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 day is 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 wishes, WARP Grant Committee

In Border Peace,

Friends of Artisans Beyond Borders

“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

Cash donations from International Textile Guilds like W.A.R.P. and local Guilds like the Saddlebrook Fine Arts Guild and the Tucson Handweavers and Spinners Guild allowed us to send end-of-the-year supplies (traditional manta cloth & hilo/thread) from Mexico to our bordadoras/embroiderers and tejedoras/weavers now in the U.S. awaiting asylum adjudication.

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 if you would like to participate. 

Many Hands Make Light Work

Longtime ABB Volunteers Kat and Mary planning
Magda and Emily compiling donations into Maker Bags for Casa Alitas Guests
Val, Magda, and Halsey packing
Gael Cassidy volunteering with Tucson’s Iskashitaa Refugee Network. Generous donations mean that we can also disseminate handwork materials and supplies to other refugee groups in our area.

Angel Donors

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.

Terri Italia sewing

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.”

Terri’s is the largest donation ABB has received to date. The multi-colored crochet thread alone is an amazing gift for indigenous weavers in the U.S. who cannot afford the thread they need to complete their work. 

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.”

More donations from long-time supporter Anita Tokos, also hailing from an immigrant family. Friends from her parish in Ohio added more and helped with the cost of shipping.

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

Our Etsy shop Bordando Esperanza is now officially closed as we focus more on service and education but you may find handcrafted items made by asylum seekers for sale through other border organizations tabling at the upcoming annual Common Ground on the Border conference, January 12-14 at the Good Shepherd Church in Sahuarita, AZ. Online, you can find wonderful original embroideries at Salvavision’s new shop benefitting the Esperanza Shelter in Sasabe on the Arizona-Mexico border.

Please continue to support our sister border organizations in Nogales, Sonora, Mexico that actively promote agency and dignity, beauty and hope: Casa de la Misericordia y de Todas Naciones, Voices from the Border, and Kino Border Initiative

Wishing you and your families a healthy, safe, and secure New Year,

Tucson’s Friends of Artisans Beyond Borders

Spread the Love Shop Closeout

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 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 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

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

Invitation to the exhibition Bordando Esperanza/ Embroidering Hope

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.

Dios nos bendiga a todos/God bless us all,

Tucson’s Friends of Artisans Beyond Borders.

Fall/Winter Artisans Beyond Borders Newsletter

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.

Paty’s hand-embroidered retablo of Jesus from the group exhibition of devotional embroideries.

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
Friends of Artisans Beyond Borders support guests to embroider, sew, and weave in the shelter’s dedicated maker space. Esther, staff extraordinaire, facilitates embroidery and teaches guests how to use the donated sewing machines.
Recovering Spirit through the Arts
Shelter Director Sister Lika with Administrator Consuelo at the shelter. On the wall is a grand textile embroidered by the guests and gifted to the shelter. Guests also embroidered the mantas/servilletas available on the table. Next to Sister Lika is a print of her hand-painted Icon of Guadalupe. On this day, Sister Lika wears a huipil woven at the shelter by Cecilia, an indigenous weaver featured in this recent WARP blog post..
Creating ‘Emancipatory spaces and searching for well-being’ in the shade of the mother tree at the shelter.

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.

Liz Gaxiola facilitating trauma-informed expressive arts at la Casa de Misericordia y de Todas Naciones. Photo courtesy of the artist.
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.

Devotional Border Arts Workshop for visitors at Tucson’s Shalom-Mennonite Church
ABB volunteer facilitating

“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

Un recuerdo/a memory of one’s own. The personal is political.

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.

Authentic manta cloth from Mexico stacked and ready to be shipped to bordadoras in the U.S.

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.

To host the exhibition Bordando Esperanza/Embroidering Hope and/or to inquire about Devotional Arts Workshops email:

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 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

La Casa de Misericordia y de Todas Naciones: an Inclusive shelter that welcomes all

To help with basic needs at the shelter – Food, clothing, staff – you can donate directly to the shelter:

To long-time supporters, we thank you! None of this could be possible without you.

Dios te bendiga/God bless you,

Friends of Artisans Beyond Borders

What’s happening now with Artisans Beyond Borders? Adaptation with Migration

Spring/Summer 2022

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 Borders supports 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.” 


Shelter Mural painted by Sr. Lika

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

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. 

Katherine Smith

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 ProgramKatherine 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.

Valarie James with a bordadora at Tucson’s Casa Alitas Shelter

Panel ModeratorValarie 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.

Bordando Esperanza ~ Embroidering Hope
April 2022, University Religious Center,
University of Southern California

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.

Columbus Alive



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.

Covering enough freshly baked bread with embroidered servilletas for residents to make it through a week at the shelter.
La Bordadora at la Casa de la Misericordia y Todas las Naciones Shelter in Nogales, Sonora, Mexico

And in case you missed it – A beautiful inspirational Story from the shelter (in English and in Spanish):

Welcome the Weavers – las tejedoras at the U.S. – Mexico Border

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Embroidering Hope ~ Retablos of Asylum

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 look forward to seeing people in person!

In Border Peace,

Friends of Artisans Beyond Borders

Artisans Beyond Borders Winter Update, 2021

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…

Coodinator Norma with her bordadoras
Directly Support these artisan asylum-seekers and their families waiting on the streets at a bus stop shelter in Nogales, Sonora, Mexico by donating to
Voices from the Border
Earmark your donation “Norma’s Bordadoras.”

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.

Ana Delia, Volunteer Activities coordinator with an accomplished bordadora
 at Casa de las Misericordia’s safe Maker Space
You can help support the Therapeutic Maker Program at Casa de la Misericordia shelter for migrating families by donating directly to
Cruzando Fronteras
Earmark your donation “Programa de la Actividades”

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.

Etsy shop – Bordando Esperanza

In the New Year, A.B.B. will table locally on Saturday, January 15 only at 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

Web site:

Dias de los Muertos ~ Cultural Power & Artisanal Craft, Fall 2021

“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.    

Por ejemplo: MOMA, the Museum of Modern Art in New York’s most recent communique celebrates its makers, perhaps a first.

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.

“Embroidering helps me when I’m troubled. Our mother taught us.” Asylum-seeker Evelia T.

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 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.

Embroidering Peace outside the shelter
From the ‘Makers’ Series: “I am embroidering a memory of how it was in my house – how we cooked before electricity.” designed and embroidered by Faviola M. and included in the Artisans Beyond Borders national exhibition “Bordando Esperanza: Embroidering Hope: Devotional Retablos of Asylum,”.

To vote for beauty, grace, and the dignity of work, shop at the artisan’s Etsy shop BordandoEsperanza or donate to All donations directly support the artisans and fund the program.

Mil Gracias, the Tucson Friends of Artisans Beyond Borders

How the arts can help asylum-seekers make their way now in the U.S.A. ~ Artisans Beyond Borders Update, Summer/Fall 2021

In Tucson, we Cultural Arts Workers are putting embroideries on the line sent to us from towns across the U.S., where migrant families are hanging on by the teeth as they wait for asylum hearings. I am struck by how much we can learn about their lives from their handwork itself. My eye travels over stitching that ranges from fine and delicado to bold and bright. How the makers continue to come up with such original compositions and color choices while navigating the difficult transition to a new language and culture in the middle of immigration limbo is a testimony to the healing of familial handwork.

Fresh Mantas made by asylum-seekers and sent to Tucson from across the U.S.

We are relieved that our embroiderers and others are in safer conditions now but for most, their challenges are just beginning, like the immigrant mother surviving on babysitter wages in the NYTimes profile “$100 a Week”:

“Behind these scenes of domestic joy (of newly arrived families), are financial straits so dire that they can be hard to comprehend.” NY Times, June 3, 2021

Those who have been able to finally reunify with their family in the U.S. often find that those families are barely scraping by themselves. Not eligible for publicly funded assistance, children can go to bed hungry. To survive, many rely on free school lunches, programs at local churches, and the tireless efforts of immigrant advocacy groups to survive.

Artisans Beyond Borders U.S. Initiative

We Tucson Friends of Artisans Beyond Borders formed the U.S. Embroidering Hope (Bordando Esperanza) group to help meet the needs of our embroiderers lawfully crossing the border after waiting in Mexico for a year and a half to petition for asylum.

They arrive with nothing save the clothes on their backs. They are not allowed by immigration officials to even carry their own embroidery supplies through the port of entry. We make sure that when they come across, they receive bags filled with all the supplies they need to begin again. Donations we send them in return for their original handwork, help pay for basics: food, transportation, diapers and over-the-counter meds.

Artisanal Embroiderer waiting to depart Casa Alitas, Tucson’s lead migrant shelter

ABB Outreach: Bordado supplies and support at Casa Alitas Shelter

Separated for 17 years, Abby Reunites with her Mom

With the help of the lawyers at Justice for our Neighbors, Abby, one of our dear embroiderers in Nogales, made it across the border in June. The thin soft-spoken 22-year-old mother of two girls ages 5 and 1 year, was only 5 years old herself when her own mother left Guerrero, Mexico and migrated to the U.S.  After 17 years, she was finally able to see her mother’s face.

“Meeting my mother again after all these years was so exciting, there were many mixed feelings,” Abby said. “I can finally hug her again and now we can give each other that affection that we could not give each other in all the years that we were not together.”

When I first met Abby in the summer of 2020 at La Casa de Misericordia shelter in Nogales, Sonora, she embroidered the cloth in her lap while feeding her infant at the breast. She takes pride in her work and now she’s one of our best.

Hand-embroidered manta by Abby who is finally home now with her Mother in the U.S.

“Es curative para mi. It is healing for me because I put every feeling that I carry inside me in each embroidery,” Abby says.

Social Investment: Community and Cultural Arts

Right now, Abby is embroidering two mantas for two donors whose generous donation seeded the U.S. Bordando Esperanza group this summer making it possible to help new arrivals. Residents of Northern California, newly retired Kim Kocher and soon to be retired Karen Ashford are the models of social investment though they may not see themselves that way.

Each year they gather goods from all their neighbors and host a much anticipated 3-day yard sale. All items are priced so low that the sale itself directly helps individual members of the community. They match the proceeds and disperse the funds to what or whom they feel needs the help the most. In years past, they have raised money for their local Food Bank, put a young undocumented man with no DACA support through cooking school, and sent money to No More Deaths. This year they chose to help Artisans Beyond Borders and we are so grateful. 

“We are all migrants,” Kim writes in an email. We are blessed and honored to help these incredible women.”Kim Kocher’s own grandparents emigrated in the 1880’s to the U.S.A from Norway by ship, by themselves at 14 years of age. “I believe immigrants are the bravest, strongest, and most loving of all human beings, and we welcome them in our community, “she adds.  

At the age of five, Kim recalls, she walked with that same grandmother through San Francisco to deliver a bag of tomatoes to her grandmother’s friend cooking out of a big pot in her yard for WWII veterans waiting in line. “Those few steps we took together taught me everything I know today about helping within the community,” Kim says.

The Maker Model

New immigrants and refugees, especially women, make a living with their hands, with their cultural crafts, culinary arts, and caregiving. This is the Maker Model, a smart and scalable way for families to navigate immigration. Our makers from Florida to California, create servilletas, using manta cloth to wrap foods with natural cotton instead of plastic. The benefit to our kitchens and our homes as we adopt this one custom in particular, is incalculable, and just one of a myriad of ways that immigrants enrich our culture.

Bordado Embroidered mantas used as servilletas in the kitchen

Miguel, the young man who Kim and Karin helped get through cooking school became the best in his class and is now the head chef at a Domaine Chandon in Napa, California.

“Because of his success, his two younger brothers found a way to attend college as well. Kim said. “It’s a ripple effect, not unlike the tomatoes my grandmother and I carried up the hill in the Mission sixty years ago.”

ABB in Mexico

ABB continues to provide assistance to 25+ migrating families at 3 shelters and on the streets in Nogales, Sonora, Mexico.   Our long-term goal has always been to support the formation of collective(s) in Mexico where the artisans themselves, even in the throes of migration, can become independent and have full agency over their own creations. Now, we are beginning to see our goal met in new Mexican-run programs at the shelters leading in this direction. We are hopeful that, with support on both sides of the border, these artisan collectives will become increasingly independent.

Artisans Beyond Borders at la Casa de Misericordia migrant shelter, Nogales, Sonora
Bordando Esperanza outside the bus station, Nogales, Sonora

Going Forward: Educate, Inspire, and Partner

As volunteers and longtime cultural arts workers on the border, our mission is becoming more educational in nature. A number of churches nationwide are interested in hosting a traveling exhibition of original Bordados Devocionales: Devotional Embroideries, created by our embroiderers. These mantas are awesome faith-filled retablos, windows on immigrant life during the pandemic. When available, the exhibition may also include Leaving Home: Immigration through the Eyes of Children, artwork by refugee youth.

If your school, place of worship or community facility would like an exhibition in 2022-2023 email for the prospectus.  

Be a Cultural Change Agent

Help market the artisan’s work through the Fall and into the Christmas season. Work remotely from home or at Tucson’s Artisans Beyond Borders office. Communications and Social media experience super helpful. Bi-lingual preferred but not a deal breaker. Email us at

Wish List

A Serger with a volunteer to use it for the common good.

A volunteer or two to periodically receive, wash, and iron the artisan’s new offerings, and/or compile familial craft activity bags for folks migrating through the Tucson shelters.

Artisans Beyond Borders ~ Bordando Esperanza: Healing trauma through the Arts and upholding the Maker Tradition since 2018. All donations and sales from the artisan’s Etsy shop go directly to the artists and to fund the program. A.B.B. is a Border Arts Ministry of Tucson’s progressive Grace St. Paul’s Episcopal Church