Learn Wedge Weaving!

CorsiniAfterglowCome and learn from Deborah Corsini about how to use this simple technique that is a prominent design feature of many Navajo rugs. Using primarily natural dyes for her work, Deborah will discuss how she uses color choices and the weave structure to develop her amazing woven compositions. Notice how the edges of the weaving contribute to the dynamic flow of this piece? Participants will have the opportunity to try their hand at wedge weaving and to interact with Deborah who was the former curator of exhibitions at the Quilt and Textile Museum in San Jose. With an impressive record in the textile field, Deborah is a great asset to the textile community of the Bay area. No experience necessary to participate, all you have to do is sign up as a day registrant for only $80 and you will be able to not only learn from Deborah, but also be able to listen to the amazing experiences of others who are on the ground working with textile communities around the world. For more information, check out the 2015 WARP Annual Meeting Registration Form.

Now Accepting Scholarship Applications – Deadline March 31

Each year WARP awards Alice Brown Memorial Scholarships to attend our annual meeting. Alice Brown was a generous WARP member who had the foresight to donate the funds to establish the scholarship. Now, other members are helping to make the fund both sustainable and greater in scope. Those of you who have attended meetings since 2008 know how much these special young people have added to the event.  This year we hope to award two scholarships to cover the costs of attending our meeting outside of San Francisco on May 29—31.  Since our scholarship does not cover travel expenses, candidates from the California and the west may be especially interested in applying this year.

Please also help by spreading the word that it is time to apply again! Word of mouth by the WARP membership has proven to be the best way to publicize our scholarship program.  The recipients should be 35 years old or under and be pursuing a career path related to textiles.  The ideal candidates should be either a full or part-time student, or a recent graduate.  The committee will also consider applicants pursuing non-traditional career paths. The application can be downloaded from the WARP website. Click here for details or to download a copy of the application.  Interested professors and students can also e-mail Sarah Saulson with questions or to receive the application (sfsaulson@twcny.rr.com). The application deadline is March 31, 2015.

2013 Scholarship Student, Selina Petschek, with members at the WARP Marketplace
2013 Scholarship Student, Selina Petschek, with members at the WARP Marketplace


Selina learning to spin cotton with a Tahkli drop spindle at the 2013 WARP Meeting
Selina learning to spin cotton with a Tahkli drop spindle at the 2013 WARP Meeting

WARP’s Annual Meeting: The Work of Many Hands

A textile is the work of many hands. One pair grows or gathers the raw materials. One pair turns that raw material into a usable thread, yarn, reed, or bead. Another pair transforms these materials into cloth, jewelry, or vessel. The textile is then carried to market where it will be received and treasured by another pair of hands.

An understanding of this work and its meaning to grassroots economies around the world is why WARP exists—to create a more connected textile community.  Once a year, WARP members and their guests, get together in person to swap stories, celebrate successes, evaluate failures, and make meaningful connections.  This year’s meeting was held May 9 – 11, at the Pallottine Renewal Center in Florissant, Missouri, just outside of St. Louis. Here is a brief overview of this year’s meeting.  For more photos, visit our WARP 2014 Annual Meeting Board on Pinterest and share it with your friends.  Encourage them to come next year!

Friday’s and Sunday’s programs are reserved for members only. Members who arrived by 3pm on Friday traveled to the impressive St. Louis Art Museum for a gallery talk with textile curator Zoe Perkins about the new Navajo textiles exhibit.  An evident common thread throughout the event is that networking happens everywhere—attendees were hungry to talk to others that share their passion.Navajo Textile Exhibit

The meeting officially opened on Friday evening with each attendee introducing themselves and summarizing their place in the textile community. Since members are together for such a short time, these brief introductions facilitate networking.

Networking in Action

After the introductions, the market is open to WARP members for an early opportunity to shop and talk. Conversations in the market

Saturday’s programs were open to the public.  Linda Ligon, founder of Interweave, and Joe Coca, photographer, gave a behind the scenes look at the making of Faces of Tradition: Weaving Elders of the Andes from Thrumbs Books.Joe Coca discusses the making of Faces of Tradition

This program was followed by WARP founder Deb Chandler’s forthcoming book about Guatemalan weavers, also published by Thrumbs Books, and due out in the Spring of 2015.

Deb Chandler talks about her new book celebrating Guatamalan weavers

The morning’s programs were rounded out by  Kate White and Carrie Campbell, the 2014 Alice Brown Scholarship recipients, presentations of their projects; and a short 15-minute documentary about the weavers of Paz Bolivia presented by Dorinda Dutcher.

Scholarship recipient talksAfter a morning of cerebral stimulation, it was time to get our hands dirty!  An afternoon dye potluck, hosted by board members Judy Newland and Karen Searle, featured an exploration of eco dye techniques.

Preparing bundles for eco dyeingA cochineal demonstration by Vilma and Saturino Oncebay of Peru.Karen Searle serves as translatorAnd, and indigo dyepot tended by Margaret Leininger.The work of the hand

The market reopened at 4pm for shopping, a silent auction, and an exhibit of the photographs from Faces of Tradition. After a 6pm happy hour, a short round of “exercises” was led by Irene Schmoller that were designed to loosen up everyone’s wallets—you had to be there to appreciate what great fun this was! At 7pm, WARP held its third live auction led by auctioneer and board president Cindy Lair.  Many of the beautiful textiles were modeled by WARP members.  Money raised by the two auctions will help fund WARP’s operating costs in the coming year. WARP aucationWARP's Live Auction

On Sunday morning, WARP held its annual business meeting, and there were many fond farewells.  A heartfelt thanks to Kelsey Viola Wiskirchen, and the rest of the team that put on this year’s meeting. Members time and time again say their favorite thing about WARP is the annual meeting.  It is a unique opportunity to engage with textile enthusiasts that believe in the importance of the work of the hand to communities worldwide and right in our own backyard. A contemplation of cloth

Want to learn more about WARP?  Like us on Facebook and join the conversation.




Weaving, Like Friendship, Lasts A Lifetime!

Friendship BraceletsSome life lessons come in colorful packages.  For years, Mayan Hands has successfully used the consignment model to sell their products. The Friendship Bracelet program is a creative way to harness some of the teen (13-19 years old) and tween (9-12 years old) discresionary spending power for good.

The bracelets (shown at right) are available in a wide variety of colors and styles.  Mayan Hands sends out an assortment of product along with promotional materials and ideas for how to run a successful fundraiser. The bracelets sell for five dollars, and the seller keeps 40% of the profits.  Any product that is not sold may be returned.

For those young people who are fortunate enough to have discretionary money to spend—and certainly not all young people do—the Friendship Bracelet program gives them a way to have their dollars support their peers in another country while also raising money for a collective goal. The program is also appealing to college students and church groups.

One happy mother, whose daughter sold the braclets to raise money for her school said, “This fundraiser was awesome because it taught the kids that they could help themselves while helping others. A good lesson for middle schoolers! ”

Many of the schools that sell the friendship bracelets are raising money for service trips to other countries, reinforcing the message of the friendship bracelets to the larger community. Most of the money raised by  sale of woven goods goes to support the weavers children’s need for food, clothing, and education.

If you are interested in learning more about the program, contact Kathleen Balogh by e-mailing her at kathleen@mayanhands.org or calling  (301) 515-5911.  To learn more about Mayan Hands, visit www.mayanhands.org

Tajikistan Bound Part Two: The Program

This is part two of a post by Cindy Lair’s, Chair of the WARP board, efforts to get a loom to Tajikistan. In the previous post, Cindy talked about helping to get a donated (nonfunctioning) loom to Tajikistan. The loom was destined to assist a group of rural women who weave incredible mohair blanks. Before she tackled the loom project, she wanted to learn as much as possible about the program that would ultimately make use of the loom. By studying this one project, Cindy gives us an insight into the intricacies of international development. To see more photos from the project, visit our Pinterest Page.

Tajikistan shepherds show off their colored angora goats. Photos Courtesy of Marilyn Murphy
Tajikistan shepherds show off their colored angora goats. Photos Courtesy of Libra Brent

The project in Tajikistan focused on a small group of shepherds in the mountainous regions of the country. An effort to improve their breeding stock for fleece weight and quality and to establish small scale fiber processing was started by Dr. Liba Brent, a sociologist from Madison, Wisconsin, under the auspices of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD).

Fleece for sale.
Fleece for sale.

Hang with me here, there are a lot of long names and complicated cooperative relationships. The IFAD is a specialized agency of the United Nations dedicated to eradicating rural poverty in developing countries. The IFAD has many different grant programs available to fund agricultural related development. One of the available grants is the Community Action in Integrated and Market Oriented Feed-Livestock Production in Central and South Asia. The International Center for Agricultural Research in Dry Areas (ICARDA) is part of a global partnership under the umbrella of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) applied for and received the Feed-Livestock Production grant. ICARDA’s involvement in the region attracted the attention of the Mountain Societies Development Support Programme, a branch of the Aga Khan Development Network dedicated to improving the life of the people of the mountainous oblasts of Tajikistan.

Collectively, all these complicated funding, research, and development agencies and organizations were seeking to promote the rights of women through increased skill development and access to global markets and income opportunities. In particular, one focus of ICARDA’s is value chain management for sheep and goat farming communities in Central Asia. Value chain managment—also called value added agriculture—focus on creating more value at the “farm” gate, so that producers receive more money for their good. Value is added transforming raw goods into finished projects by increasing the quality of the goods that may already be in production.

A spinner transforms mohair fiber into yarn.
A spinner transforms mohair fiber into yarn.

In the past three years, these collective efforts, have raised the income of participating families by as much as 50%. For example, in 2010, Dr. Brent arranged for semen from the top buck at the 30th Annual Angora Goat Performance Test Sale in Texas. This buck’s clean fleece weight produced 13.1 pounds of fiber with a lock length of 7.2 inches! This hearty fellow helped improve the fiber of the Tajik goats. In turn, the women of the village transform the improved fleece into yarn that they used to weave higher quality blankets. These efforts enhanced women’s standing in their families by enabling them to become wage earners.

As I learned more about this project it became closer to my heart, since a large portion of the project involved not just weaving, but spinning, as well. It motivated me to do my part to get them better tools to support their families.  Since they only had one loom that ten weavers had to share, sending them an additional loom essentially allowed them to double their production.  How’s that for impact, and all of this was accomplished without every leaving my community.

To purchase yarn from Tajikistan, click here.

For more information about the funding agencies, visit these websites:

IFAD www.ifad.org

ICARDA www.icard.org

Aga Khan Foundation www.akdn.org

To learn more about projects like these, like WARP’s Facebook page. To learn more about WARP, visit our website. To see more photos from Tajikistan, visit our Pinterest page.

Tajikistan Bound Part One: The Loom

Cindy Lair at her office at Schacht Spindle Company. She spent a year in traveling by armchair to assist a rural community in Central Asia.
Cindy Lair in her office at Schacht Spindle Company. She spent nearly a year traveling by armchair to assist a rural community in Central Asia.

This is the first of a two-part post about Cindy Lair’s efforts to get a donated loom to Tajikistan. Cindy is the WARP’s board chair and the Planning Manager at Schacht Spindle Company, a loom and spinning wheel manufacturer. Part two will be posted on March 17.

I have spent a great deal of time in Central Asia over the last several years, not literally, but in my mind. I have neither the time or the money to travel, so for me, my imagination must suffice.

During Weave A Real Peace’s 2011 annual meeting, Marilyn Murphy of ClothRoads asked if I could help ship a loom to Tajikistan to support a group of village weavers. I have spent the last two decades working at Schacht Spindle Company, a spinning wheel and loom manufacture in Boulder, Colorado, so I know a thing or two about shipping looms.

The Loom Arrives

The loom had been donated in the hope that it would assist the weavers in Tajikistan make their sumptuous kid mohair blankets. I was expecting a functioning loom dismantled for shipping. What arrived was an old counterbalance loom that sadly would not be of much use.

The loom when it arrived
The loom when it arrived

My curiosity and inability to leave well enough alone got the better of me. With only a photocopy of the once functioning loom, I began the journey of reconstruction. Old looms are like puzzles, and everyone’s curiosity about the partially set-up loom was piqued, inspiring help and generosity of spirit that makes me proud to work at Schacht.

Marilyn had sent me a photo of a weaver and her daughters holding up a beautiful kid Mohair blanket. At a ClothRoads trunk show held at Shuttles, Spindles, and Skeins in Boulder, I was able to see and feel this blanket for myself. What an incredible pleasure! It was so luxurious, I wanted to cocoon myself in it and never ever move again.

The blanket was made by ten weavers that share a single loom. I posted the photo of the blanket and its makers nearby to remind myself and others that this effort was a shared journey. Although these weavers and I may never meet, our lives have intersected making us a part of each other’s journey.

During the reconstruction process, I was stumped by the braking mechanism made of beautiful old cast iron. No matter what I did I could not get it to fit on the loom. I did some research on the internet and dug through the library of books at Schacht and my personal collection with no results.

Deborah Chandler, founder of WARP, came to mind. Maybe she had run across a similar breaking mechanism during her year’s of work in Guatemala? Deborah emailed me photos of a field solution she has encountered many times—a stick jammed against the beam to keep it from moving. That made me laugh, and was my kind of solution! However, I wanted something more functional than practical for the women of Tajikistan.

The assembled loom!
The assembled loom!

In the end, I used a modified braking system similar to one that is used on Schacht looms. After a month of trial and error, the loom was back in working order. We replaced some of the wood parts with metal to be sure that the loom could withstand a lot of use and so that the parts would be long lasting in a place where woodworking tools are scarce.

Shipping The Loom

I labeled and photographed all the parts during disassembly to make reconstruction as easy as possible. While I was at work on the loom, our shipping expert was looking into costs and box sizes. How indeed would the loom get to Tajikistan?

Whenever I give tours of Schacht I like to start with shipping, because the design of the final product must adhere to shipping restrictions dictated by the companies moving the product. All countries have rules and regulations about the size and shape of product moving into and out of their borders.

Our first information was that Tajikistan would only accept packages of certain dimensions. This loom was far too tall to fit the requirements. I began to ponder how to reduce the size and the height of the loom without compromising performance. Fortunately, I hadn’t sawed the loom in half yet when we received new information based on volume that would allow us to meet the requirements. YES!!

The photo of a Tajikistan weaver and her daughters that kept Cindy inspired. Photo courtesy of Marilyn Murphy
The photo of a Tajikistan weaver and her daughters that kept Cindy inspired. Photo Courtesy of Liba Brent.

Off the loom went until it reached Istanbul where it stayed put for a month until the Turkish airways decided to start flying to Dushanbe again. After a long truck journey, the loom was finally delivered to the Mountain Societies Development Support Programme. What a satisfying experience!

Coincidentally, Dushanbe, Tajikistan, is a sister city to Boulder, Colorado. Boulder was the recipient of a stunning tea house built by Tajik craftsmen. When the annual Weave a Real Peace meeting was held in Boulder in 2012, we began our conference at the Tea House.

The loom is hard at work in its new home, in the Tajik Pamir Mountains where it will continue to serve to increase the status of women. I was able to help this small mountain community thousands of miles from my home, because I have a specific set of skills and access to a community of experts that know a thing or two about making and shipping looms. Anyone with a willingness to learn and share their skills, can become involved in a project that can better the lives of others. For this WARP member and armchair traveler, all that was needed was an opportunity to use the resources in my own neighborhood.

Stay tuned for part two of this post, and discover what Cindy learned from her research about the many funding agencies that support this one small community of shepherds in Tajikistan. To purchase yarn from Tajikistan, click here.  To learn more about projects such as these, like WARP’s Facebook page. To learn more about WARP, visit our website. To see more photos from Tajikistan, visit our Pinterest page.

An Alice Brown Scholarship Recipient, “WARP Changed My Life!”

Club de Chicas
Kelsey Viola Wiskirchen, past Alice Brown Memorial Scholarship recipient with member of Club de Chicas, daughters of PAZA members.

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.

Warping with a PAZA Master Weaver
Kelsey warps a loom with Doña Maxima, Bolivian master weaver and leader of PAZA

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. 

The Road from Guatemala to Santa Fe

Recently the Cooperativa de Alfombras de Mujeres Maya en Guatemala (Maya Women’s Rug Hooking Cooperative of Guatemala) was accepted into the 2014 International Folk Art Market, July 11 – 14. We spoke to one of their delegates to this year’s market. Reyna Pretzantzin is thirty-one years old and attends Rafael Landivar University studying for her bachelor’s degree in Business Administration. She divides her time between managing the Cooperative, running a bookstore in her hometown, and working as a consultant connecting highly skilled artisans to exporters specializing in craft development. Reyna has over five years’ experience of working in product development and fair trade with indigenous Maya women. She speaks English, Spanish, and Kaqchikel fluently. Here is what she said about getting to Santa Fe. 

Rug Hookers Meet in Panajachel
Rug Hookers from the many different groups that make up the Guatemalan Rug Hooking Cooperative meet in Panajachel, Guatemala. Photo by Rachel Green

How did you learn about the Folk Art Market?
Artisans from Guatemala have been participating in the Folk Art Market (FAM) for many years now. We learned about it from other weavers and embroiderers.  It is one of the most prestigious folk art events in the world, and it has been a dream of ours to participate and share our hooked rugs with the world.

Was applying for the Market difficult?
Since I speak English, Spanish, and Kaqchikel fluently, the women could share their thoughts and ideas with me, and I could incorporate them into the application.  We know that the organisers are very selective, so we worked very hard on our application and are delighted that we have been chosen.

What is the history of the Cooperative?

The Cooperativa de Alfombras de Mujeres Maya en Guatemala grew from Mary Anne Wise and Jody Slocum’s, co-founders of Cultural Cloth (www.culturalcloth.com), original rug hooking project in Guatemala. Mary Anne Wise gave her first rug hooking workshop in Guatemala in June 2009. Its success led to other workshops where she taught students more advanced techniques. In 2012, the Delta Foundation supported a  Rug Hooking Teacher Training Program. A core group of seven women were trained to teach others rug hooking techniques. Today, over fifty women from six highland villages are rug hooking, and we have organized ourselves into a cooperative. Our folk art combines the art of rug hooking with design elements and colors inspired by motifs present in the traditional clothing, folklore, and culture of Guatemala.

Yolana Calgua Delegate to the Folk Art Market
Yolanda Calgua (left) discussing design with a new student Estella Alvarado from the Totonicipan rug hooking group. Photo by Rachel Green

Tell us a bit about your other delegate.

Yolanda Calgua is thirty-four years old, married with two children. She lives in the rural community of Quiejel, Chichicastenango. She has helped many women in her community realize their potential. She believes strongly in the power of women to bring about positive social change. Everyone who has met Yolanda has been struck by her energy, vitality, and motivation, she is truly an inspiring woman. Two years ago potable water came to her village. Income from the sale of her rugs allowed her to buy  the faucets and piping for six families to tap into the pipe.

Of rug hooking she says, “it is a privilege to be a rug hooking teacher and bring this opportunity to women in other communities. My hope is that they can make a better life for themselves and their children.” She still remembers hooking her first rug; it was made in memory of her grandmother and incorporated designs she remembers from her grandmother’s huipil (the traditional blouse worn by indigenous woman in Guatemala).  Rug Hooking is also something that fits around her life as a wife and mother.

 The Guatemalan Rug Hooking Cooperative is working on setting up a website.  If you would like to get in touch e-mail rughooking.guatemala@gmail.com. To see their work visit, Cultural Cloth’s website.