This month Hellen Ascoli is sharing her experience at the annual meeting in Decorah. She gave a wonderful presentation about her work as the Director of Education at Ixchel Museum of Indigenous Dress in Guatemala. She now lives in Madison, Wisconsin. Here is Hellen with new WARP friends and this is her story… (judy newland)
A couple months ago a friend, a fellow Madison Weaver’s Guild member, Char Thompson, sent me an email to apply for the Alice Brown Memorial Scholarship to attend this year’s WARP meeting in Decorah, Iowa. Having recently moved to Madison, WI from Guatemala this email and the following scholarship couldn’t have been better timed!
Let me tell you a little about myself:
From 2010 – 2012 I received my M.F.A. from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.
I had applied with the precise purpose of returning to Guatemala, my home country, and putting into action what I had learned. My art practice centered around weaving on the back strap loom as a way to bring together my interests in identity and materiality. I balanced my work as Director of Education at Ixchel Museum of Indigenous Dress while also teaching art through diverse disciplines at Francisco Marroquín University and at Fundación Paiz (a private cultural foundation in Guatemala that offers classes in visual and performing arts and hosts the Paiz Biennial).
During those five years I was slowly building the life I had set out to make, one where I could weave together my interests between Art, Craft and Education. However, as many WARP members might know, Guatemala offers a lot of opportunities, but it can also be a hard place. Sadly in 2017, after the loss of my brother to violence, my husband and I made the difficult decision to move back to the United States. Regarding my practice I felt that leaving the country where so much of my work is embedded would just feel like another loss.
For several months I had been searching for a community in the United States that also wanted to have an integrated life. The community I wanted was made up of those that understood the richness that exists when different aspects of life are woven together and rooted in a place, a community or a tradition.
As I walked into the WARP conference, I immediately felt in the right place. The first person I bumped into was Deborah Chandler who I had briefly met through Museo Ixchel in Guatemala. It was exciting not only to see someone from home, but also to learn about the specific ways other’s work here in the United States is connecting to places like Guatemala. There were so many examples to draw from that creatively brought together aspects of craft and connected it to communities locally and globally.
Not even two days later after the conference I met Susan Weltman, Marilyn Anderson and Lynn Persson for lunch in Madison and they generously offered me ideas on how to keep growing professionally. As I sit down to type an email buzzes through from WARP member Nicole Giacomantonio, and I am excited to share my artwork with her and follow up on her travels. Another email dings in from Marilyn Anderson and I am exited at the prospect of interviewing her for a potential article. This past month I have looked at the notes from the WARP conference multiple times, connected with members and regained enthusiasm to start on a new “weave”.