Honoring Greatness Among Us
WARP’s Community Leadership Award honors WARP members who have demonstrated a deep commitment to WARP’s mission of improving the life of textile artisans in communities worldwide. This award is for individuals who have been influential in the WARP community, and also influential in doing good in the world beyond WARP. We established this award in 2022 to honor longtime WARP member Jackie Abrams, who passed away in 2021 after a lifetime of work as a basketry artist, teacher, community consultant, and a dedicated WARP member.
Honoring Jackie Abrams
For me, the WARP annual meeting is a time of being with people who truly understand and share my interests. We don’t need to explain why we do what we do; we just need to tell each other about it. It is also about friendships that deepen each time we meet.
-Jackie Abrams, Summer 2012 WARP Newsletter
Jackie Abrams was a beloved member of the WARP community for nearly 20 years. Jackie influenced the way WARP understands not just weaving, but all textile traditions, by helping us see that basketry is integral to weaving communities worldwide. Jackie was active in her local Vermont community, as well as nationally and internationally. Through her thoughtful work as a basketry artist and her advocacy work in basketry communities around the world, Jackie was a primary example of how being an artist and being a community activist are inherently tied together. Her work deeply influenced the WARP community, and even more so, her work in communities impacted the world.
Jackie worked on developing microcraft industries with women in basketry communities around the world. These projects were focused on teaching women to coil and crochet products using recycled plastic bags and fabric, for sale in local markets. Jackie worked closely with artisan communities in Ghana, Costa Rica, and Guatemala.
As a member of WARP, Jackie served on the board, contributed her work to WARP auctions, shared her experiences in the newsletter, and attended our in-person Annual Meetings. She worked diligently to establish the WARP Artisan Textile Resource Guide, an initiative to promote WARP member artisan communities. Those who had the chance to meet Jackie will remember her radiant warmth and her wonderful sense of humor. Jackie’s six-year board tenure concluded at the 2016 Annual WARP Meeting in Santa Fe, during the International Folk Art Market. In the next WARP newsletter, then board president Cindy Lair beautifully summarized Jackie’s impact and outlook:
I have hope because YOU are out there [making the world a better place], one generous moment at a time. Our annual meeting in Santa Fe brought that truth home to me, as so many of you volunteered at the International Folk Art Market. I think we all helped stimulate the economic status of the artists. Yet, the most memorable moment for me was during the parade on the square, when Jackie Abrams turned to me, with eyes overflowing and said; ‘This is what I want the world to be. All of us at peace, laughing and happy.’ Jackie leaves the board this year after six long tireless years working toward a better connection for us all. Her brain child was the Artisan Resource Guide, an extraordinary accomplishment for our organization. On behalf of all of us, we offer you a profound thank you. You make us feel at peace, laughing and happy.
Jackie’s presence in the WARP community touched many of us deeply. It is difficult to encapsulate such a profound, rich life in a single tribute. Here, we share with you a number of other places where you can learn about Jackie’s life, work, and legacy:
- The North Country Studio Workshops (NCSW) is a nonprofit in Bennington, Vermont, founded by Jackie in 1993. NCSW has established the Jackie Abrams Legacy Scholarship for working artists who need financial assistance to attend. On the scholarship web page, you can read about Jackie’s involvement with NCSW, view a video with Jackie, and also contribute to her memorial scholarship.
- Over her career, Jackie’s work appeared in a range of craft shows and museum exhibitions, in addition to being published in many books and magazines. Her baskets are in the permanent collections of several US and UK museums, with two baskets selected for the State Department Art in Embassies program. Jackie’s 2021 retrospective show, “Jackie Abrams: 45 Years of Making,” was held at Mitchell•Giddings Fine Arts in Brattleboro, Vermont. The gallery also hosted Jackie’s previous basketry show, “Precarious Shelters: Houses that Hold Us,” an exhibition about the social justice issue of housing for all people.
- Journeys: The Life and Work of Jackie Abrams, edited by Beth Hester, is a wonderful book about Jackie’s artwork, teaching, and social justice work. The book can be purchased online, or readers can flip through the book electronically here.
- Jackie’s website, Jackie Abrams: Contemporary Baskets & Fiber Art, holds a wealth of images of Jackie’s work, as well as her wonderful blog, which features her exhibitions, teaching, and consulting work. Friends of Jackie are invited to remember and honor her on her Facebook tribute page, Remembering Jackie Abrams.
We thank Steve Csipke, Jackie’s friend of more than 25 years and a fellow WARP member, for assisting us in writing this tribute to Jackie.