Spotlight on St. Louis ArtWorks by Kelsey Wiskirchen

Apprentices at St. Louis ArtWorks in the Textile Studio

St. Louis ArtWorks is a job-training program combining art and life-skills education to create opportunities for high school students through a vigorous program using the arts as a vehicle for gaining multiple skills. Teens are hired as apprentices, working closely with a teaching artist to become immersed in a specialized artistic discipline.

In-Progress Batik
Apprentice Cutting Batik Fabric for Sewing

I teach textiles, and apprentices begin by learning dyeing techniques such as batik and itajime shibori. In the first few weeks, they produce a large collection of fabrics exploring a variety of patterns and color schemes.

After creating their collections, apprentices learn machine sewing for construction and hand embroidery for embellishment. Finally, the fabrics are combined to develop a line of home goods, accessories, and decorative wall hangings. Through the processes of designing, dyeing, cutting, sewing, and finishing, each item created contains the work of multiple apprentices.

The creative work done at STL ArtWorks is a vehicle to in-depth real-world job training. For many apprentices, this is the first experience with applying to and interviewing for a formal job, receiving a paycheck, and being accountable to a work environment. The program is structured to incorporate extensive professional development – everything from introducing themselves and shaking hands when visitors come the studio, to presenting design concepts and receiving critical feedback at a client meeting. Additionally, the program includes life-skills training sessions on topics such as fiscal literacy, health and nutrition, and resume writing.

Hand-Batik Fabrics Sewn into Pillows

As stated by the organization, “The mission of St. Louis ArtWorks is to broaden educational and career opportunities for youth in the St. Louis Region through apprenticeships in the arts and through community collaborations. The organization’s goal is to create positive educational opportunities through art for youth through paid apprenticeships.” It has been incredible to witness the empowerment and confidence developed within the framework of this program. As a teaching artist, I have seen how the experience of working in this apprenticeship directly impacts the apprentices, manifesting in pride for the quality of their work and pride in themselves.

More about STL ArtWorks can be found online here.

Table Runners Made from Hand-Dyed Fabrics
Batik Fabric with Hand-Embroidery

 

 

Indigo Dyed Placemats

 

 

Apprentices Hand-Embroidering Batik Fabrics

This article was written by Kelsey Viola Wiskirchen, and shared by Judy Newland.

Kelsey Viola Wiskirchen is a textile artist & educator living in St. Louis, Missouri. She has been a member of WARP since 2010, when she was a graduate student at Arizona State University and received the Alice Brown Memorial Scholarship to attend the annual conference.  Kelsey currently teaches textiles at St. Louis ArtWorks & community workshops from her studio in St. Louis.

Tinkuy 2017: A Gathering of Textile Arts in Cusco

Tinkuy 2017, celebrated in Cusco, Peru from November 8 until November 11, began with the much anticipated parade from the Centro de Textiles Tradicionales del Cusco to the Convention Centre, where the meeting was to be held. The colorful display of tradition and exuberance was clearly felt far beyond those attending the meeting. Citizens of the Cusco region and tourists alike stopped in their tracks to watch the prideful display of traditional textile techniques, many originating from far beyond the Peruvian border.

This, the third Tinkuy, came with notable additions. Formerly subtitled the “Gathering of the Weavers”, this year it was called the “Gathering of the Textile Arts”, which meant that embroiderers and specialty dyers were included in the celebration. Also, as if celebrating traditional techniques was not enough, this year the underlying theme included celebrating the continuation of tradition by including the youth. Lectures and discussion often involved ways that village members are transmitting technical information to the younger generation and also talking about how the social relevance is conveyed and maintained. Many young people attended the meeting, particularly on the last day of the conference which included a “Passing of the Torch to the Younger Generation”, a particularly poignant moment.

Every day’s packed schedule included guest textile artist presentations, which for me were particularly interesting. At this time, the artisans had an opportunity to talk about what they are doing within their communities as they move forward, how they have formulated their future plans, and how they intend to ensure that supplies will remain available and/or their deliberate return to traditional methods. They also talked about their young people and how they are tending to them and their commitment to maintaining tradition. It was humbling to listen to the effort that they are expending in keeping their creative lives meaningful for their children.

Teaching the youth.

The keynote addresses set the backdrop for the conference and tied the evidence that we were seeing around us to the textiles’ long and extensive history. That perspective really was essential, forcing the conference participants to take a deep breath and try to understand the magnitude of all that was around them.

The schedule included time for demonstrations and workshops every day. This time clearly pointed to the unspoken theme of Tinkuy – the cross pollination of ideas and techniques. This happened at so many levels – from one culture and/or village to another, from one specialty to another, from one fiber-type to another, from one country to another – and it was all truly magical.  People had come from many villages within Peru, as well as other countries within South America, such as Ecuador, Bolivia, Chile, Argentina, and Brazil. Traditional artists from Guatemala, Mexico, the United States, Canada, Afghanistan, India and Laos also attended.

People gave so much of themselves, often with so much thankfulness. Sometimes the gift came in the form of a song, sometimes in the form of a dance. Tinkuy 2017 was a special time of color, textiles, dance, music, learning and inspiration. Thank you CTTC and ATA!!

Thanks Teena for sharing your wonderful experience with all of us!

Textile Teena in her element!

Chiapas to Oaxaca – Textile Connections Changing Lives

For many of us a whole new world opens up when we travel. Weave A Real Peace helped two young Maya women, Claudia Pérez Pérez and Celia Arias Pérez travel from Chenalhó, Chiapas to Oaxaca for the annual meeting in June. This was only the second trip for both young women outside of Chiapas and they were deeply moved by the hugs and good feelings generated during their time with WARP members.

During our Friday meeting one of the topics we discussed was the pros and cons of outsiders wearing traditional clothing, including the huipiles of Maya tradition. Here are Claudia’s thoughts, in her own words.

We feel very comfortable when we see a foreigner wearing our blouse. We think that she isnt an egotistic woman, that she doesnt feel that she is better than us. I feel very happy to see that she wears it on her body, that she has a good heart for us. We think that she honors us, that she has great caring for us, that she gives us a lot of support.
                                                            Claudia Pérez Pérez of Tsobol Antsetik, Chiapas, México, June 2017

Both Celia and Claudia gathered ideas from our Saturday tour to several Zapotec weaving and dyeing families in Teotitlan del Valle, including new ways to talk to visitors who come to their co-op’s meeting house in Chenalhó and how they might develop a museum in their meeting house. Christine will give them a boost by returning textiles she has collected from the coop since the 80s to build a collection. I am waiting in line to share my background in museum anthropology and exhibit design – can you see my hand waving?

Upon their return to Chiapas Claudia gave an hour and a half long report on the trip. In a very Maya way she gave an hour-by-hour rundown for the entire 5 day schedule! Claudia since has taken a major step to continue her education. Since dropping out of middle school at 14 to marry she has regretted that decision, but on Saturdays she now attends a school in San Cristóbal, studying computing and English. She loves the experience and Christine is confident Claudia will become a leader of women in her community, following in her mother’s footsteps.

Celia and Claudia were a delight – new friends from Mexico to support and cherish for the work they do in their communities. Christine Eber has spent years working with the women of Chiapas and continues to offer support to them in many ways, including establishing Weaving For Justice in Las Cruses, New Mexico. We thank Christine for sharing this story of how our members create and support connected textile communities. The photos were also shared by Christine.

Celia and Claudia enjoying the Oaxaca experience.

Next month we will learn more about Weaving for Justice, a volunteer non-proift organization in Las Cruses, created to assist the members of the cooperatives in Chiapas to continue living on their ancestral lands in sustainable ways that respect their lands, language (Tsotsil), and traditions.

In the meantime, think about how you create a connected textile community – local, global or in-between and share your story with us on the WARP blog!      Judy Newland, WARP board member

 

Traveling Textile Stories Can Weave A Real Peace

Do you ever wonder why we textile folks love to travel the world in search of the chance to meet other textile makers and lovers? What can be accomplished by passing on the techniques of creating cloth and sharing stories with new artisans we meet? Travel offers a bridge to understanding culture through textiles and their place in our lives.

Much of my travel has focused on the cultural study of textiles, both ancient artifacts and contemporary cloth. One such trip to El Salvador stands out because I discovered the many layers of meaning that cloth can bring to a place where history, politics, and people are enveloped in the blue of indigo.

In 2007, after a long journey from Guatemala to El Salvador, members of Weave A Real Peace arrived at Hacienda San Juan Buena Vista and heard Grace Guirola’s personal story, one that spans generations and seemed destined for a bright blue future. Grace’s great grandparents produced and processed indigo in the distant past, but her family fled to the safety of the United States during the civil war in El Salvador, the land taken by cooperatives during the agrarian reform. Years later she was able to buy some of her family’s land from the cooperative, return to her beloved landscape and begin a long journey of restoring her ancestral home and building a life based on indigo and cloth.

We walked the ground where Grace had planted two varieties of indigo, shared stories over a meal and delightfully dyed yarn in her indigo vats after dark. It was a memorable experience that resulted in a small treasure trove of dyed items to carry home. But the indigo had penetrated more than cloth, it had created a memory to carry, one more woven story in my mind.

Indigo memories in cloth.

I have been fortunate to travel many places around the world and these international experiences have completely reshaped the way I think about our global environment. The exhilarating experience of being thrown into the unpredictable miasma of a world market—be it the plaka, the souk, or the plaza—will change a person. And everywhere in these world markets there are textiles, dye plants, and the stories and memories of women.

The textiles in our lives are so much more than beautiful objects, they contain the stories of our lives and the world. You are stitching a part of WARP’s story and each story reflects country, culture, ideas, ideals. Cloth, in all its various forms, is a powerful agent of change in many regions of our world – cloth can be transformative and reach across the widest gap.

So, what can we do? First, how about being a Textile Ambassador? Check into ClothRoads and sign up for their email list and you will be able to download a wonderful pdf on how to be a Traveling Textile Ambassador. Next, pack your bags and get ready to travel to Mexico and meet people who love cloth as much as you do. Let’s go find new friends and create new woven stories to share.

Get out – travel – join us – share your story on FB and Google Groups; together we can Weave A Real Peace

 

Good Reads and Resources for Oaxaca travelers…

Textile Fiestas of Mexico: A Traveler’s Guide to Celebrations, Markets and Smart Shopping, 2016, Sheri Brautigam. Fabulous book and just what you need for Oaxaca. Available at ClothRoads and ThrumsBooks.

Zapotec Weavers of Teotitlan, 1999, Andra Stanton. The culture, legacy and techniques of Zapotec weaving.

The Unbroken Thread: Conserving the Textile Traditions of Oaxaca, 1997, Kathryn Klein, ed. Conserving the textile collection at the Regional Museum of Oaxaca.

Artisans and Advocacy in the Global Market:Walking the Heart Path, 2015, Simonelli, O’Donnell and Nash, eds. The latest on working with artisan groups, including our own Christine Eber’s work in Chiapas. She will be bringing two women to the meeting in Oaxaca.

A Textile Guide to the Highlands of Chiapas, 2011, Walter Morris Jr., if you are going into Chiapas!

Maya Threads: A Woven History of Chiapas, 2015, Morris Jr. and Karasik, a history of the cultural textiles of the Maya of the Chiapas area.