TAFA: The Textile and Fiber Art List

Thursday, December 23, 2010

A Digital Christmas

 



Wonderful!

A Merry Christmas to all,
be it digital or in "real" life!



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Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Happy Holy Days from Rayela Art!



This is my Christmas letter for 2010.  If you would like to receive occasional updates by email from Rayela Art, please sign up in the box on the sidebar on the far right. (Get Rayela Art News by email)  I have signed up with mailchimp and will send out updates every month or so in 2011.

Well, another year is almost at an end.  I remember as a teenager thinking that I was going to be ancient by the year 2000, and 10 years have gone by since then!  Still chugging away although sometimes with less steam.  As a Christian, this time of the year is always a special one for me, where the Child Christ is brought back to the center of how life should be lived out.  As a world citizen, I enjoy celebrating life in all of its fullness and hope that each of you has peace, love and good cheer around you, whatever you faith or path may be.  As a retailer, the season has been traditionally (or, at least for the last 22 years) been stressful as there is always the rush to join the madness in trying to get in on the money bandwagon, hoping for a piece of the pie...  All in all, it is a good time to look back, reflect on the past year, set new goals, and forge ahead.


2010 has been a yin-yang year for me.  I started out newly divorced and pretty broken, trying to figure out how to make it on my own financially.  These are tough economic times and my business, like many, many others out there, has suffered tremendously from the recession (that is supposedly over).  I looked at my skills and interests and tried to evaluate what I could do that would both bring in income and make use of what I have learned over the years.  I had found myself increasingly helping peers with social media and other online business tools.  I saw that there was a niche to be filled there and launched TAFA: The Textile and Fiber Art List in February.  My mission?  To help TAFA's members find larger audiences for their work.  Have you seen it yet?

The strategy was to set up a website where each member has a profile.  Their businesses have a short mission or artist's statement, there are links to their web sites, and some images of their product.  We have a community on facebook, Etsy, and flickr.  Stuff gets twittered.  The first members were mostly connections that I had online through social networking sites I had been active on and new ones came along as TAFA started to take shape and have a presence.  I cannot express how wonderful this experience has been!  We now have 218 members and a majority of them are active in one way or another with each other through TAFA.  Most of the members are savvy women.  I have felt my life enriched by their insight, generosity, and astounding talent.  

About half of the members have shops on Etsy, so we formed a "Team" and have a blog where members can post their interests and thoughts.  Several pages on the blog serve as our Catalog of Shops.  We are a diverse, international and eclectic group.  Explore the pages to see wonderful shops!  The TAFA Team Blog

 All things fiber from  

As time went on, I also realized that I really had stumbled on a need that many do have in trying to navigate the web in a way that is efficient and sensible.  Most of us feel overwhelmed by the time each thing demands and many feel completely lost in basic knowledge of how to build a presence on the web and still attend to the other demands of making art or developing a product line.  When we decide to sell online, we have to become photographers, we have to tell stories, network, keep records, attend to customer inquiries, and on and on.  And, then there is life to live out!  Houses to clean, children to love, spouses to share with, health issues, yada, yada...   These past ten months have had a learning curve for me as the organizer in listening, guiding, learning.  Now we have come to a place where we can look at what effective programming TAFA can provide that will help members with some of these issues and with using our combined resources to make headway with our goals.  Ten of the members are coming together in a focus group in January where we will explore different options and set a course for ourselves for the next year.  Doors opening...  It's all very exciting for me, as well as challenging.

Online shops
Most of you know that I sell online on Etsy.  I closed my eBay store in the Fall of 2009 and do not plan on re-opening it in the near future.  Although I have my critiques of Etsy, I endorse their community building and their influence in helping spur the handmade movement we are currently experiencing worldwide.  My shop focuses on cultural textiles, both finished pieces that can be used to decorate the home and supplies for the fiber artist.  I also sell things that I make.  

This year, I opened up two other shops that I also manage: Afghan Tribal Arts and Oshiwa.  Afghan Tribal Arts belongs to my friend, Abdul, who imports from Afghanistan and the region.  His Etsy shop focuses on beads made of semi-precious stones, vintage jewelry and small textiles.  Oshiwa is a small fair trade carving group from Namibia. They make carved wooden textile stamps which can be used on fabric and paper as well as impressed into clay, wax or soap.  I became the North American distributor for them in April.

Our shops:



Their websites are www.afghantribalarts.com and www.oshiwa.com if you would like to learn more about them.  All of the inventory is at my house in Kentucky and can be shipped together although they have separate check out systems.  Most of our things fit easily into flat rate envelopes which can save a lot on shipping fees.  

This year has been the hardest one I have ever experienced in retail.  I have always loved and sold the ethnic crafts and it has always been a tough market.  It's a small niche, but people who like it are passionate about it.  Costs have gone up in importing over the years which has made the product more expensive and this economic crunch has really affected my buyers.  Normally, I have had a steady 30% of my customers from Europe or Australia and this year they were almost completely gone.  Yet, through my experience with TAFA and Etsy, I see people who are doing business as usual, so I have hopes that things will improve financially in the next year.

Other places:
I continue to write here on my blog on a fairly regular basis.  I've also been pretty active on facebook, or, I was until a couple of months ago when I started really focusing on getting the shops stocked for the holidays.  I've found that it is a great tool to keep in touch, to get some giggles and to share quick links.  Rayela Art, Afghan Tribal Art and Sturee Tribal Village (Afghan Tribal Art's gallery in South Carolina) all have business pages there.  You can also have this blog delivered to your news stream through networked blogs.  Widgets are on the side bar for Rayela Art and the blog.  

Another place has also become important which was rather unexpected, LinkedIn.  I was invited to join a group of creative entrepreneurs who help each other understand social media and who critique each other's projects.  Every two weeks, one of us goes up for the "slaughter" and the information and insight is amazing, almost overwhelming.  A core of the group are an ex-pat community in Turkey, all are women, all bright and wonderful.  I went through the process a few weeks ago and it was excellent.  

So, in looking back at 2010, I must say that there have been two major forces that constantly exerted themselves on me: the need to make enough money to pay bills and the riches of these online communities.  Yin and yang.  I barely scraped by financially but have come through with increased knowledge and a community base that is absolutely wonderful.  One of the fears that I had in working with an artist group (we also have importers and non-artists, but most are making their own product) is that we can be a pretty nutty and vicious bunch at times.  I haven't experienced any of that and am extremely grateful for the professionalism, kindness, gentleness, and downright goodness that I have found.  I do have another project in mind that will hopefully address some of my financial stress, but it is too early to know if that will go forward.  Doors open and close and so far, I am looking at some beautiful vistas!


 Thanks to TAFA members and the rest of my 
online community! 
We are, after all, REAL people who 
just happen to travel in cyber space...

Life
On the personal side of this update, as life is, there have also been ups and downs.  The most traumatic for me was losing two of my dogs in a short time period.  A utility man came into my yard in April, unannounced and unexpected.  I heard the gate open and I yelled that he should not come into the yard.  My dogs charged him and he took off running down the street, leaving the gate open, with the dogs after him.  One of them bit him pretty badly and I had to put her down.  It also meant going to court and a lot of other stress.  Then, Mitchie, my long time buddy, came down with cancer and he had to go, too.  I have a hole in my heart for both of them.  But, I do have to admit that life with the remaining two is much easier.  Sheba, the one who bit the guy (and then bit the dust), had almost killed two other dogs and did kill a cat and was always licking her chops when watching the squirrels in the yard.  Mitchie was the eternal cop.  Always on the alert, checking things out, and causing the others to stress out with him.  

Two friends passed away this year, Sarah Roush, a local Paducah artist, and Claudia Elliott, a former customer from my Chicago shops.  Both brilliant women.  I wrote about both in this blog (follow the links if you want to learn about them).  Several friends face serious illnesses, including Abdul who had an unexpected triple bi-pass surgery last month.  He is recovering well, but it was a scary time for me as he is a key person in my life.  The truth is that we are aging and are parts are starting to wear out.  


 My Christmas card for 2004 when Abdul and I 
still had our gallery in Chicago 
and my dogs were all happy and alive.

A highlight was celebrating my parents' 50th anniversary in Wisconsin.  I saw many aunts, uncles and cousins whom I hadn't seen in years.  My parents have been blessed and they have had a huge impact on my life and on those surrounding them.  They are well loved and the celebration reflected that.  My sister sang and my brother put together a huge slide show of our years in Brazil and the years since, a treasure.  Old people remembering, kids running around...
My second attempt at a vegetable garden produced decent results until we got hit with a heat wave like I have never experienced.  We were in the upper 90's for weeks and it was the awful, muggy, humid, disgusting heat known to the South.  Stink bugs attacked at full force and took over all of the squash.  There were thousands of them!  I got so mad at them that I took my vacuum cleaner out there and was trying to suck them up that way.  Grrrr......  My determination to grow my own food without poison continues and hopefully someday I will know enough of the tricks to keep most of the pests at bay.  

Life is full, interesting, challenging, and full of growth.  I pray for peace on this earth, for visionary leadership, for stewardship, and for community.  I am thankful for the part that each of you plays in all of this and hope that your days are good ones.  To be holy means to be sacred, to be set apart for the work of God.  Perhaps we may not share that same language or belief system, yet we are connected on some level.  Within that, holiness is present.  Happy Holy Days.

With affection,
Rachel








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Saturday, December 18, 2010

The TAFA Team's Catalog of Shops: Eclectic Mix

Intricate embroideries by InsideOutsideArt


TAFA: The Textile and Fiber Art List was launched in February, 2010.  As it has grown, now to over 200 members, so have the members who have Etsy shops.  About half of us use Etsy as our retail platform.  We decided to organize as an Etsy Team (a program Etsy has for sellers to organize under themes or locations) and set up a blog where we can talk about what is important to us and where we can show off our shops.  The blog has eight pages of shops, divided into themes and serves as our Team Shops Catalog.  Although many of us sell things that do not fit neatly into those categories, most of us do have a focus.  I am introducing each of those categories here, hoping that this will encourage you to go over there and shop, shop, shop, until you drop!  These eight pages have over 100 shops, filled with wonderful eye candy that will surely delight anyone who appreciates all the many techniques and traditions that are found in the needle and textile arts. 

Today's focus:  Eclectic Mix

Blogger recently allowed its users to add pages, with 10 page limit.  Our Team Blog uses this platform and is limited to these pages, although we could use several more.  So, we are using Eclectic Mix for categories that didn't fit neatly into the other larger ones.  Of these, we have two sub-categories, Embroidery and Paper, each with beautiful shops that also include other items, so do explore them.  Manitoba Gifts, for example, focuses on embroidery on wool, but the shop is shared with beautiful hand tooled leather items.  Nejiribana's shop owner, Jane Smith, has a passion for Japanese embroidery.  These pieces take a long time to complete, so she also carries patterns and vintage Japanese fabric.  Jump in and enjoy!


Embroidery


 Embroidery and mixed media by Leisa Rich



Emboidered pincushions by Manitoba Gifts



 Japanese embroidery by Nejiribana


Paper


 Beautiful art journals by Sue Bleiweiss





 Handmade paper by The Greene Fairy



Click here to visit our Eclectic Mix section in our TAFA Team Catalog of Shops.

And, while you are there, click on the other tabs to see our other Team member shops.  We aim to be the best in textiles and fiber art on Etsy!

Happy Holidays
 
from the TAFA Team!
 
 


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Thursday, December 16, 2010

The TAFA Team's Catalog of Shops: Supplies and Patterns

Natural dyes, ribbon and other supplies on tangledlair.



TAFA: The Textile and Fiber Art List was launched in February, 2010.  As it has grown, now to over 200 members, so have the members who have Etsy shops.  About half of us use Etsy as our retail platform.  We decided to organize as an Etsy Team (a program Etsy has for sellers to organize under themes or locations) and set up a blog where we can talk about what is important to us and where we can show off our shops.  The blog has eight pages of shops, divided into themes and serves as our Team Shops Catalog.  Although many of us sell things that do not fit neatly into those categories, most of us do have a focus.  I am introducing each of those categories here, hoping that this will encourage you to go over there and shop, shop, shop, until you drop!  These eight pages have over 100 shops, filled with wonderful eye candy that will surely delight anyone who appreciates all the many techniques and traditions that are found in the needle and textile arts. 

Today's focus:  Supplies and Patterns 


Wool and cotton crochet flowers by fuzzystitches.


Etsy tries very hard to tout itself as a marketplace that primarily showcases handmade art and crafts.  And, yet, if you look at the top 50 sellers on Etsy, most of them sell supplies like beads, fabric, and other sundries, and most of those are reselling commercial products made of plastic, glass or metal coming in from China  (top fabric sellers are also commercially manufactured).  Definitely NOT handmade.  There is definitely a place and a need for these products, but it is rather frustrating that instead of embracing this reality, both Etsy staff and sellers on the forum constantly downgrade these suppliers, even when a great deal of revenue comes from them.  To make matters worse, a couple of years ago, Etsy changed its search to default to handmade, making it harder to find commercially made supplies and vintage items.  This does not affect producers of handmade supplies, but it does make it difficult for the rest of us.  My shop is all handmade, but most of it is supplies or vintage, things that I buy from small importers with repurposing in mind.

When I launched TAFA, I knew that I wanted to include providers of supplies, both the makers and other resellers like myself.  Quite a few of us are on Etsy, but many sell directly through their own websites.  Take some time to explore all TAFA members who sell supplies by following this link.  You will find a wonderful range of hand-spun and dyed yarns, hand-dyed fabric, textile remnants, patterns for quilts and other crafts, textile stamps, and much more.

Our supplies and patterns category on our TAFA Team Blog is made up of the members who have this as their focus, but others also have supplies in their shops.  You have to jump around and do some exploring!  But, start here and check out these great shops.  There is still time to do some shopping for the holidays and if you have a textile person on your shopping list, you cannot go wrong here.

Textile stamps:

 Oshiwa Designs


Stamping is a great way to manipulate fabric, personalize it and make it unique.  Many of these stamps can also be used on paper or impressed into clay or soap.  Oshiwa is a fair trade group working with a small workshop of carvers in Namibia.  Cindy Wills designs rubber stamps.  Two Angels in Paris has a huge selection of letterpress blocks and other letters as well as a treasure trove of vintage bits and pieces.


Rubber stamps by WillsArt on Etsy




Letterpress blocks by TwoAngelsinParis



Fabric:

A friend of mine in Paducah moved here with a truck load of commercial fabric that she had accumulated over the years.  Then she started dyeing her own.  There was no turning back.  Once she started working with her own dyes, she could not bear to use commercial fabric anymore, so slowly her stash has been sold at the quilt show here every year.  There is just no comparison between handmade or dyed fabrics and by what is machine made.  We have many TAFA members who are dyers and weavers, producing their own fabric lines. 



Hand dyed fat quarters by Vicki Welsh
Marbled fabrics by Marbled T Designs



Handwoven silks by TAMMACHAT Designs, a fair trade group 
working with weavers in South East Asia.


Then, we have Laura Foster Nicholson who designs her own ribbons and Castilleja Cotton who makes quilts and also provides patterns for them (see Penguin quilt at the bottom of this post).  Jane Porter of TangledLair (shown above with the natural dyes) also has a huge selection of vintage and specialty ribbons.


 
Suzani Design by LFN Ribbons


What a wonderful, creative time we live in!  We have the gift of sharing our skills and of bringing the world together through our creations, incorporating bits and pieces from time gone by, from living artists and from traditions from around the world!  For fiber artists, we revel in this...





Click here to visit our Supplies and Patterns section in our TAFA Team Catalog of Shops.

And, while you are there, click on the other tabs to see our other Team member shops.  We aim to be the best in textiles and fiber art on Etsy!

Happy Holidays
from the TAFA Team!

The TAFA Team:


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Sunday, December 12, 2010

Claudia Elliott

Claudia Elliott


There is a fundamental connection when you sell products that is essential in business: your customer base.  When you sell online, you do get to "meet" some of those customers and every now and then a bond forms and a relationship develops that becomes a real friendship, even if you never meet in the physical realm.  When you have a shop on a busy Chicago street, people come in and out and you get the full impact of their physical presence.  Claudia Elliott was one of those customers who filled all the space around her with a powerful light.  Ironic, as she was confined to a broken body that slowly deteriorated over the years, causing her tremendous pain and physical hardship.  

She and her husband, John, came into my life through my Chicago shop.  We did not see each other often, but every meeting was full of stories, wisdom, laughter and the desire, at least on my part for more, much more.  Claudia had been a Peace Corps Volunteer in Brazil in the 1960's, at about the same time when my parents went down as missionaries.  So, there were many stories about that and both of us had a chance to practice our rusty Portuguese.  My friend, Donna of Razzle Dazzle, did Claudia's hair (and mine for 15 years!) so there was always news flowing through her, too.

I moved to Kentucky.  She and John moved back to New Harmony, Indiana, where she was originally from.  Laura Foster Nicholson was another connection as she joined TAFA and we got to know each other online and through a meeting at the Paducah Quilt Show.  All of those circles that connect us through both business and common ground.  Claudia passed away, or rather, was released, earlier this year and Laura just sent me a beautiful, poignant video that captures the end of this cycle of her life.  Claudia had a distinctive manner in how she spoke and held herself.  I am so glad to have a record of her voice!  Those of you who did not know her will appreciate the strength and dignity this woman had, a role model for any of us who wish to live life fully and honestly!





I am honored to carry Claudia's light.  May I also shine as she did!







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Monday, December 6, 2010

Stocking Stuffers from Rayela Art, Oshiwa, and Afghan Tribal Arts!

Vintage Stereo Card from Rayela Art

Those of you who are familiar with my shop know that I focus on cultural textiles from around the world, fabric, and things that I make.  But, I also have lots of small, odd items that are perfect stocking stuffers for that special person who has off-the-beaten track tastes.  Visit my shop and you will find vintage African brass pendants, small textiles that can be folded or rolled to make them small, some stereo cards like the one above, textile stamps and much more.  You will have to hop over there and look around.  Click on any item in the Etsy mini below and that will take you to my shop:





I also manage two other Etsy shops, Oshiwa and Afghan Tribal Arts.  All of the items are here at my house in Kentucky and they can be shipped together to save on postage.  You do have to check out and pay separately as we each have our own accounts, but I will extra shipping costs once the items are consolidated.  

Oshiwa is a small fair trade carving workshop in Namibia.  They specialize in carving stamps that can be used on fabric or paper and they can also be used to imprint into clay or soap.  How cool is that?  Perfect stocking stuffer!





Afghan Tribal Arts has gorgeous textiles, beads and vintage jewelry from Afghanistan and Central Asia.  Small boxes can hold some precious beauties!






Visit all three shops and make your orders!  You will be supporting me and many others with these purchases.  Make your shopping count and support handmade and small businesses.

 

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Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The TAFA Team's Catalog of Shops: Home Interiors

 Mr. and Mrs. Santa by Susan M. Hinckley
Susan is known for her "Small Works in Wool", beautiful vignettes made of appliqued pieces in her own cartoon images.  She also paints on fabric.  Prints of past work are also available in her Etsy shop.

TAFA: The Textile and Fiber Art List was launched in February, 2010.  As it has grown, now to over 200 members, so have the members who have Etsy shops.  About half of us use Etsy as our retail platform.  We decided to organize as an Etsy Team (a program Etsy has for sellers to organize under themes or locations) and set up a blog where we can talk about what is important to us and where we can show off our shops.  The blog has eight pages of shops, divided into themes and serves as our Team Shops Catalog.  Although many of us sell things that do not fit neatly into those categories, most of us do have a focus.  I am introducing each of those categories here, hoping that this will encourage you to go over there and shop, shop, shop, until you drop!  These eight pages have over 100 shops, filled with wonderful eye candy that will surely delight anyone who appreciates all the many techniques and traditions that are found in the needle and textile arts. 

Today's focus:  Home Interiors

Barrel chair given new life by Vintage Renewal


Home Interiors is the category where you will find our Team Shops that focus on decorative and practical items for the home.  As we are about textile and fiber art related work, the natural things that come to mind are linens, quilts, pillows, baskets, and fiber art for the wall.  We have them all!  Vintage Renewal, who salvaged the chair in the photo above, has our largest pieces: furniture that has been salvaged by Jeanne Connolly.  Her Etsy shop is currently low on the big pieces, but has lots of wonderful pillows to choose from.  You can see past furniture pieces on the sold page of her website, showing a distinctive style and vision.  Rescuing such large pieces and giving them new life is something I applaud with all of my heart!

Many of our members make a concerted effort at recycling, reclaiming old fabric, incorporating vintage fabrics into new pieces and using non-toxic dyes in their work.  We can make a difference on our environment by the choices we make in what materials we use.  One of our members, Fabrique Fantastique, makes vintage her ecological contribution:
 Fabrique Fantastique is the mecca of vintage quilts and scarves.

Jan Marriott, owner of this vintage paradise, has pages and pages in her Etsy shop filled with quilts, scarves, fabric and even some cultural textiles. 

Then, we have Team Members who make contemporary quilts and throws:
 Peppermint Pinwheel's Nine Patch Quilt


My Sweet Prairie also has quilt patterns available.


We have another category in our Catalog of Shops for Art Quilts.  The traditional quilts, even if contemporary in design, are functional.  I always think of them as the closest thing you can get to a hug when you need to snuggle on a cold, cold day.
Other Team members make objects that give character to a home: vessels, fabrics and other objects.  You can be sure that you will not find another lamp like this one!
Fairytale Incorporated's fabric lamp:
Style with Distinction!



Then, Papaver Vert, always has a wonderful selection of felted containers, vessels, objects, and accessories.  Patty uses wonderful colors, bringing life to these wonderful home accents:



Felted Vessels by Papaver Vert


One of our newest members, Susan Shinnick, is kind of a Renaissance woman!  She is so talented and does so many different things that it was hard to know where to put her.  But, she does have a focus on the home and with such beautiful results!

 
 Susan Shinnick hand dyes and prints fabric, then makes them into napkins, placemats, runners, clothing, and other accessories.



Our Team members have so much talent and creativity!  You really need to go into their shops and explore as they all have a huge variety of offerings.  To finish this introduction of our Home Interiors category, I thought this trivet by Yellow Violet was so appropriate as we are only 23 days away from Christmas!   Yikes!  Panic attack or what?


 Yellow Violet specializes in fabric coiled baskets.  
She also sews and has lots of great gifts for guys.



Click here to visit our Home Interiors section in our TAFA Team Catalog of Shops.

And, while you are there, click on the other tabs to see our other Team member shops.  We aim to be the best in textiles and fiber art on Etsy!


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Friday, November 26, 2010

Five great gifts from Rayela Art!

For your Goth niece.



For your sister.




For the teenager.



For the your brother.






For the one who has everything.





All cool.
All made by me.
Buy it.

 


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Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Rayela Art's Black Friday Discount: 25% Off on Etsy!

Kuba Cloth on sale on Rayela Art!


Black Friday?!!!

Doesn't sound very appealing does it?  That is the name that the day after Thanksgiving has been given here in the United States.  It has been the busiest retail day of the year for decades now.  So, what does that name mean?  Here is Wikipedia's definition:

The day's name originated in Philadelphia, where it originally was used to describe the heavy and disruptive pedestrian and vehicle traffic which would occur on the day after Thanksgiving.  Later an alternative explanation began to be offered: that "Black Friday" indicates the period during which retailers are turning a profit, or "in the black." Use of the term began by 1966 and began to see broader use outside Philadelphia around 1975.
Specialty shops like mine, don't usually get bombarded like the big malls where people are elbowing each other, grasping for the best deal they can get.  We usually get hit early in December when the "hard to shop for" eccentric aunt or hippie niece are still on the list.  But, all of us little shops also have our fingers crossed, hoping that we can get some of the action, too.

Like everybody else, we resort to marketing and promotions.  Here it is:

 Crowds rush to Rayela Art's Big Sale!!!


25% Off on the whole shop!
Through Black Friday!
Use Coupon Code 11232010 at check out!


(Does it feel like I am yelling?  Think of a fish vendor pushing a cart on the street....  That's me...)
 
I have the shop stocked with beautiful textiles, some things I have made and other cool stuff.  The discount will help in these tough economic times.  Normally, I give free shipping on purchases over $100 but can't afford to do both that and the discount.




See the link at the top of the blog where it says Etsy shops?  Click on that an you will see more from my shop.  And, I manage two other shops and have them there.  Items from all three can be shipped together for extra savings.

Let the season begin!  And, remember to visit my shop for that special person in your life!


 Ralli Quilt from Pakistan








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Saturday, November 13, 2010

The TAFA Team's Catalog of Shops: Cultural Textiles

TAFA Team member, Catherine Bayar, sells vintage textiles, knits and is setting up a workshop for women in Istanbul, Turkey.


TAFA: The Textile and Fiber Art List was launched in February, 2010.  As it has grown, now to over 200 members, so have the members who have Etsy shops.  About half of us use Etsy as our retail platform.  We decided to organize as an Etsy Team (a program Etsy has for sellers to organize under themes or locations) and set up a blog where we can talk about what is important to us and where we can show off our shops.  The blog has eight pages of shops, divided into themes and serves as our Team Shops Catalog.  Although many of us sell things that do not fit neatly into those categories, most of us do have a focus.  I am introducing each of those categories here, hoping that this will encourage you to go over there and shop, shop, shop, until you drop!  These eight pages have over 100 shops, filled with wonderful eye candy that will surely delight anyone who appreciates all the many techniques and traditions that are found in the needle and textile arts. 

Today's focus:  Cultural Textiles
 
 Afghan Tribal Arts sells vintage textiles and beads from Afghanistan and the region.  
Many of the beads are hand-carved semi-precious stones which support artisans who have been living in refugee camps for decades.
 
 
Although I love all kinds of textiles and the techniques that go with them, I have to say that my passion lies with cultural textiles, especially embroidery from Central Asia.  I quilt and embroider and sew and make all kinds of stuff, but when I see these embroideries, touch them, and think of all of the work that goes into them, my mind goes into sensory overload.  That is part of the attraction for me: the skill, the use of basic materials to create something beautiful, the textures and images created in and through fabric and thread...  The other magnet is the knowledge that these pieces come from communities where crafts are central to the cultures they represent.  They bring with them centuries of stories, of traditions, of symbolism.  They are pictures of people, most of whom face terrible difficulties in our modern world.  War, famine, global warming, deforestation, pesticide use, land grabbing, aids, and so many other devastating perils threaten communities that we have called "ethnic" or "tribal" in the past.  Along with their displacement and poverty goes their knowledge and ability to produce the textiles and crafts that tell their stories.
 
 
 Valerie Hearder, a quilter, started African Threads to help women in South Africa find new markets for their embroidery and other crafts.  She has introduced contemporary images, like the Michael Jackson icon above, along maintaining traditional ones.
 
 
An understanding dawned on development leaders in the 1970's that crafts had potential as an economic development tool.  There was a handmade revolution back then, too, with the hippie movement and all of the do-it-yourself projects that were starting to roll out to market through kits.  Remember all the macrame projects?  Cutting glass?  There is a parallel that remains true today:  people who have exposure to making things themselves appreciate handmade things from around the world.  Other reasons for interest in cultural crafts have to do with travel, support for causes, empathy, and so on.  So, way back then, the Peace Corps taught the Otavalo Indians how to knit sweaters using Scandinavian designs, other development groups began looking at how crafts could employ the people they were working, churches saw that they could also do this and the concept of fair trade came into being.  Thirty years later we continue to see efforts all over the world, formally and informally, of using craft production as a means to both preserve cultural traditions and village structures through and economic development focus.  Many of these models have brought relief closer to home.  Alabama Chanin, for example, has successfully created a business which employs women in Alabama to make gorgeous handmade clothing using sustainable practices and materials.  All of our TAFA Team members who are working with cultural textiles also have social missions which encourage economic development in the communities they represent.
 
 Indira Govindan of dharmakarmaarts is an artist who is inspired by her Indian ancestry.  ALL of the proceeds of her Etsy sales go to support a handicapped project in India.


When I started TAFA, I made the conscious choice of giving both cultural and contemporary textiles and fiber art the same importance in sharing a common platform.  One of the challenges we face when working with these textiles is that they have been perceived as less valuable than contemporary work.  A weaver in Guatemala is called a producer or artisan while a weaver in Santa Fe is referred to as a fiber artist.  All of this translates into dollars.  As these traditions disappear, we will end up having a handfull of masters or living cultural treasures and then cheap imitations that are churned out by sweat shops or machines.  Already, the places in the world where carpets are still produced have dwindled to a handful of countries.  As they industrialize and destroy traditional nomadic or village life, the need for and ability to maintain production disappears.


 MayaMam is a new effort working with a weaving group in Guatemala.


All of us who sell online have to master many skills in order to present our goods successfully: we have to become great photographers, product designers, learn how to practice good customer service, learn about shipping to places around the world, and so on.  Our Team has many levels of expertise and we have implemented a mentor program where experienced sellers can guide the newbie ones.  Yet, none of us can move forward without support from a willing customer base, you!  Whether these textiles are purchased for their beauty or for the good that they do, there is a necessary bond that connects the maker to the seller to the buyer.  There has been a strong bias on Etsy against cultural crafts because most of us who sell them are not making the product.  Yet, the makers, in these cases, are often illiterate, have no access to computers, are living in terrible conditions and they need us as a bridge to bring their work to market.


 Dr. Christi Bonds Garrett of HeArt of Healing has one of the largest mola collections in the MidWest.  As an art quilter, she also loves vintage japanese kimono which can be cut up and used in new pieces.  As a practitioner of Integrative Medicine, Christi is especially interested in the Kuna medicinal traditions and how they are documented in their molas.  The above mola shows a Kuna woman working on a weaving while she smokes her pipe.

I find it interesting how many of us in our Team who work with cultural textiles also make our own work.  This cultural exchange is not new.  Picasso, Gauguin and many others were influenced by tribal or ethnic work that made their way to Europe.  The Moors changed the art of Southern Spain and Portugal.  With all of the technological exchanges we have in our world today, we see global fusion happening in all areas of life: crafts, food, music and even in the choices we make for marriage partners and social circles.  It's a fascinating time in history.  There is a constant choice we make in what to assimilate and what gets lost in the translation.  This is where the preservation of vintage textiles are so important.  We can keep them as references to the past while we explore new ways to relate to the present and future.


My shop, Rayela, has vintage textiles from around the world and remnants which can be incorporated into new pieces.  A special love I have: ralli quilts from India and Pakistan.


Interest in cultural textiles often leads to increased knowledge about the people who made them which can then foster actual connections.  Several of our members offer cultural tours specializing in textile production.  Valerie Hearder is taking a group to South Africa in 2011.  Fiona Wright (Glitzandpieces on Etsy) sells vintage saris and textiles on Etsy, but spends most of her time on workshops and leading her cultural tours around India.


 Wouldn't a cultural tour with Fiona be something to remember forever?

It's a beautiful world and we bring some of it to you through our Cultural Textiles.  Do not hesitate to contact the shops for more information on what they are doing.  We are a social group, anxious to make connections and friendships along the way!

Click here to visit our Cultural Textiles in our TAFA Team Catalog of Shops.

And, while you are there, click on the other tabs to see our other Team member shops.  We aim to be the best in textiles and fiber art on Etsy!




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