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.

Textiles and Economic Development in Ghana

This month Jackie Abrams is our guest blogger. She writes about her work with textiles and economic development in Ghana and how it has impacted her basketry.

 

My earliest recollection of being intrigued with Africa was in 3rd or 4th grade. I built an African village as a class project. I remember one of the huts – cardboard wrapped with raffia. I kept that hut with me for many years but somewhere along the way it got lost.

 

In the 1970’s, I started to collect African baskets, and books of West African painted mud homes. They spoke to me in so many ways. Both the colors and the designs started to influence some of my work. One piece in particular caught the eye of a good friend and fellow WARP member, Steve Csipke. We recognized our mutual interest in Africa. He was the man who helped my dream of working in Africa become a reality.

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My first trip was in 2005. I had the incredible good fortune to make eight trips to Africa, most often to Ghana, primarily for the purpose of helping to develop micro-craft industries with women. My last three trips, in 2008 and 2009, were in the town of Pokuase, Ghana, teaching women to crochet bags using discarded plastic bags. The goal was for their crocheting enterprise to be sustainable and for them to be able to sell their work without being dependent on me. This project was possible because of the existence of Global Mamas which is a wonderful organization that supports women making handmade products. I would say we were moderately successful in achieving our goal.

 

I learned an enormous amount about fair trade, cultural mores, and how much I will never understand about Ghanaian culture. These trips changed my life and my (art) work. The word, “simplify,” best describes these changes. I could plainly see that having any kind of joy in one’s life was not dependent on ‘stuff.’ We need enough, but we don’t really need more than that. (Who can define ‘enough’?) I feel the same about my work. I have moved away from complex forms and techniques, challenging myself to express what I want to express with more simple / straightforward techniques and materials.

I was most intrigued by the women I worked with. Informed by their lives, fabrics, and stories,  my “Women Forms” series began to develop. Each vessel tells the story of a woman. Some of them stand alone, either in strength or in sorrow. Others rejoice in the company of other women – daughters, sisters, mothers, friends. The forms contain and are shaped by the woman’s layers of experience. The inside of each piece reflects her inner strengths – strengths not always visible, that may require careful looking.

 

Textiles and economic development in ghana
Jackie Abrams

I went to Africa with the hope of enabling the women I met to create better lives for themselves and their families. In the process, they did the same for me.

Jackie Abrams just ended her term as a WARP board member. After many years as a travelling instructor, she now focuses her time on her studio practice.

Please enjoy more information about Jackie’s beautiful work at- www.jackieabrams.com

And many more stories at- http://www.jackieabrams.com/africa.html

Mayan Hands

Mayan Hands
9607 Dr. Perry Rd. Suite 114
Ijamsville, MD 21754

(518) 729-1900
info@mayanhands.org
www.mayanhands.org

Contact person: Anne Kelly

Wholesale Accounts Available

Mayan-Hands-logoThe mission of Mayan Hands, a nonprofit, fair-trade organization, is to empower Guatemalan Mayan women artisans in their quest to bring their families out of extreme poverty while maintaining the culture they cherish. The Mayan Hands artisan partners create high- quality handmade textile and artisan products that include scarves; handbags and other accessories; home décor such as table runners, placemats and napkins; pine-needle baskets; felted-wool animals; friendship bracelets; Judaica products; Christmas and other holiday gifts.


Marrakesh Express

Marrakesh Express
791 College Ave. #2
Haverford, PA 19041

(610) 649-7717
sdavis@uslink.net
www.marrakeshexpress.org

Contact person: Susan Schaefer Davis

Wholesale Accounts Available

Marrakesh-Express-logoGiving Moroccan women access to a world market by selling their weaving online, thereby retaining more profit as they bypass the middleman, is my focus. On my website, you can “meet” and buy directly from Moroccan weavers in the nonprofit section, Women Weavers OnLine. The rugs are handwoven wool and usually one- of-a-kind; some women can also weave to order. I lead cultural tours where we visit some of the weavers, as well as meet other Moroccans in their homes. When I am in Morocco in the spring, I can shop for a Moroccan rug in the style, colors, and size you would like.


Cultural Cloth

Cultural Cloth
W3560 State Rd. 35
Maiden Rock, WI 54750

(715) 607-1238
info@culturalcloth.com
www.culturalcloth.com

Contact Person: Mary Anne Wise

Wholesale Accounts Available

Cultural-Cloth-3Cultural Cloth collaborates primarily with women throughout the developing world to produce exquisite home textiles and personal accessories. Our colorful retail shop is filled with gorgeous textiles. The shop is a test kitchen where we cook up products that have a sustainable chain of production. Products that test well become eligible for wholesale production targeted to a select group of nationwide retailers. As lifelong textile artists, we understand the demands of our market and are available for consultation on product feedback, design, and development. We offer tours to Guatemala to "buddy up" with the Mayan women whom we’ve taught to hook rugs and successfully shepherded them through the International Folk Art Market application process.


Center for Traditional Textiles of Cusco

Center for Traditional Textiles of Cusco
Avenida Sol 603
Cusco, Peru

51-84-228-117
cttc@terra.com.pe
www.textilescusco.org

Contact person: Nilda Callañaupa Alvarez

Traditional-Textiles-LogoThe Center for Traditional Textiles of Cusco (CTTC) is a nonprofit organization founded in 1996, when the textile traditions in the Cusco region of the Andes were in danger of disappearing. Currently working with over 450 weavers in ten communities, we manage traveling exhibits, a museum, retail stores, teaching and training centers, and provide ongoing support to our community members. Our objectives are to revive and continue the cultural heritage of textile creation, educate people to its tradition, and stimulate the production of traditional- based textiles. Tours are o ered through Andean Textile Arts (andeantextilearts.org). Our products are available in the United States through www.clothroads.com.


Traditions Mexico Cultural Journeys

Tour Operator

Traditions Mexico Cultural Journeys
1117 Garfield #7
Ashland, Or 97520

(541) 646-0496
traditionsmexico@yahoo.com
www.traditionsmexico.com

Traditions-logo Traditions Mexico has been creating pioneering cultural tours focused on indigenous textiles and lifeways in southern Mexico since 1996. Our tours introduce you to the people and places of another land, another way, and another pace. We take you across the cultural gap by creating encounters around common interests such as weaving, pottery, or food creation. In this way, we share and participate, creating dynamic encounters and breaking down barriers. Our knowledgeable guides take travelers to places of rich, ancient, and little-known traditions to meet the last of the Mixtec shell dyers, Zapotec silk producers, backstrap weavers, and cotton spinners.

Tia Stephanie Tours – Cultural Journeys

Tour Operator

Tia Stephanie Tours, Cultural Journeys
1260 Patricia Ave.
Ann Arbor, MI 48103

(734) 769-7839
info@tiastephanietours.com
www.tiastephanietours.com

Contact person: Stephanie Schneiderman

Tia Stephanie-logoWe design and operate textile art and cultural journeys to Mexico, parts of Colombia, and Panama. Our tours focus on natural dyeing and ikat dye resist, and the weaving techniques woven on backstrap and pedal looms, such as brocade, gauze, and tapestry. We explore textiles and dress as ethnographic expression that forms an essential part of the cultural landscape of the country. Our tours explore the coast and isthmus of Oaxaca, La Chinantla, Oaxaca, the Sierra Norte and Valley of Tehuacan, Puebla, and the Maya highlands of Chiapas. We also offer a unique program on the Mexican Rebozo: Ikat Techniques and Traditions.