Apprentice Weavers Honor Tradition

An apprentice learns how to weave at the Española Valley Fiber Arts Center, helping to continue a rich Valley tradition while creating new art for galleries.

The Española Valley Fiber Arts Center is preserving culture and history with its newest apprenticeship. 

After it received a $50,000 grant from Ariat — a performance footwear and clothing brand — the center searched for and interviewed several candidates to settle on nine apprentices.

“Business is booming in Chimayó but the weavers are getting older and unable to provide enough weavings anymore,” Española Valley Fiber Arts Center Board Member Leigh Alexander said. “The galleries in Chimayó desperately need new weavers and while some of the younger generation are taking up weaving, not enough.”

The purpose of the class and apprenticeship is to find new workers for the gallery and to continue the weaving industry. 

The fiber arts center hopes to combat the slow loss of the weaving art through the apprenticeships. 

“[Ariat] just asked what they could do to help the industry and keep it alive,” said Emily Trujillo, 29, who teaches the apprentices. “They are also aware that [weaving] is dying.”

The grant covers materials, the facility rental, the loom rentals and the pay for Trujillo and the students, according to the center. 

The class began on Feb. 13 and runs to March 3. Classes are held Monday to Friday from 10 p.m. to 5 p.m.

“It’s going well,” Trujillo said. “Everyone has been learning."

The class is now weaving full pieces and works on one to three pieces a day, Trujillo said.

“So everyone is learning, and they’re learning quickly,” she said. “We also bonded as a class. So we’re all friends now. It’s really sweet.”

The fiber arts center was founded in 1995 and originally taught with donated looms at a local church. In 1996, the center moved to its current location at 325 Paseo de Oñate. It is a nonprofit membership organization that hopes to preserve and promote the weaving heritage of the area by providing learning and teaching experiences for everyone.

Trujillo said her favorite part of the class is watching the students as they create.

“I love watching them grow,” she said. “You can see when something clicks. You can see it in their eyes when something makes sense. I think that’s just a wonderful thing. I also love watching them learn and get excited that they’ve learned something.”

Trujillo said she is an eighth generation Rio Grande weaver who learned the skill from her father, Irvin Trujillo, at a young age. In addition to teaching her, Trujillo said her father made a special, smaller loom for someone her size.

Trujillo, who was raised in Chimayo, said her father has been weaving since he was 10 and her mother has been weaving since age 19.

“I grew up in their gallery," she said. "I grew up going to museums. I grew up seeing people respect and be in awe of all of [the art]. And I was always in awe of it as well.”

Despite pursuing technology studies in college and not enjoying weaving when she was younger, Trujillo grew to love the art and now weaves professionally. She said it helps her connect to her family.

“It’s a passion of mine to carry on the tradition,” Trujillo said. “It was an honor to be chosen as the teacher for this [class] because I want to pass [the art] on and make sure it doesn’t die.”

The tradition of weaving is ingrained in New Mexico history, according to Trujillo. She said it was originally a utilitarian act and people would weave blankets, saddle blankets, couch covers and carpeting.

“It’s a part of a lot of people‘s heritage in this area,” she said. “Some of the students that are doing [the class] are doing it because their families did it for a long time. They didn’t learn how and they wanted to now. It is just a piece of New Mexico. It’s a piece of Mexican culture.”

Trujillo said she speculates there might be less than 200 Chimayo Weavers alive.

“It used to be a huge industry,” she said. “There were shops all over Albuquerque and Santa Fe. There were dealerships and then families that were weaving.”

The center hopes to combat the slow loss of the weaving art through the apprenticeships. 

(1) comment


Still alive...Georgia Serrano 97...Cordelia Coronado 90...Norma Medina 70's...Benita Lucero 76...Selina Serrano 56...all descendants of AGUEDA MARTINEZ

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