Why WARP Matters by Deborah Chandler

NOTA: puede ver la historia en español abajo del inglés.

Carrie Kemp selling baskets for Mayan Hands, but more importantly, for the women who make the baskets. They used to earn less than $20/month embroidering. Now they earn more than ten times that making baskets. www.mayanhands.org

As some of you know, of late I have become obsessed with the issue of migration. It is not a WARP issue per se, so I rejected the suggestion of posting my own blogs about it on the WARP Facebook page. But right now, when so many WARP members working in fair trade are up to their eyeballs in sales, I’m going to take this opportunity to write a blog that touches on the subject and why in an indirect way it is very much what WARP is about.

WARP’s Mission: To foster a global network of enthusiasts who value the importance of textiles to grassroots economies.

Grassroots economies are often the front line in the fight against poverty. Sometimes we in the fair trade world spend a few minutes reflecting on how we are not necessarily working with the poorest of the poor anymore, but the key word is ANYMORE. We were, They were, but now precisely because of fair trade work, many artisans are no longer the poorest of the poor. They may not be rich, far from it, but they are able to feed their children and send them to school, which improves the odds that the next generation will begin higher up on the economic ladder. And that is huge.

My experience is mostly with ngo-s (non-profit organizations) in Guatemala, Mayan Hands first but while working for them I came to know many others taking on similar challenges. Through WARP I have met people working in many other countries, on the continents of Africa, Asia, South America, even North America, and some non-continents as well. The stories are the same – extraordinary textiles, most often indigenous and loaded with cultural meaning, too often the makers living in abject poverty, all looking for markets. It is hard to sell their own traditional textiles, which don’t exactly fit in North American or European households and because they cost what good handwork should cost. By weaving things that DO meet the demands and desires of an export market and are affordable to more people, the artisans can earn enough money to be able to continue weaving for themselves and their families, using skills they have that allow them to work at home, not migrate to factories in cities. Or other countries.

In October I spent three weeks volunteering at Annunciation House (www.annunciationhouse.org) in El Paso, Texas. AH is a shelter, four shelters actually, that serve the needs of migrants who have been released into the US. As you can imagine, it was a pretty intense learning experience, one for which I am very grateful. While violence is a major reason that hundreds of millions of people in the world are migrating now, poverty is also high on the list. If it is impossible to find a job where you live in order to feed your family, a responsible man or woman will do whatever it takes to find an income. There are many terrible options out there, many involving human trafficking of various kinds, some involving crimes of desperation, and others just seeking, but maybe never finding. There is a lot in the news now, some calling this the biggest crisis of our times.

These are just a few of the artisan-supporting books from Thrums Books. www.thrumsbooks.com

So what does that have to do with WARP, Weave a Real Peace? Maybe everything. What we are trying to do is help people stay home, be able to earn an income that will support their families in place, and sustain their cultures in the bargain. Have you read Rangini Hamidi and Mary Littrell’s book Embroidering within Boundaries – Afghan Women Creating a Future? The women in that book live under Taliban rule, and it is beyond anything most of us can imagine. Right after I read that book I read Josh Hirschstein and Maren Beck’s Silk Weavers of Hill Tribe Laos, and was aghast at the freedom the women had to leave their homes and walk around in their neighborhoods and live their lives – the hussies!! Then I read Susan Schaefer Davis’ Women Artisans of Morocco – Their Stories, Their Lives, another book about Muslim women, and the difference between their lives and those of their sisters so constricted by the Taliban was an amazing and wonderful education in how there is as much variety in Muslim life as there is in Christian or Jewish life.

It is no accident that all these authors are members of WARP, are working with women artisans, and doing all they can to focus on grassroots economies. The women in these books are NOT migrating, they* don’t have to. And that just might be the miracle that weaving a real peace is all about.

*I recognize that in the case of the Afghani women, they can’t.

Blog Author (and WARP founder) DEBORAH CHANDLER has been a member of WARP since the beginning, driven by a hunger to hang out with like-minded people. She has lived in Guatemala for 20 years, where she is now weaving less and ranting and raving more. (The privilege of passing age 70?) Deborah has written four books on weaving and weavers in the US and Guatemala, including Learning to Weave, Guatemalan Woven Wealth: Preserving a Rich Textile Tradition, Traditional Weavers of Guatemala: Their Stories, Their Lives, and A Textile Travelers Guide to Guatemala. You can follow Deborah on her blog, Weaving Futures with Deborah Chandler: Stories from Guatemala.

 


La Razón Que WARP Importa

Autor: Deborah Chandler

Como algunas saben, mi obsesión reciente es con migración. No es un asunto de WARP exactamente, entonces rechacé la sugerencia que se copien mis blogs sobre migración en la página de fb de WARP. Pero en este momento, cuando tantos miembros de WARP que trabajan en comercio justo están enterrados en ventas, voy a tomar la oportunidad de escribir un poco del tema y mostrar como en una manera indirecta es precisamente un asunto de WARP.

Y’abal Handicrafts, Quetzaltenango, Guatemala www.yabalhandicrafts.com

Misión de WARP: Para fomentar  una red global de entusiastas que valoran la importancia de textiles en economías locales.

Las economías locales frecuentemente son la primera línea en la batalla contra a la pobreza. A veces nosotros quien trabajamos en el mundo de comercio justo reflexionamos que no necesariamente trabajamos con la gente más pobre de los pobres ahora, pero la palabra clave es AHORA. Lo hicimos, Ellos eran, pero ahora, precisamente porqué ellos trabajan con comercio justo, muchos artesanos ya no están entre los más pobres. No son ricos, lejos de serlo, pero pueden dar comida a sus hijos y los mandan a las escuelas, lo que mejora bastante la posibilidad de que la próxima generación va a empezar más alto en la escalera económica. Y esto dice mucho.

Mi experiencia más que todo es con ong-s (organizaciones no-gubernamentales) en Guatemala, primero Manos Mayas pero mientras trabajaba con ellas conocía muchas otras luchando en proyectos iguales. Por WARP he conocido gente haciendo trabajo similar en muchos otros países, en los continentes de África, Asia, Sud América, aún Norte América, y unos lugares que no están en ningún continente. Las historias son lo mismo – textiles extraordinarios, muchas veces indígenas y llenos de significado cultural, demasiadas veces los que los hacen viviendo en pobreza extrema, todos buscando mercados. Es difícil vender sus textiles tradicionales, en parte porque no son diseños que combinan bien en hogares de Norte América ni Europa, y en parte porque los precios siendo los que deberían ser por algo hecho a mano son más de lo que mucha gente quieren pagar. Pero por tejer productos que SÍ parecen bien al mercado internacional, ellos pueden ganar suficientemente bien para poder seguir tejiendo para sí mismo y sus familias, usando habilidades que les permiten trabajar en sus casas, evitando la necesidad de salir para trabajar en fábricas en las ciudades. U otros países.

En octubre yo trabajé tres semanas como voluntaria en El Paso, Texas, en Casa Anunciación (www.annunciationhouse.org) AH es un albergue, bueno, cuatro albergues, que sirven las necesidades de migrantes entrando EEUU, dejados libres por las autoridades de migración. Como puede imaginar, era una experiencia de aprendizaje muy intensa, una por la que estoy muy agradecida. Es claro que la violencia es una razón principal de que millones de personas en el mundo están migrando ahora, pero la pobreza es muy alta en la lista también. Si no es posible alimentar su familia, cualquier hombre o mujer responsable va a hacer lo que sea para buscar ingresos. Hay muchas opciones terribles, muchas que incluyen traficando humanos en una manera u otra, unas que incluyen crímenes de desesperación, y otras que están simplemente buscar sin encontrar. Hay mucho en las noticias ahora, algunos llamando esto la crisis más grande de nuestros tiempos.

Entonces, ¿cómo relaciona todo eso con WARP, Tejer una Paz de Verdad? Talvez todo. Lo que estamos tratando de hacer es ayudar a la gente para poder a quedarse en sus casas, sus pueblos, sus vidas, y ganar un ingreso con que puedan sostener sus familias, y sus culturas al mismo tiempo. ¿Ha leído el libro de Rangini Hamidi y Mary Littrell Bordando dentro Fronteras – Mujeres Afganis Creando un Futuro? Las mujeres en este libro viven debajo de los Talibanes, lo que es más allá que la mayoría de nosotros podemos imaginar. Cuando terminé este libro leí el de Josh Hirschstein y Maren Beck, Tejedoras de Seda de las Tribus del Altiplano de Laos, y estuve asombrada con la libertad que tienen estas mujeres, para salir de sus casas, visitar sus vecinos cuando quieran, vivir sus vidas libre de paredes y reglas fatales. ¡Increíble! Y seguí con el libro de Susan Schaeffer Davis, Artesanas de Marrueco – Sus Historias, Sus Vidas. Es otro libro sobre mujeres musulmanes, y la diferencia entre las vidas de ellas y las de sus hermanas viviendo bajo del régimen de los Talibán es una educación maravillosa sobre como hay tanta variedad en el mundo musulmán como en los mundos cristiano o judaico.

No es un accidente que todas estas autores son miembros de WARP, trabajando con artesanas, haciendo todo lo posible enfocadas en las economías locales. Las mujeres en estos libros NO ESTÁN migrando, ellas no necesitan* hacerlo. Y tal vez esto es el milagro de Tejer una Paz de Verdad.

* Reconozco que en el caso de las mujeres Afganis, no pueden.

Thrums Books ofrece libros en inglés y español, todos apoyando artesanos tradicionales. Estos tres libros existen sólo en inglés. Pero como todos los libros de Thrums, ¡tienen muchas fotos magníficas! www.thrumsbooks.com

DEBORAH CHANDLER ha estado un miembro de WARP desde el principio, siempre con ganas de disfrutar la compañía de otros con ideas en común. Ha vivida en Guatemala por 20 años, donde ahora ella está tejiendo menos y agitando más. (¿Privilegio de pasar 70 años?)

 

For the Love of Textiles

For this month’s blog, we have a special article! WARP Member, Deb Brandon, shares the story of her book, Threads Around the World: From Arabian Weaving to Batik in Zimbabwe, published by Schiffer Books. What began as a regular column for the WARP newsletter (which Deb has been writing for over a decade), grew into a beautifully published collection of chapters on textiles from 25 different countries. In the backstory below, Deb tells the trials and triumphs of creating this book. In Threads, Deb’s fantastic writing includes personal narratives, cultural background, and treats such as the recipe for Sadza Batik paste from Zimbabwe. The vibrant photos by Joe Coca provide in-depth process scenes of the various weaving, stitching, printing, and dye techniques, as well as luscious detail images of the featured textiles. To purchase your own hardback copy of Threads for $25, please contact us at info@weavearealpeace.org. All proceeds of book purchases from WARP go directly to our operating expenses, including our quarterly newsletter, which features Deb Brandon’s column “Textile Techniques from Around the World.”


On this visit to the Old City in Jerusalem, I actually had a specific goal in mind. This time, instead of wandering through the Arab Market aimlessly, hoping to discover unexpected treasures, I planned to search for—and find—a high quality sample of Palestinian embroidery. Embroidery with that characteristic red-rich cross-stitch saturating a black background, the textile I’d written about for my very first WARP newsletter column.

Since childhood, I have been surrounded by ethnic textiles: Bedouin rugs, Persian wall hangings, embroidered blouses from Mexico. They have always been a part of my life, a part of who I am. My appreciation of textile traditions grew after I joined WARP (Weave A Real Peace), a networking organization whose members value improving the quality of life of textile artisans around the world through their textile traditions. My interest leaped to an even higher level a couple of years later when I started writing a regular column for WARP’s newsletter, “Textile Techniques from Around the World.”

My first article was about Palestinian embroidery. I was a college math professor with no writing experience beyond research articles and lesson plans, so I mimicked the format of a few non-scientific articles I found. I dove straight into the topic without preamble or context:

“Palestinian embroidery is a form of cross-stitch that involves prominent use of red threads, where many of the patterns are geometric in nature.”

My second essay was about Scottish tartans, the third about mudcloth. Since then I have written about the molas from Panama, Swedish twined knitting, Faroese shawls, and many other techniques practiced in many countries.

Author Deb Brandon (right) with WARP member Lola Faturoti at this year’s WARP Meeting.

I relished the research I conducted for my essays—I spent hours scouring the internet and poring over books. A maker myself, I enjoyed learning about new techniques and incorporating them in my own work.

A few years and many articles later, at the 2006 WARP annual meeting in Guatemala, Linda Temple, the newsletter editor, suggested we publish a collection of the articles I’d written, to be sold to the WARP membership as a fundraiser. We assumed it would be a copy-and-paste job with minimal editing; I envisioned a small booklet, with photos provided by WARP members who had visited the textile artisans whose work I’d featured in the articles. Shouldn’t take more than a year, maybe two, to complete, I thought, knowing that I could work on it only part-time.

Instead, the journey to publication took more than a decade and the humble, homegrown booklet I had imagined evolved into something much grander and more significant.

The change began a month later, with a major plot twist in my own life story. I have tangles of thin-walled blood vessels scattered throughout my brain. Two of them bled, turning my life upside-down: debilitating headaches, loss of balance, relentless seizures, and more. I couldn’t work, couldn’t weave, couldn’t be the mom I’d been and wanted to be. Most days, I barely functioned; my life shrank to mere existence. The only known treatment to prevent future bleeds was surgical removal of the two bleeders.

Three brain surgeries later, I felt lost and afraid. I couldn’t grasp the enormity of what had happened to me. I had no idea where to begin my journey towards recovery. Would I ever be able to rejoin humanity, to reclaim my place in the world?

I started writing an account of my experience, hoping that it would help me navigate my way through the obstacles strewn across my path. I also hoped my story would help other brain injury survivors. I soon realized that I wanted to reach a broader audience, too. For that, I needed to improve my writing skills.

Backstrap Weaving from Bhutan, photo by Joe Coca.

My neurological deficits prevented me from participating in writing workshops. Instead, I worked with writing coach and now friend, Judy Fort Brenneman. Under her tutelage, I grew from an “eh” journal writer to a skilled storyteller, and my account evolved into an award-winning book, “But My Brain Had Other Ideas: A Memoir of Recovery from Brain Injury.”

The more I wrote, the more my writing improved, and the more I wanted to write. I discovered the storyteller in me. I wrote not just about my recovery, but also about my past and present—my childhood in Israel and England, my trips to Colorado and Iceland, my adventures in dragon boating and weaving. And I continued to write the column for the WARP newsletter.

As my writing and my recovery progressed, I grew as a person. I let the world in as I never had in my past life. I became more passionate and compassionate. My interest in other people increased and with it, my ability to listen. I connected better with my surroundings. From the shy introvert I used to be, I grew into an extrovert.

My growth as a writer became apparent in my writing, of course—but I also noticed that the content shifted. Instead of focusing on techniques, I now paid more attention to the stories, the traditions, the communities, and the artisans themselves.

One consequence of my post-surgery transformation was that my dedication to WARP and its mission took a higher place on my list of priorities. I was even more determined to make a significant difference, and I returned to my WARP writing project, the article collection Linda and I had discussed a lifetime ago.

I began by rereading my articles from past columns, and soon realized that they needed more than a light dusting to work the way I wanted them to. The original pieces were mere skeletons; there was so much missing, so many stories untold. I found myself using my old work only as references and placeholders. I dug much further into research than I had the first time around: more articles, more books, more in-depth conversations with artisans.

Kilt Hose from Scotland, photo by Joe Coca.

The photos I had collected from WARP members wouldn’t do justice to this more extensive version. Judy consulted with a photographer friend of hers for advice. What was considered a reasonable price? What timeline should we expect? Did he have any recommendations?

She reported back that, “Joe Coca said he’d do it. At a reasonable price. He said he liked WARP.”

“Wait. What? Joe Coca? Are you serious?” Not only did I appreciate his work, but Joe was the textile photographer in the country. And the price for photographer of such renown was more than reasonable; it felt like a gift, one for which I am eternally grateful.

I put the finishing touches on 25 textile techniques to include in the book, gathered samples, and flew to Colorado for the photo shoot at Joe’s studio (then in Fort Collins).

I always enjoy watching people competent at their trade at work, whether they are electricians, chefs, or teachers. I am intrigued by the choices they make, their focus, their technique, and their confidence. The same was true watching Joe at work in his studio—the photo shoots were a joy. I admired his skill and appreciated his patience and willingness to answer my numerous questions, some serious, others joking. He was good company. His photos were (and are) fabulous.

At this point in the story, I was still thinking of self-publishing. But on the off-chance that a traditional publishing house might be interested, Judy sent a query and book proposal to Schiffer Publishing. To my surprise and delight, Peter Schiffer responded quickly with an enthusiastic “Yes!”—provided I would include photos of artisans and process in addition to the textile photos. “Images of process will elevate it to another level,” he explained. The cost of finding and licensing those images was on me; Schiffer offered no advance or help with the image research.

But I felt confident about the project and about Schiffer as publisher, so within the month, I had a signed contract and was busy tracking down professional-quality photographs for 25 textile techniques—a much more daunting and time-consuming task than I’d ever expected, but definitely worth it. Peter was right; the book is stronger with the additional imagery.

Three-dimensional Embroidery from Peru, photo by Joe Coca.

Picking which techniques to include in the book was no trivial matter. My first elimination round was based on the writing quality of the existing articles. Next I considered the availability of reliable resources to expand content. And finally, what samples were available? In the end, some were my own, and many were borrowed from Judi Arndt’s extensive collection.

My pick for the first chapter was clear from the start: Moroccan flatweave created by Berber weavers. The Berber believe that the process of weaving represents the life cycle of a male child, from birth to death. Once the textile is cut off the loom it dies, and the weaver performs death rites on it, as she would for a person. As the dead enter the afterlife, the textile is reborn into its next life in its intended home. I found this story so compelling that my original title for the book was “Birth and Rebirth: Textile Techniques from Around the World.”

I decided early-on that the last chapter would be about the three-dimensional embroidery made only in one studio, which is owned by the Oncebay family from Ayacucho, Peru. I had met two of the family members at a WARP meeting: Saturnino, the weaver, and Vilma, the embroiderer. They explained that their three-dimensional embroidery was an ancient, pre-Incan technique they had recently revived. My resources for that chapter came first-hand from the Oncebays’ account of their research, and the anthropologist who worked with them.

But I didn’t include a chapter on Palestinian red cross-stitch embroidery. That article didn’t even make the first cut—though it did illustrate how much my writing has improved over the years! More importantly, I didn’t have any good samples to photograph. For the next volume—and yes, I hope to write a sequel—I plan to have a sample of this beautiful, enduring technique. The expanded essay might even make the cut for opening chapter.

From the initial plan of producing a simple homegrown booklet, this project morphed into a full length book, a book with incredible images accompanying well-written, interesting stories, a book that’s won multiple awards, a book I am proud of.

Shisha Embroidery from India

Raising money for WARP and increasing WARP’s visibility attracted me from the beginning, and still does. Sharing my love of ethnic textiles by immersing myself in the stories, from early drafts through research, rewrites, photography, and publication, appealed to me and helped me persevere through all the challenges. But I always felt there was more to it, that something more was driving my dedication to this work. It finally clicked as I worked on the introduction—the “big why” underlying my conviction that textile traditions are important.

Textile traditions are more than a connection between past and present. Their importance is greater than the facts of their beauty and construction.

Ethnic textiles and their traditions form ties between us, weaving diverse people and cultures together in often-surprising ways. Stories are inherent in textiles, stories about the makers and their communities, their cultures and traditions, and their relationship to society as a whole.

The stories behind the textile traditions are universal, bringing to light our commonalities, helping us recognize our ties with each other, no matter where we reside in the world and what our place is in society. These textiles and the stories they represent prevent us from losing our humanity. In a way, they save us from ourselves by celebrating our humanity.

And that’s a fundamental step toward peace and a better world.


Deb Brandon is a weaver, respected textile artist and enthusiast, and writer. She’s been an active volunteer with WARP (Weave A Real Peace), including serving multiple terms as a board member as well as writing the long-running “Textile Techniques from around the World” column for the WARP Newsletter. Brandon is a popular speaker on textiles and other topics. She’s an avid traveler and has competed nationally and internationally in dragon boating, and she’s been a professor in the Mathematical Sciences Department at Carnegie Mellon University since 1991. Her other books include the memoir But My Brain had Other Ideas, and her essays have appeared in several publications, including HandEye Magazine and Weaving Today.

Book signing at this year’s WARP Annual Meeting in Washington, D.C.

 

New Pathways to Enterprise

New Pathways to Enterprise

1588 Keswick Place
Annapolis, MD 21401

Chris@NewPathwaysToEnterprise.org
www.NewPathwaysToEnterprise.org

Contact person: Christine Nielsen

New Pathways is dedicated to improving the lives of women and their families living in impoverished communities in the Philippines. Our Learning to Livelihood nurtures the development of artisan groups engaged in a range of textiles creation and enhancements. New Pathways’ artisans are engaged in a wide range of textiles creation and embellishments, including beading on satin and lace; macramé, and weaving on table-top looms designed by co-founder, R. Keith Raney.


LolaLovesCargo

LolaLovesCargo
163 Stanton Street #6
New York, NY 10002

(646) 234-6667

lolalovescargo@gmail.com
www.lolalovescargo.com

Contact person: Lola Faturoti

Lolalovecargo's concept is merging authentic traditional designs with functional modern clothing. Our mission is to preserve the traditional designs and skills of indigenous artisans, and to contribute to the minimizing of the dumping system in the third world countries by reworking used clothes into one of a kind clothes. We are open to collaborating with indigenous artisans from all parts of the World.


Sharing the Dream in Guatemala

Sharing the Dream in Guatemala
10 W. Main Street
Vermillion, SD 57069

(605) 624-6895
info@sharingthedream.org
www.sharingthedream.org

Contact person: Diane Nesselhuf

Sharing the Dream in Guatemala is a fair trade organization.  We aim to promote sustainable fair trade and create opportunities. We have two brick and mortar stores in South Dakota and an online store.  Through the sales of our products, we are able to continue providing work and support to our partner artisans, as well as to support our projects in Guatemala.  We offer handmade purses and bags, scarves and other personal accessories, home textiles, and jewelry.


The Widow’s Friend

The Widow's Friend
136 Griffith Hill Way
Greer, SC 29651

(864) 509-1115
john14v19@gmail.com
https://www.etsy.com/shop/thewidowsfriend

Contact person: Paula Zitzman

Bangladeshi widows served by The Widow's Friend hand-stitch pieces on silk and cotton that are scenes and texts suitable for framing, table runners and cloths, pillow covers, bread basket liners and Christmas items. Orphans make paper and clay bead necklaces with matching earrings. These products are made available for sale and the whole price of the piece goes to the artisan. Some available at Etsy but a much larger selection is available via email.


Shekere Creations by Thembi

Shekere Creations by Thembi
PO Box 5783
Capitol Heights, MD

dlifeforce360@gmail.com
Instagram: olokun_thembi

Contact person: Thembi Douglas

Thembi uses natural gourds, wood beads and quality cord to string her shekeres. Each Shekere is custom made. Also named Daate’, the Calabasist by her Ethiopian family, Thembi also travels the world collecting gourds and gourd stories. Purchasing from her, you purchase history.


Surya’s Garden

Surya's Garden

Shop at Surya's Garden
11 bis rue du chapitre
30000 Nîmes, France

Atelier at Surya's Garden
ward 4C, house 125
Kaddirampura 583239
Karnataka, India

00 33 769428966 & 00 33 766044642
laxmijan@suryasgarden.org
www.suryasgarden.org
Facebook: Art of Banjara embroidery

Contact person: Laxmi Naik-Duclos


Products based on ancient patterns from the traditional Banjara art, incorporated on contemporary supports like cushions covers, bags, purses, garments and wall hangings. Profits are shared between the embroiderers.