I'm not sure if every Chimayo weaver feels the same, but to me, weaving has to do with the people; community is a big part of it. Every person weaves from their personal experience, their own heart. However, at the end of the day, we all learned from the generations before us and each other. I know we all have something in common: we all have a shared connection to heritage, history, and identity. However, people my age and younger just didn't learn, and so this feeling might not be the same for them. You can ask the locals, and everyone has their own theory as to why it stopped with us. Kids would "rather be playing video games", we lost many to drugs, it requires too much patience, they move away to big cities and don't come back, it's not as culturally relevant, etc. I personally think it's a mix of all of the above.
If you study weaving and why it was important to New Mexico's economy, you can see the great impact it has had. For example, during the great depression, weavers were not as affected by the economic crisis because the weaving business was booming, so more and more people learned the craft just to survive. Now, there's so many more accessible opportunities that provide the same safety. While there's nothing wrong with this - in fact it's wonderful - it has affected the weaving industry. And this trend didn't just happen in Rio Grande weaving; it's happening to art forms and cultural practices all over the world.
As some of you know, I have dedicated my life to trying to preserve as much of this tradition as much as I can. At this point, to me, preservation has been about making lessons and information accessible to as many people as possible. When Ariat licensed designs from us, they asked us what they could do to support the weaving industry. We replied: train weavers.
So they provided a $50,000 grant to pay for a weaving apprenticeship to train new weavers. I was lucky enough to be chosen as the teacher for the project because I am the regular teacher as well at the facility that was hosting it, The Española Valley Fiber Arts Center. I also wound up being the administrator for the project in the end as well. I worked with Ariat to put the finishing details on the project as well as arrange all the interviews for everyone who applied.
In the end, over 30 people applied, which was more than we had even hoped. It was extremely hard to choose between all the candidates, but in the end we managed to select nine students. The way the apprenticeship was set up, the students would get paid to learn how to weave in order to get a job at the local galleries: Ortega's Weaving Gallery, Trujillo's Weaving Shop, or our gallery, Centinela Traditional Arts. They got paid hourly on top of being paid by-the-piece.
Unexpectedly, teaching the class was one of the most enriching experiences of my life. My whole class wound up bonding, which reinforces my experience that weaving is about community. One of my students made the joking comment "shared weaving PTSD" because each of them struggled with looms and techniques, and due to the close proximity, every one of them heard each other's woes. At the end we had a potluck and we discussed the experience and everyone agreed that they'd all shared a very special experience with each other.
Some of my students work for Centinela now, and even ones that don't work here come and say hi from time to time. It means a lot to me. At this point, bonding with my students comes with the territory because I'm sharing a piece of myself with them, they become a part of me and my journey. I also become a part of theirs. It's a really beautiful thing.