Textiles Front and Center: WARP

I’ve been a member of WARP (Weave a Real Peace) since 2017 when Thrums Books recommended that I organize an international textile conference in Oaxaca for the organization. Over the years, I have come to respect and embrace what they do even more — connecting textile artisans from around the world to support, encourage and promote creativity and economic opportunity. This is the WARP mission:

WARP is a catalyst for improving the quality of life of textile artisans worldwide.
We are an inclusive global network of individuals and organizations who value the social, cultural, historic, artistic, and economic importance of textile arts.

The international conference at Kent State University located about forty-five minutes east of Cleveland, Ohio just ended. It was a three-day, jam-packed event that included demonstrations, discussions, presentations, a marketplace filled with textiles for sale from all over the world, a fashion show, an auction, a gallery show, delicious food, and great networking among all of us — weavers, dyers, spinners, educators, collectors, makers, entrepreneurs, and social justice advocates. Now, I’m back in Albuquerque with my son, and will return to Taos tomorrow.

WARP is an inspiration and a place for us to share what we love. It is where we can talk about and see innovation and change. Kent State gave us a place to explore this — how design innovation melds with technology to create ikat, jacquard, and supplementary weft on technologically advanced, computerized looms. It is where we can understand how the Fibershed movement of farmers, fashion activities and makers influences a new textile economy — earth and people friendly, sustainable, and circular, minimizing fast fashion waste. It is how we can embrace the resurgence of innovation in the Rust Belt by meeting entrepreneurs like Faan‘s Aaron Jacobson, who started a Cleveland-based fashion company after working as an architect in China. They make low-waste, recycled, community-centric, eco-friendly fashion with everything sourced locally. We meet John Paul Moribito, assistant professor and head of textiles at Kent State. They open our eyes to creating textiles that speak to a Queer sensibility with beads, loose shimmering threads, evoking drag queen glamour. We talk with Praxis who created a community garden of indigo, involved children and the local neighborhood in natural dye activism to overcome the slave history of indigo culture in the USA.

This is also a place to share our concerns about what threatens hand weavers across the globe. As the global economy tightens its grip on the production of cheap goods made in countries that have no regulation for labor protections, and where often political prisoners are forced labor to reproduce what is authentic around the world, we must read labels and be vigilant about buying hand made. In this way, we personalize rather than depersonalize the shopping/buying experience.

Daniel and Norma, last dance of the evening

A highlight for me during this conference was seeing my friend, North Carolina ceramic artist-potter Daniel Johnston, who is engaged to be married to WARP’s executive director Kelsey Wiskirchen. I’ve known Daniel for almost 25 years, and met him when he was a young studio apprentice with Mark Hewitt Pottery in Pittsboro, NC. I attended Daniel’s first solo show in Asheboro, NC, bought some of his work and continued collecting, going to see his new kiln in Seagrove, and attending studio openings. Even as I was leaving NC, heading to New Mexico, I went to visit him and Kelsey before I left.

The great news is that they have purchased land in Abiquiu, near the Georgia O’Keefe home, and will be back and forth between NC and NM. So, once again, dear people whom I love are migrating to the southwest. In case anyone is interested, Daniel is represented by the Gerald Peters Gallery in Santa Fe. He has a major installation at the North Carolina Museum of Art sculpture garden, and is among the most decent, humble, and caring young men I know (similar to my son, Jacob). A perfect match for Kelsey who mirrors his attributes.

I delivered the last presentation of the conference, talking about and comparing the weaving traditions of two villages, one on the Oaxaca coast — San Juan Colorado, with a Chiapas Maya village — San Pedro Chenalho, just outside of San Cristobal de las Casas. We had a lively discussion about cultural appropriation and cultural appreciation, and I’ll be writing more about that as soon as a survey I’m conducting comes in. BTW, we have a few spaces open for both these textile study tours.

Next WARP Annual Meeting: May 16-18, 2024, Golden, Colorado. Join Us!

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