Source: Rio Grande Sun
Date: July 21, 1983
During Santiago Fiesta…
Weavers Plan Open House
By Maria Varela
The historic T.D. Burns Mercantile Store in Los Ojos will be the scene of an open house Sunday for Tierra Wools, a spinning and weaving studio.
Hosting the open house, scheduled for 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the mercantile, will be Ganados del Valle, an agricultural development corporation which has as one of its goals the revitalization of northern New Mexico’s sheep industry.
The open house will be held at the same time as San Jose Parish’s 100th anniversary celebration of the Santiago Fiesta, and the Burns Mercantile, which once was the marketing center for the sheep industry in northern Rio Arriba, was chosen as Tierra Wools’ new home for its historic significance.
“We have a lot of hopes for the weavers and spinners,” said Antonio Manzanares, one of the founders of the corporation and the Chairman of the Board of Ganados del Valle. “They seem to have the talent and commitment to make a go of the business.”
Tierra Wools plans to market primarily by mail order, both wholesale and retail, hand spun yarns in natural nad dyed colors, hand-woven pillows, wall hangings, decorator throws, purses, ruanas (ponchos), stoles and one-of-a-kind tapestry weavings.
Its location in the Burns store will provide the opportunity for the public to see spinners and weavers at work. The store will be the only retil outlet for Tierra Wools products in the state and all items sold out of the Taller (studio) are available at 25 percent discount.
The spinners and weavers who presently make up Tierra Wools are Kika Chavez, Los Ojos; Rosalia Chacon, Llaves; Angie Serrano, Los Ojos; Molly Manzanares, Canones; Avenicia Martinez, La Puente; Laurita Martinez, Los Ojos; and Gregorita Aguilar, Los Ojos.
Members of the cooperatively owned and run Taller, after a period of apprenticeship are free to spin or weave at home or in the studio. Many of this group have been weaving at the community weaving center in the old school of San Jose Parish in Los Ojos.
“We owe a lot to the parish for providing the space and looms for the community,” said Angie Serrano. “Many of us would never have had this opportunity to go into weaving as a career if we hadn’t been exposed to it here in our own community.”
As an expression of their appreciation for the Church’s sponsorship of the community weaving center, Tierra Wools has commissioned member Rosalia Chacon to weave an altar frontal piece for the 100th anniversary celebration of the founding of San Jose Church. The celebration will be a part of the annual Santiago Fiesta on July 23 and 24 in Los Ojos.
The large tapestry has been hand spun, hand dyed and hand woven primarily from fleece grown in the Tierra Amarilla-Chama Valley. The 38” x 67” weaving is bordered on either side with traditional Rio Grande stripes and features the historic church in the center. The group estimates that this one-of-a-kind tapestry would bring between $500 and $600 on the retail market.
Tierra Wools sought and received funds from small foundations in New York, Washington, D.C. and San Francisco to provide start-up assistance for the cooperative and hire professional consultants.
The taller has retained Rachel Brown of Taos to train spinners and weavers as well as to provide design and marketing assistance.
Brown is the author of “The Weaving, Spinning and Dyeing Book” which has gained her an international reputation.
“The talent in this community is enormous,” said Ms. Brown, “and I consider this a unique opportunity to work with an organization taking an integrated, cooperative approach to the art of weaving. They have integrated the sheep growers into the same organization as the weaver and spinner. They work together to strengthen the sheep and weaving industries which traditionally have been a strong part of the area’s culture and livelihood. I think this is why they have attracted national interest from funding sources, government and industry leaders.”
Since May, Tierra Wools has purchased nearly 2000 pounds of wool, of which roughly ¾ has been from Northern New Mexican sheep growers. The weavers estimate that as yarn sales grow, they will need a minimum of 4000 pounds of fleece a year to keep the spinners supplied.
“We will pay a grower from $.95 to $2.50 a pound for clean, long staple wool,” explained Molly Manzanares, a spinner-weaver and member of the organization board. “We can use fleece from cross breeds, western white face and will pay a higher price for colored specialty fleece such as Karakul or Navajosa.”
Gumercido P-Salazar of La Puente, vice-chairman of the board of directors of Ganados del Valley-Tierra Wools, described the economic benefits that the weaving and spinning cooperative brings to the sheep industry:
“Let’s say that Tierra Wools pays a grower $1.00 a pound for their fleece. When you add onto that the wool incentive which right now is at 135 percent, the grower received $1.35 on top of the $1 a pound. Beisdes that, you save the gas money on taking the wool out of state to sell it. This year we only received $.58 a pound for our wool.”
“It is more trouble to sell to the hand-spinners,” commented board secretary and grower Beth Rhodes. “The wool has to be free of burrs and manure. …and you can’t include the short wool from the legs, belly or from second cuts. It means that some of us will have to change a little in the way we manage our flocks and shear. But it will be worth it in the end. Not only will we get more for our wool, but our wool will be bought by an enterprise which is providing more jobs or income for the people here.”
Working with loom builder Cruz Aguilar of Los Ojos, Rachel brown has specially designed several looms based on the traditional treadle loom of the area but with modern improvements to speed up production. At least one of the looms will be on display for the open house on Sunday.
There also will be spinning demonstrations throughout the day as well as an exhibit of antique weavings traditional to the area. The group plans to have a limited quantity of hand spun yarns and weavings available for sale.