Weaving is an act of celebration, as anyone who’s ever given or received a handwoven gift knows very well. The September/October issue of Handwoven dives into this theme with a collection of weaving projects for special events, thoughtful gifts, and more. Here’s Christina to share some pictures, experiences, and stories from the International Folk Art Market in Santa Fe, where the idea of weaving as a celebration was brought home for her. Enjoy! ~ Andrea
A couple weekends ago, I got to travel to Santa Fe to attend my very first International Folk Art Market (IFAM). For those not in the know, the IFAM is an event held once a year on Santa Fe’s gorgeous Museum Hill, where hundreds of artisans come from around the world to sell truly amazing handcrafted goods, all at fair trade prices. The artisans not only make sales at the market, they also make business connections in the United States so they can continue to prosper long after the market is over.
My husband and I arrived at the market on Saturday afternoon, just a couple of hours before the market closed for the day, and figured it would be the perfect opportunity to scope things out before returning on Sunday morning. This ended up being an excellent choice. We arrived at what turned out to be the hottest point of the day, so many people were heading back to their homes and hotels or to the shops and restaurants in the plaza to cool off until the market reopened on Sunday morning. Coming from further south in New Mexico, where it is regularly ten to twenty degrees hotter on any given day than it is in Santa Fe, we were undaunted as we clutched out water bottles and made our way through the colorful tents to see what treasures we would find.
There were treasures a-plenty! We saw truly astounding hand-carved wooden toys from Mexico, intricately painted pottery from Turkey, and beautiful baskets from Zimbabwe—and then there were the textiles. Shibori from Japan, Peruvian backstrap weaving, delicately embroidered scarves from Afghanistan and India, and incredible ikat wall hangings and runners from Borneo. The whole market was a celebration of color, texture, artistry, and artists. In other words, it was astounding and wonderful. I had the good fortune to talk to a few of the makers as I browsed the booths, and learned about the meanings behind the cloth and the love and care that went into each piece for sale.
After our first introduction to the market, we finally retreated from the heat to enjoy a dinner of pupusas (an El Salvadorian delicacy that I consider as much of an art form as anything at the market), and I was able to ruminate over all I had seen. It seems to me that weavers and textile makers the world around often create pieces for the same purpose—to celebrate. Sometimes the pieces are celebrating an important moment, such a birth, wedding, or a holiday, but others simply celebrate the act of making.
I thought back to a cheerful Indian woman I had spoken to who ran a business where she and her team of embroiderers stitched elaborate, traditional designs onto silks and cottons. She explained to me that the designs had been in danger of disappearing, that some folks viewed the embroidery as taking up too much time and effort. In reality, however, her artisans enjoyed the work and even got competitive to see who could do the finest, most intricate designs. These were pieces created with love and pride, and it absolutely showed.
Weavers throughout the US are no different. We give our handwoven weaving projects as gifts to loved ones to show how special they are to us. We decorate our homes for holidays with festive table linens, weave up tallits for bar and bat mitzvahs, and create runners for weddings. We weave to celebrate, and, to be honest, sometimes we celebrate by weaving—I know of more than a few grandparents out there who immediately upon finding out about an upcoming grandbaby began working on the perfect baby blanket.
In fact, our upcoming issue of Handwoven is all about the ways we use cloth to celebrate what life has to offer, with lots of celebratory weaving projects for you to try. Susan E. Horton’s simply stunning summer and winter bottle bags, featured on the cover, would make an ideal hostess gift at any holiday party, while Laurel Barnes’ colorful ninja star wedding runner would look beautiful on the head table at a wedding (or just on the dining room table in your own home!). Anita Luvera Mayer writes a wonderful article about the important textiles woven for various celebrations and rituals the world around in “The Cloth of Life” (some examples of which I was happy to see at the market) and Tom Knisely, delightful as ever, tells the tale of weaving a scarf for his daughter’s wedding in Notes from the Fell.
In the meantime, I have my own celebratory weaving projects to do. I have towels to make for friends “just because” and Christmas presents to get a head start on (I believe it’s never too soon to start weaving presents). I hope you all are working on something wonderful as well.
P.S. What was the most special, meaningful handwoven gift you’ve ever given or received? Share your story in the comments!