All the wool arrives to our artisan partners in natural shades of white, cream, gray and brown. For some designs these colors are left as-is, but most often the yarn is dyed in small batches to suit the colorful tastes of the weavers, or the color palette of the season. Some weaving families still use natural dyes, the knowledge of which is passed down from generation to generation. These dyes are concocted from a variety of plant, animal and mineral sources, such as nuts and flowers, cochineal bugs and indigo. Other families prefer the more vivid colors produced by aniline dyes. For either method, the yarn is boiled with the dye, a fixative (such as lime juice) is added and then the skeins of colored yarn are hung to dry in the sun.
Our artisan partners are also the designers of the beautiful patterns found on all of our bags. Many are the traditional Zapotec designs while others are modern interpretations of their tribal patterns or even abstract expressions. Our Design Coordinator works closely with the artisan to discuss colors for seasonal lines and each designer gets a chance to draw up their designs on paper, and then produce a sample. We offer feedback throughout the design process and choose the best samples to be made into MZ bags.
MZ artisan partners use bi-peddle treadle looms. Preparing the loom to weave is an intensive process unto itself. The cotton warp threads, which run lengthwise across the loom, have to be set to a specific width based on the size of the bag they are making. The yarn is the weft fiber that runs widthwise across the loom and is passed over and under the warp using a wooden shuttle to bring the design to life. A completed woven piece is called a tapete, or woolen tapestry. Most traditionally used as rugs, MZ utilizes these small tapetes to make into bags.
Sewing + Leatherwork
The next step is to sew the tapetes into the shape of the bag it will become. It is then sent to a dedicated leatherworker in a nearby town who adds the leather handles and base, siding or fringe, depending on the model. The bag is returned to the weaver so they can sew in the zipper and lining and make sure the bag is in perfect condition to ship out. Each bag, rug and pillow is a work of art, created with immense love and pride. Our purpose is to help preserve the beautiful traditions and superb artistry of the Zapotec people by connecting them with socially conscious consumers around the globe.