Porfirio Gutiérrez – Zapotec Textile Artist
Porfirio Gutiérrez was born and raised in the rich and historic Zapotec textile community of Teotitlán del Valle in Oaxaca, Mexico. As a child, Gutiérrez showed profound interest in weaving and design. At age 12, he began to formally learn this practice alongside his father. His early training in traditional Zapotec designs forms the foundation for the fine art textiles that are now in demand by museums and private collectors.
A desire to expand his knowledge of Zapotec heritage, and a real concern regarding the loss of natural dyeing in his home community, motivated Gutiérrez to document and research techniques and stories of his elders. This research into heritage, art, spirituality, and the natural environment has profoundly influenced his creative life.
Gutiérrez is a tireless advocate, researcher and ethnic ambassador for the Zapotec community. He travels extensively, exhibiting his art, giving lectures and demonstrating his technique. The story of his art practice has been published in the New York Times and other major print media. Porfirio has also been featured on PBS, and has produced a documentary funded by the Smithsonian Institute.
In 2015 Gutiérrez was chosen by the Smithsonian Institute to be one of only four artists in the Western hemisphere to participate in their prestigious Artist In Leadership Program. A selection of the Gutiérrez family’s dye materials was documented and added to the Harvard Art Museums’ Forbes Pigment Collection, the world-renowned archive of artist materials. His vision is to educate and share the rich textile arts of his culture while sustaining traditional practices for future generations.
To learn more, visit our Exhibitions & Awards page.
Juana Gutiérrez – Master Natural Dyer
Juana Gutiérrez inherited the deep artistic traditions and rich cultural identity of her ancestors, the Zapotec Civilization. In her family, they learned their weaving and natural dyeing practices at a very early age and forged their identities within that artistic expression.
Juana is ten years older than her brother, Porfirio. She found her calling as a colorist using plants, insects and fruits after formally learning the wisdom of natural dyeing from her parents as a teenager. This basic knowledge of about 10 color hues has helped her to understand that her dyeing practice is a spiritual process where the basic understanding is to be mindful of mother earth as a living being with her own tremendous force.
For the last 25 years, Juana has developed her artistic expression within the colors, researching and experimenting with a diverse array of plants and fibers. She has developed over 200 hundred different hues, all from natural sources. Over her lifetime, she has learned to work in harmony with mother nature, giving life through color to each work that is created in her family’s studio. Their works of art connect them to mother earth and extend a narrative that honors their ancestors.
Juana has contributed tremendously to the revitalization of ancient natural dye traditions in her community. She is among the last few people in her community with deep wisdom about natural dyeing. Her passion about preservation inspired her to share her knowledge and wisdom with young weavers of her community, who otherwise would never learn these skills. With this opportunity, a new generation has discovered a common language of color, a deeper connection to Zapotec culture, and a path toward sustaining their identity for the future.
Juana's knowledge has been shared with dyers and textile enthusiasts who visit from all over the world to take her workshops. She has also collaborated with renowned artists, exchanging ideas and sharing in their creative processes.
Juana is married to master weaver Antonio Lazo, who has contributed to the success of their family studio. Antonio also comes from a family of weavers, and learned his practice from his father at age 10. From the finest and most delicate materials to the roughest plant fibers, he weaves the studio’s most complex pieces. He has now been weaving for over 45 years and has been teaching weaving workshops in conjunction with Juana. Through their practice, the Gutiérrez family are maintaining their cultural identity and contributing to the preservation of traditional knowledge.
Learn more about Juana in True Colors: World Masters of Natural Dyes and Pigments, the soon-to-be-released book of deep conversations with twenty-eight artisans from every part of the globe, revealing their wisdom, traditions, and know-how.