In collaboration with his family, Samuel Bautista of DIXZA crafts vibrant rugs and wool goods that evoke the rich colors of his native Mexico and the mythology of Zapoteca culture. His textured weavings are made by hand and dyed using the diverse plants, flowers, and mushrooms that grow wild on Bautista’s organic farm in Oaxaca. Tune in as textile maker and The Ecology Center artist in-residence, Kristin Morrison, talks sustainable manufacturing, traditional techniques, and the creative process with Bautista.
What brought you to your practice as a weaver, natural dyer, and farmer?
Samuel Bautista: Almost everyone in Teotitlán del Valle [an indigenous community in Oaxaca] learns how to weave from their parents at a young age. I remember that my friends and I were showing off our first tiny coaster rugs to each other around age ten. Weaving is part of our identity.
Farming has also always been a part of my life. Almost everyone in Teotitlán has access to arable land to grow staples like corn, beans, and squash. My dad and my grandfather taught me everything about traditional farming. I remember helping my grandfather sow the corn while he maneuvered the oxen to plow the land. Six years ago, a friend of mine introduced me to permaculture and that also has influenced the way in which we do farming at home.
You have a PhD in sustainable manufacturing. How did your journey to a doctorate degree illuminate the model you grew up with in your village in Mexico?
SB: Researching sustainable manufacturing reinforced my belief in our traditional process for rug making. By using local renewable resources, non-toxic natural dyes, treadle looms, and non-forestry wood for fire during the dyeing process, we can minimize waste and reduce supply chain CO2 emissions. Ours is a small, family-owned business, and we hire relatives and friends to help with weaving. Many of the trending principles and concepts about sustainability [that I learned during my studies] were already part of our practice.
Tell me about your creative process. How do you arrive at the final manifestation of a weaving?
SB: When we weave traditional symbols and patterns, [the technique] doesn’t change. We usually begin by choosing the colors that we want and then sketching out the overall pattern for the rug; every symbol and pattern has to be measured and centered on the warp. My mom and I like to improvise more in our weaving. We often start with a vague idea of the overall design and choose colors, symbols, and patterns as we advance on the weaving. My dad and my brother have stricter design plans and have their rugs perfectly laid out before starting.
Personally, I’m more experimental in my designs. I’ve been creating new patterns and textures using different weaving techniques. I like to transform traditional symbols and add another dimension to them by expanding the underlying pattern. I have also woven without thinking and even with my eyes closed.
I have two of your pieces in my home and they bring me so much joy. What brings you the most joy in creating them?
SB: Personally, what brings me the most joy is to meet people from around the world. Having dedicated so many hours and hard work into each piece, it brings me satisfaction to meet the person that will use the finished weaving. For us [at DIXZA] it is an opportunity to share our knowledge and make friends. The creation process is also very fulfilling in itself. To finish a weaving from things that grew on our farm and was brought to life with our bare hands is empowering. Like growing your own food, weaving makes you feel like the world provides you with everything you already need.
Want to see Bautista’s creative process firsthand? Visit his organic farm through Airbnb to experience the rich world of naturals dyes and to explore permaculture in practice.