TAFA: The Textile and Fiber Art List

Thursday, January 22, 2009

One World, One Heart: A Great Way to Visit Blogs!

Textile Stamp from Afghanistan

Morna from Bittersweet encouraged me to join One World-One Heart, so I decided to jump in and share in the fun. Lisa Swifka came up with this idea as a way for bloggers to get to know each other and attract new readers. Each participant, now numbering over 400 (!!!), offers a give-away which will end on February 12th. This is the 3rd year that Lisa has organized this world-wide event.

Vintage Printing Block from Kentucky- Horse Collar

I'm offering the two vintage printing stamps pictured above as my give-away. The floral bouquet is a textile stamp from Afghanistan valued at $17.50. The horse collar is from the 1930's and worth around $15. Both are functional, but also make beautiful display pieces. They will both go to one winner. To qualify for the give-away:
  • You do not need to be an active blogger.
  • Leave a comment here on this post (readers with something to say).
  • be sure to include contact information, preferably an email address or link to your own blog.
  • The drawing will be on February 12, when the winner's name will be drawn out of a hat. I will notify the winner by e-mail. If I do not have a valid e-mail for a winner, then I will pick another winner. If a winner does not respond within a reasonable amount of time (1 week), then I will pick another winner.

Have fun visiting all the blogs that are participating in this annual event. Click on the OWOH button below to visit the site. From there, you can travel the world through all the participating blogs! And, I tell you, there are a ton of great give-aways!

Note: People seem to be really excited about this give-away. I thank all of you for visiting and hope that you will also explore my Etsy and eBay stores. Both have a great selection of textile blocks, ranging in prices from $7.50-$20. I combine shipping between both and offer free shipping on US orders over $100.

The Give Away is Over and We Have a WINNER!!!!

Evidence of an Artistic Life said...

These are wonderful and unique prizes! I would love to enter! Please stop by my blog and enter, too!
chris p

I was going to print out all the 220 entries and cut out the names. Ha! I stopped my computer when I saw that it was going to be over 30 pages! So, I asked my husband to pick a number between 1 and 220 and this was the entry I got. Thanks to all of you who participated and hope you come back and become a regular reader of Fiber Focus!


10% Off on New Rayela Art Textile Stamps

Floral Centerpiece, Rayela Art Textile Stamp

Every few months I get a new bag of textile stamps. It's quite the endeavor to get them sorted, cleaned, priced, and photographed. I don't do any deep cleaning, but they all get brushed with a wire brush. When they are ready, I load them on my website and offer them at a 10% discount on this blog and to my regular customers. There is usually a big rush and when it dies off, I start listing them in my Etsy and eBay stores. The advantage for me in doing this is that I save time and listing fees while customers get to enjoy "first dibs". There is one disadvantage for customers in that I don't list the dimensions- you just have to kind of guess by the price.

I also offer free shipping on orders over $100 to US addresses or $20 off of shipping to those overseas. The stamps on my website can be combined with anything listed in my Etsy or eBay stores to reach that $100.

Beautiful Art Deco Rayela Art Textile Stamp

I've written several posts on this blog about the stamps. Follow this link to read about the history and care of these wonderful carvings. Most of my customers are artists who use the stamps to print on fabric or paper with ink or batik wax and to make impressions into clay. But, the stamps are also beautiful as decorative pieces and can be hung, set into plate stands, or just laid around on shelves.

Floral Arch, Carved Wooden Textile Stamp

There are several kinds of stamps: borders, center pieces, arches, and fillers. Borders can be linked one to another to frame a piece. Center pieces stand alone as a focus point. Arches can be used to frame a smaller piece or ornament and fillers are often dots or lines that have repetitive designs. These stamps come from Afghanistan and the region (Pakistan and India) and are considered as seconds to the artisans there. As vintage pieces, they have been used and often have nicks, cracks and wax and dye residue. These flaws actually have value to those of us who like to reclaim what has already seen a life of use.
Floral Focal Point, Textile Stamp from Afghanistan

As these stamps come from Muslim workshops, rarely will you find an animal or human figure portrayed. For those, seek out Hindu stamps. Islam discourages depicting these images as a way to prevent idolatry.
If you are interested in taking advantage of this 10% offer, just go on over to my website. The instructions there should be pretty clear. As I get these stamps in a big bag, sight unseen, I never know what the mix will be. I was very pleased with this batch. There is an excellent variety of designs and most are in the mid-size range that people really seem to like. Prices are mostly in the $10-$15 range, per piece.

Do you work with these pieces? Leave a link in the comments section so we can all be inspired by these wonderful stamps!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Sherry Shine's Beautiful Portrait Quilts

The 44th President by Sherry Shine

“The 44th” was created because of a speech that Barrack Obama gave back in March of 2008. He spoke about this not being White America or a Black America just the United States of America. That is when I knew he would be the next President of the United States and exactly what kind of quilts I wanted to create to honor him. I used black textile paint and grey charcoal pencils with a white background. The red border fabric is meant to symbolize all of the sacrifices we have made over the years in this country about the issue of race and ethnicity.
-Sherry Shine

"Mr. President", an Obama quilt by Sherry Shine

Sherry Shine certainly shines through her quilts! (Hmmm.... wonder how many people play on her name like that...) Sherry joined our Fiber Focus group awhile ago and quickly earned recognition among us as a talented quilter and figurative artist. Her quilts often use a minimalist color palette, favoring the grey tones seen in the Presidential quilts. But, they can also use bright colors, as in "Chronicles of a Journey" or her market series, vendors who look like they belong in a Haitian story.

Sherry's quilts go beyond technique to me. They have a beautiful calm to them, a tenderness towards both their subjects and to the rest of humanity. The word "lovely" could be used here, ringing true. It's a pleasure to meet Sherry and to begin to enjoy part of her journey with her.

"Chronicles of a Journey"
A Civil Rights and Black History Quilt by Sherry Shine

I asked Sherry to share a bit of her process as an art quilter:

"I have always used my own instinct as an avenue to express my creativity. I became interested in exploring the process of how to create quilts and their history through a lecture I attended many years ago and began creating quilts shortly after that. I have always had the ability to draw and became fascinated with the idea of joining the two together. I work on one quilt at a time in order to give it my undivided attention. The connection of the artwork and quilting continually fascinates and challenges my expression as an artist. I know that quilting has developed tremendously over the years and that in the past quilts were used as a necessity. But, it seems that the art form took on its own style through the talents of many gifted artists. Quilts have created a piece of history all on their own where the artists of today and future generations will want to be a part of them.

I currently live in East Orange, New Jersey, with my husband and two sons. I work on my art on a daily basis. Please visit my web-site: www.artbysshine.com"
-Sherry Shine

Whole Cloth Quilt by Sherry Shine

Our Fiber Focus Group is open to anyone who loves textiles and fiber art. Many of us are artists, but some are customers, interior designers, or dealers. Join Sherry, myself and others in this creative group!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

President Obama Made Me Cry

I watched President Obama's inaugural speech surrounded by my four monster dogs. Every now and then, I would tell them, "It's President Obama!" They wagged their tales and really seemed to like the word "Pre-zi-dent"... Tears came to my eyes as I listened and watched this wonderful moment in our history. I love how he constantly tells us that this is not about HIM, but about US, as a country. He has such a huge job ahead of him.... but, as he reminded us, WE have a big job.

Last night the late night comedians were all saying good-bye to the Bush years with deep regret. Regret because they had so much material to work with for the last eight years:

In Brazil, there is a saying, "A gente rir p'ra nao chorar..." It means, "we laugh to keep from crying". President Bush also made me cry. Tears of frustration, disbelief, outrage, despair... the last eight years have been one embarrassing and distressing backward step after another.

People and pundits have been talking about how we cannot expect too much from Obama. As I write this, I just heard a commentator on NPR say, "He is just one person, not the Messiah." But, one person has done a lot of damage in the last year, so maybe this new person can bring as much in healing and reconstruction. They are not all-powerful, these Presidents, but they certainly do wield power. And, I cannot express how much relief I feel that this power is now in the hands of this new man and his vision. I know that he will make mistakes and that he is not perfect. I just pray that God will protect him and those loved by him, guide him and give him the wisdom to make good choices. His speech was powerful and hopeful. May each of us contribute in this reconstruction to the fullest of our abilities.

Good-bye, President Bush. I heard you might write a book. I recommend that you don't. Words are not one of your gifts, so just leave them alone. I don't wish you any harm, but I am very happy to see you go. Go in peace and leave the world alone.

President Obama made me cry. I cried tears of joy and relief. I hope that he continues to make me cry for the next eight years! (We all know, don't we, that this is a two-term President? Woo-hoo, yippee!!!!)


Monday, January 19, 2009

A Man on the Street: Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

219 E. Martin Luther King Boulevard, Los Angeles, 2006.

A little deviation from fiber art here... I found this interesting slide show on the New York Times and thought it was worth sharing. Photographer Camilo José Vergara has been photographing urban landscapes for a couple of decades. In this series, he documents murals that include images of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Several of the murals were in Los Angeles in obvious Latino neighborhoods, interesting as historically Blacks and Latinos have experienced tension with each other, especially in situations where they competed for the same jobs. I taught ESL in a Mexican neighborhood for awhile, over 20 years ago. I drove by a large mural on the side of a Church every time I went down to the class. That mural had Dr. Martin Luther King Jr as a central figure, along with Gandhi and a couple of other peace makers. Wish I had taken a photo...

The class sought to address some of these issues as the residents of Little Village lived next to a Black neighborhood and there was great animosity between both. I'll never forget how one of my students, a gentle Mexican man in his 50's thanked me at the end of our 10 week session. He worked in a factory and had been at a machine, next to a Black man for years and they never said a word to each other. Because of the class, he decided to start greeting him and the two became friendly, even helping each other when their machines acted up. We have come a long way in 2o years, yet much work remains to be done. That work can start with a greeting...

Artist's Statement:

"In America’s poorest ghettos, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s portrait is one of the most popular subjects of public art. These images, which I have been documenting since 1977, regularly appear on the walls of the liquor stores, auto-repair shops, fast-food restaurants, mom-and-pop stores and public housing projects of Chicago, Detroit, Los Angeles, New York and many other cities across the country. The majority are the work of amateur artists. Though Dr. King is usually front and center, he is often accompanied by other inspirational figures: Nelson Mandela, John Paul II, Malcolm X, Rosa Parks, Mother Teresa, Pancho Villa. He is often accompanied by his famous phrase, “I have a dream” – a reminder that in many of the communities where these murals exist, the gulf between hope and reality remains far too wide."
- Camilo José Vergara

Visit the slide show to see all of the photos!


Sunday, January 18, 2009

The Mess Left for Obama- 8 Years in 8 Minutes

Anybody have a really big towel?

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Connie Volkman's Experiments with Hot and Wet Fibers

by Connie Volkman

One of our members in our Fiber Focus Group, Connie Volkman from Wichita (Kansas), started a focus group called Hot and Wet Fibers. She mentioned a few things she was doing with it, using names of materials totally unfamiliar to me. I asked her to describe a bit more of her process:

"I started paying serious attention to melted materials while on vacation to Cornwall, UK. We went there for genealogy reasons and the famed uncovered "hidden gardens" but I came across the most fabulous fiber art and unusual media. I brought back with me, several yards of this unusual fiber called Lutradur and Pelmet Vilene. Ideas started to come as quickly as I could put into my idea/sketchbook that I carry around.

Liturgical fiber art installation by Connie Volkman

I had been employed as a Liturgical Artist for awhile and had created several large fiber pieces for churches and church conventions that use Liturgy as their base of their service. I was always trying to do three-dimensional objects but was unable to get them to really stand up without using some sort of stiffener or support.

Ah, but now I had discovered these fabulous fibers and all I needed to do was experiment. That was 6 years ago and I'm still trying new things.

Tuesday night I had my continuing beginner's class called Layering It On Hot and Wet. It is the best class of students ever. They are so inventive and creative and yelled out loud in class about how much fun they were having. I came home so excited I could barely sleep because they had found new ways to deal with their first night of melting Tyvek. To top it off, one of my students is a master costume maker for our Music Theater (she had her costumes rented-out and travels all over the world, including China). Another was transferred here from Boston and is a Viking Rep. They are all gals that sew or create. Of course, you have to understand that I usually have students that just stand there and ask why they need to learn to melt things in order to create a work of art.

The piece above is made with Black ( tq. blue Luminere) Lutradur that is woven on top of felt that made from re-cycled Coke Bottles. I wove it altogether, added metal mesh pieces and handmade beads, heat gunned it, and attached it to some painted chop-sticks. Off to the right hand side it should look lacy in the photo and that is the back and edge of the plastic felt.

Always remember when experimenting or melting with a heat gun, iron, or soldering iron, wear a face mask, or open a window no matter how hot or cold it is outside. These meltable fibers give off toxic fumes.

Thus ends the Hot Fiber story for the day." (Connie)

Have you experimented with anything like this? We'd love to hear about others who are recycling plastics or working with these materials. Share your stories by leaving your comments below this post. You are also welcome to join our Fiber Focus group and become a part of Connie's further discoveries!


Friday, January 16, 2009

My Favorite Birthday

Today's my birthday. It's one of those which will go down as just another one, no mess, no fuss, nothing to really remember later on. It's freezing cold here in Paducah and in my house, so I'm bundled in woolens and working on all those endless tasks. Later, I'll head on down to 212 Broadway for the African trunk show we're having there. I've gotten some nice calls, e-cards, and feel happy and calm inside.

I remembered the photo above and dug it up... The quality is worse than I remembered, but I always thought it was such a weird posture for a little girl. Precocious, maybe? I think it's birthday #4, definitely in Brazil, looks like Londrina, but I'd have to ask my mother-caretaker-of-all-memories to be sure... Obviously, I don't remember that birthday at all, so it's not my favorite. I just wanted to share the photo.

The favorite one happened in Chicago, probably close to 20 years ago. I have lots of photos of it in a scrapbook that is in a big metal box full of other scrapbooks. Nope, I'm not going to dig that one out. But, it was a great time and maybe some of you will want to use the idea.

I decided that I didn't want any material gifts. I wanted everyone to bring a gift of talent, and unbelievably, they did! There were probably 60 people crowded into a Chicago apartment, all dressed up. My friend Roberta was the MC. She had a parrot on a stick from Pier 1 that she waved around like a wand as she sped the show on. I've always had wonderfully creative friends (partners in crime?) and they all dug deep and came up with great talent. Several sang (one is an opera singer and she made a spoof on something), there was poetry, clogging, craft demos, interactive art projects and on it went. The beauty of it was that each gift was for me, but also for the all that were gathered. We could all enjoy each other and it was so much fun.

So, if you need a birthday idea, especially now when people are so broke, remember this and look around you. I'm sure that you, too, are surrounded by the gift of talent!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Diana Bracy and Art for Obama- The Time Has Come!

Obama Fiber Mosaic by Diana Bracy

Diana Bracy, a Fiber Focus member, has become prolific in an interesting technique of layering bits of fabric to create large portraits. You can visit her page for more photos of her work, but one of them has received special attention, that of President Elect Barack Obama. Diana has been an active member of Quilters for Obama and she recently shared that their quilts will be exhibited in the Washington DC area:

"As a member of Fiber Focus, I am proud to share the fantastic news that my Fiber Mosaic of Obama will be showcased in the Washington, D. C. area in tribute to our President-Elect Barack Obama. As a member of Quilters for Obama, we plan to display more than 50 Art quilts. Susan Walen of Bethesda, Maryland organized this historic even in a matter of days!

The Obama Fiber Mosaic made its debut in Houston's International Quilt Festival in Oct/Nov of 2008. The image was seen by thousands and blogged on many sites. It would be my ultimate pleasure to give this Mosaic to the Obama family as a gift from me.

The event details:

President Obama: A Celebration in Art Quilts

Location: Cafritz Art Center, 150 King St., Silver Spring, MD

Dates: February 9 - March 5, 2009

Opening Reception: Friday, February 13th

The Cafritz Art Center will have all of our quilts professionally photographed and will publish a book to raise funds for scholarships for the Arts Center. They are discussing plans to have our quilts travel to other destinations. We have plans to invite the Obama family for a possible Private Showing."

-Diana Bracy

Diana is a member of "Fiber Artists for Obama", who each made individual pieces celebrating this historic election and then contributed in a joint project which resulted in this quilt:

Fiber Artists for Obama, Collaborative Quilt

Fiber Artists for Obama are also part of a larger group of artists and art groups who have endorsed Obama. The official Obama/Biden site lists the participants and gallery events that will be happening in the Washington D.C. area during the Inauguration.

Congratulations, Diana!

Note: The Fiber Focus Group is a social network open to anyone who loves fiber art and textiles. The group has grown to over 120 members from around the world, mostly artists, but also collectors and dealers, like myself, who work with ethnic textiles. Visit us and if you like what you see, come join us!


Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Introducing Artezano Links, A Treasure Trove of Cultural Crafts!

I've been toying with idea of starting another blog, so I finally broke down and did it.

Artezano Links shares some common ground with Rayela's Fiber Focus because, obviously, they both serve my passion for ethnic art and cultural education. But, Artezano Links will include all crafts (fiber, clay, glass, metal, etc.) and will really be a link resource. Go take a look! Then, come back here and tell me what you think. I just got it up yesterday and started with molas, so there isn't a big body of material yet, but you'll get the idea.

I actually started something similar many years ago before blogs were popular. But, it was harder to disseminate information and it never really got going. As I've been working on Fiber Focus, I've seen so many sites that I didn't use in an article or find that the links just keep growing and growing and this idea of another blog has been pushing its way into my brain.

Artezano Links will grow in spurts, as I am able to work on it. It's much easier than Fiber Focus where I often spend up to five hours on an article. Finding photos, figuring out what to say, asking permission to use the photos, and so on. On Artezanos, I'll load a photo representative of the site, add a descriptive text, link, and poof! On to the next one. Related books and videos will also be included. I'm exploring the possibility of developing some educational packets so this also serves as a research tool for me. Hopefully, this will interest home schoolers and teachers.

Fiber Focus also differs from Artezanos in that the glue is really the material (fiber) not the genre (ethnic). Here, on Fiber Focus, posts can talk about indigenous groups or urban deconstructionism (whatever THAT is!). My hope here is that through the medium of fiber we can find our common ground. Artezanos will focus on crafts that have culture specific references. If you sell or represent cultural crafts or see any sites you think should be on Artezanos, send me the link and I'll add it on. Of course I would love to have sponsors that would advertise on either or both of these sites........................ (hint, hint!)

Well, check on Artezanos from time to time and watch it grow. It will blossom into a beautiful sunflower, each seed representing a people, a place, and a heritage on this wonderful Earth!

Monday, January 12, 2009

Teaching Quilting in India by Donna Hussain

Main building, Nasr School
Hyderabad, India

A few years ago I received an invitation to teach quilting at Nasr School in Hyderabad, India. The invitation came from my husband’s cousin, Begum Anees Khan, the school founder. Starting with a small nursery school in the 1960's Anees slowly added students, extended the curriculum, built classrooms, and acquired property to expand the school. Today Nasr School enrolls over three thousand students from preschool through high school on five Hyderabad campuses.

Classroom building, Nasr School

Students on the way to school.
Hyderabad, India

Although I have taught quilting here in the States, I questioned my ability to teach abroad. Would familiar quilting supplies be available in India? What level of quilting should I teach? How long would I need to stay abroad to make my teaching worthwhile? Anees was at a loss for answers to such questions since she had no quilting experience herself. “Just come,” she wrote. “Once you are here we can figure out how to proceed.”

Despite my misgivings, the challenge of teaching in India was too enticing to resist. In early January 2006 my husband and I flew to Hyderabad for a seven week stay. We became part of Anees’ family living in her home on school grounds. I taught hour and a half sessions of beginning quilting twice a week to a class of 12-14 year old girls. I also taught quilting to two groups of women, mostly teachers, two afternoons a week. I had a busy social schedule as well: formal house calls to all of my husband’s relatives, dinner parties, weddings, and other family celebrations.

Morning assembly at Nasr School

Primary school students

High school girls, Nasr School

Classroom at Nasr School

Twenty-seven girls signed up for my quilting class. The sewing classroom was large, but sparsely furnished. There was a small teacher’s desk, eight “new” treadle sewing machines for my quilting classes, and benches for the students. I asked for the addition of six large tables, bulletin boards, and irons and ironing boards, a request immediately granted because of my relationship with Anees.

Quilting classroom

Students at work

Unfortunately, the “new” treadle sewing machines were a disaster, at least in my classes. Most of the girls needed instruction in their use and time to practice on the machines. Since the treadles were easily jammed with thread and inoperable most of the time, I taught them how to piece and quilt by hand.

Cranky treadle machines

I brought plastic rulers, cutting mats and rotary cutters to India in my luggage. Before my departure from home I debated whether to do so. It seemed reasonable to teach students the easiest, most accurate ways of measuring and cutting fabric. But would it be wise to teach the use of tools unavailable in the Indian market? Hyderabad is a city of seven million so I thought quilting tools might be for sale in the city if I could only find the right shop. A relative spent hours and hours driving me around the city to look for the tools with no success. Fortunately, most of the girls in my class said that they had relatives living the Middle East, England, and United States who could send them quilting supplies on request. I donated the tools I brought from home to the school on my departure.

In driving around the city I also looked for cotton or wool batting like we have in the States. None was found. However, I did find a thick polyester batting that might be used if split. In one small shop I met a quiltmaker who was doing hand quilting for a client using layers of thin rubber sheeting as batting. I used flannel for batting in the small quilts I made while in Hyderabad.

In winter months Hyderabadis like to sleep under soft full-cloth bed quilts that are filled with cotton held in place by rows of large hand-sewn stitches. The cotton is so light and fluffy that workers in shops where the cotton is sold wear masks to protect their windpipes and lungs from fuzz in the air. When dirty from use, the quilts are taken apart, the used cotton fill is discarded, and the fabric sandwich is washed. The fabric is then refilled with cotton at a shop.

Shop for cotton fill used in bed quilts.
Hyderabad, India

Once classes started, I taught the girls to measure and cut fabric, and how to sew together quilt blocks. We focused on four- and nine-patch blocks and those that included half-square triangles. The girls then practiced how to assemble a variety of quilt blocks using paper and fabric cutouts. It was my expectation that they would then choose a pattern and start making a small patchwork quilt top in class using fabric brought from home. To my disappointment few girls actually started a quilt project. Instead of learning the final steps in quiltmaking by doing, the girls watched me demonstrate how to add borders, batting, and binding, and hand-quilt with a hoop.

Members of my adult quilting class.
Hyderabad, India

My classes for adult women were much more successful. All of the women had sewing experience, and all wanted to learn as much as possible about quiltmaking before my return. While some of them wanted to make quilts for their families, most were teachers who carefully took notes in class hoping to pass on knowledge of quiltmaking to students of their own. The women didn’t want a slow-paced class that allowed time for practicing new techniques in the classroom. They preferred that I spend all of the class time introducing new material. At the next class they would bring me samples they had sewn at home to show me that they had mastered the skills that I had demonstrated in class.

My husband and I enjoyed our stay in India. On my return, however, I keep reviewing my experiences including all of the teaching mistakes I had made. I could have done better. Last Fall my spirits were bolstered by an e-mail Anees sent to me with pictures attached showing girls in Nasr School uniforms sewing patchwork blocks onto school tote bags. None were my former students…my girls must be nearing high school graduation by now. However, Nasr School’s sewing teacher was in my adult class.

Girls sewing patchwork
Hyderabad, India

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.


Friday, January 9, 2009

Adriene Cruz Sends Protection to Obama and His Family at the Quilts for Obama Show

Warrior of Light/Shield for Obama
Quilted Talisman by Artist Adriene Cruz
Photo by Art Alexander

Last Summer I posted about what a pleasure it was to have Oregon artist, Adriene Cruz, as a guest artist in one of Paducah's Lowertown galleries. Her beauty translates itself like a mirror reflection into textured works of art, reaching back deeply into her roots and soul. I was pleased to receive a notice from Adriene with a press release (below) saying that one of her works (shown above) was selected for the Quilts for Obama show.

Congratulations, Adriene!

Adriene Cruz, Oregon Artist

Here is the press release (posted with permission from Adriene):

Quilts for Obama:

An Exhibit Celebrating

the Inauguration

of our 44th President

Roland L. Freeman,

Guest Curator

January 11 – January 31, 2009
at The Historical Society of Washington, D.C.
801 K Street, NW (at Mount Vernon Square);
Washington, DC 20001 202.882.7764
Gallery Hours: 10 AM-5 PM, Tuesday-Sunday
(Closed Inauguration Day, 1/20/09)

Adriene Cruz of Portland, Oregon is one of the Master Quilters whose work is included in this special celebratory exhibit at The Historical Society of Washington, DC. The Historical Society and the Women of Color Quilters Network have partnered with The Group for Cultural Documentation (TGCD) to present Quilts for Obama: An Exhibit Celebrating the Inauguration of our 44th President, opening Sunday, January 11 and continuing through January 31, 2009.

The exhibit contains approximately 60 art and interpretive quilts made to celebrate the inauguration and welcome the Obama family to Washington: 44 by master quilt makers from across the US, along with others honoring the Obama family from Kenya, Hawaii, Kansas (a quilt from the historical society of Augusta, KS), and South Carolina (a quilt from Georgetown, SC made by Mrs. Carrie Nelson, the oldest living member of Michelle Robinson Obama’s family). Adriene Cruz’s quilt, “Warrior of Light/Shield for Obama,” is a quilted talisman offering prayers and blessings of protection and peace for Obama and his family.

Guest curator Roland L. Freeman is a folklorist and photo-documenter whose career began during the Civil Rights movement. Since the 1960’s he has been documenting the continuity of traditional African-American cultural practices, and is currently a research associate at the Smithsonian Institution’s Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage. Freeman has a special passion for quilts and quilt makers, and over the past four decades has crisscrossed the US, being the first to document the world of African-American quilters, culminating in a national tour and book called Communion of the Spirits, published in 1996 which also features Adriene’s work. He described the genesis of the Quilts for Obama exhibit as follows:

"This past November 4th, I was glued to the television watching the election returns, as were millions in this country and around the world. Around 11 pm, when it was announced that Barack Obama was the President-Elect of the United States, my emotions overwhelmed me. I could hardly speak. Then came the amazing images of worldwide jubilation. Almost immediately, my mind started drifting back to other seminal events that for me were just as emotionally life-changing: my participation in the voting rights march from Selma to Montgomery; the 1963 March on Washington and Dr. King’s “I have a Dream” speech; and my joining the Poor People’s Campaign as a photographer to cover the Mule Train caravan as it traveled from Marks, MS, to Washington, DC. In my lifetime, I’ve known three black men whose messages of peace, love, and racial harmony profoundly moved the masses: Martin Luther King, Jr., Nelson Mandela and Barack Obama. King said, “We shall overcome;” Nelson Mandela forgave his oppressors; and now Barack Obama has inspired Americans to come together for change for a better tomorrow. I asked myself what I could do to help celebrate this victory and it occurred to me that a commemorative quilt exhibit was just the thing. And so it is."

For more information on the exhibit please visit The Group for Cultural Documentation’s web site, www.tgcd.org, or call TGCD at 202-882-7764.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Afghan Tribal Arts: On the Way to the Tucson Bead Show!

Abdul Wardak owns and operates Afghan Tribal Arts

Every January thousands and thousands flock to Tucson, Arizona. Birds? No. Bead lovers. Bead fanatics. Bead addicts. Tucson hosts THE definitive bead show for stores, dealers, web outlets, and collectors. Vendors from all over the world spill out their wares... glass, stone, shell, pearls, silver, brass, copper, seeds, polished, raw, mass produced, hand made, collectible, tribal- you name it.

My dear friend, Abdul, will be there. Abdul and I have been friends for a long time and shared a partnership in a gallery in Chicago, Dara Tribal Village, for four years. I moved to Kentucky and continue to sell online, while he remains based in Chicago, but spends most of the time in his van, wholesaling his beads and textiles to galleries and specialty stores around the South East.

Abdul Wardak at a bead show in North Carolina

The love of beads is a nasty addiction and affliction. Once you have been bitten by the bug, the romance blossoms until the little orbs call you in the night, whispering... "You need more of me, more, more, more..." Most people buy beads for their obvious use in jewelry making. I've done my share of making necklaces and earrings, but I prefer to incorporate them into my quilts, garments or other objects I might work on. I've never had the patience to weave them, but have great admiration for Native American skills and others who use beads as a surface cover. Yes, I have my stash... Fortunately, beads don't take up as much space as fabric, but those little buggers can end up costing a lot more! Prices are all over the board, depending on the material, origin, and context of how they were made.

Hand carved carnelian beads from Afghanistan
so rich in color you could eat them!

Afghan Tribal Arts specializes in two kinds of beads: old collectible tribal beads and new metal or semi-precious gemstones made or carved by artisans in Peshawar and other parts of Central Asia. Afghanistan may seem poor and devastated, but it has great mineral wealth. Although I sometimes shudder at the thought of mountains being blown up for carnelian, lapis or jade, the stone industry is a great source of employment which helps provide stability in a country devastated by war and drought. Abdul immigrated to the United States in the early 1980's. He brought back some samples of handicrafts from Afghanistan on a couple of visits, found that there was a market in the US for them and began bringing more and more until he established Afghan Tribal Arts as one of the largest US importers of beads, carpets, textiles, and other handicrafts from Afghanistan and the region. He has an intimate relationship with his suppliers and has designed many of the cuts of the beads he carries.

Abdul Wardak on a visit to Afghanistan

Where we get things counts. Paying fair wages counts. Quality counts. Bead shows are flooded with imitation beads or beads that were made with cheap labor. Is it really turquoise? Blood red coral for how much? In this lean economy, quality beads often get passed over for cheaper imitations, a fact that has had an impact on Afghan Tribal Arts and other quality bead suppliers. But, once you develop a love for the genuine, replacing it with cheapness feels like a betrayel. Take a close look at just some of the beauty given to us by Mother Earth:

The greens of jade, citrine and malachite...

Deep oranges and buttery tones of carnelian and agates...

Fluorite, a veiny stone that ranges in shades of purples and blues...

And, the royal stone, lapis lazuli,
a treasure found only in Afghanistan and Chile.

Afghan Tribal Arts also carries tribal beaded remnants and vintage pendants and jewelry. The beaded disc below is found on all kinds of Pashtun apparel, in hats, on garments and on bags. Some call it a "Kabul disc".

Kabul disc from Afghanistan.

Jewelry from Central Asia shows centuries of craftsmanship.

Afghanistan and neighboring countries have embellished their garments and utilitarian objects with beads for centuries. The photo below shows a display we had in our gallery.

Afghan Tribal Arts on display at Dara Tribal Village.

So, if you are one of those heading towards Tucson, make sure to look up Afghan Tribal Arts. There are two shows, back to back, organized by the same group where you will find him. The links will take you to the show's website:

To Bead True Blue
February 1st-6th

Abdul Wardak of Afghan Tribal Arts.

Abdul is on his way!

The night has come to an end,
Dawn awaits the ship to depart.
It’s a new day in the making,
Two friends dear and one say goodbye-
Very hard, but wise.
As he looks back in his mind
He knows that the memory of the past
Is the only untouchable and priceless treasure
That he took and left behind
And the simple wish is that someday
If he returns to shore
A friend may remember who he is.

Abdul Ahad Wardak



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