TAFA: The Textile and Fiber Art List

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Baby Fiber Artists

Rachel Biel Taibi, AKA Rayela Art
Campinas, Brazil, 1962

These photos were taken of me when my parents first arrived in Brazil, still unpacking. I think they are my favorite baby photos, partially because they combine three of my great interests: travel, clothing and fabric. A baby is a clean slate. Any doting mother might look at their child and wonder with awe and great trepidation, "Oh, Lord! What will become of this little one?"

"Please! Listen to my prayer!
Anything but an artist!!!!"

Said in jest, but with a grain of truth... Several years ago my mother asked me not to give her anymore art. She would rather get nothing for Christmas than something I made. This comes out of a practical frustration of not having enough room to display all that she already has. And, the cleaning and dusting and clutter effects...

Looking back, I wish that I had a "real" trade, or one that provided a secure income. Some artists are able to make a living from their work, but most of us struggle along, facing poverty or living on the edge. That's fine in your twenties but becomes more difficult with age. Looking back once again, I know that this has been my road, unavoidable and rich in texture. My parents played their part in this, encouraging me at a young age to learn everything that interested me. They paid for painting classes, embroidery tutoring, piano lessons, and gave me an allowance to spend on paints, threads, and other art supplies. I learned how to carve, work with clay, draw, paint, refinish furniture, and finally settled in the fiber arts.

My mother read to us every night, up into my teens. Her voice trained my ear to later indulge in NPR and audio books. Love and care was the signature of my childhood. Creativity, laughter, and tactile experience abounded. These fibers wove themselves into a tapestry of wonder.

I invited members from our Fiber Focus group to submit images of themselves as a baby along with some text. Such tenderness!

Charmaine Manley

"Here's a photo of my mother holding me when I was tiny. I've dabbled in quilting and embroidering, and a little bit of sewing. Mainly, I oggle. I'm very good at appreciating the work of other fiber artists!"


Catherine Salter Bayar

"November 1961 - Nomad in Training: I'm 9 months old and have just been peeled out of the backseat of our mauve colored, tail-finned Imperial automobile of massive proportions by my Aunt Martha, in Mount Sterling, Kentucky. I've ridden all the way from California with my parents and my grandmother, who apparently complained the entire time. This was the first road trip of many I've taken over decades now - for pleasure, for work, with family, friends or by myself.

I used to travel the world to design and weave textiles for big manufacturers; now I travel Turkey for our handwoven textile shop. I knit, felt and weave...though not as well as those nomad women of years gone by."




Is there a common denominator that grows a baby into a fiber artist? Nature vs. nurture? In my family, my Dad's side is loaded with talented hands, mostly woodworkers and painters. My Mom's side has sprouted literary minds. The four of us here as babies all seem to have had plenty on the nurture side. I am sure that we are the lucky ones and that there are many fiber artists with less fortune in terms of being a happy baby.

In times past, many fiber art traditions came from moms, grandmothers and aunts who made quilts, knitted socks, and sewed curtains, clothing and other functional items. Many of us now have no role models within the family, but look for knowledge through books, the internet and peers. We sometimes embrace function, but often push beyond the scope of what our ancestors would have considered appropriate.
Baby fiber artists! Yarn, straw, felt, fabric, thread, raffia, grass, reeds, wool, silk, and yes, even polyester... Imagine the world without us... Wouldn't that make you feel sad and cold?

Rachel Biel Taibi, Brazil, 1962

Would you like to add your baby face to this post? Use the Contact Me link in the third column of the blog and send a photo (attached as a jpeg), your text and links and I'll add you on!



  1. What a great post y'all! I love the photo of your special bath tub in Brazil. Just baby-size!

  2. Rayela...Your baby pics are so beautiful. I especially like the one of you in the tub, so 'old-world', lovely!

  3. It was a very beautiful post and I totally loved your baby pictures and you look very cute and I loved your picture of you with your mother as it looks very good.


“Sing like no one's listening, love like you've never been hurt, dance like nobody's watching, and live like it's heaven on earth.”

“Whatever you say, say it with conviction.”

(Both by the master, Mark Twain)

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