I became a member of Weave a Real Peace (WARP) in 2010, when I received the Alice Brown Memorial Scholarship to attend WARP’s annual meeting in Phoenix, Arizona. I was in my first year of the MFA program in fibers at Arizona State University, and I was searching for a way to expand beyond the framework of my classes and studio. I was fascinated by the common thread between textiles, history, and community in society’s worldwide. I didn’t see myself as solely a studio artist, and was unsure how to make a place for myself in this vast legacy.
The 2010 meeting was just the spark I needed. WARP members run the gamut of textile enthusiasts—writers, artisans, teachers, learners, travelers, activists, conservators, and merchants. Each person I met was dedicated to affecting real change in the world through the very thing that was near and dear to me, textiles. I met WARP founder Debora Chandler, whose book Learning to Weave I had read to teach myself to weave. I also met Dorinda Dutcher, who invited me to visit PAZA, a weaving cooperative in Bolivia.
That weekend, one of WARP’s longtime members asked me, “What will you do now?” This question continues to propel me forward. I left with a sense of purpose, something that had been missing before.
I traveled to Bolivia to volunteer with PAZA later that year, and the following year I spent the summer with Mapusha, a women’s weaving cooperative in South Africa. Two years later, my MFA thesis focused on the universality of shared stories, skills, and empowerment for women through textiles.
I now live in St. Louis, Missouri, where I am involved in the Craft Alliance and St. Louis ArtWorks, both programs allow me to use my knowledge of textiles as a vehicle for conversation and community engagement. The WARP meeting is my yearly jump start. It gives me a chance to re-connect with old friends and make new ones. Hearing about projects, discussing issues, and sharing time with this group of like-minded individuals generates a year’s worth of excitement and energy. With great confidence, I can say that WARP has changed the course of my life.
To see Kelsey’s artwork visit her website. The deadline to apply for the WARP’s Alice Brown Memorial Scholarship to attend this year’s annual meeting in St. Louis is March 15, 2014. If you are planning on attending the meeting, there is an opportunity for you to donate to the scholarship fund right on the registration form.