We are all woven together!

The Royal Color Red

Posted November 30, 2015 @ 8:08am | by Melanie

Cochineal, the color red that gives an ArtAndes rugs richness. An insect that grows on the Nopal cactus, it requires a high level of patience to cultivate, 70,000 insects = 1 lb dye. Cochineal, is known and labeled by the FDA as Natural Red Dye 40. Used in lipstick, popsicles, yogurt, juice, ice cream, apple sauce, pudding, cheese, cough syrup, & Campari, it’s natural and used by Indigenous people as medicinal. 


Peru produces 85% of the world supply today. Archaeologists have found textiles dating back 2000 years, with the oldest fabrics coming from Necropolis Peru. Some believe it was introduced to Central America from Peru, others believe Ancient Mexico discovered it first, or at any rate independently, where it reached it’s apex in Oaxaca.


Prolific in Mexico when the Spanish arrived in 1519, it caused a sensation in the old world! Red dye became in high demand in Europe and dried cochineal was easy to transport that long distance. Spain became famous for the dye stuff. Lb for Lb, cochineal was one of the most valuable goods the pirates could capture.


The Spaniards so successfully guarded their control over the secrecy of the origin of Cochineal that Europeans didn’t know what it was or looked like in the field. It proved to be a complete mystery that lasted about 300 years. A mystery that allowed Spain total control of the color red!


In 1857 with the birth of synthetic dye, most Cochineal production ceased to exist. But there was always a small movement of artists, natural food eaters and other conscientious people who not only wanted to avoid consuming the toxic synthetic color red, but also required the rich carmine color that only Cochineal could provide. 


In 1903 Persia forbade importing synthetic dye to safeguard their high quality carpet production. That’s what ArtAndes does too!!! The photos show the insect on the cactus, fresh bugs then dried & dyed and finally a lovely runner that uses Cochineal tones from pink to purple.



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