Common Threads – Fiber Arts in New Mexico

Quilt by Norma Koelm

Quilt by Norma Koelm

Anita McSorley has been making her own clothes since she was 10 years old. “My mother taught me how to crochet and how to embroider and how to sew,” she says. “I’d go shopping with [her], and I’d fall in love with something, and she’d say, ‘Well, you can make that.’ It was a cost-effective thing when I was growing up.” Today, that financial dynamic has changed, and handcrafting practical items has gone from necessity to a form of self-expression. “It’s definitely the reverse of what it used to be,” Anita says. “Anyone going out to make a garment now, you’re going to spend three to four times what you’d spend back then.”

Still, there’s one thing that hasn’t changed over the years: Anita’s love of the fiber arts and all the ways they can be used as vehicles for creativity. Anita’s talent has expanded to encompass many facets. “I’m interested in quilts—mostly art quilts—and I do polymer clay,” she says. “I do mixed-media, I paint fabric, and I dye fabric. I make mono-prints on fabric and paper.” She’s also a member of the Albuquerque Fiber Arts Council and the director of its 11th biennial Fiber Arts Fiesta.

The AFAC got its start in 1997, when seven local guilds began organizing to display their work to the wider community; it now comprises 20 guilds. According to Anita, the number of entries for this year’s event has surpassed those in the past, and a total of 670 works will be on display. The call for entries goes out nationwide, “as wide as we can get it.” The farthest away participant? “This year, it’s Brazil. There’s a young lady who does lace work,” Anita says. “One year, we had 12 entries from Taiwan: 10 quilts and two mixed-media [pieces].” Considering the size and scope of the event, it’s not surprising that it requires a fair amount of lead-time. “It takes about a year and a half to get the fiesta put together,” Anita says. “It’s kind of like herding cats.” Continue reading

Give the Holiday a Chance

I’ve never much been one to celebrate Valentine’s Day. While roses are beautiful and chocolate is delicious, something about the holiday has always felt a little too contrived—too Hallmark, shall we say. True lovers, I reasoned, don’t need an arbitrary day or bottles of wine tied in red and pink bows to show their special ones they love them.

Maybe I’m softening as I grow older, or perhaps it’s because I have a Valentine of my own this year, but I’m giving the holiday a chance. After all, a sweet little surprise can be the best treat, and since February 14 rolls around each year, why not play along? As a novice at romantic shopping, I asked a few veterans to suggest the perfect gift for this formerly dreaded day of love. Continue reading

Trash Fashion

This weekend, the annual Recycle Santa Fe Art Festival returns to town for its 15th year. “The country’s largest and oldest recycled art market” kicks off with tonight’s trash fashion show, followed by two days of of more than 200 artists—whose works consist of a minimum of 75-percent recycled materials—from around the country. The trash fashion show, says Thalia Gibbs-Jackson, a a third-year participant in the festival, “is where everyone—a regular person, to a high school student to an old grandma and grandpa—gets to be a fashion model for a day.” Gibbs-Jackson, who designs, among other products, unique tote bags made of recycled materials, says the artistry is breathtaking. “I was blown away, totally blow away. The quality of work in the show is very very high.” In their own words, two young women participating in this year’s Recycle Santa Fe Art Festival at the Community Convention Center tell their stories:

Jasmine Russell

I have been an artist from a young age. I am 18 now and am currently a high school senior at the Public Academy For Performing Arts in Albuquerque. I love working with impractical materials, it makes things much more interesting. If you want to be a successful artist, it’s important that your work be unique and interesting. I make accessories and portraits out of duct tape and I make collages, accessories, jewelry, wall art and clothing out of found/recycled materials. My first year competing in the Trash Fashion Show was in 2010. I refer to this as my practice year. I was still learning the basics of clothing design and I didn’t know much about the show itself. My dress that year was a combination of my two favorite mediums; duct tape and newspaper. I didn’t place that year, but I had a marvelous time and I learned a lot. In 2011, I used fabric from an old mattress and a patio umbrella to make my gown. I took first place in the teen category that year.

Last year, 2012, I made a ’20s inspired dress out of cigar bands, pieces of soda cans, and a patio umbrella. I placed second in the teen category. I participate in a wide variety of arts based events throughout the year. I sing, I compete, I make clothes, I sell my art in big events. Recycle Santa Fe is by far my favorite event. I look forward to it all year. From being part of this event, I’ve met some amazing people and I’ve been presented opportunities I never thought I’d have. Not to mention, it’s a blast! I’ve met some great people these past few years, and even though it is a competition, the atmosphere is inviting and relaxed.

Chiara Brandy

I am 16 years old and I’ve been doing the fashion show for about 6 years now. In the past I’ve used many materials for my dresses including, target bags, candy wrappers, plastic inner tubes/ pool toys, maps, and last year’s newspaper bags and Chinese fortunes. I got into the fashion show by word of mouth and because of my love of fashion design that had started at an early age. My grandmother, Gioia Tama, an amazing seamstress, had been in the very first Trash Fashion Show and was thrilled when I wanted to get into it as well!

When I participated my first year it was fairly last minute and my sewing skills were more taping skills if anything! However, the next year I was back, with a dress I had designed and sewed each candy wrapper myself. Of course, in the first two years I walked in the show, all of us younger girls back stage whispered to each other and admired the outfits in the older categories which had the opportunity to win a prize for their creation. So the next year I asked my grandmother to help teach me how to cut out a pattern for the target bag dress that ended up taking 2nd place in the show. Every year since then, the show has been something I look forward to as a chance to show my creativity and style in a really fun and unique way. Working with unconventional materials has not only given me a challenge as a young seamstress but also broadened my clothing constructing skills greatly because of this.

Last year, my grandmother, who I was extremely close to, passed away. So, for me, the show is more of a tradition; a memory of my grandmother and my creations and hard work together that i will always hold in my heart. I knew that making my dress would be a completely different experience this time, which was difficult. Remembering everything she had taught me about sewing, from pattern construction to needle choice i made a dress i knew she would be proud of. And I added the fortunes that her and i had been saving for years to finish it off. Walking on stage last year in that dress made me feel alive. All of us who do the show are creators and artists. When we see the outfit that we put our hearts and spirit into go out onto that runway, its a really special feeling.

Over time, I have meandered away from the career choice of fashion design, however I know that I will always hold a special interest for it, especially when designing once a year for the Trash Fashion Show. I look forward to this year’s show as it just gets better each year!

For more information on the Trash Fashion Show and Recycle Santa Fe Art Festival, visit For more information about Thalia Gibbs-Jackson’s work, email Photos by Lavelle Jacobs, courtesy Recycle Santa Fe Art Festival.

Bodhi Bazaar

nm fashion and clothing bodhi bazaarBodhi Bazaar

Many Santa Feans confess that they were drawn here for reasons they can’t explain. Rosalie Rosenberg is not one of those people. Asked why she chose Santa Fe as her home and that of her women’s fashion boutique, Bodhi Bazaar, she has a quick answer — in Santa Fe, she finally could unite her business and her spirituality. Rosenberg had manufactured a line of clothing in Bali and trained as a buyer in Los Angeles. She was always a spiritual seeker but kept her two worlds separated. “Santa Fe had like-minded people who knew about spirituality,” she says with a little smile. “I think we who live here . . . do not find ourselves strange among ourselves.”

A Santa Fe clothing store named Bodhi Bazaar hired Rosenberg as a buyer. “When I found out its name meant ‘spirituality in the marketplace,’ it was such a kismet,” she says. A year later, she owned half of the business; later she used her portion of profits to establish full ownership. “It’s incredible to have a match between what you do and love doing, in a place where you love doing it,” she says. “The Santa Fe woman loves clothing and values being current on her fashion, and loves the experience. The women you find here are not ego-driven, status-oriented or competitive — and that’s why I could not be doing this anywhere but here.” Continue reading

Dress him up!

nm fashion men's giftsDress Him Up
Great Gifts for Guys

One man, three looks, one season. Santa Fe boutique owners give Santa their tips on the perfect fashion gifts for men. As Santa Fe style always rocks around the Christmas tree, you’re sure to find an outfit here that’ll absolutely sleigh you.

Continue reading

Lily of the West

nm fashion lily of the westLily of the West

To walk into Lily Falk’s Palace Avenue dress shop, Lily of the West, is to enter into a world of silk: long, satiny silk charmeuse gowns with delicate, floral designs; brightly colored dresses with layers of sheer chiffon; suits of thick velvet crepe with stunning leaf-life patterns.

As the designer sits in her miniature-sized shop, wearing a bias-cut dress of her own design (in which she and her petite figure look totally stunning, by the way, though she insists the cut is flattering for all shapes), Lily talks about why it is that she works primarily in silks. And it’s clear that her reason explains not just her choice of fabrics but what draws her to fashion in the first place: It’s all about the way the clothes move.

Continue reading