Cochineal is a small insect found on prickly pear cacti in South America and Mexico. The carminic acid the female insects produce to protect themselves from predators produces an incredible and diverse range of reds. Cochineal and other similar insects have been used to dye fabric, food, spirits, and cosmetics for hundreds of years. In the 1970s, a cancer scare in the United States over the dye FD&C Red No. 2 inspired a return to the use of cochineal for food coloring. Today, cochineal is still used in cosmetics and red-colored foods like yogurt, jams, and dried shrimp. In these products—and in spirits—the coloring is labelled as E120, carmine, cochineal, or sometimes Natural Red 4, depending on where in the world the product is being sold.
In this workshop, we’ll learn about the history of cochineal then grind up our own dye to produce a range of orange and red dyes by shifting the alkalinity of our dye baths. We will use a range of resist techniques to create patterns on silk scarves and leave with dye samples on a variety on material.
We will also learn to make the perfect negroni cocktail and sip while we ponder the color red and wait for our dye baths to work their magic.
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