Since the introduction of synthetic dyers, the traditional way of using plants as tint has been more or less abandoned. However, with the work of Lema´, this ancient technique is being preserved.
Lema´ was started 8 years ago by Rosalinda Tay, origin maya tz´utujiles. She had long been curious about the method her ancestors had used of dying their cotton with different plants. Wanting to learn about it, she went to her grandmother who could explain all about the process and what plants to use in order to obtain certain colors; “Sacatinta” for blue shades, “Hilamo” for the browns, “Pericon” for the greens.
The following day Rosalinda went eagerly to look for these plants and carried out the process, with good result. Knowing that little people was working in this field she felt it could be something worth dedicating herself to, something that possibly could improve the living of her family. Instead of selling her products at markets she wanted to start up her own place. Therefore she gathered a small group of women and shared with them her vision of working together with this, to be able to get some incomes for their families.
The women began to dye their cotton, every day learning more about the process and experiencing with new plants. From this they weaved tablecloths and napkins and were pleased to see that tourist were fond of their work and now asking for other kind of products.
Lema´ came in contact with a number of associations, national and international, who not only could help them design new products but also to help them get organized as an association.
Today Lema´ has a broad variety of high quality products, 100% natural. Working in the association are now 30 women, young as old. Recently they have started to export products to the United States and are hoping to be able to do the same in other countries.
We are Tz‘utujiles women by making these handmade textiles with natural dyes and colors, we are keeping our ancestral Mayan culture and tradition. This association provides work, especially for women, hoping to incrase the quality of our living in our village, San Juan la Laguna.
We decided to form a association, a cooperative, offering high quality hand woven textiles, dyed naturally.
Our unique and different products are sold at a fairly price. By this it contributes directly of the San Juan La Laguna developpement.
There are various ways to realize the process, but there are two basics steps.
1 – Fixing the color: In order for the cotton to be capable of keeping the color, we need to add a “mordiente”. It exists a lot of types, we use only 100% vegetal products such as; salt, peels of fruits, “alumbre” and even ashes.
To do so we boil the cotton and the substance for 30-45 minutes. Before dipping the cotton we make sure the water is clean of debris. We leave the cotton in for another 30 minutes. Then we let it dry for one or two days.
2 – Making the dyes: to obtain them we use local plants, trees and fruits. For example, to get different shades of blue we cut branches and leaves of the “Sacatinta”. To get brown we use the bark of “Hilamo” or even coconut shells. We also obtain others colors with “Achiote”, “Pericon” and “Pimienta”. By mixing different plants we get diverse colors.
In a big pot, we boil for 30 minutes what we picked up. After this we take out debris in order to have clean colored water. We can also say that depending on how hot the water is and the quantity of vegetal we use, we get different shades. This is the beauty of natural dyes. We immerse the cotton in the pot and wait for a while. Finally we squeeze out all the excess of water and color, and we let it dry for one or two days. The cotton is now ready to be weaved.
To us, the nature is very important, it is our mother. This is why we, Lema´, use only 100% vegetal products and by using a specific installation we make sure the water used does not go straight to the lake.