José Buenaventura González Gutierréz is a Zapotec Master Weaver from Teotitlan del Valle, in the state of Oaxaca, México. He learned to weave from his father when he was ten years old. Weaving has been afamily tradition for at least seven generations, and probably many more. The Zapotec people have used two pedal looms to weave for over 500 years, since the looms were introduced by the Spaniards, but they have been weaving and dyeing for far longer using the “back strap” method still seen in his village and other parts of Mexico, as well as in Guatemala.
José’s wool is hand carded and hand spun. He then dyes the yarn using only natural and organic dyes. He uses locally grown materials, such as pomegranate, bark of coco, marigold flowers, mosses, and cochineal. The cochineal are small bugs that infest the cactus, and they yield red, orange, maroon and pink colors. He also uses indigo from the coastal areas of Oaxaca.
Each rug is a unique piece of artwork, with the colors and textures varying with each piece. José’s rugs often include traditional Zapotec patterns, taken from the well known ancient archaeological sites in Oaxaca (such as Mitla and Monte Alban, both built by the Zapotec people) but also from the small ruins in his home village. By including these symbols and patterns José hopes to keep them from being lost. Maintaining the Zapotec knowledge is a very real concern in his people because Zapotec-the language- is rapidly being replaced with Spanish in almost all areas of daily life. Other rug patterns are taken from ancient rock art in México, Europe, Northwest Canada and around the world. Still other designs are original, and José has made many custom designed rugs for his clientele from all parts of the world, including Japan, Cuba, Canada, Germany and the U.S.
José has taught several classes in Oaxaca and Guanajuato, México about natural dyeing techniques and often gives demonstrations and he gives organic dyeing workshops. He has also demonstrated weaving by bringing his loom to Cultural Survival Bazaars in Massachusettes and Rhode Island. Four years ago Jose was invited by México Tourism Board and National Geographic Traveler Magazine to show his rugs at “SummerStage” in Central Park and at the Lotus Club, both in New York City. He has also given demonstrations at the Children’s Museum in Poughkeepsie, N.Y. In December 2016, he attended the Smithsonian Museum of the American Indian Market in New York City.