Taos: A Little Piece of Fiber Heaven

If I could grant one gift to every member of our fiber art community, I would have everyone experience the magic of Taos, New Mexico during the wool festival. It is held annually at Kit Carson Park during the first full weekend of October, and this year, I had the opportunity to attend and chat with several of the artisans.

 

Ruth Baldwin  
Ruth Baldwin helps bring
the festival to life 
 
Fred Black  
Fred Black in front of one
of his rugs
 

I spoke with Ruth Baldwin, chairman of Mountain and Valley Wool Association (MAVWA*), regarding the history of the event. She described how the festival began as an endeavor for economic development, with only five vendors at the first celebration. MAVWA values and encourages the entire path of textile production from the raising of animals, fiber processing, spinning yarn, and making the end products. Ruth says they hope to encourage future generations of fiber artists. There are classes and demonstrations that complement the festival and opportunities for people to discover unique items from sheep, alpacas, yaks, and other fiber animals.


Meeting Fred Black from Tres Piedras, New Mexico was definitely a highlight for me. He is not only a very skillful rug weaver, but he is also a trained architect and former commercial airline pilot. He weaves on a Rio Grande Walking Loom with hand-dyed Navajo Churro wool. He uses a four-ply yarn in his warp and “gordo” for his weft. Fred’s rugs are both contemporary and classic, and they scream “take me home.” It made me want to reread my copy of Navajo Weaving Way. Fred has been attending the festival for eight years, and he is a fine example of the many people I met who are dedicated to their art.


If I had to describe Sherry Redden from Gunnison, Colorado in a single word, it would be joy. I found her blissfully sitting with a French Angora bunny on her lap preparing to spin the fluff. In addition to spinning, she also knits, crochets, weaves, and works with the 4-H Get Your Goat Club in Gunnison. Sherry told me that she loves the Wool Festival at Taos best of all.


Kathy Bright, a Handwoven contributor from Salida, Colorado, has been attending the festival for about seven years offering yarns, finished items, and other treasures. Although the weather this year was perfect,  Kathy remarked that in the past when it has rained, the weather seemed to have no effect on the attendees. People just donned their boots and carried on unfazed. Kathy, a very accomplished weaver, describes the event as "fantastic," noting that it takes a few weeks to come down from the cloud of Taos.


  Elsie
  Weavers of all shapes and
sizes can be found in Taos
 

Walking around the town of Taos, you have a wide range of galleries, shops, and exhibits that include fiber, paintings, furniture, sculpture, jewelry, and even some gourmet chocolate. In conjunction with the wool festival, the Taos Craftistas yarn bombed parking meters, benches, and other structures throughout the town. The yarn bombers hope to create blankets with all of the pieces and donate them to charity.


There were many other noteworthy artisans, and I could probably write a post every day for several weeks in order to do them all justice. However, I don’t want to forget little Elsie Clayton. I found her sitting at the loom of Dine’ be’ iina’, Inc.  I adored watching this very young weaver dressed in her sweet fairy wings working the wool through the warp with her tiny fingers. At that moment, I recalled Ruth’s wish of growing future fiber artists and I thought, "Well done."

 

Pattie Graver


*Mountain and Valley Wool Association (MAVWA) is an organization that promotes animal fiber and products from New Mexico, Colorado, and Texas. They just successfully produced the 29th Annual Wool Festival at Taos.

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