How Lori Polette took her studies of ancient Mayan paint and turned it into a business that's good for all of us.

Posted on December 30, 2005 by Kaila Westerman, TKB Trading, LLC | 0 comments

Mayan Blue is a 2000-year-old, lustrous turquoise blue that can be seen in ancient Mayan ruins, even to this day. Until relatively recently, no one knew how they made such a vivid paint so resistant to weather, extremes of pH, chemical solvents and biodegradation.

Research conducted largely by PhD student Lori Polette revealed why the mix of organic dye from the indigo plant and inorganic clay is so long-lasting. The clay has a fibrous channel-containing structure. Normally, these channels hold water. What the Mayans did was heat the clay in order to remove the water in the channels. They then mixed it with the indigo. The newly-emptied channels filled themselves with indigo and the result was a paint made from clay which was supersaturated with blue dye.

Nano-technology in action, thousands of years ago!

Our "hero" Lori Polette took her discoveries and, with the help of angel investors, founded a new company, Mayan Pigments Inc. Polette's palette (pun intended) is hoped to generate $10 million in sales within five years by targeting the industrial paints market (plastics, printing, etc.)

Why should we applaud her? Because she is promoting:

  • Paints without heavy metals. Heavy metals are used to make paints stable (think: lead paint) and they are not so great for the environment or our health.
  • Sustainable agriculture. Indigo is a dye-crop which means that if demand can increase for this and other dye-crops, then farmers in third world countries will have another option for their farms.
  • Improvements in industry. These paints have been shown to keep their same color under different lighting conditions, which is a big plus for packaging folk.

You Go Girl!

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