In the summer of 2021, after waiting a lifetime (seventeen years), Abby legally crossed the U.S./Mexico border to be reunited at last with her mother in Phoenix. Now in her twenties and a mother of her own, she is ready to share her story. Abby is gracious and soft-spoken but not afraid to tell the truth. Like John Keats’ “Beauty is truth, truth is beauty, Abby’s beautifully embroidered “Sueño Americano” speaks to the reality of many who’ve traveled through hell and back again to make it across the border to the U.S., only to find food, rent, and the most basic services, frighteningly out of reach.
On this Good Friday 2023, the opening night of the group exhibition “Bordando Esperanza” at Phoenix’s Olney Gallery, Abby’s paisano-countryman hangs on a crucifix in the center of Sueño Americano. On one side of the cloth, we see the wide open green of mountains, cheerful houses, and flowers, and on the other side, an imposing blood-red border wall with crosses that dot the foreground and mark the dead. In contrast to the embroidered prayers and memories in the exhibition, Sueño Americano is the other side of the coin.
The priority of the traveling exhibition is that it be shown first in the U.S. communities that the participating artisans are now in so that they can represent their own work and share their story in their own voice if they choose. In Phoenix, Abby represents the exhibition and offers for a donation, original mantas that she’s currently embroidering.
One of the most popular pieces on display in the exhibition is Abby’s “Sé Fuerte,” completed during the year+ that she and her children waited at the shelter in Nogales, Sonora, Mexico for the legal opportunity to cross and petition for asylum. Two of Abby’s other pieces in the exhibition have her signature Xray transparency: an eagle with outstretched wings titled “Volemos Alto”- We Fly High and a howling coyote titled “Loyal and Lonely,” both with an entire desert ecosystem embroidered inside their bold outlines.
Abby accepts embroidery commissions now and is happy to work from drawings or photographs that folks provide. Originals in the exhibition are not available but limited cards and posters of Sé Fuerte and Abby’s other designs may be available going forward with donations to Abby’s small Artisans Beyond Borders start-up grant.
To support Embroidering Hope’s artisan start-ups across the U.S., donate directly to www.ArtisansBeyondBorders.org. By helping these artisans gain a foothold, we support healthy families and resilent community, peace, and beauty.
To support the Migrant shelter La Casa de Misericordia y Todas Naciones in Nogales, Sonora, Mexico, donate to Cruzando Fronteras.
Valarie James, friend of Artisans Beyond Borders, 2023
Instead of the word “Deadlines,” (this March 2028 Maker day takes place tomorrow), it’s time to re-frame last-minute opportunities as “Lifelines,” especially for the most marginalized among us. If this lead volunteer opportunity here is posted too late for your schedule, there are 2 more Maker Days scheduled through May when we adjourn for our Tucson summer sabbatical (June, July, and August). The next Maker Day is April 21.The final Maker dayis May 26.
Hope to see you!
Other Lifeline opportunities from our favorite sister organization W.A.R.P. -Weaving a Real Peace:
Dear Friends of WARP, We are pleased to announce applications are now open for WARP’s 2023 Artisan Support Grants. Textile artisans from any country are welcome to apply.WARP is offering one-time grants of up to $500 for individual artisans and up to $1,000 for artisan groups. This year, we are providing two grant options: one for Basic Needs and one for Development. This reflects the fact that while many artisans may still need COVID or other emergency support, others are transitioning out of an emergency situation and now have needs that are more development-oriented. The application deadline is March 19th, 2023. The link to the electronic application form is below, with details about this year’s grant program. Please share this announcement with any textile artisan or artisan group you think would benefit from this grant. For any grant-related questions, please contact Diane Manning, WARP Grants Committee Chair, at firstname.lastname@example.org.Best wishes, WARP Grant Committee
“Beauty is not a luxury but a strategy for survival”–Terry Tempest Williams, Finding Beauty in a Broken World.
In these desperate times for so many on our border, Friends of Artisans Beyond Borders (ABB) couldn’t be more grateful for our national textile arts community’s ongoing support of asylum seekers’ familial and cultural arts. It goes a long way in affirming these families’ humanity and dignity.
Donations from across the U.S. mean that we can stock “Maker Bags” with embroidery and weaving supplies for newly arrived asylum seekers in COVID quarantine at Casa Alitas, Tucson’s Lead Migrant shelter. The healing and grace that these kinds of trauma-informed arts and activities provide for families in isolation, who arrive sick and stressed to the max, cannot be underestimated. What a joy it has been this season to be able to help our new families have a moment’s peace and agency, a moment to breathe just a little easier. It has felt like the best gift of the season.
“The maker bags were such a delight for many of our adult guests, especially the single women that were staying with us. It is lovely to see the adults’ faces when they received a little gift along with the kiddos. … and kid-friendly kits keep the kids entertained and also give them the ability to bond with their parents with these crafts. Thank you so much to the volunteers for the love and care put into each of these kits and for thinking of our guests.”–Casa Alitas Staff Site Lead
Tucson Friends of Artisans Beyond Borders now have a standing reservation to compile Maker bags at Tucson’s City Council Ward 6 building, on the third Friday of every month going forward in 2023. Steve K. has been a long-time and continuing supporter of Casa Alitas and other migrant agencies here in Tucson. Scroll down to see the photo, etc.
Here are the 2023 dates volunteers will meet: 1/20/23, 2/17/23, 3/17/23, 4/21/23, and 5/20/23. You are welcome to join us anytime between 9-4 that day. Email Contact@ArtisansBeyondBorders.org if you would like to participate.
Many Hands Make Light Work
Donors to ABB demonstrate time and again how more alike we are than different. We, humans, create better circumstances for ourselves and our families with our own hands, ingenuity, and creativity. Familial arts like embroidery, sewing, and weaving are homemaking traditions we all share.
Terry Italia and her son Vinny from New Jersey personify the souls of our donors. Terri was the daughter of Italian immigrants who came to this country with little more than the clothes on their backs.
Always creative and enterprising, Terri first started a cake decorating business with a friend – “I can still taste the lemon filling and icing of those cakes,” Vinny writes. She then moved on to knitting and crocheting blankets (an interest shared with her Mom) for family and friends. After her kids got on their feet, Terri worked in a local craft store. There she learned about crewel/tapestry yarns and embroidery floss. She was eventually recruited by DMC, the supplier of the world-famous thread and embroidery supplies. Terri excelled as a DMC representative at trade shows and conferences around the country for over a decade.
Like so many women, Terri retired early to become her mother’s caregiver until her mom’s death. All along, though, Terri had multiple projects – embroidery, quilting, sewing – going at the same time. As her own health slowly deteriorated, “she would repeatedly ask me not to throw her inventory away after her passing,” writes Vinny. “She wanted things to go to a good cause and continue the benevolence she lived her life by.”
After Terri passed, Vinny contacted an old friend from college, Mary Hahola Rosell, for help in getting his Mom’s huge stash into the hands of weavers and embroiderers. Mary, who “learned to weave in the early 1990s with Deb Chandler’s seminal book “Learning to Weave,” and helpful fiber friends, contacted WARP, an organization that has always been an inspiration to her. WARP put her in touch with Artisans Beyond Borders in Tucson and the shipping began! The postage needed to send such a large amount was daunting, but Shore Fiber Arts Guild in Ocean, New Jersey, where Mary is a member, raised funds to help defray the costs.
Vinny writes, “I hope that ABB can use the materials and supplies to create many items which will bring a smile and joy to the faces of the people you are helping. Terri would be very happy.”
And this year, The West, a non-profit needlework and gift shop in Tucson that from 1981 – 2019 gave over $2.3 million to Tucson charities serving women and children, donated extra wool yarns to ABB. Thanks to their generosity, materials for up to three projects with kids can be included in each maker bag.
“Beauty scatters the seeds of Hope,”Joan Chittister
Hospitality Mantas embroidered for you by asylum-seekers
Artisans Beyond Borders announces a Christmas Close-out with reduced prices on all inventory (just refreshed) at our BordandoEsperanza Etsy Shop. On Jan. 1, 2023, we close shop. We thank you with all our hearts for your support, which has made our success possible.
Going forward, the Friends of Artisans Beyond Borders are centering our efforts on service and education. Upon request, we may offer limited originals at in-person presentations and exhibitions. To have our Bordando Esperanza/Embroidering Hope exhibition shown in your community, church or seminary, university, or guild, email Contact@ArtisansBeyondBorders.org for info and booking.
As we continue to back trauma-informed arts and activities at the U.S./Mexico border, it remains our mission and our joy at www.ArtisansBeyondBorders.org to promote asylum-seekers as they launch their own small arts businesses in the U.S. Stay tuned for updates on their progress here at www.ArtandFaithintheDesert.com.
We hope that you will also continue to welcome our new neighbors from the global south by directly supporting their artisanal arts as they settle into their new communities. It was the love and generosity of individual supporters around the world since 2020 that gave the artisans hope and made the Etsy shop such a success.
Blessings to all/Bendiciones para todos y todas, Friends of Artisans Beyond Borders
Please forgive duplicates but it has come to our attention that the Invitation for the exhibition did not come through on people’s emails. If you are in Arizona, the exhibition is also scheduled for the Trinity Cathedral’s Olney gallery in Phoenix in Spring 2023.
Bordando Esperanza Exhibition, Devotional Arts workshops, U.S. start-ups, and more.
Bordando Esperanza/Embroidering Hope
If you are in Tucson, we hope that you can join us for our home church exhibition of contemporary retablos/religious and spiritual embroideries independently stitched by asylum-seekers at the border.
“Few can deny how powerful and enduring the role of faith is for individuals and families caught in forced migration. Bordando Esperanza/Embroidering Hope brings their stories to our communities, so that we may see and feel what is true and sacred for our neighbors.” from the viewer guide.
The core group of embroiderers in the exhibition were stranded together for over a year and a half (2020 through 2021) at the shelter La Casa de Misericordia y de Todas Naciones in Nogales, Sonora, Mexico, where they found safety, solidarity, and peace in embroidery.
Maker’s Program at la Casa de Misericordia y de Todas Naciones
Recovering Spirit through the Arts
This summer Artisans Beyond Borders (ABB) was pleased to provide material support (along with grant funding from the UofA) for Elizabeth Gaxiola’s expressive arts project: La Casa de Papel: El Ruido de Tus Voces/Creating Emancipatory Spaces and Search for Well-being in our Borderlands. It was a great opportunity to have Liz working with the guests at la Casa de Misericordia y de Todas Naciones and also at the Kino Migrant Aid Center, as she attended to wounds of the heart and soul.
On the U.S. side ~ Devotional Border Arts Workshops
In keeping with our educational mission, with advance notice, ABB volunteer art facilitators can provide hands-on engaged contemplation (linking Art, Faith, and Social Justice) for visiting delegations and student groups here for border immersion. In contrast to the bleak politics of the border, Devotional Arts affirm, nourish, and empower.
“People were so into it, they were working on their projects even in the airport while they were waiting for their planes.” Kat Smith, MCC Border Outreach
With the aid of a grant from the Mennonite Central Committee, which has a history of supporting community handwork that benefits the whole, we’ve been able to provide some of the embroiders waiting for asylum now in the U.S. with start-up funds to develop small craft enterprises. With donations to ABB, we can also source and send culturally aligned made-in-Mexico materials and supplies.
Most bordadoras/embroiderers have already suffered through their first year in the U.S., not being allowed to work. Now that they’ve been here a year and are able to legally be employed, the cost of work permits alone remains cost prohibitive.
The holidays give us all more opportunities to support hand-made fair trade and their makers by purchasing their wares wherever they’re sold in the U.S., or in Mexico. Artisans Beyond Borders offers original mantas (when available) at in-person events and exhibition openings, and also on the ABB website for donation. Volunteers with Voices from the Border also sell hand-embroidered mantas weekly at La Posada Farmer’s Market. Online, Salavision has opened a shop that includes beautiful hand-embroidered bags and mantas, and if you are in Ambos Nogales, in Mexico the Kino Border Initiative is now supporting the people’s hand-made arts through their Migrant Aid Center.
If you are interested in being a Friend of Artisans Beyond Borders: compiling maker bags from donated materials, helping to table, or part-time as a volunteer arts facilitator on either side of the border you can also email us at Contact@ArtisansBeyondBorders.org Spanish is helpful but not mandatory.
To keep trauma-informed arts and cultural craft programming going at the border and also invest in new families’ heritage skills here in the U.S., donate directly to www.ArtisansBeyondBorders.org.
It has been a busy season for Artisans Beyond Borders. The top story in June is Artisans Beyond Border’s Binational ZOOM panel on “Adaptation with Migration” for W.A.R.P. (Weaving a Real Peace), the International networking organization for Textile Artisans and their initiatives. We lead off a number of fabulous panels, with wonderful presenters from all over the world that you don’t want to miss if you can help it. Panels on Saturday, June 25, and Sunday, June 26 are FREE, open to everyone, and easy to register. (Scroll down that page to see all the rest of the presenters and descriptions of their panel discussions).
Adaptation with Migration
Panel Discussion with Artisans Beyond Borders
Saturday, June 25th at 12:30 pm US Eastern Time
“Every day around the world, people make one of the most difficult decisions in their lives: to leave their homes in search of a safer, better life. At la Casa de la Misericordia y Todas Naciones – the House of Mercy and all Nations, asylum seekers at the US-Mexico border have a safe place to wait for entry to the US. There, Artisans Beyond Borderssupports bordadoras (embroiderers) and tejedoras (weavers). Through the acts of weaving, stitching, and crocheting, these artisans create a piece of home in this new, unknown place. Artisans Beyond Borders and their non-profit partners in Mexico help restore grace and agency through traditional handwork, solidarity among the artisans, and respect for cultural and familial arts across borders.
The binational Artisans Beyond Borders also works with embroiderers and weavers newly arrived in the U.S., who are legally petitioning for asylum after waiting months, even years, at the U.S.-Mexico border. One of the first things often lost in migration is one’s own cultural and familial art, resulting in deep cultural bereavement and deculturation. What are Artisans Beyond Borders and their partners doing to preserve our new neighbors’ maker tradition(s)? On this panel, we will hear the stories of Artisans Beyond Borders, their partners, and the artisans themselves. We will discover why upholding handmade cultural and familial arts – pre-and post-migration – is critical now to all of us moving forward.”
Sister Lika Macias is the executive director of la Casa de la Misericordia y Todas Naciones– the House of Mercy and all Nations, a migrant led shelter in Nogales, Mexico. Hermana Lika is a respected and skilled community leader who believes strongly in the power of art to heal, comfort, and foster solidarity amongst the shelter’s residents. Recently, Sister Lika and staff established a Maker space at the shelter for the resident embroiderers, weavers, and sewers. A talented painter in her own right, Sister Lika studied traditional iconography in Rome, South America, and Russia.
Esmerelda Ibarra, an indigenous embroiderer from Guerrero, Mexico, is a leading voice in the Save Asylum movement advocating for human rights and the dignity of indigenous people. Esmerelda worked with Artisans Beyond Borders while she and her family were stranded at the U.S. Mexico border for almost two years, and now in the U.S. as she and her family await asylum. Esmerelda’s indigenous embroidery, carried by the United Nations Association Center in Tucson, has also inspired the Global Initiatives program at the Parsons School of Design. “At the border, I was able to embroider again and it made me remember my beautiful childhood. It brings me love and much tranquility inside my heart,” she says.
As the Border and Migration Outreach Coordinator for the West Coast Mennonite Central Committee and the co-coordinator of Arizona’s Casa Mariposa Detention Visitation Program, Katherine Smith is dedicated to working with asylum seekers and teaching others about immigration and border realities. After college, Kat spent a year volunteering with the Women’s Co-op ANADESA in Santiago Atitlán, Guatemala and lived with her host family of traditional embroiderers. Back in the States, she served as the Site and Volunteer Coordinator for Casa Alitas (House of Wings), Tucson’s lead Migrant Shelter, and now she works closely with Artisans Beyond Borders leading the U.S. Support team for las bordadoras (the embroiderers) who are legally awaiting asylum in the U.S.
Panel Moderator: Valarie James, the founder of Artisans Beyond Borders, affirms art, faith, and social justice in the U.S.-Mexico Borderlands. As an artist and writer, James is best known for collaborative public art in Tucson including Las Madres: No Más Lágrimas (No More Tears), The Migrant Shrine at Southside, and the installation ‘Hardship and Hope at the U.S. Mexico Border’ at the Museum of World Culture in Gothenburg, Sweden. As a retired Clinical Art Therapist, James led the trauma-informed arts & activities at Tucson’s Casa Alitas Migrant shelter and she is currently the lead curator for the artisans’ traveling exhibition Bordando Esperanza – Embroidering Hope: Retablos of Asylum. Writings on arts and immigration can be found at Art and Faith in the Desert
In the last 4 months, the Artisans Beyond Borders exhibition Embroidering Hope ~ Bordando Esperanza has traveled from the Good Shepherd UCC Church in Sahuarita, Arizona to the University of Southern California, to St. Marks Episcopal in Columbus, Ohio.
Carrying the soul and the stories of the makers, the exhibition has been beautifully received. Spend time with any of the 75 original mantas, especially the bordados devocionales – the devotional embroideries, and you may find yourself slipping into Visio Divina, the ancient Benedictine way of “listening with the ear of your heart.” Email: contact@ArtisansBeyondBorders to book the exhibition at your University or house of worship.
Seeing all the embroidered servilletas on display in the exhibition, I’m transported back to a warm day last winter and the smell of freshly baked buns as they came out of the huge adobe horno built on the land at la Casa de la Misericordia y Todas las Naciones shelter in Nogales, home to many of the artisans while they wait to legally cross the border to apply for asylum.
And in case you missed it – A beautiful inspirational Story from the shelter (in English and in Spanish):
After two years of development and COVID setbacks, we are so excited to finally be able to hang this show! On its way to a showing at USC’s School of Religious and Spiritual Studies, the traveling exhibition will be here locally at the Good Shepherd for 5 days only.
The 75 Bordados devocionales / devotional embroideries, created in the shadow of politics and pandemic by asylum-seekers stranded at the U.S.-Mexico Border from 2019 – 2021, tell the story of family migration and displacement through the hands and eyes of the women living it. Each bordado is a testimony of the faith that sustains the maker and the hope they hold close against all odds.
This rare exhibition is an opportunity to bring their stories to our community, to see and feel what is true and sacred to our neighbors. Whether the artisans are embroidering conventional Christian iconography, elements of the natural world infused with Dios-God, or memories of home and family they’ve been forced to leave behind, their devotional retablos rendered in cloth are personal, intimate, and embodied testimonies of faith and resilience.
A team of seven Friends of Artisans Beyond Borders in Tucson – Val, Antonia, Kat, Emily, Jeanie, Martha, and Halsey – collaborated to curate all the moving parts, working intuitively in harmony and solidarity, a testament of community arts and visioning, and to the faith-filled works of the artisans themselves.
We had always hoped that our Bi-national initiative Artisans Beyond Borders would be an incubator, a beautiful seed. God willing, it would grow into other artisan initiatives on the border and beyond…
Recover & Restore
We had always hoped that our Bi-national initiative Artisans Beyond Borders would be an incubator, a beautiful seed. God willing, it would grow into other artisan initiatives on the border and beyond. We hoped that A.B.B. would help to educate and inspire others to pick up and carry on the mission of restoring grace and agency for migrants through the arts.
In the beginning, during Trump’s pre-pandemic days, our volunteer arts facilitators set up card tables of embroidery and crochet supplies in the streets of Nogales and served hundreds of dispossessed folks. Even then, we dreamed of finding safe maker spaces in Nogales where people could experience some peace and dignity in the middle of forced family migrations so fraught with fear.
Stuck in Nogales by U.S. policies and the pandemic, artisans organized into groups, and taught each other. They formed collectives of solidarity, coordinators emerged, and they found safe spaces to work. In short, they recovered agency that was theirs already but had been stripped bare by multiple traumas experienced at home and on the road.
Educational and border rights organizations from Southern California to Juarez have expressed an interest in ABB as a model initiative (often the only support of its kind), to help vulnerable migrating families. We are pleased to be progenitors of this programming at the border, and we applaud any and all efforts by other initiatives and helpers to move the needle (pun intended!).
In the last two years, in the shadow of politics and the pandemic, the Tucson Friends of Artisans Beyond Borders created and developed a market through the internet for the beautiful embroideries created by our artisans. A.B.B. evolved from trauma-informed art and activities to micro-enterprise. As awareness and interest in the familial arts of migration grew, so have other artisan projects and potential markets. So, now A.B.B. volunteers are stepping back from marketing and retail to make room for others to flourish. We are moving instead into a more educational service. Ultimately, we hope to encourage more artisans to create and market their own work. Each artisan is their own seed taking root.
Educate and Inspire
For the last year, the Tucson Friends of Artisans Beyond Borders have been curating a national traveling exhibition of the artisans’ retablos of asylum, sponsored by the Arizona Episcopal Diocese. In this profoundly original exhibition, the public has the opportunity to understand what is most sacred to our neighbors. Their devotional retablos, religious embroidery, written with thread and rendered in cloth are deeply personal and embodied testimonies of faith and resilience.
Going forward into 2022 and 2023, A.B.B. will be working with churches and schools that are hosting the exhibit throughout the U.S. to further border understanding and help their outreach efforts to their local migrant communities. The funds raised through the exhibition and donations will go to the Artisans Beyond Border Maker Fund, supporting therapeutic arts programming for migrants on the border and also providing start-up funds for our artisans in the U.S. so they can move forward independently.
After December, we will not add new inventory to our Etsy shop for the foreseeable future. Instead, we will be routing supporters directly to artisan initiatives on the border and beyond as some of the makers become more established in the U.S.
Meanwhile, according to the Post Office, you have until December 17th to place an order at the Etsy shop and have it shipped to you by Christmas. If it is a gift, we can send it directly to the address you wish.
In the New Year, A.B.B. will table locally on Saturday, January 15 onlyat the first public showing of Bordando Esperanza ~ Embroidering Hope: Retablos of Asylum at the Common Ground on the Border Conference at the Good Shepherd UCC Church in Sahuarita. Hope to see you there!
In Border Peace, Tucson Friends of Artisans Beyond Borders
“As the beauty and the power of Dias de los Muertos spreads throughout the U.S. and across the globe, we’re reminded that Culture is where change happens first, inexorably bubbling up to the surface. Indigenous artisans are not only mindfully being invited to the stage now – in some cases, they are headlining.”
As the beauty and the power of Dias de los Muertos spreads throughout the U.S. and across the globe, we’re reminded that Culture is where change happens first, inexorably bubbling up to the surface. Indigenous artisans are not only mindfully being invited to the stage now – in some cases, they are headlining. We pray that Indigenous wisdom, sustainable material practices, and artisanal arts continue to root in our personal lives and grow to flower in our world.
Our friend Zapotec Textile Artist Porfirio Guitterez headlines on a massive stage fit for a rock star at the global summit in “What Design Can Do” (for the planet) in Mexico City.
And drumroll… This past month, Artisans Beyond Borders was asked to speak to future designers at Parsons School of Design Global Initiatives class. Though the artisans stranded at the Arizona/Mexico border embroider whatever they wish to, whatever brings them a bit of peace in the middle of the ongoing trauma of forced migration and displacement, Parson’s Global Initiatives class was interested in learning from them.
We hope that this kind of cross-border pollination can eventually lead to design contracts for our U.S. based artisans currently awaiting asylum here and also help to build support for the makers who are still waiting in shelters and on the streets in our neighboring Nogales, Sonora, Mexico hoping to lawfully cross and petition for asylum.
Artisans outside a shelter in Nogales. To protect these women and their families this shelter will remain unnamed but if you are moved to help, contact us at contact@ArtisansBeyondBorders.org. We are actively seeking social investors to help subsidize this kind of programming that heals and restores and changes the world one stitch at a time.