Tourism in New Mexico has been steadily increasing in recent years, and while the boom of the outdoor industry has been responsible for some of it, art and culture have always been a huge draw for The Land of Enchantment. Thanks to vibrant nonprofits, guilds, and cooperatives, fiber art is offering fiber artists increased exposure throughout the state.
The recent revival of fiber art has given local artists in New Mexico much-needed opportunities to supplement their income by bringing the market to them. The New Mexico Fiber Crawl is one of several efforts to preserve a much-cherished art form and helps fiber artists make a living so they can continue to do their craft, particularly in their remote studios.
What is the New Mexico Fiber Crawl?
The first Fiber Crawl, held on a May weekend in 2017, was so successful that a second one is in the works for May of 2018 (and hopefully many years after!). During the crawl, fiber artists, culture centers, farms, and museums open their doors to fiber enthusiasts for a behind-the-scenes tour of the fiber art world. Visitors gain a better understanding of the materials used, the process that goes into making the final product, the diverse culture and contexts behind each piece, and the people who make them. There are often demonstrations at each site and artisan-made products available for sale.
The event is organized by the Española Valley Fiber Arts Center (EVFAC), a member-driven organization in Española and one of the best resources for fiber artists and enthusiasts in the state.
The official mission statement of the Fiber Crawl is to create an economic impact for local artists by introducing more people to their work, to enable visitors to explore the workspaces where this fiber art is made and the communities in which the artists live, and to raise awareness of the size and diversity of the fiber arts community in New Mexico.
The Fiber Crawl honors both New Mexico’s rich cultural heritage as well as its innovative, contemporary culture. During this three-day event, one gets an up-close and personal look at the delicate, strenuous, and complicated process of making such art. Besides talking to the artists and learning how they make it and what their motives are, one also gets to touch the art itself, which is rare in the art world. Appreciating art usually means adoring it from afar, but when it comes to fiber art, touching the work is an essential part of the experience and the artists themselves encourage you to do so.
Where is the Fiber Crawl and What Can I Expect?
The crawl encompasses a massive 135-mile total radius and is divided into several geographic regions: Albuquerque, Santa Fe, Los Alamos, Española, and Taos. The Fiber Crawl is ever expanding and each year several lesser-known towns are included, which helps support a community of talented artists who might not have had the opportunity to sell, or even display, their work otherwise.
The event was designed for anyone interested in spinning, weaving, felting, crocheting, knitting and also for the ones curious about New Mexico’s extensive textile history. In 2017, 42 independent farms, fiber centers, studios, museums and galleries opened their doors to the event, and many more are expected to be added in subsequent years.
This three-day event starts with a soft opening on Friday, enabling schools to organize field trips and visit a few sites. Kick-off celebration gatherings for everyone will be held at several key locations on Friday evening, letting artists and visitors stir up communal excitement for the Fiber Crawl. EVFAC is a great place to start, not only because they organize the event, but because the center will offer workshops and demonstrations throughout the weekend for different forms of fiber art as well as maps and information for where and how to experience the crawl. Workshops and demonstrations might include everything from knitting, weaving, and spinning to tie-dying, and photography to help artists better market their work online after the weekend is over.
Besides touching the actual works of art and meeting the artist behind them, you can also meet the animals used to create the yarn for such beautiful pieces. A number of farms such as Rancho de Los Sueños Alpacas, Aspen Ridge Alpacas, and Que Sera Alpacas, offer free ranch tours, where you can learn about alpacas, how they’re cared for, and how to handle their fleece pickers and electric carders. You can also watch demonstrations on how to properly skirt the alpaca blankets and learn about the process of spinning it all into art. There are also products made from alpaca (felted soaps, knitted and woven scarves and shawls, etc) available for sale.
Over the weekend, you can focus on just one thread, or visit all four regions, traveling from Albuquerque all the way to Tierra Amarilla. The event is free and with a free New Mexico Fiber Crawl passport, you can participate in a number of raffles. Prizes of the grand raffle include a repeat visit to New Mexico stay at an exquisite hotel, dinner at a restaurant offering New Mexican flavors, and a tour of unique New Mexican sites.
Beyond sales and education, this event is meant to weave together a community of artists and enthusiasts with a common interest in New Mexico’s most precious art form. Whether you’re a tourist or an artist yourself, New Mexico’s Fiber Crawl is a fascinating way to experience this long tradition, appreciate the historical context, and meet the talented people putting fiber arts back on the map. Find out more information on the New Mexico Fiber Crawl in 2018 at EVFAC.Org.
Written by Melanie Hamlett for RootsRated in partnership with New Mexico.