TAFA: The Textile and Fiber Art List

Thursday, December 31, 2009

Setting New Year's Resolutions for Your Art Business

The end of a year always brings a time of reflection for me.  What happened during these past twelve months?  Did I accomplish anything?  What worked?  What didn't?  Where do I need to improve?  I think about these things, as many of us do, both in terms of my personal life and in thinking about my business.  And, that leads to those resolutions that may or may not become concrete in the upcoming year.

My business has been evolving.  This past year was the worst one, in terms of sales, that I have ever had.  The recession hit the whole world and I was not surprised to see activity dwindle.  Fortunately, I had a good commission with Sidney's Ties and was able to work with other peers on technical work they needed done on their online profiles.  Doors open and close, new opportunities appear and over time, these become defined into new directions.  Rayela Art now has three arms: my own sewing creations, the product I sell on Etsy, and increasingly, as a technical assistance provider.  I've worked hard at learning how to promote my business online and that has translated into developing skills that many artists and small importers balk at.  So, I can help them look at how they can improve their business and then set up the structures they need and train them on how to keep them up.  The challenge then becomes how to juggle these three interests as they all demand time and continued attention in order to grow.

Resolutions?  Yes, I have some.  For the purpose of this post, I will list ten:

  1. Time management.  I have to make better use of my time, especially for my own art work.
  2. Learn photoshop.  Right now I use photoshop elements.  I have the software for Photoshop, but just haven't taken the time to learn it.
  3. Make little documentaries.  I started learning how to edit videos this past fall, but haven't followed through on it.  The goal: one short a month.
  4. Increase my web building abilities.  I can build simple ones, but need to fill in some gaps to have more design control.
  5. Get back on eBay.  I closed my eBay shop and have to get back on there.  I moved a bunch of things around between stores and never got back to redoing my eBay store.
  6. Write more posts here.  I have been slacking off and just need to get into the groove again.  The goal: three meaningful posts a week.
  7. Re-do my logo.  I love my snake, but not how I drew it.  I need to re-work it so that it looks like I want it to.
  8. Network locally with small businesses.  There are meetings I can attend.  I have been too much of a recluse and need to get out there and interact with the business community where I live.
  9. Increase my products on 1000 Markets.  There I can only sell things that I make, so I have to just do it!  It means sitting down and doing several runs of bags, hats, pillows and other things that I make.  I have lots of new ideas and just have to focus on getting them made.
  10. Stay healthy.  Too much sitting has been taking its toll on me.  This may seem like a personal resolution, but not feeling well affects how well I can focus on the business.
If I can look back at the end of 2010 and see that these ten goals were tackled with consistency, I will pat myself on the back.  You may notice that I did not have a financial goal.  I have found that it is terribly hard to predict how my business will grow or suffer from year to year, but believe that I am doing all I can to bring in customers and if I can keep focusing on the bones of the business, the money will follow.

Interested in learning more about what I do?  I just re-did my website to reflect more of my role as a technical assistance provider.  Hop over there to learn more and to see my sewing projects as well.

How about you?  Any resolutions for 2010?  Self-employed artists have a tough time managing their talent and their purse.  Would love to hear about how you balance all of this out!

Happy 2010!
May the Muse be with us all!!!

We'll finish this off with an irreverant Jib-Jab look at 2009:


Sunday, December 27, 2009

20% Off on Textile Stamps!

Vintage Textile Stamp or Block from Afghanistan

Textile stamps or blocks have been used for centuries in many forms around the world.  The simplest form, which many of us may have played with as kids, is a carved potato that can then be stamped on paper or fabric with acrylic paint.  The ones I sell on Etsy are from Afghanistan, rejects from workshops there that no longer have a use for them.  Most have nicks or imperfections that make them unusable there.  Artists here extend that life, liking the distressed look that these imperfections lend to the design.  Clay artists, especially, can always clean up the design with their tools when the clay is still in its leather working stage.

Afghani textile stamps are made from hand carved pear wood.

The stamps are my best selling item on Etsy.  I buy them from a friend who imports from Afghanistan, sight unseen, and normally offer them here and on my website at 10% off before I start listing them.  This time, several factors led me to increase the offer to 20% off:

  • The stamps in this batch are more worn than usual.
  • Many of them have wax and dye residue that will demand extra cleaning.
  • I have a new camera and the photos I took are crappy.
  • Most artists prefer the smaller stamps and this batch was mostly large sizes.
So, in hopes that I won't have to re-photograph all of them and that they might move faster with the added discount, I'll lower my profit margin.

Example of a textile stamp with wax and indigo dye build up.  The stamp can be cleaned out by using soapy water and a stiff brush.  Little nicks can be repaired with wood filler.

I went over all the stamps with a stiff wire brush, but just don't have time to do a detailed clean-up.  I can give a 25% discount on purchases over $200.  I'd rather move these and use the money to buy another bag, hopefully in better shape!

My belief is that all of these crafts will become harder and harder to find in the future.  As countries industrialize, these hand made processes quickly disappear.  Afghanistan will take many years to move in that direction as its infrastructure has been almost completely destroyed by years of war and drought.  But, social instability also disrupts traditional craft production.  When purchasing these beautiful tools, we all become connected to centuries of craft traditions, handed down from mother to daughter, father to son.  When I look at these nicks and cracks, I see a life well lived and it brings me comfort.

Afghan textile stamps normally depict Persian or Islamic designs, like this one, or floral motifs.  Animals and people are very rare as they are not allowed in Islamic art.

Interested?  Here is how it works:  Go to my website where you will find all the images posted.  Each stamp is numbered and priced.  Email me with the ones you are interested in and I will get back to you with the total.  It can get a little crazy as there is no shopping cart there.  It try to keep images updated but sometimes I have to wait while a customer makes up their mind.  First come, first serve.

Stamp away!


Thursday, December 24, 2009

Season's Greetings from Rayela Art!

Wishing you a beautiful Christ Mass and all that you dream of in 2010!!!

-Rachel and the Monsters
(Mitchie, Juba, Laila and Sheba)


Monday, December 21, 2009

Rayela Art and HeART of Healing Gallery Bring the World of Textiles to Paducah!

Handmade ornaments from Thailand, India and Indonesia

Dr. Christi Bonds and I, Rachel Biel, have a passion in common: textiles!  Both of us are members of Paducah Fiber Artists, a group that meets monthly for show and tell, potluck and support.  Both of us quilt.  And, both of us love textiles from around the world.  Christi, a medical doctor who practices Integrative medicine, has an alternative health clinic in the heart of LowerTown's art neighborhood.  A large gallery room was dedicated to this love of textiles, housing HeART of Healing Gallery.  I had a booth downtown at 212 Broadway and was working two afternoons a week at Christi's gallery.  We decided that it would make sense to move the gallery downtown and free up the space for more health related programs.  We now have both of our booths across from each other, separated by an aisle.  It looks like one big ethnic textile shop! 

HeART of Healing Gallery's new space 
at Antique Galleria, 212 Broadway in Paducah

Rayela Art's booth faces HeART of Healing's

The booths work really well together as we have different specialties.  HeART of Healing Gallery has grown an impressive collection of molas made by the Kuna Indians in Panama.  Most are unfinished panels that can be framed or made into pillows, bags, or incorporated into quilts.  But, there also many mola blouses, an unusual find in most mola circles.  The blouses have panels on front and back and are set into the traditional gauzy floral fabrics so loved by the Kuna women.  These people are tiny, tiny, so most of us will have to enjoy these blouses as textiles, although I suppose they could be altered to fit some of us more Nordic types.

Kuna mola blouses from Panama

Another major focus found at HeART of Healing's booth are scores of vintage Japanese kimono, both long and short.  Christi originally bought these for the fabric as many quilters enjoy working with it, but we have found that our customers also love wearing the kimono.  So, cut it up or put it on, it's up to you!

HeART of Healing's closet of Kuna blouses and kimono.

Kimono + windchimes = good feng shui at HeART of Healing!

Rayela Art's focus moves to Central and South Asia: textile stamps from Afghanistan, ralli quilts from Pakistan, and Suzani embroidery from Uzbekistan. 

Rayela Art's textile stamps are always a big favorite!

Ralli quilts: use them on your bed or hang them on a wall.

Rayela Art also carries tribal and vintage clothing, 
kilim rugs, Indian spreads and other textiles.

Uzbeki coat and sarong from Bali, both Rayela Art.

Both of our booths also have plenty of small gift items, jewelry and interesting crafts that are bound to find their way to someone's home.  HeART of Healing also has a nice display case filled with African beads and some nice sculptures, not pictured here. 

HeART of Healing: Chinese cosmetic pouches, 
Oaxacan carvings, and more!

Rayela Art: Chinese statues and Moroccan lamps.

HeART of Healing: bamboo woven porcelain, 
bone carvings, Quan Yin, and jewelry.

Rayela Art: natural seed jewelry, tribal necklaces

Between the two of us, anyone who loves cultural textiles and crafts are bound to find something they like!  Nikki May of IList Paducah was kind enough to mention us in her tour of historic Paducah's hot shopping spots.  We invite you to travel the world with us, sharing in this wonderful gift of creativity and talent that connects all craft and textile people to each other!

Both Rayela Art and HeART of Healing Gallery have shops on Etsy.

Learn more about us on our websites:

HeART of Healing


Thursday, December 17, 2009

40 Acres Art Gallery Displays Quilts by African-American Quilters

 Marion Coleman, Susan #3, 2006
Stitched fiber collage portrait, 63 x 53 inches

by Donna Hussain

A collection of quilts sewn by African-American quilters from northern California has been on display at the 40 Acres Art Gallery in Sacramento, California for the past two months.  The exhibit of quilts, titled Amazing Wonders, was curated by Kim Curry- Evans, the gallery’s director, who worked with many individuals and organizations in the community to plan and promote the show. Most influential was Dr. Patricia Turner, a Professor of African-American Studies at UC Davis, who met with Mrs. Curry-Evans while working on a book on African-American quilters (later published as Crafted Lives).  The meeting sparked the idea of an exhibit of quilts by African-American quilters from northern California at the 40 Acres Art Gallery.

Patricia Bass Bailey, African Sawtooth, 2008, cotton fabric and thread, 
African embroidery designs, 53 x 53 inches

Given the large number of accomplished African-American quilters in the area whose work met the artistic standards of the 40 Acres Art Gallery, the final selection of quilts for the show was difficult.   Wall space in the gallery limited the number of quilts that could be placed on display.  Mrs. Curry-Evans wanted to show the cultural and artistic vitality of Africa-American quilters and a wide range of quilt-making styles.  In addition, she was cognizant as the gallery’s reputation as a teaching gallery. She wanted all of the quilts to be learning experiences for viewers.

 Sherry Byrd, Bars Medallion, 1992
Synthetic velvet, hand pieced and quilted, 99 x 78 inches

In a visitor’s booklet on Amazing Wonders, Dr. Turner has written an essay that explains how the quilts on display “offer not only insights into the culture of quilt making, but also provide valuable launching pads for discussions about African-American culture.” For example, Connie Horne’s quilt Fiber of Slavery: Strong Women Picking Cotton invites the viewer to consider the historical evidence that few women slaves were domestic workers.  Most shared in the physical demands of fieldwork along with their male counterparts.

Connie Horne, Fiber of Slavery - Strong Women Picking Cotton, 2007
Applique and machine quilted with toon and hand dyed fabric, fabric paint, 
42 x 36 inches

 In contrast is Kate Wisham’s Obama Quilt which illustrates the strides forward of African-Americans in contemporary American society.

 Katie Wishom, Obama Quilt, 2009
Collection of cotton t-shirts, machine stitched, 79 x 52 inches

Angie Tobias’s quilt Bars Medallion is drawn from the collection of Eli Leon, who claims that the bold asymmetrical stripes of the quilt demonstrate ”that African-derived aesthetic impulses and preferences for irregular patterning, bright colors, and horizontal strip constructions remain embedded in the creative imaginations of many black quilters.” This statement is certain to evoke heated discussion.

 Angie Tobias, Bars Medallion, 1984
Satin fabrics, hand pieced and quilted, 65 x 47 inches

The 40 Acres exhibit has been well received by the public.  Unfortunately the exhibit at the Sacramento gallery will close on December 23rd.  However, Amazing Wonders will reopen at the Richmond Arts Center in Richmond, CA in January. If you live in the Bay Area, do attend the show.  As Patricia Turner writes in the 40 Acres booklet, “Each of the quilts … reflects the hard work and vision of someone both talented and disciplined, someone able to bring to fruition a complicated and time consuming process.  Taken together, all of the quilts in this exhibit speak to the aesthetic dexterity, spirit and tenacity of African-American quilters.  They offer multiple lessons for all of us.”

 Johnnie Wade, Star Medallion, 1989
Cotton and cotten blends, hand pieced and quilted, 71 x 88 inches

The quilt exhibit Amazing Wonders will be on display at the Richmond Arts Center from January 26–March 13, 2010.  More information can be found at: http://www.therichmondartcenter.org/

LaQuita Tummings, Goddess, 2009

Hand quilted and hand appliqued, incorporation prismacolor pencil, 
33 x 31 inches

California quilter, Donna Hussain, has exhibited in major quilt shows around the country, authored books, and is a regular contributor to Fiber Focus. Click on her name to see all of her past articles.

The photo shows Donna with her husband, Pascha.


Wednesday, December 9, 2009

The Fiber Focus Group, Entrepreneurs with Handmade Gifts from Around the World!

Update, August 2010
The Fiber Focus Group is now closed.  Ning, the hosting platform, started charging for the site and as I had started TAFA: The Textile and Fiber Art List in February 2010, I found that I did not have the time to manage both groups.  However, these artists and businesses are still going, so the post remains relevant.

Several months after I started this blog, I felt the need for a community of fiber artists and fair trade people who might use the group to share the experiences of their communities, serve as a critique forum and support group for each other and who had a genuine interest in the condition of the world.  I looked around and didn't really find something that fit my idea of a social network, so I started one on Ning, The Fiber Focus Group.  The group has grown to 335 members.  Most of us are women who are exploring some aspect of working with fiber (sewing, quilting, dyeing, spinning, basketry, felting, etc.).  Many of us have lived in several countries, speak multiple languages, and have an entrepreneurial spirit.  I thought it would be fun to showcase some of the gorgeous pieces represented by our group.  This is just a small sampling of what you will find by poking around in our Fiber Focus Group!

Like what you see?  Click on the links below the images to visit the stores.  Overwhelmingly, we are on Etsy.  But, you will also be led to 1,000 Markets, Artfire and personal websites.  Want to learn more about this artist/producer?  Each of us has a page on our Fiber Focus Group where you can see more photos and visit links to blogs and other sites.  Copy and paste the artist's name into the search box on any page of our group.  You can also see more work by other artist's not represented here by poking around on our Photos page, where all our images can be viewed communally.




We meet through interactions on our pages, forum discussions and through groups that share similar interests.  Would such a group be of benefit to you in your fiber art or textile journey?  Come join us!  And, of course, we do hope you will consider shopping with us this Holiday season!  Don't forget to stop by my shop, as well!  Rayela Art on Etsy.  Happy Holidays!



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