Fiber artists

Continuing with the wine festival I attended on Monday, I found two DEs (designer-entrepreneurs) of interest. The first woman I can only remember as “Marta”.

She didn’t have business cards or a telephone number; she’s from Guatemala and only came up for the show (I gave her my phone number and can only hope she’ll contact me). It’s amazing how many people don’t have business cards; be sure to not make the same mistake even if all you can provide is a mailing address because I would have loved to throw her more business. Anyway, Marta sells Guatemalan woven and embroidered goods made by herself and her neighbors. This first piece I’m showing (below) is not traditional as far as process goes as it is needle pointed. Note the price of the bag is only $45.

This next piece is a vest, again not a traditional Guatemalan piece being heavily worked in polished cotton thread. The density of the embroidery (on black velvet) made this piece quite heavy. It was $50.

This last piece below was my favorite. The stitching, color and design complexity were absolutely stunning. I think it was $50. In retrospect, I wish I’d bought this piece.

I bought several pieces, not wearables but lengths of traditional homespun. I’m not sure what I’ll do with them but the old homestead can certainly use some color.

The next designer I liked was Patricia McClure. She’s local and sells out of the old tortilla factory in Mesilla NM. Her line is called Wild Child Creations; she doesn’t have a website but you can email her. Here is a picture of Patricia. I liked her. So many DEs can be so paranoid or arrogant but she was very friendly and down to earth. Her line is mixed, half the pieces are sun dyed rayon blanks (Dharma) and some recycled/deconstructed painted denim skirts with sun dyed flounces. I’m not wild on the latter but those seem to be selling well for her. A picture of these skirts and a full story is here.

The processes she uses are a combination of tying, batik, and stenciling in combination with heliographic dyes. I don’t know anything about heliographic dyes but I know there are a few fiber artists in our midst who can educate us on the process in comments. She said she’d originally started in spinning and had been a weaver for about 20 years before she started playing around with these dyes. She enjoys the medium and likens the process to painting. She also says it is simpler and without the toxic load of other dying processes.

You may also be interested to know that she doesn’t have a traditional design background either. She got a BA in Fine Arts from Texas Women’s University and worked as a lighting designer in Dallas.

I designed indoor and outdoor lighting for office and retail spaces. I think that was when I really got into in the contrasts of light and dark. Then I was an 8th grade social studies and U.S. history teacher in El Paso Public Schools.

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  1. Karen C. says:

    I really hope Marta contacts you. I and a few others would buy some of her textile work right now. Just beautiful.

  2. Mia A. says:

    I can’t even imagine how many hours it took to complete those embroidered pieces. She needs to charge more than $50.

  3. Josh says:

    Did it look like Marta was doing a lot of business? Her stuff is beautiful, especially the first vest, I love the color combinations. I could see that fabric as a table runner for fall.

  4. J C Sprowls says:

    It’s a wake-up call to translate the value of $50 USD to Guatemalan living standards. I understand the financial appeal to chose to outsource; but, too many businesses aren’t practicing the same ethical standard and work safety standards they would be held to if they used a US workforce.

    I’ll sit quietly back while that pot stirs :-)

  5. laurra says:

    martas bag is beautiful,looks like art.
    I bought a couple used fiber books last week. Double-Woven treasures from Peru.Kathleen are Guatemala textiles akeen to Peruvian. They seem to have similarities.
    The second used book i bought was American Needlework I have learned the first type of needle work was by the American Indian they used porcupine-quill embroidery.I like there color schemes.They would use shocking pink,greens.
    I found these books while looking for old tailoring books as you sugested we do.

    My patterns are looking better Kathleen after reading your book. I saw major differences after I changed the back neck and side seams.Its like the back sets the front, keeping it aligned.Now if I could learn how to draft sleeves simply.Im never sure what the sleeve cap height should be.I do think its about fit models and translating to the pattern,reading the fit.
    I recently ordered a new foot called the (Curve Master) marketed for quilters. This foot sews with a scant quarter which translates into 7/32 and they sell a 5/8 Curve Master version.I mention this becuase this foot works so well and possibly could help out a another DE that sews with tight curves.
    I have to mention another sewing tip I discovered the other day(sewing clear eleastic around knit necklines)I discovered if you place the elastic next to the feed dogs and the fabric on top it goes on smothly then you can bind or whatever finish you prefer.
    Kathleen, I like your site alot.It kind of feels like im going to college with out the quiz. laurra

  6. Mary Beth says:

    In the early 1970’s I was a student with a research group in Mexico and Belize. A group of us took a side trip into Guatemala via the jungle road from Belize into the Tikal area and then on to the west coast. Along the way we were stopped many times at military checkpoints but managed to get along fine with the soldiers. We made our way into the highlands were the weaving villages were. There, women would sit inside huts with only the light from the smoke hole in the center of the hut and the open door to weave and embroider their beautiful pieces mainly using a backstrap system. Girls as young as 7 would sit by their mothers and work all day. Women will do this work until their eyes can no longer be accurate enough for the product. Generally the men weave the larger pieces, like yardage goods, outside or in factories. This is how many villages and groups have lived for at least the last few centuries. Today many more machines are available to try to reproduce the beauty of the hand work but I don’t think that is quite possible. It looks like Marta’s work is hand done and that she must have had good light, no? And BTW isn’t she herself just beautiful?

  7. Kathleen says:

    What sort of research? It sounds fascinating.

    Generally the men weave the larger pieces, like yardage goods, outside or in factories.

    It’s interesting that you mention this. When I worked in Guatemala (early 80’s, not the best time to be there) my task was to help the artisans be more productive. I couldn’t do anything about the division of weaving labor! The weaving is strictly divided along sexual lines. The women weren’t allowed to use the floor looms which was a problem because the looms often laid unused because the men were often away, working as agricultural laborers on distant plantations. This represented a tragic loss in productivity and income.

    And Marta was beautiful! Her skin was absolutely exquisite. I regret I didn’t get a better photo of her blouse; it was all hand embroidered.

  8. Cynthia says:

    I love Marta’s stuff. There is a store I go to in eastern Massachusetts that gets goods like that. (Sorry, the store, Carmen’s Veranda, has no web presence. I googled to check.) The owner makes trips to Guatamala and contracts with a village to get more modern designs made. (In fact those shown may be the same designs. That embroidered velvet vest is nearly identical to something I saw her shop last year.) The stuff retails for $300 and up. I make pilgrimages to there about once a year to drool. Hmm, haven’t been there yet this year. I hope they’re still there.

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