Learning & Knowing | Interventions

Natural Practices: The Creative and Economic Autonomy Encoded Within Indigenous Dye Processes

Mark O'Connell


Mark O’Connell is a professor of fashion studies at Seneca College. Prior to teaching, Mark worked as a designer both in-house at M.A.C Cosmetics and for his clothing line, Modular Menswear. Mark is concurrently pursuing a PhD in Politics and Policy within the Communication and Culture faculty at Ryerson University.


This research looks at the use of natural dyes by First Nations weavers in the Americas. It compares the exquisite chilkat blankets produced by the Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian First Nations populations of the northwest coast of North America, with the natural dye processes practiced by the Zapotec weavers in Oaxaca, Mexico. Methodology is a grounded theory approach of object-based research on chilkat regalia undertaken at the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto, and the American Museum of Natural History in New York. It also includes an overview of fieldwork conducted in Oaxaca during the winter of 2019, which included an ethnographic observation of master Zapotec weavers and dyers en situ, and artifact observation at the Museo de Textil, Oaxaca, as well as a natural dye research residency undertaken to deepen the experiential knowledge of the subject. Research also examines the politics and challenges of producing and marketing within a world marketplace actively engaged in the appropriation and plagiarization of indigenous artistry.


Mark's presentation can be accessed through a password protected web page on his personal website. The password, alongside the page, will be provided through email after registering for the panel discussion which can be done by clicking the link below.