Texas Tech University

Saturday at the Museum: Cochineal Dyeing

1-4 p.m.
Saturday, Sept. 22
For all ages

During Saturday at the Museum, people of all ages are welcome to learn about the dyeing process using cochineal bugs and the deep red color they produced.

cochineal bugThe white clumps on the cactus are cochineal bugs. Courtesy By Dick Culbert [CC BY 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

The Cochineal bug is small insect found in the southwestern U.S., Central, and South America. The bug is used to create a rich, red dye whose use dates to the pre-Columbian Americas. The insect-based dye is the subject of the exhibition, The Red that Covered the World, on display at the Museum through Jan. 17.

Artists and dyers for centuries strived to find a color source to rival the best reds of nature and to express the spirit, symbolism, and sustenance of life. Their quest ended in the Aztec marketplaces of 16th-century Mexico, where Spanish explorers encountered the American cochineal bug. The bug created an unparalleled range of reds with strong economic value. Its ensuing global spread launched an epic story of empire and desire that pushed art, culture, and trade to the edge of the unknown.

Along with The Red That Colored the World, the Museum draws upon its excellent clothing and textiles collection, the Bush Library and private individuals for the exhibition Ladies in Red. From a dress worn by former first lady Laura Bush to Texas Tech cheerleader uniforms, this exhibition shows how red features prominently in a range of clothing from high fashion to school spirit. A third red-themed exhibition comes from the Caprock Art Quilters who challenged themselves to create quilts around the color red. The results are on view in the Red, Hot & Quilted exhibition.