This week I started my SU-CASA residency at the Grand Coalition of Seniors in the Lower East Side. I am teaching a course called “Woven Memories: A Fiber Arts Class” over the next five months in which we will learn and discuss fiber art techniques, cultural histories related to fiber, and create our own art projects.
I’m basing this course on my own experience learning about fiber arts and my current work in weaving, macramé, and paper. I’ve taught art classes before and I regularly teach craft classes to adults, but I have not worked with a group of seniors in this manner and I am very excited and honored to have this opportunity to share my art practice, spend time with seniors in my community, and learn!
WHY FIBER ART?
My main art form used to be printmaking, but about four years ago I started weaving at Artspace DC. I was initially interested in weaving because I wanted to figure out how to make my own fabric. I was designing clothes at the time and I was frustrated that I couldn’t get medium-sized quantities of fabric, but instead either a few yards or a few thousand yards of fabric. I looked up ‘weaving classes’ on Google and magically there was a fiber arts class near my house at the time, which was in the Shaw neighborhood in Washington DC. I started going every week and feel in love with weaving and my fellow classmates. I quickly realized I probably would not be making my own fabric any time soon, but it didn’t matter.
Weaving became a kind of therapy for me — the class and our teacher created a nurturing and supportive community for me and the practice got me back into thinking about, and eventually making, art. Every week I would go face the loom. Sometimes it would be frustrating and sometimes it would be exhilarating; usually it was both. Little by little I learned the basics of weaving and it became a necessary part of my life. I worked on a floor loom, a frame loom, an inkle loom, and a table loom.
I started learning about weaving in different cultures, including Zapotec weaving and took a trip to Oaxaca, Mexico. Later, I dreamt up a self-guided residency made up of different natural dye workshops, weaving workshops, and embroidery workshops in Oaxaca. I saved up money and did it. This also coincided with me quitting my job and starting my own company, Distill Creative, but that’s another story.
I think the fiber arts class I took on a whim started a whole chain of events that eventually led to my current life: running my own company and pursuing art. And now I have this amazing art residency to share my love of fiber arts!
I miss my fiber arts group in DC a lot, but I am very happy that I can create with a new group of students, the seniors at Grand Coalition of Seniors.
SU-CASA RESIDENCY: WEEK 1 — PERSONAL COLLAGES
For this first week, I introduced the class to fiber art by sharing samples of my own work, including weavings, embroideries, macramé, and a shibori indigo dyed piece. I also gave a quick slideshow presentation that shared some fiber artwork by other artists whose work I admire. I asked if anyone had any experience with the techniques we will be learning. Some of them crochet or do needle work, so I’m hoping to incorporate that into the curriculum and learn from them, too.
Our first project was a paper collage. I wanted to do something relatively easy and have them share a little bit about themselves. I asked a series of questions and had them write down the answers, then we all made collages to manifest the answers and share things about ourselves. Many students in my class speak Spanish, so I tried to translate but I am much better at comprehension than speaking these days. Luckily, the regular Art and Craft teacher was there to help translate and I think we got the message across.
At first, the class, which was about 15 people and kept growing throughout the session as more people came to join in, was tepid about the project. I don’t know if they weren’t into it or just didn’t understand, but slowly they all came around and before I knew it there were magazines being passed around and images being layered and a quiet room focused on making.
The results were pretty amazing and super varied. Once they finished their collages, I had them stand up and present their collage to the group and share the meaning behind the images. This was my favorite part because I got to learn a little bit about each of the seniors and they got to share something they created in a public setting. Some were shy about sharing at first, but then they got into it and were eager to share.
At the end of class we displayed the collages on one of the walls in the Art and Craft room. It looked like a little gallery and seeing all their work up on the wall together was amazing.