The Albuquerque Fiber Arts Fiesta brought crafters together at the Expo New Mexico Manuel Lujan Jr. Exhibit Complex from April 14-16. Eighteen different guilds were in attendance representing a variety of fiber art disciplines such as quilting, beadery, weaving, embroidering, lacemaking and more. Vendors sold their work, judges awarded prizes to spectacular pieces and guilds held demonstrations for those interested in picking up some new skills.
Typically a biennial event, the COVID-19 pandemic prevented the fiesta from being held in 2020. Event Director Elizabeth Whitehead expressed her excitement about having New Mexico’s fiber arts community gathered under one roof again.
“No. 1 is having everyone here together — that’s the big thing. Talking to the vendors, talking to the visitors, getting a lot of thank you’s for putting on the show,” Whitehead said.
The fiesta is more than an opportunity for artists to sell or show off their work. It’s also a connective experience that bridges media, skill level and nationality.
Rikki Quintana, an entrepreneur, was a vendor at the event. She is the founder and CEO of HoonArts, a fair-trade company that sells fiber art made by craftspeople in Central Asia, namely Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. Her presence at the event means that New Mexicans are able to connect with artists halfway around the world.
“(Art) can inspire people and connect people without needing to speak the same language. So it’s always seemed (like) a way to start a conversation,” Quintana said.
The Enchanted Lacemakers Guild helps maintain the cultural tradition of lacemaking, a process that originated in Europe and was almost ended by the mechanization of the Industrial Revolution. Member Tammy Padilla explained that the Fiber Arts Fiesta had a visitor from Germany who shared enthusiasm for lacemaking, specifically her favorite technique bobbin lace, or “klöppelspitzen” in German.
“A lot of our books come from Europe, and they’re in other languages. He knew all about (lacemaking). He was telling us in German what he had seen the bobbin lacers doing,” Padilla said.
There was a lot of variation in disciplines at the fiesta as well. Padilla is a crocheter along with her lacemaking and was formerly an embroiderer. This multifaceted artisanship is dubbed “cross pollination” by the crafters, according to Padilla.
One vendor from El Paso, Tamara Michalina, is also a cross pollinator. She makes glass beads, ceramics and jewelry as well as macrames and crochets, although she said glass work is her favorite.
“I have a kiln, I have a torch and I just play all day; it’s fun. And I love fibers, too — that’s why I’m here. I get bored really easily, so I like to try different techniques,” Michalina said.
Quilting was a heavily represented discipline in the guilds present at the 2022 Fiber Arts Fiesta, but there’s an incredible amount of styles and techniques within the broad category of quilting. Quilting guilds include the ABQ Modern Quilt Guild, where quilters use bold geometric designs, and the Studio Art Quilt Associates, who create unique visual art with fabric.
Presented quilts were divided into categories that included traditional, modern, innovative, art, pictorial and group. Judges also divided each category further into the size of the quilt: small, medium or large. First-time quilters were placed in an unjudged category to give their art a chance to grow.
In order to give extra inspiration to attendees, Whitehead created two colorful challenges for the guild members: research an assigned color and create a “white-on-white” project that incorporates a shade of white, like ivory, and then uses a supplemental color to showcase it. One guild focused their attention on Scheele’s green, a poisonous pigment laced with arsenic that killed many in the 18th and 19th centuries.
Another facet of the fiesta was “doodahs,” gift bags received from a $5 donation to Roadrunner Food Bank. These included a set of flower-patterned coasters, a crocheted strawberry and a stitched purple ice cream cone.
“It’s been a fun show. It’s hard not to go and spend all your profit. There’s so many great things here. I love anything with texture, so all the handknit dyed yarns here, the fibers, cool fabrics,” Michalina said.
Nell Johnson is a freelance reporter for the Daily Lobo. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @peachnells