Dyeing with one of the last ancestral Purpura (murex) dyers on the planet on the coast of Oaxaca.
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Purpura panza, similar to murex of the Mediterranean, is found along the Pacific coast of Mexico and further south
In Oaxaca it is found on remote, rocky shorelines
and lives in the inter tidal zone
this is what purpura looks like
but in real life it is a bit more disguised
for thousands of years it has been carefully harvested
by the indigenous people along the Oaxacan coast
who pluck the shellfish off the rocks
and use its ink to dye skeins of cotton thread
Purpura does not need to be killed to extract the dye
rather, it is "milked" by pressing the foot
which causes it to release its ink. This is dabbed on the skein and the shellfish is put back on the rock
A dyer may have to milk 400 hundred Purpura to complete a skein.
By exposing the skein to sun and air the color turns from yellow to blue to a final and very fast purple
the ink also dyes the dyer's hand
the finished skeins are taken to the villages and sold
here weavers will use it to make traditional Mixtec skirts called posahuancos.
These are woven on backstrap looms in the village of Pinotepa de Don Luis
The skirts have bands of purpura, indigo and hand-spun silk dyed in red.
three lengths are woven together to make a skirt
The shell-dyers wife shows a skirt she's woven
the skirts are the traditional dress of the women in the Costa Chica region of Oaxaca
join us on a tour to visit the coastal purpura dyers of Oaxaca