Embroidery report from Santa Fe, NM


A wall of needle work at Tecolate Cafe on St. Michael's Drive in Santa Fe, New Mexico

 At the Santa Fe Art Institute’s Emigration/Immigration themed residency, embroidery is infiltrating artists’ practices.

A couple of days ago, Osvaldo Ramirez Castillo organized an after dinner Mapping/Tracing Migration Workshop. In it he provided us with small stretched canvasses, thread, needles, scissors and the instructions, “describe your experiences or ideas of migration critically onto 10' x 10' piece of stretched raw canvas using needle and thread.” Our embroidered, altered, and deconstructed canvasses are now floating around the residents’ living and studio spaces here are SFAI.

As expected, the workshop generated interesting discussions –not just about immigration but also embroidery. For the benefit of Slofemists far and near, here are a few of the projects discussed:

Last summer at Neuberger Museum of Art, artist Teresa Margolles assembled a series of collectively produced textiles from various sites (South, North and Latin Americas), which revealed and produced links (knots) between the embroiderers’ experiences of violence and the textiles themselves. We discussed the way she engaged families and communities grieving the deaths of loved ones from violence in the embroidery of the morgue shrouds that carried bloodied imprints of victims’ bodies. Teresa Margolles: We Have a Common Thread. Thank You to fellow SFAI artist-in-residence, Erika Harrsch, for highlighting for us Margolles's work.

Also linking embroidery to violence, there is a tradition in Japan of embroidering pieces of fabric to protect warriors heading to war. Traced to the Sino-Japanese War (1894-1895) but becoming ubiquitous in the second world war, the practice of making Sennin-bari involves women preparing white bands of fabric with 1000 red embroidered French knots as symbolic protection garments to be worn by men heading to war (usually worn around their waists). Each of the knots needed to be collected from different women embroiderers, although women born in the year of the dragon were able to add multiple knots (up to 35) to each cloth. Women would gather in public spaces like train stations to collect from each other the requisite knots. The practice was known to hold a radical element, since it provided women a means of offering a contradictory message of hope for survival, when the official rhetoric of the Imperial Japanese government insisted that these men carry the more honourable duty of dying for their country. This article describes the practice, with photos - Needleprint.blogspot.com. Thank You to fellow SFAI artist-in-residence, Yoko Inoue, for telling me about this small piece of Japanese textile culture.

The elaborate portraits “painted” with embroidery by Cacye Zavaglia are inspiring. In this video, Zavaglia describes her process: https://vimeo.com/51107397

A “radical” feminist embroiderer from Halifax, Anna Taylor, was listed as “best local artist” in a recent Guardian article - An insider's guide to Halifax: 'The perks of a city, as relaxed as a small town'. Thank You to fellow SFAI artist-in-residence, Emma FitzGerald, for telling me about Taylor's work.

Lois Klassen

My "migration embroidery" quotes the 1927 migration story of my grandfather.


Osvaldo Ramirez Castillo leads a migration embroidery workshop at SFAI