TAFA: The Textile and Fiber Art List

Friday, May 30, 2008

HeART of Healing Gallery, A Place of Peace in Paducah

This past weekend I had the privilege of working at HeART of Healing Gallery, located in Paducah's art district, Lowertown. The gallery is the creative healing extension of Integrative Medicine of Kentucky, Dr. Christi Bond's clinic of alternative health.

Mission Statement

Our primary goal is for each patient to enjoy optimal health through a combination of safe, innovative, and natural treatments. Integrative Medicine of Kentucky combines natural therapies with appropriate conventional medical treatments in a safe manner. We treat the person as a whole being, addressing imbalances on physical, emotional, mental and spiritual levels. Our treatment plans require time, patience and the commitment to change formerly harmful, destructive habits.

Dr. Bonds and I both belong to Paducah Fiber Artists, an informal group that meets monthly to share progress on our projects and critique each other's work. We both love ethnic textiles and carry some similar inventory (molas, kimono, and hilltribe textiles), but that doesn't stop us from trading or collaborating.

The gallery showcases those textiles plus work by local artists.

Although the space is not huge, it is well divided into themes that change as new inventory arrives and focus needs arise. Dr. Bonds is well-stocked with vintage kimono. Quilters buy these to cut them up and incorporate them into their own work, but they are so beautiful that many people just buy them to wear or display as a textile.

A current exhibit of photos supports an orphanage in Vietnam. The photographer is dating one of Paducah's native sons and both have spent time volunteering at the orphanage.

Another exhibit showcases local artist Nikki Mae's pen and ink drawings, framed in black below the large scripted piece:

Gorgeous Tibetan singing bowls fill a cabinet, the beginning of a collection of instruments which will be used in sound therapy.

Quan Yin and other female imagery are found throughout the gallery and clinic, both in paintings and carvings.

But, my new favorite are the mola blouses! I had never seen them before, except in photos and am amazed at how beautiful they are.

I have my eye on this one, so DON'T buy it! It's Jesus on a cross, but he is smiling, boogey-eyed, and looks really friendly and sweet.

Dr. Bonds has a huge mola collection and just took down an exhibit that focused on Christian imagery in mola art. I had not been exposed to those before either. I had always seen the birds, abstracts, and animals and have many of those for sale in my Etsy store. I bought one from Dr. Bonds that shows the story of Jesus and the woman at the well, a sermon my Dad had preached on many times over the years and used again in his retirement sermon, just recently.

I had some henna clients at the gallery. One of the wonderful things about being at HeART of Healing is that all the people I have met there are SO nice! This is Eleanor from Nashville, who visits Paducah and Lowertown frequently. She was a futon maker until just recently.

The clinic and gallery are housed in the same building, on the corner of 7th and Monroe. The clinic is as interesting as the gallery with each room decorated in gorgeous hand-crafted furniture, textiles, and objects from around the world. There are three themed acupuncture rooms: Native American, Quan Yin and Egypt. Soothing music is everywhere.

I am not just a friend, a co-textile lover, a trader, or an occasional worker. I am also a patient. I've gained 20 pounds since I tore my meniscus in my knee almost two years ago, have felt lethargic and must stop smoking. So, Dr. Bonds is helping me get my old self in order through herbs, acupuncture, chocolate (!!!), and support. She considers her East/West approach as her tool bag, and will pull out whichever tools she needs from either tradition to address the problem. I am so happy to have her expertise here and hope that both the gallery and clinic grow into a thriving practice for Dr. Bonds who recently relocated here from Nevada.

HeART of Healing Gallery is in the process of having an online presence where items will be available for purchase. Check the Integrative Medicine of Kentucky site for updates. And, if you visit Paducah, make sure to stop by for a visit! Currently, the gallery is only open on Saturdays, but those hours will expand in the near future.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Lowertown Art & Music Festival in Paducah

Memorial Day Weekend means that it's festival time in Lowertown, here in Paducah. Lowertown is a neighborhood adjacent to Paducah's historic downtown which benefited from a City initiative which designated it as a gallery district. Paducah's Artist Relocation Program has attracted artists from around the country, bringing in needed cultural and financial capital. Once a neighborhood falling into disrepair, Lowertown now attracts new residents and tourists who enjoy the restored historical homes and galleries, along with a wonderful sense of community.

The Lowertown Art & Music Festival is a chance to celebrate local talent as well as those of vendors and musicians participating from places far and near.

I worked at HeART of Healing Gallery, one of the Lowertown galleries, and had a chance to run around and see if I could find any fiber people. (See tomorrow's post for more info on HeART of Healing.) For some reason, every year during the festival, we get Paducah's worst, hot and steamy weather. Of course it rained the day after the festival was over and now it's gorgeous, crisp and beautiful. Despite the conditions, people seemed to really enjoy themselves. I watched a belly dance presentation for a bit, then went on to find the fiber folks. I found three who were all excellent.

Teresa Hays does some of the best marbling on silk that I have ever seen. It's not a technique that I am normally drawn to, unless it's executed with talent. Well, Teresa has mastered marbling. Her wonderful color palette swirls and feathers, complementing her excellent choice of designs in silk garments, scarves, purses and men's ties. Teresa lives in Franklin, Tn.

Mary Waite came all the way up from Florida and was happy to get away from the humidity down there (!!!!). She was probably one of the few who was actually enjoying the weather.

Mary weaves and her booth was displayed with gorgeous ikats, scarves and natural textures. A hard sell on a hot, humid day, but I did have a customer at HeART of Healing who was a weaver and just had to buy one of her shawls because she knew how much work went into it!

Finally, a booth with musical instruments caught my eye. When I told Chad Scott I wanted to post his work on a fiber blog, he seemed a bit surprised. Well, maybe 3-d bamboo pieces are not normally included in the fiber category, but I love it and for the purposes of this blog, bamboo will always have a welcomed place.

Drumzrguruven (he uses umlas , but I don't know how to add symbols through blogger), has a great website with more info on their drums, didgeridoos, and rainsticks. Make sure to read Chad's artist statement!

The instruments show excellent craftsmanship and design.

I had to run on back to my job, but was happy to see these and other artists making Lowertown come to life. Of course I bumped into a couple of friends:

Monica Bilak, actually did most of the organizing of the festival. Can you tell she didn't want a photo taken? "Come on, Monica! Give me that smile..."

She did it, but if you look closely, she's throwing daggers at me through her eyes. Monica was one of my first friends in Paducah. She and her husband, Paul, lived in Kenya for a few years and when they came to Paducah, Monica opened a retail store in Lowertown called Global Nomad. (My kind of store!) She also bought a lot of the things I made, just to be supportive... Since then, she decided that retail was not for her and they changed the store into a guest house called "The Mary Jane Inn". Monica and Paul also are actively involved in an important project they helped start in Kenya, Project Aids Orphan, which helps children who have been orphaned because of Aids.

Then, I saw Merle, sitting in his recycling booth:

Merle and his wife, Deb, are also Chicago transplants. Deb is also a member of Paducah Fiber Artists, and Merle works for the City as an inspector. Merle has been extremely helpful to me in my housing search, but more importantly, he is mobilizing the city into a rapidly growing recycling movement.

So, that was my little time at the festival. Paducah is a wonderful place to live. If you are an artist looking to relocate, there are still properties available in Lowertown. While most of the country is suffering a housing crisis, Paducah is experiencing revitalization with increasing property values. There are plenty of nice houses with big yards around the city for under $100K and for those of us who are struggling artists, there are also fixer uppers available from 10K on up. If you don't want to move here, but are driving nearby, know that the turn off is worth the exploration. There are plenty of treasures to discover here in Paducah!


Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Guest Artist: Erin Stoy of La Chapina Huipil Crafts

Used huipil Erin purchased in Santiago Atitlan's market.

Erin Stoy
is an American who’s lived in Guatemala for over a year, caring for the daughter she and her husband are in the process of adopting. The case has been frought with difficulties, making their stay an unusually long one. Despite the financial and emotional stress of the situation, Erin is grateful that – as Azucena’s legal foster mother in Guatemala – she and her husband have had the opportunity to have their little girl with them since the age of eight months. Another positive thing to come from the experience has been Erin’s new passion for Guatemalan textiles; she has been selling arts and crafts she makes from used huipiles (traditional, hand-woven Guatemalan blouses) since October 2007.

Erin with Azucena in Nov '07.

In August of 2007, a local orphanage was raided here in Guatemala, and political tensions surrounding international adoption were running very high. Agencies began suggesting that fostering parents, like us, stay inside with our kids until things calmed down. Rumors abounded that the police were going to question any gringos they saw with Guatemalan children. So for close to two months, I only left the apartment with our daughter, Azucena, a handful of times.

Market in Santiago Atitlan

As one would imagine, being confined to apartment grounds with a toddler for that long was challenging. Eager for something to do while Azucena napped or played on her own, I started looking at craft blogs for inspiration. I hand-sewed about 20 stuffed animals and little dolls out of Azucena’s outgrown baby clothes and, later, felt. It was a fun diversion from the stressful reality of our situation.

Baby Doll

I had long thought something really pretty could be made from the embroidered collars of huipiles. Once I got the sewing bug, I started visiting a shop here in Antigua that frequently had used collars and other huipil scraps for sale. The first things I made were some pillows that featured collars from Chichicastenango; I embroidered Spanish words like “esperanza” (hope) and “amistad” (friendship) within the circle formed by the collar.

One of the pillows Erin made from a huipil collar from Chichi.

For my next project, I purchased several small of bags of huipil scraps in order to make Christmas ornaments for some family members back home. Afterwards, I posted photos of the ornaments on my personal blog, and the next thing I knew, I had people leaving comments saying they wanted to buy sets for their own families. An online friend who was coming to Guatemala kindly offered to transport any items I sold back to the US for shipping through the USPS. I accepted and was thrilled to have the opportunity to earn some money to help with the many expenses we were incurring by having to maintain households in both the US and Guatemala. Largely through word of mouth throughout the online adoption world, I ended up selling about $2500 worth of Christmas ornaments over the next couple months.

Christmas ornaments.

After Christmas, I began making new items from the huipil fabric, including animals, simple baby dolls, fabric magnets inspired by Semana Santa street carpets, and personalized art for children’s rooms. Lately I’ve been doing more collages. This spring, I moved the craft items from my personal blog to a separate crafts blog and opened a shop on Etsy. I hope to continue making and selling arts and crafts from these beautiful used Guatemalan textiles; they are too lovely not to be re-purposed and enjoyed. Maybe I’ll even get a sewing machine when I get back to the States!

Christmas ornaments.

Erin’s work as can be seen on huipil-crafts.blogspot.com and lachapina.etsy.com.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Sweet Home Blogger Award

Fabulous Threads presented me with the "Sweet Home Blogger Award" for sharing, beauty, love and joy through my blog. Thank you Annica! I am honored.

My job is to pass this award on to 5 people that have inspired me with their blogs. Below are five blogs that I recently discovered and find truly inspiring!

Here are my five:

My Marrakesh
Yarn Ball Boogie
Musings of a Textile Itinerant

There are many more that I like out there, but these five are excellent in my book! I keep adding new links in the right column, so there are plenty of good blogs to explore.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Dreaming of Hammocks

We're going to buy a house and we've been looking for months and months now. One of the criteria, for me, is a yard that will welcome my hammocks. I have three: two from Brazil and one from Honduras. Sigh.... a hammock! Oh, I love laying in one and just letting go... it's one of the places where I can truly fall into relaxation.

My Honduran hammock is similar to the one photographed here. Courtesy Tommy Images.
He took this shot in Venezuela.

I thought about bringing Brazilian hammocks up to the US at one time for re-sale. But, the Brazilian ones, the ones I like, are a heavy cotton fabric. Their bulk made it prohibitive as a business for me, but there are plenty of others bringing in hammocks from all over the world. I was in Brazil about 15 years ago on a buying trip. I grew up in the South, where we did use hammocks- it's a staple piece of furniture there, but the hammock industry is based in the Northeast. On that trip, I visited villages in Recife and Bahia, primarily looking for bobbin lace and other crafts I was bringing back. Hammocks and lace production in Brazil are closely related. The word for hammock in Portuguese, rede, means net. Both are products made by fishing communities along the coast, women making lace and men making the hammocks. Unfortunately, lace-making, was disappearing as a skill even when I was last there. The women I bought from were in their 50's or older and their daughters were not following in their footsteps. A nostalgic song I grew up with, "Mulher Rendeira", talks about lacemakers who look out their windows with no future ahead. Loosely translated, the main line says, "Lace-maker woman, teach me to make lace and I'll teach you about love". Cida Moreira sings a beautiful rendition of it on her album, Na Trilha do Cinema. Mulher Rendeira - Cida Moreira

Photo by BluePail

Hammocks evoke images of sand, sun, beaches, warmth, vacation, sleep, lemonade, ice tea, and other pleasantries. I read up a bit on hammock history when thinking of this article and all sources I looked at credited the hammock as originating in Latin America. Christopher Columbus introduced the hammock to Europe after returning from the America's. (Wikipedia) But, when I was looking around Flickr for some beautiful photos, there were plenty of Asian ones, like this gorgeous one of a kid playing around in a hammock:

Photo by janna, Cambodia

My thinking is that hammocks have been used around the world, wherever there is an abundance of fiber and a weaving tradition. Hammocks are comfortable, lift you up away from dirt, wetness, bugs, and are easily portable. Sailors used them on ships.

Navy and Army Illustrated

There were several Victorian photos on Flickr that showed how a hammock might not be the best match for everyone. Lovedaylemon posted this as a found image. She states: "Found image. I can't think this lady can be very comfortable balanced on the edge of the hammock. This card was posted in Harrowgate in 1909." Photo used with her permission:

I completely agree! A hammock demands submission to its folds. There is a certain level of trust that has to happen here.

There are basically two kinds of hammocks: The most common and easily transported is an open net. My least favorite, but the most durable, are made of plastic roping. They can dig into your back. I prefer the second type of hammock, ones that are made out of woven fabric. They offer great support and comfort. The open ones can also be more dangerous, especially for little kids, as they can get tangled in them and fall off. I found a funny video on YouTube of two bears that experienced a tumble:

Animals completely understand the whole hammock concept. I saw several vendors catering to pet owners with hammocks for ferrets, cats, and other creatures. But, the most novel hammock I found was on Etsy, for $250:

Chacabraka has taken the hammock concept to an enviable level of luxury: satin and fur (is it recycled, I hope?). I can imagine this one in a cold northern land with a pot belly wood stove nearby.

Hammock production is pretty basic and can be done at home. The most challenging part is keeping all those threads in order. Documentary Educational Resources have a couple of images of how hammocks are woven in the Amazon:

The Hammock Source has a wonderful quick video on the open weaving technique:

Finally, Claire's Web Site offers a couple of macramé patterns for making a hammock at home.

The moral of this story is that most of us tend to go, go, go, until we drop. Why not drop into a hammock? I know I want to!

Guatemalan hammocks, courtesy Rainy City, 2008.



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