The Shipiba near the Ucayali River in Pucallpa use corteza de caoba (mahogany bark) in their traditional dye work. Caoba produces a rich orange color on textile, which varies according to the number of dye cycles. When I stayed in a community near the Ucayali in Pucallpa, I observed and experimented with some of the traditional craft processes on the invitation of a textile artist and researcher, Pilar Godoy Cortez. She works through a textile collective called  Nido Textil , and she has passionately researched and shared Shipiba techniques since 2014.    My experience with caoba was pure love.   After immersing the fabric for a short time in a dye batch, we leave it in the sun. The dye needs sun exposure to fix to the fibers. If there is no sun, then we wait. The work always depends on the weather, and it brings out emotions as it tests your patience and intuition. In this way, the use of water, fire, earth, wind, solar heat and light may be impractical when seen through the lense of industry. But for the purpose of creating patterns and expressing stories, it is an essentially human experience. Not everything turns out on a timetable. Everything is variable. And the wisdom of experience gives you mastery.    To add to the mystique, caoba has the distinct property of turning black when exposed to a particular type of barro (mud) found in the region. From the smell of working with the barro, I remember iron. I also remembered something about the smell of refinishing a cast iron sink in Philadelphia, and using vinegar and other acids to blacken and stabilize the rust. I thought about how we can discover chemistry through memory and the practice of our senses and emotions.    When I painted, I used splinters of wood for grinding and massaging the pigment and mud into the fiber:

The Shipiba near the Ucayali River in Pucallpa use corteza de caoba (mahogany bark) in their traditional dye work. Caoba produces a rich orange color on textile, which varies according to the number of dye cycles. When I stayed in a community near the Ucayali in Pucallpa, I observed and experimented with some of the traditional craft processes on the invitation of a textile artist and researcher, Pilar Godoy Cortez. She works through a textile collective called Nido Textil, and she has passionately researched and shared Shipiba techniques since 2014.

My experience with caoba was pure love. After immersing the fabric for a short time in a dye batch, we leave it in the sun. The dye needs sun exposure to fix to the fibers. If there is no sun, then we wait. The work always depends on the weather, and it brings out emotions as it tests your patience and intuition. In this way, the use of water, fire, earth, wind, solar heat and light may be impractical when seen through the lense of industry. But for the purpose of creating patterns and expressing stories, it is an essentially human experience. Not everything turns out on a timetable. Everything is variable. And the wisdom of experience gives you mastery.

To add to the mystique, caoba has the distinct property of turning black when exposed to a particular type of barro (mud) found in the region. From the smell of working with the barro, I remember iron. I also remembered something about the smell of refinishing a cast iron sink in Philadelphia, and using vinegar and other acids to blacken and stabilize the rust. I thought about how we can discover chemistry through memory and the practice of our senses and emotions.

When I painted, I used splinters of wood for grinding and massaging the pigment and mud into the fiber:

  Medicine pouch design, drawn with caoba dye    I created this pouch to carry tobacco. Tobacco is a sacred plant, and used for smudging and cleansing the body of pain. Before creating this pouch, I made a series of drawings to visualize pain I was suffering from. The design is a visual analog of an experience, and in this way it carries healing properties in the form of neural feedback. Once something is brought in contact with the light of the mind, it dissolves.

Medicine pouch design, drawn with caoba dye

I created this pouch to carry tobacco. Tobacco is a sacred plant, and used for smudging and cleansing the body of pain. Before creating this pouch, I made a series of drawings to visualize pain I was suffering from. The design is a visual analog of an experience, and in this way it carries healing properties in the form of neural feedback. Once something is brought in contact with the light of the mind, it dissolves.

  Back of medicine pouch

Back of medicine pouch

  Nui Shibori technique with caoba dye and barro    In this particular case the dye batch was many days old, almost completely dead, and presenting as a mauve-y red rather than deep orange or brown. At a certain point, I avoided washing and fixing and continued to saturate the cloth with mud and pigment. The attempt turned into a worked over drawing. Very likely the result would not survive any washing, so I see it more like a charcoal drawing.

Nui Shibori technique with caoba dye and barro

In this particular case the dye batch was many days old, almost completely dead, and presenting as a mauve-y red rather than deep orange or brown. At a certain point, I avoided washing and fixing and continued to saturate the cloth with mud and pigment. The attempt turned into a worked over drawing. Very likely the result would not survive any washing, so I see it more like a charcoal drawing.

  Result of Nui Shibori experiment

Result of Nui Shibori experiment

  Nazca spider-ant, caoba and barro    These fabrics came from a fresh dye batch and present a more vivid orange color. I had been reading 'The Cosmic Serpent' by Jeremy Narby, and had significant spider experiences in the jungle. So, I chose to recreate an image from the book, which took some study and care. Once the barro contacts the fabric, the mark is permanent. Later I found that this spider image exists in the Nazca Desert in southern Peru.

Nazca spider-ant, caoba and barro

These fabrics came from a fresh dye batch and present a more vivid orange color. I had been reading 'The Cosmic Serpent' by Jeremy Narby, and had significant spider experiences in the jungle. So, I chose to recreate an image from the book, which took some study and care. Once the barro contacts the fabric, the mark is permanent. Later I found that this spider image exists in the Nazca Desert in southern Peru.

  Corteza de caoba

Corteza de caoba