Published on May 29, 2012
One organization in New Mexico has an innovative way to help people get back on their feet: they teach them to weave.
The art of weaving is one passed from generation to generation in many cultures and the Española Valley Fiber Arts Center (EVFAC) is now teaching it not only to bring together their community and keep the art alive, but also to help those who need a new skill.
While EVFAC is predominantly a shop selling any supplies need to begin weaving or knitting, it also offers "a very wide range of classes that we offer to people who would, either for a hobby or business reasons, like to take up fiber arts," explains Bethe Orrell, the center's executive director.
The lessons range from beginner to more advanced levels in weaving, spinning, knitting and all other skills needed to understand a variety of fiber arts, from beginners to far more advanced students.
The skills the center is teaching are not simply a way of preserving the past. They also ensure that the students themselves gain opportunities they would otherwise be without. EVFAC is starting a program to help people who wish to learn weaving as more than a hobby.
For those who have lost their job or who need means to earn more than they are paid, weaving offers a marketable skill. It provides them with a new talent that can help greatly in finding new or different employment.
Orrell explains that "the people that come into an incubator process to weave are people that, for whatever reason, the traditional job market is not available to." They are able to take lessons that will quickly help them to create a product, such as a rag rug or another woven rug, that they are then able to sell.
For one student, Andrea Ortiz, who has learning difficulties, the center has helped her in more ways than one. She says that "my favorite part of weaving is just making a lot of rag rugs and enjoying myself."
EVFAC has not only taught her to weave but the process has strengthened her fine motor skills and improved her social skills. Her time at the center is as much a time to spend with the friends she has made as it is a lesson in weaving.
Her mother, MaryVivian Maestas, says that she is "in awe of the things that she can do and what it's done for her personally and emotionally and socially." She has truly enjoyed seeing her daughter blossom through the care and support of the EVFAC members.
The center also holds events to exhibit the work completed by its students. This gives people who would not otherwise have the chance to show their work a space to do just that, and it also provides an opportunity for them to sell their work.
Andrea has already sold some of her own pieces which has not only brought her the self-confidence to continue with her lessons but also given her a source of income previously unavailable to her.
"Weaving is something that is a skill, it's an art, it's marketable to a group of people that are able to able and willing to pay their price for that skill and art," explains Orrell. In seeing the work that goes into weaving, both students and buyers are better able to appreciate the value of the product.
Orrell and the other staff members at EVFAC are clearly overjoyed to be able to share their knowledge of an ancient craft with their students.
As Orrell explains, it is extremely satisfying to encourage "the people who find it hard to do anything else and find weaving to be something that they can be successful at." More encouraging though is the understanding that the skills they are teaching people will help them on their way to financial sustainability.