TAFA: The Textile and Fiber Art List

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Following the Bison Hair Trail by Doris Florig

Bison by Doris Florig
"This guy has a lot of shedding to do..."

I have been looking for weeks and couldn’t find any bison hair. Each time I would see the herd, the bison looked shaggier and shaggier. I watched to see where they were spending their time and then I would go back and search the area: mainly, following their paths through thick, scrubby areas down by the streams. I knew that I should find the small clumps of hairs on eye level branches.

No, fibers don't grow on trees.
The bison hair gets caught on the trees as the herds pass through thickly wooded areas.

I started early May. The weather was warm enough to be outside searching for the hair but it was not consistent: there were a lot of ups and downs, freezing at night and sometimes warm during the day or snowy. I thought that the winter was over but now I think that the Bison knew more about what to expect then I. But, at last on May 26, I spotted a clump of fibers dangling from a fallen tree trunk. After that first sighting it was easy. I found fibers dangling from the branches just about every 10 – 15 feet apart.

You have to look closely to find the fibers.

I gathered with enthusiasm until I heard strange sound. Once I realized I was hearing snorting sounds, I decided that I better move on and come back another day.

" I think I should come back later..."

I have never been afraid of wildlife, assuming they are more afraid of me then I am of them. But, in the case of the bison, every year in Yellowstone Park someone gets seriously, injured by a charging bison. One time from my car, I saw a bison leisurely walking down the yellow line of the road. As he passed the car approaching in the opposite lane, he calmly bent down, hooked his horn under the wheel well and ripped the fender away from the car. Keeping that in mind, I closed my zip lock collecting bag, walked back to the van and headed back to Jackson Hole.

I will be using the fiber to make a very large bison head felted sculpture so I will need a lot of fiber. Right now I am working on the foundation of the face. It will be made of wool. It will be several months before I get to the point of adding finishing touches with the real bison fibers. I will spend many hours returning to Gros Ventre National Forest gathering more bison fibers. It reminds me of collecting for natural dyes; the best part is being outdoors and learning about the environment. Spending time on the bison range is such an incredible experience.

The three dimensional portrait will be part of an exhibit known as the the Yellowstone to Yukon Tapestry Series by Doris Florig.

Doris Florig, weaver of the wild!

Doris Florig is currently teaching in the fiber department at Jackson Hole, WY at the Center for the Arts. To learn more about workshops and classes offered contact Doris: email.

Doris is a TAFA member although her member profile is still not posted. Visit her website.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Fiberarts Magazine Bites the Dust. Call to Action!!!

TAFA Member, Luke Haynes, on the last issue of Fiberarts Magazine

My latest copy of Fiberarts Magazine arrived on Wednesday and I was absolutely thrilled to see Luke Haynes, a TAFA member on the cover!   A few pages later, I saw that Lisa Call, another TAFA member, won an Award of Excellence at the prestigious Quilt National 2011.   Woo hoo!  Kudos to both of them!  They deserve all of this and more as both work at producing a huge and consistent body of work that rocks our textile community!

Then, under News and Notes, I saw that our esteemed local art gallery, the Yeiser Art Center,  announced the winners of the Fantastic Fibers show.  I attended the opening night.  The jurors, Freda Fairchild, Caryl Bryer Fallert (TAFA Member) and Judy Schwender (curator of the National Quilt Museum) are members of Paducah Fiber Artists, my local fiber art group.

Oh, then on page 32, Fiberarts had held a competition on artist studio spaces and Denise Labadie, yet another TAFA member, won the award for Best Organization/Storage.  Wowzers!  Fiberarts Magazine was turning into a place of familiar faces!

"Monastic Ruin at Glendalough" by Denise Labadie

With a shock, I read that this latest issue would also be the LAST ISSUE!!!!!   From Editor Marci Rae McDade:

"FIBERARTS has been both an impactful magazine to the contemporary art community and a labor of lover for us here at Interweave.  However, times change and the support for Fiberarts has not been strong enough over the past several years to continue keeping it in circulation.  As a result, the Summer 2011 issue of Fiberarts will be the last one we publish.  We at Interweave thank all of the subscribers, as well as the artists, writers, venues, and advertisers who have contributed to Fiberarts over the years."


THIRTY-FIVE YEARS of publishing and being a driving force in this community just goes down like that?  Without a fight?  Chat boards and forums have been discussing this in a rage.  We are left hanging, with so many questions...  Why did they not share with the community that they were struggling and that they might have to close?  Why didn't they try combining an online version with the published one?  How about making advertising rates cheaper so that more of us could purchase them?  Why? Why? Why?

Lisa Call, winner of the Award of Excellence at Quilt National 2011 explores human-made structures of containment.

Surely, Interweave Press did not make this decision lightly.  They most certainly examined other options.  Still, this is a terrible loss to the serious reflection of and on trends, value, emerging and established artists and news within the textile and fiber arts community.  Yes, there are other magazines, but none of them have the history and seasoned experience of this one, which emerged along with the people it represented at a time when textiles struggled for recognition as an art form.

What does this death of this important voice say about us as a group?  Are we really not able to sustain the businesses that represent and inspire us?  

This scares the $#*^@! out of me.  As most of you know, TAFA has been fundraising for a new website.  We are trying to raise $5,000.  That is NOT a lot of money nowadays, but if you don't have it, it could be the same as 5 million.  $1,500 has come in.  All of it, except for one donation has come from TAFA members.  Sure, they are the ones who will benefit the most from the site, but I have been surprised to my core that nobody else has contributed to our campaign.  We have over 1700 followers on our facebook page.  $2 bucks apiece would buy the new site. 

I have spent money on facebook, google, project wonderful and google ads.  Not one response.  I am exhausted by the effort and from the lack of support.  I know that when the new site is launched it will quickly become one of the major hubs for this community.  We will not be and have no intention of becoming a replacement for Fiberarts Magazine.  We have a different focus, but the same inspiration that that magazine offered will be there for everybody.

Caryl Bryer Fallert, juror for Fantastic Fibers

If a 35 year old institution can't make it, then how can emerging ones like TAFA hope to succeed?  Yes, this is the worst economy since the Great Depression, yet there are still plenty of people spending money on luxury items.  Are we, the artists and organizations that support and inspire fiber arts and textiles, not worth the investment?  It's a pretty depressing scenario.

So, here we go:


(Yes, I am yelling in a loud voice, waving an embroidered banner...)

Pick a fiber arts or textile cause today and give it your vote of confidence with some cash.  

Of course, I hope that you will want to support TAFA with its fundraiser, but it could be a group in your local community, another magazine you enjoy (may I suggest Hand/Eye or the Textile Blog?)  Or, buy something from someone who is making textiles or fiber art.  Connie Rose has a 50% off sale going on.  Our TAFA members who have Etsy shops can be found in our Catalog of Shops.  We are all people struggling to keep afloat.  Support us!

Fiberarts Magazine may not have put out a call for help, but I am doing so now.  

Alone, it's an uphill battle that may end up face down in the dust.  
Together, we can do anything!


Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Impact of Crafts in Our Global Economy

The 1970's saw a revival of crafts and hobbies that hearkened back to the pre-industrial revolution era.  Crafts that demanded fine motor skills, used historic, often hand-made tools, and emphasized simple materials.  All kinds of do-it-yourself kits hit the stores: macramé, paint-by-number, pottery wheels for kids, glass trimming tools, beading, sewing, embroidery, knitting, stained glass and so on.

Hobbies became entrenched into the middle class psyche.  Niche interests developed communities where classes, guilds, and groups formed.  This exposure led to increased value given to the arts, leading to specialized degrees at universities and the growth of galleries dedicated to specific interests.

Fabric of Life

 The 1980's saw a partnership of understanding grow between non-profits, non-governmental agencies, foundations and others who were interested in the economic development potential that the arts could bring to distressed communities.  I learned about fair trade in the late 1980's, finding the marriage of all of my interests:  art, economic development, and entrepreneurship.  For almost 25 years, I have been working in some capacity to promote both artists and economic development projects that use handicrafts as their tool for change.

Dye Verse
The middle class in the United States and Europe has been key to supporting efforts for promoting the arts, in all of its forms.  In the last 10 years, we have seen a decreased ability from all sides (governmental, academic, and financial) to support the arts.  Our economic crisis is not a joke.  It is real and we are witnessing the death of the middle class.  There have never been more millionaires in the United States than there are now, while poverty increases at a rapid rate.

Last night, I watched my nightly dose of the Daily Show and the Colbert Report.  Jon Stewart had Fareed Zakaria on as a guest.  A regular on the show, Zakaria is the editor of Newsweek International and I always enjoy his commentaries.  Here is a clip of the interview where he talks about his new book, an examination of technology and globalization on the American worker.

Zakaria  points out that the United States is in deep trouble because corporations have, in their global capacity, moved manufacturing and services out of the country to other places where they can access cheap labor and all of the enticements places with little or no regulation offer gold seekers.  The argument is always that the American public is at fault, since they are the ones that demand cheap products.  In a sense, that may be true.  But, I believe that it is mostly so because there is less buying power now than ever before since World War II.

Fiber Arts Connection

Instead, Zakaria says that we should use Germany as a model.  The most stable economy in Europe, they have weathered this recession and actually show growth, largely due to their exports.

I chewed on this for awhile and once again, saw how important craft production is in all of our local economies.  Yet, this sector is undervalued socially and economically.  Images of all of our TAFA members popped into my head: working in their studios, raising sheep, re-working designs, organizing villages, drawing, cutting, sewing, spinning, painting, dyeing, tying, ironing, tearing apart, putting back together......  endless amounts of work, dedication, inspiration, frustration, stubbornness, experimentation, failures, successes....

Cloverleaf Art and Fibre

We are now the one of the largest manufacturing bases of America and Europe.  Each studio is like a small factory.  Our demand for green supplies has brought a return to animal husbandry, indigenous plant crops, organic farming, and small mills.

Colin's Creatures

Here are some numbers:

            Top Ten Craft Segments by Sales
  1. Woodworking/Wood Crafts        $3.322 billion
  2. Drawing                                         $2.078 billion
  3. Food Crafting                                $2.001 billion
  4. Jewelry Making                             $1.446 billion
  5. Scrapbooking & Memory Crafts          $1.440 billion
  6. Floral Decorating                         $1.303 billion
  7. Crocheting                                    $1.062 billion
  8. Card Making                                 $1.040 billion
  9. Home Décor Crafts (Non-Sewing)         $948 million
  10. Wedding Crafts                                         $803 million

  • Vietnam:   Quantity. Vietnam has about 2790 craft villages of which over 20% of households participated in producing eleven major products groups such as lacquer, Porcelain, Embroidery, Bamboo and Rattan, Sea grass, Textile, Paper, Folk picture, Wood, Stone in the country
    Export value: According to statistics, the products export value of craft villages reached USD 273.700.000 in 2000; increased to more than USD 850.000.000 in 2008; and reached USD 900.000.000 in 2009 with 100 countries worldwide on the market.
  • Value of quilt industry in the US economy (2010):  3.58 billion  (Quilting in America)

Alison Yule Textiles

I could go on and on and find the numbers that show how important the art and craft industries are to our global economy.  Yet, we, as a group, are seen as insignificant and not taken seriously.  We are doing this for fun, because we don't want a "real" job, because we are weird or anti-establishment.  Most of us are "called" to this unrewarding work (in society's eyes).  We are compelled to do this. 

There is a weeding out process that happens when the young crafter begins experimenting, thinking that this might be a good way to live life.  Once they begin to seriously set themselves up for business, most drop out.  It is hard work.  Even with a degree, a tiny minority can find well-compensated work in an art or craft related field.  Those who stick with it, find themselves needing to learn all kinds of skills that have nothing to do with the real work they want to produce or sell.  They must become marketers, photographers, book keepers, and so on.

Kantara Crafts

The internet has completely revolutionized the marketing of crafts.  In the past, individuals and small businesses looked to galleries, craft fairs and trade shows for representation.  Now, everyone has the potential of creating a formidable presence online.  What?  The middle class is disappearing in the United States?  Well, maybe the new Russian elite might want to buy a weaving...  Websites and blogs have become increasingly user friendly.  Social media connects people from around the world.  In theory, this is the most democratic and revolutionary transformation business has had since the Industrial Revolution.  The reality is much different.

Deborah Grayson Studios

The serious craft business has enough on its plate with the business of product design and production.  For small operations, there is the often desperate attempt to get out there and see direct results through self-marketing.  It's an exhausting process in an ever-changing environment.

This is the key strategy behind TAFA's mission:  Markets for Members.  TAFA: The Textile and Fiber Art List intends to alleviate some of this by bringing the serious fiber artist and small textile business together.  It can help streamline the individual efforts into collective groups where members do not have to swim alone.  Yes, members still need to learn some of these skills if they want to effectively create a decent presence online.  But, they do not need to spend as much time on capturing an audience.  That is what TAFA hopes to do for them, to get out their and market the group as a whole to the various niches that can support them: galleries, interior decorators, boutiques, collectors, museum shops, and shoppers.

In order to do that, TAFA needs a new website, one that has all of the bells and whistles that will attract that kind of a crowd.  This will cost $5,000.  TAFA is currently a project of  Rayela Art, my business.  Even if we were structured as a non-profit, it is very hard to apply for funding for arts related projects in this climate of need.  There are so many natural disasters globally, victims of war, families losing homes, people in need of homes....  It is my firm belief that we should be able to raise this money from those who understand both our importance and our potential.

We are currently fundraising on IndieGoGo for these funds.  If you are financially able to support us in this way, we ask that you do so now, at this critical juncture.  TAFA now has 287 members representing 23 countries.  We intend on growing the membership into the thousands, becoming a hub for the whole textile and fiber arts community.  Help us get there.

Our members are offering gifts as a thank you for donations on this page: Click
But, the best perk we have is 18 months of advertising for $215.  
That is less than $12 a month! 

Once we reach our goal, it will still take three months for the design team to create the site.  Ads that are current when that happens, will transfer over to the new site.  Similar sites charge over $200 a week! 

Types of ads that would do well on our site:  health, bed and body, organic, spirituality, antiques, gardening, yoga supplies, other crafts, jewelry, and so on.  We are mostly women between the ages of 35 and 65, both in our membership and in our facebook demographics where we have 1,700 fans.

Of course, all donations are welcome.  Those who cannot donate can help by spreading the word.  We thank you from the bottom of our artsy craftsy hearts!

Please feel free to ask questions about TAFA, our strategy, or the new site here.  A dialogue on the economic impact of the art/craft industries would also be very interesting to me.  So, don't be shy!



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