María José… what can I say other than I feel so blessed that she has come into my life. I remember the first day we met, not many months ago. I could tell at first glance that she could find a love for and a life in the world of textiles. Shortly after we met, she picked up a pair of knitting needles, and as far as I can tell, she hasn’t put them down since… except when she is at the loom or dye pots.
I was lucky enough to have MJ (as we call her) in two of my Southwestern-style Tapestry Classes. Shortly there after, I asked her to be my first apprentice. Timing may have been perfect, or maybe I just see such potential in her that I couldn’t resist.
After a couple days at the dye studio, prepping yarn and dyeing what we could, I said to MJ , “So that’s the gist of it”, thinking she had learned quite a bit and may not want to come dye more in the freezing cold and potential snow storms. “Do you want to learn more?”, I asked. With an eager look on her face she nodded and said something along the lines of “Of course! I’ll be here manana!” The smile that spread across my face couldn’t express how happy this made me. Her words, as we stood there freezing while the last color struck in the pots, made me realize I had chosen the perfect apprentice.
I would like to introduce you to María José…
María José Urbina Estrada
María José Urbina Estrada
My name is María José Urbina Estrada. I was born and raised in Santiago, Chile. In the past three years, I have been blessed with a nomadic lifestyle which has taken me to many different places on this Earth.
I found Taos two years ago and I just recently came back to make it my home. In this new stage of my Path, I found myself loving and enjoying yarn, needles, and wool. In this way, weaving found me.
María José first weaving, from our class Neptune, A Study in Building. Photo taken at Weaving Southwest @ Town Hall.
Being from a place so far away, where weaving is so alive, it is ironic to me that this passion has found me here. It is further ironic because I find weaving so deeply beautiful, however it never caught my attention before now.
María José second weaving, from our class Habitat, A Study in Verticals. Photo taken at Weaving Southwest @ Town Hall.
I am a translator by profession, and in the process of growing in this area, I have learned five languages. Even though I am just starting to learn how to weave, I feel it as an instrument to speak a new language. More so, a new way of manifestation, a new start, and finally a tool of ancient discovery.
PS What do you think of MJ’s work? Do you think she has as much potential as I do? We would love to hear what you think! Please leave a comment…
The lovely nurse by day, mother of three, Cheryl Demas, manages to produce beautiful rugs and blankets… in her spare time. (This is where I would normally insert a smiley face.) Though her style is not necessarily in the realm of Southwestern-style tapestry weaving, the beauty of her work and her passion for weaving have brought her to exhibit as an artist at Weaving Southwest for many years now.
Cheryl uses our Rug Yarn and Apparel Yarns, along with a verity of other fibers, including chenille, to create beautiful weavings that can be used as rugs (in low traffic areas), blankets or wall hangings. Seeing her work displayed in a space with tall ceilings for our show, Weaving Southwest @ Town Hall, made me realize the full potential of these weavings. The beauty and texture in the fringe alone are enough to turn anyone’s head.
I would like to introduce you to the wonderful Cheryl Demas…
I have been a weaver for thirty years. I discovered “the loom” in Creede, CO, where I spent every summer of my childhood. The moment I saw my first loom, I was fascinated and hooked on the possibilities that a loom and I could produce. As a lover of rugs and blankets, that has always been my passion on the loom. I have been in New Mexico for thirty years, raised three children here, went to the University of New Mexico and received my bachelors of Science in Nursing.
Amethyst by Cheryl Demas. Photo taken at Weaving Southwest @ Town Hall.
I have always been intrigued with Weaving Southwest and was delighted to join the gallery in 2006. It has been a joy and a pleasure to work with Teresa Loveless, the granddaughter of Rachel Brown. Teresa has done a splendid job of taking over the gallery and promoting my work. She’s a talented weaver and entrepreneur and a joy to work with. I hope you find my work interesting, comforting and pleasing.
PS Have you had the pleasure of seeing one of Cheryl’s pieces in person? Does that fringe make you as happy as it does me? We would love to know what you think! Leave a comment to let us know…
Every time Joe walks into our shop, a smile spreads across my face. He is a wealth of fascinating stories. Spending five minutes with him makes me wish I could have walked a day in his shoes during some point of his lifetime. He is an incredible man and approaches weaving from a unique standpoint. Every piece he brings us is hand-dyed or hand-spun and intricately woven. At first glance his designs seem simple, but upon further investigation one will realize the technical lengths he has gone through to create his stunning designs.
I would like to introduce you to one of our incredible artists, Joe Bacon…
Joe Bacon, Photo by Daryl A. Black
I started weaving 10 years ago when I retired from a business career and moved to the northern California coast. I started on a Navajo loom but switched over to a Rio Grande walking loom when I moved to Taos a few years later. My design inspiration has always come from the ancients: the Mayans in Mexico, the Incans in Peru, the Navajo in the American southwest, and the Hispanic Weavers of northern New Mexico. The design elements these gifted artisans created are more than decorative, they have political, cultural and religious meaning and reflect the rich traditions of these noble people. I use wools from the Churro sheep which were introduced to northern New Mexico by the early Spanish settlers. Most of my colors come from using natural dyes obtained mostly from plants native to this area.
Tapestry by Joe Bacon. Photo taken at Weaving Southwest @ Town Hall.
PS What inspires your weavings? Do you love natural dyes and hand-spun yarn? Have you had the honer of meeting the wonderful Joe Bacon? We would love to hear your story! Leave a comment…
We have been in our new space here in Arroyo Seco for a year now! Over the last few months we have been honored to bring several of our local artists back into our shop. We now have five of our tapestry and rug artists and three of our apparel artists work displayed here. We are working on uploading everyone to the website, for you all to see!
This starts a series of blog posts featuring each of our artists. Today we would like to welcome back Donna Loraine Contractor! Below is her artist statement, the description of her process, a little about why she weaves and her current work and a little about her relationship with Weaving Southwest. Of course, we’ve included several photos of the tapestries we have of hers in the shop! Photos are great, but seeing these pieces in person is incredible. She uses our hand-dyed tapestry yarn to create beautiful pieces of art. Enjoy!
Donna Loraine Contractor, Artist
Donna Loraine Contractor was born in Waukegan, IL and came to New Mexico to attend St. John’s College in Santa Fe. Since she moved to Albuquerque 23 years ago, she has won over 30 art competitions and commissions throughout the state and country. Contractor’s work incorporates the landscapes and colors of New Mexico with bold contemporary architectural frames that create depth and optical illusions. The late Douglas Kent Hall, in The Thread of New Mexico, said, “Contractor combines unlikely dynamic forms with a scintillating palette to achieve an evocative and compelling style of weaving. She utilized traditional….concepts as well as certain graphic constructs that fueled the work of many twentieth-century painters and brings to contemporary tapestry a freshness that is sometimes startling.”
Contractor was named a Local Treasure for her contribution to the Duke City’s visual art scene by the Albuquerque Art Business Association in 2008. In 2002 she created the Bravos Award for the Arts Alliance – a series of small weavings. She operates an apprenticeship program at her Nob Hill studio. She has won numerous art competitions and commissions such as a triptych for the City/County Building in Albuquerque and a large tapestry for the Bernalillo County Courthouse. Other accolades include the display of her tapestries at the Albuquerque Museum, MFA at Santa Fe and an appearance on a HGTV special. Donna’s work is shown and collected throughout the United States and abroad. Her Tapestries were awarded “BEST OF SHOW” 2 years in a row at the Weems Artfest in Albuquerque. Two of her Tapestries in the Fractured Square series were installed in public spaces through the New Mexico State Public Art Program. One is located in the Zimmerman Library on the UNM, Albuquerque Campus and the other in the emergency room of St. Vincent’s Hospital in Santa Fe, NM. Most recently, two of Donna’s tapestries were featured in national magazines: Scientific American and American Craft Magazine.
Neon Orange Curves and Rectangles, Original handwoven tapestry by Donna Loraine Contractor, 79″ x 40″
Color is a source of constant joy for me and I delight in the full range of its use from the bold and surprising color combinations to the subtle gradations of a single color. The image of a window set within a frame, a view to another place, another reality, is a unifying theme in my work. The colors and the unique quality of light in the southwest make up a rich and diverse palette that I naturally make use of and the diverse forms of its land and skyscapes find their way into the window “views”.
I use wool as my medium because of its particular light reflecting characteristics that are so unique and beautiful. No pigment on paper could reproduce the texture and luminosity of the hand dyed and tightly spun wool that I use in my tapestries. I am very concerned about creating a fine textile which is the vehicle for my image; each should be of the highest caliber. I use a flat tapestry technique, with no slits or holes ensuring the integrity of the tapestry as a piece of cloth. The tapestries are hand woven with 100% wool and have been moth-proofed. The wool has been hand-dyed, giving the colors richness as well as some slight variations and is light fast. I use a strong cotton warp, the underlying structure of the weaving, which is finished at the ends with a hand-manipulated edging technique, then finely braided and looped to fit around acrylic poles, which are provided for installation. All the tapestries are fully finished on both sides, as I laboriously sew in the tails of yarn from color changes, enabling the work to be free hung or used as a room divider.
Black Neon Square, Original handwoven tapestry by Donna Loraine Contractor, 38.25″ x 39.5″
Why Do I Weave?
The answer to this has many layers. The first is probably my love of machines. I fell in love with the pottery wheel and the loom at the same time, at the end of my college years. I walked into a “loom room”, never having been at close proximity before, and fell in love with the way it looked, the things it could do, and all of its parts.
Next layer would be a love of the materials, from the strong smooth cotton warp to the luster of hand-dyed wools and the sparkle of silks. In the future I hope to be using some unusual materials which I am falling in love with like stainless steels, paper and UV changing fibers.
One of the final layers would be my love of the metaphor. This is present in the very act of “weaving” and is woven into my choice of imagery such as the use of the “window” and in my current theme of mathematics which is the underlying balancing force of the natural world.
Blues and Golds, Original handwoven tapestry by Donna Loraine Contractor, 30″ x 20″
About Donna’s Work
I usually work on several pieces concurrently. The various themes and motifs of the pieces cross-pollinate each other, the patterns and pleasing ratios found all around us: the golden mean, the spiral of a seed head or the placement of branches on a tree. The three specific bodies of work that I am working on concurrently are:
The Architectonic Series is challenging me to create three-dimensional imagery from a two dimensional plane. Hand-dyed and tightly spun wool, with its particular, beautiful, light-reflecting characteristics produce a texture and luminosity that no pigment on paper could.
The Universal Language Series draws from my background in liberal arts at St. John’s College, and my studies of Chinese mathematical images. Circles, curves, and fractal patterns explore the concept of nets or webs, all in order to showcase the principles that order our world.
The Feng ShuiSeries is a meditation on color, balanced energy, and finessed design, combining symbols found in the I Ching with geometric forms and vivid hues. All the pieces in this series celebrate the precision and elegance of geometric forms and formulas and the beauty of color and balance.
Black, Red and White Skinnies, Original handwoven tapestry by Donna Loraine Contractor, Skinny Runner One (Left) 50″ x 9″, Skinny Runner Two (Middle) 42″ x 9″, Skinny Runner Three (Right) 50″ x 9″
Donna and Weaving Southwest
I have been showing my tapestries and buying my yarns at Weaving Southwest since 1989. Rachel Brown was a great mentor and inspiration for me through the years. And I now feel privileged to be working with her lovely granddaughter, Teresa, whom I first met when she was 11 and working in her Grandma’s shop. I love supporting a local company when I am buying the essentials I need to create my tapestries and their large selection of hues, each in 5 shades, satisfy my love of color. The fact that they are hand-dyed in small dyelots adds to my color palette enormously and gives the yarn variations and luster that is lacking in commercially dyed yarns.
Over the years, Weaving Southwest has built a wonderful relationship with both artists and collectors and has established itself as the place to go for contemporary fine art tapestries of the highest caliber and I am proud to tell people that they can see my work there.
We hope you enjoyed this post and we would love to hear from you! What do you think of Donna’s work? Have you seen her work in person? Leave a message in the comment section to let us know what you think!
PO Box 2336, Taos, NM 87571 (mailing) 487 State Road 150, Arroyo Seco, NM 87514 (physical)