A trail of fiber art stretches back through New Mexican history to roughly 800 CE (if not earlier), when cotton was introduced to Pueblo land via trade routes in Mesoamerica. As the material made its way up the Rio Grande Valley, the traditional Rio Grande style of weaving style was born. Fiber works have unfolded throughout history and continue to receive attention in the Southwest thanks to dedicated artists and organizations like the Española Valley Fiber Arts Center, a Northern New Mexico nonprofit devoted to local fiber artists, as well as visiting weavers and crafters.
The center aims to share the history of fiber arts while shining a light on its contemporary place in society through educational programs, opportunities for local fiber artists to sell their wares and community events. This weekend heralds the fifth annual Fall Fiber Fiesta for local artists to connect with community members and celebrate the handmade. Director of operations April Jouse explains that "some of the work is the traditional Rio Grande style weaving, the style many people think of when they think of fiber arts in New Mexico, but a lot of it is very contemporary and more innovative. We have a rich textile heritage in New Mexico and that translates into a contemporary vision as well."
Jouse further shares that the event was founded in 2012 to embody a two-fold mission: to create opportunities for local fiber artists to sell their wares, as well as educational possibilities for the public. The first Fall Fiber Fiesta started small, as a holiday sale in a single room at Santa Fe's St. John's United Methodist Church. After two short years, however, it moved to the Scottish Rite Temple where it has, as Jouse describes, bloomed in attendance by both artists and shoppers ever since.
This year, 44 creators from the Southwest region participate in the Fiesta, many of whom have achieved national recognition for their work. Artists must apply for consideration and are selected by a panel of fiber artists and the EVFAC's staff and board (many of whom are artists themselves). Among those accepted this year are Perla Kopeloff of Southern Colorado, who uses local alpaca and merino wool to create felted works; the Ramah Navajo Weavers Association whose members have, according to its website, worked for more than 20 years in traditional Navajo wool preparation, hand spinning and weaving; plus Northern New Mexico duo Amanda Speer and Dane Daller, who focus on hand-dyeing techniques in their collaborative fiber arts project, The Warp Zone.
The public is encouraged to chat with the artists about their process and passion this Friday at the kick-off artist reception and silent auction (not to mention get first dibs on all of the fantastic merch), and Jouse tells SFR that visitors can expect to see a wide variety of piecers (artists who craft new pieces from patches of old ones), crocheters, felters and weavers, plus people who dye and create their own yarn. "The focus is diversity," Jouse says. "Both of the arts, but also price points; if you give your kids a $10 bill, hopefully they can find something to take home just as easily as someone who is looking for a $300 blanket."
You won't just leave with art, either, thanks to Dixon's Vivac Winery and food from Two Sprout Farm. And though tickets are required to attend Friday's event, Saturday and Sunday kick off free admission days featuring live demonstrations such as spinning, weaving and colcha, a traditional Spanish Colonial embroidery technique. Further educational opportunities include Walk In and Weave, a program that allows participants to reserve a loom and create their own 26-by-36-inch rag rug (no prior experience is required) and lessons in basketry and dyeing (check out Española Valley Fiber Arts Center's website for more info).
The Fall Fiber Fiesta is just one of the organization's many community offerings that shares the value of an art that has shaped communities in New Mexico throughout history. "Sometimes people don't know that we are a resource just outside of Santa Fe," Jouse explains. "We are here for classes and fiber arts education; we have been here quite a while and have a good diversity of experience to pull from."
Fall Fiber Fiesta
Artist Reception and Silent Auction: 5 pm Friday Nov. 17. $10.
Community Days: 10 am-5 pm Saturday and Sunday Nov. 18 and 19. Free.
Scottish Rite Temple,
463 Paseo de Peralta,