take a pinch into his hand, grinds it into dust between his fingers and finally adds a drop of water to create a vibrant purple natural dye in the palm of his hand.

Other natural dyes used through the process:

  • Añil or Indigo: creates rich and deep blues
  • Algarroba: a pod that creates brick like reds and brown tones
  • Minerals: Ground from rocks to create the a grey to black scale
  • Tocte or Nogal: (Andean Walnut tree) Unripe husks from the fruit create bright yellows, while the ripe fruits yields red and brown tones.

The use of cochineal for dyes in textiles dates back to Aztec and Mayan civilizations, where textiles dyed with cochineal were prized and highly valued for their beauty. For centuries, cochineal was a highly valued global commodity, making its way out of Latin America to Europe and Asia via trade from the Spaniards. Thus, while Ikat undoubtedly is a Malay-Indonesian term with roots in Asia, the tradition of Ikat and natural dyes holds strong independent roots in Latin America.

Jose Jimenez is most well known for his macana, a cotton shawl that is an important piece of traditional indigenous dress in Ecuador. The macana is defined by its knotted fringes which are hand finished.
Outside of the traditional macana scarf, the Jimenez family creates rugs, scarfs, shawls, table runners and placemats. An individual item can take up to two weeks to finish completely. Thus, our inventory of product will always be limited in availability. For specific production requests, contact sales@altaandina.com.

 

José Cotacachi

José Cotacachi carries on his family tradition of hand weaving in Peguche, a town known for its crafts just North of Otavalo. Few people still weave by hand, even fewer still use a traditional back supported loom called a calluas. All of José’s tapestries are 100% sheep’s wool, which is produced locally in Ecuador. The majority of colors seen in José’s tapestries come from natural dyes, as he is one of the few remaining artisans preserving the original tradition of naturally dying wool. José’s father started teaching him how to weave at age 9 and passed down the intricate designs in his tapestries that have been preserved through indigenous cultures for centuries. Starting a profession at 9 years old gives someone a lot of time to perfect and improve upon that craft. Today, José is regarded as one of the finest weavers in Ecuador and has introduced his own designs into his line of products while continuing to produce traditional designs.

José has been covered by Frommers and numerous other travel sites as one of the top recommended visits in Ecuador.