During Thread Caravan's weaving workshop in Oaxaca, photographer Lea Wright ventured to the small town of Teotitlan de Valle, connecting with a women-run weaving co-op learning natural dyeing and weaving techniques that have been practiced in the town for generations. One of the most diverse states in Mexico, Oaxaca has profound natural beauty -- one which locals appreciate dearly and incorporate into their daily lives at every given opportunity. She ventured to the mountains around Teotitlan where dyeing plants are harvested, weaving their own designs on footlooms, and visiting natural mineral springs in the mountains, photographing her travels as she explored.
Hi Lea, welcome to the magazine can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
I currently live in Los Angeles where I work around art but had not been making anything. I was an art major and studied printmaking. I’d been looking for a way to continue to print without the space and equipment of a press. I found a class that combined printmaking with natural dye, taught by the amazing "Graham Keegan"http://www.grahamkeegan.com/. Through this process I got instantly hooked and wanted to learn more about textiles.
How'd this trip all come to fruition?
I’d been researching more natural dye and textile classes I could take. When I stumbled upon Thread Caravan, it was a perfect match! Not only would I learn about a craft, I'd also get to travel (another passion) and experience both together. I started sharing the process with a long lost friend in North Carolina, Griffin. I got Griffin to join and we met in Mexico.
Your images capture the essence of Oaxaca beautifully, what do you love most about the state?
Thank you! Can I say the Mezcal?
Really, there is so much to love about the state. The people, food, culture; the list goes on. Caitlin, the trip leader, really knows how to combine it all! When we weren't learning natural dying we were exploring. One day we went to Hierve el Agua and that was incredible. People in Oaxaca really 'live'. They enjoy the simple things that we take for granted. At the cooperative where we learned to weave our rugs, the ladies were the happiest people and so generous.
How'd you get into photography?
I've been into photography since middle school. It was always just fun to play around with point and shoot. I took some film classes in high school and then in college, I integrated photography into my printmaking process.
What about shooting film excites you?
Patience and the color.
Shooting film makes me practice patience! The patience aspect is actually similar in a way to natural dyeing. When I'm printing on fabric I don't know the result until the last step, the dye bath. It's exciting to be surprised at the end result. Aesthetically as well, you get this beautiful color that digital just doesn't capture. You can really read the environment in film by where the colors show up.
What camera and film did you use?
I used an Olympus Stylus Zoom Epic with oak UltraMax 400 film.
Compositionally speaking, how do you decide to frame your photos?
I generally enjoy asymmetrical balance and working with linear patterns. But, I try to be quick and not overthink it!
Your photos are extremely bright and colorful, what attracts you to that look?
In this batch of photos it is because of the environment. Oaxaca is very lively and cheerful place so I wanted to capture that in these photos.
Why do you think it's important to keep analog processes such as natural dyeing, weaving and shooting film alive?
I think the dedication, care, and passion needed to create something using more analog methods is what sets apart “art” from just a pretty product - when one knows that care and passion went into making what they have, it adds an intrinsic value that artificial or digital products seem to lack. These processes are so much more personable. In Oaxaca, learning from these ladies was truly magical; You see the love that they put into their work as well as the pride that they have for teaching the techniques passed down for generations.