Marriage is supposed to be a big transition in life. Mine definitely was. I went from being a college student to being a; graduate, wife, entrepreneur, and weaver. All in roughly a week. I was 20 years old and there was enough family drama that the enormity of that transition didn’t really occur to me at the time. But really, my life is easily divided by before and after. And really, it’s because that week, I became a weaver.
Since people ask where I grew up all the time, I usually tell them I came from Southern California. I lived there till I was almost 13. Then we moved to Los Alamos, New Mexico, where I went to high school. The change from the SoCal LA to the NM version of LA meant I was no longer a California Girl, which I’m sure disappointed the Beach Boys terribly. Or at least it was kind of a disappointment to me to realize as I heard that song played as we were driving up Cerrillos road in Santa Fe en route to my new home. But it didn’t really change me much. I was a shy kid, I read a lot, and I liked making things.
Growing up I had tried all kinds of crafts, mostly of the fiber arts variety, but I had tried out making jewelry and miniatures and some gardening too. Although I don’t know that Irvin thought a lot about my potential as a weaver, he did help me build a loom and a wheel for my dollhouse during the time we were dating. He and his father helped me with a business plan during that time too. It was for an entrepreneurship class, part of my degree program. As my graduation approached I realized that getting a job with my marketing degree was a bit too optimistic. It was 1982, in the depths of a nasty recession, and my work experience all had to do with food service, mostly fast food service. I just assumed that I would be able to learn how to weave, and I vaguely hoped I would like weaving, since I was resigned to the idea that it was going to be my job. I tell people I was a professional weaver before I learned to weave, and it’s true, even if it’s a little exaggerated.
I graduated and we got married a week later. We didn’t really feel that we could afford a honeymoon at the time, so we went up to Santa Fe for a couple of days. There we saw a show of Saltillo weavings at the Wheelwright Museum. And I developed another passion. We went home, Irv went back to work, and I started in on the business. Actually, the business started with all of us together, Irv’s father, Jake Trujillo and his brother-in-law, Marco Oviedo were involved too at the beginning.
Actually learning weaving is another thing people like to ask about. I tell them that what we do is very logical. It’s all about pattern and simple math and algebra. It’s also all about color and movement. And learning it is all about observing, staying engaged, and paying attention to a million what-ifs. Someday I’ll blog more about these things. But I want to use this post to explain that Irvin and I do more or less the same thing, but we don’t think the same way, so our work comes out very different from each other’s. To make a grand generalization, Irvin likes to invent new ways to fill the boundaries of the weaving space, and I tend to play with pattern and elements and logic, but often filling space in formats our tradition has granted us. But although we both play in the traditional playground we wander off to new territory on occasion.
I also differ from Irvin in that I am more of a broadly-based fiber artist. I started dyeing soon after our wedding, doing all of our dyeing for the first few years. Eventually Irvin took that over, relieving me of a tremendous amount of work. I started spinning wool early on, finding it a pleasant, if slow, counter to the weaving process. I’ve gotten more productive on a spinning wheel in recent years. My knowledge of sewing is very limited, but I know enough to work closely with our sewing team in the business. I have had to learn some multi-harness weaving over the years, but haven’t really felt compelled to do a whole lot of it. Hand knitting and some crochet work have allowed me to take my fiber pursuits away from the big space commitment of a loom, and, as a result, I now have a lot of warm and strange sweaters. Recently I’ve been learning to use knitting machines, which has been a challenge, but one which I think will allow me to extend my creative thinking in still more new directions.
Because of my education, I’ve always been responsible for the record-keeping side of the business. This means I’ve had to learn all kinds of skills that are more like what other business people deal with, like computers, bookkeeping, inventory management, advertising, and the web. But our business is not really comparable to other businesses, and figuring out how to do normal business record-keeping in a business as varied and strange as ours has been a long-term challenge. I notice that the pictures I have of me at the computer are not as cheerful looking as the ones of me at the loom. (You probably don’t need to see an illustration.)
I haven’t mentioned the whole having kids and raising a family thing, have I? Well, we did that too. Our two kids are another major after-affect of our marriage, and certainly both more challenging and more rewarding than anything else we’ve done. They grew up in Chimayo, but most of their education was in Los Alamos, where both of us went to school. So far their lives have not led them back to live here in Chimayo or to take up weaving. That’s another really popular topic we are asked about regularly here in the shop.
I have also been highly involved with volunteer work, on boards and the like. Some of that has been in the fiber arts world, and some has been more on the Behavioral Health and government side. That is a whole different thing, and it means I don’t get to weave as much as I should. But I hope very much that my work outside of the business is worth all that I have put into it. I like to think that it’s all to the better, in the end. But weaving sometimes gives me time to think about the other stuff, and meetings sometimes give me great creative fiber ideas. The strands of my life keep me connected, and that is what matters.