Colors of Enchantment

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They took their inspiration from everything from underwater seamounts to Independence Day.

As you enter the Los Lunas Museum of Heritage and Arts, the now carpet covered wooden floor creaks comfortably under your feet and your eyes are drawn to the bounty of color and texture festooning the walls.

Julia M. Dendinger-News-Bulletin photo: This is just one of the fanciful needle felted dragon with beads handcrafted by Los Lunas resident Janice Van Havermaat on display at the Los Lunas Museum of Heritage and Arts as part of the Fiber to Finish Guild of Valencia County’s ‘Colors of Enchantment’ show.

Patriotic red-white-and-blues hang next to subtle purples and greens. Dragons peek out of nichos and the entire gallery space is suffused with a feeling of warmth, comfort and quiet.

The fiber artists of the Fiber to Finish Guild of Valencia County have taken their skills with needle and fiber and created a wide array of items for their most recent show, “Colors of Enchantment.”

Guild President Myra Chang Thompson said one of the guild members suggested a color challenge in which members selected a picture, illustration or advertisement that inspired them to create a piece for the exhibit.

“What you see in the exhibit is a framed picture and the completed work inspired by that piece. No two of the illustrations are the same and neither are the completed works,” Thompson said. “Some members weave, or spin or knit or crochet, felt or bead. Each work is a unique and creative piece that took its inspiration from the accompanying picture.”

Many of the inspiration pictures were New Mexico in origin, Thompson said, thus in turn inspiring the name of the show — tying the “Colors of Enchantment” to the Land of Enchantment.

Thompson said since part of the museum’s focus is on local heritage, many of the fibers used were produced, spun or dyed locally, or at least come from within the state.

Courtesy of Myra Chang Thompson: JoAnn Powers, a Fiber to Finish guild member, uses the great wheel to spin cotton at a recent demonstration of fiber artistry at the Los Lunas Museum of Heritage and Arts. The guild’s show, ‘Colors of Enchantment,’ will run through April 28.

“This is such a great space to be in, and we really appreciate the museum letting us be a part of their mission,” Thompson said.

To emphasise the historic aspect of fiber arts, the guild has incorporated items into the display such as a great spinning wheel and loom.

“We have tours of school kids come through here and that is what grabs their attention,” said Andrea Chavez, museum specialist. “We ask them to guess what it is and the answers are always interesting.”

One youngster guessed the wheel had something to do with water, Chavez said.

To bring even more history into the show, the guild has also filled a display cabinet full of wool- and fiber-working hand implements — a spiky, prickly wool hand card with combed fibers still caught in its teeth sits next to a skein winder with multi-colored yarn in pinks, purples and blues wound around it.

There is also a drop spindle with cotton thread, chunks of raw, unworked wool and a book on the art and technique of handspinning.

Thompson was also able to work in more history by weaving a replica of a Spanish colonial textile, a jerga.

A jerga is a hand woven utilitarian textile that was made and used in Spanish Colonial New Mexico dating from the 1600s, the Los Chavez resident said.

Typically, the jergas were woven with single ply churro wool and used as tarps, rugs, blankets, tents and even clothing and loads of goods traveling the Camino Real from Mexico to Santa Fe were wrapped and bundled in jergas on the backs of burros.

These simple textiles carried the goods and products needed by the settlers of residents of both Rio Abajo and Rio Arriba.

The replica made by Thompson was hand dyed with chamisa, to give it its yellow color and made from handspun yarn from Reserve that was made from the New Mexico churro sheep.

Other pieces use deep-rooted New Mexico traditions and techniques as well. An Independence Day inspired area rug made by Dorie Sanders of Los Chavez uses the red, white and blue salvages from Pendelton wool blankets from the Pendelton Wool Mills. The rug was woven on a Union 36 loom Sanders.

And Donald Pippenger, of Belen, created a beautiful umber scarf, hand woven with New Mexico churro wool and natural dyes. Pippenger then embellished one end of the scarf with traditional colcha stitching of multi-colored fall leaves.

Thompson said the members of the guild have varying ranges of experience and come from all different backgrounds.

For instance, Terri Greenlee is a software engineer from Bosque Farms, but in her spare time, she creates soft, plush handwoven cotton bath towels, hand towels and knitted washcloths.

For this show, Greenlee set up a little scene in a corner of the gallery complete with a pot of hot green tea and handmade soap made by guild member Deanna Baca to show off her bathing accessories.

For some artists, the fiber is just part of the creation, Thompson says, pointing to Bobby and Diana Dow’s beautiful matched set of a copper necklace and earrings.

The ribbon is hand dyed for the necklace and the Dows also contributed a double-ply skein of locally raised Rambouillet yarn, hand dyed the dusky blue of old denim and vibrant orange of New Mexico sunsets and canyon walls.

Other artists in the show include Los Lunas resident and new member to the guild Chip Kimball, who has given tapestry weaving demonstrations, and Toni Tooker, who created a handwoven, double weave wall hanging of blues and greens that was inspired by a photo illustration of a seamount hundreds of feet below the ocean’s surface.

Linda Walters, of Tomé, has four pieces in the show, including a nuno felted scarf from wool and silk and an embellished and lined handbag, while Annmarie Pearson created a colorful handwoven fancy twill linen table runner inspired by Pachuco the parrot.

Barbara Bogle has a handwoven and needle felted piece, inspired by the ubiquitous cottonwood trees, and Mary Curik is showing a soft and lacy handwoven scarf with ribbons.

Fiber to Finish Guild of Valencia County has been in existence for more than 20 years, Thompson said, and is made up of a variety of fiber artists, each having a slightly different specialty. Although the specialties are different, the commonality is fiber and the manipulation of fiber, she said.

Thompson said Fiber to Finish is a guild to promote and demonstrate the use of fiber for hand spinning, weaving and other fiber and textile arts. Any person with an interest in working with fibers or yarn is invited to become a member.

The annual membership dues are $12. Members get the opportunity to learn new skills or techniques, keep informed of current trends in fiber arts, participate in guild exhibits and sales, receive free advertising in the monthly on-line newsletter, to experiment with different types of equipment and materials, a copy of an up-dated yearly membership list and fellowship with other fiber artists, Thompson said.

The guild’s show, “Colors of Enchantment,” will run through April 28. The next demonstration during the show will be held from 1 to 4 p.m. on Saturday, March 16, at the museum. That will also be the guild’s monthly meeting.

Unless otherwise announced, guild meetings are held is in the annex of the First Baptist Church at the corner of Becker and Fourth streets in Belen. Meetings are from 1 to 4 p.m. on the third Saturday of each month.

Anyone interested in joining the guild can attend the meeting. For information, contact Myra at 864-0876, or visit www.fibertofinish.org.


-- Email the author at jdendinger@news-bulletin.com.