Indigo

A love affair with natural dyes

Olga Reiche is self-taught in design, the art of natural dyes, and she loves what she does with all her heart. “I feel very lucky to have been born in Guatemala, a country with a rich culture as well as a great textile industry,” she says. 

In 1987, Reiche began to work with indigenous artisan groups in different regions of Guatemala. She opened a shop in Antigua to sell woven goods made by widows from the Ixil triangle—an area that was devastated by violence during the 1980-1996 civil war in Guatemala— and helped the widows with product development, but also discovered local and international markets to sell their goods.

During that same period, she became interested in natural dyes. In 1995, she started to teach natural dyeing techniques to indigenous artisan cooperatives surrounding the area of Lake Atitlan. Her classes included dyeing cotton fibers that eventually would be woven into commercial textile products. “[These textiles gave the artisans] an additional income due to the fact that the textiles are hand woven and naturally dyed. There is one Village called San Juan La Laguna that now attracts many tourists from all over [who are] interested in natural dyes. They have become the only place offering natural dyes in Guatemala,” Reiche explained. 

In addition to the natural dyeing curriculum, Reiche also offers product development training and traditional weaving instruction to other indigenous groups in Guatemala and help them find markets outside Guatemala. 

The design process starts with Reiche envisioning the end product. “I don't like to cut the traditional textiles that take such long time to weave, I feel that is a mutilation, so I design the product from scratch, giving the weavers the materials, the fibers already dyed with natural dyes or the the recycled materials with the measurements, the texture and the idea, so they feel familiar with the final product.” 

From August 16-19, Olga will be attending and exhibiting her new collection— one she’s been working on for the past five years—at Artisan Resource®, a section of New York NOW®. Her new products are created from materials that are not traditionally used in Guatemala such as upcycled plastics, cassette tapes, jeans and t-shirts. “The weavers whom I employ are indigenous people who have learned how to shift from traditional methods, fibers, and weavings to something very new to them.  They like it, enjoy it, have fun and also are amazed by the final product that comes out of the symbiosis of my ideas and their weaving ability.” 

For more information about Olga and Indigo, please visit http://www.customtextiledesign.com.

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