We Live in Possibility

I love this photo by Paula Lerner from the opening pages of Embroidering within Boundaries: Afghan Women Creating a Future. The color and determination of the balloon vendor striding down the bleak streets of Kabul reassures me every time I open the book.

That idea of living in possibility came back to me several times at the Weave a Real Peace (WARP) meeting a couple of weeks ago. Part of WARP’s mission is recognizing the importance of textiles to grassroots economies. We were treated to an impressive lineup of speakers who are not only recognizing the relationship between textiles and local economies but who are deeply involved in grassroots projects that are transforming lives.

Diane Nesselhuf from Sharing the Dream shared story after story about the communities her nonprofit works with in Guatemala. Its mission is “promoting sustainable fair trade and weaving a tapestry of opportunity in Guatemala,” and are they ever hitting the mark. From teaching young women to become expert beadworkers to supporting struggling and isolated elders, committed groups of volunteers are helping Guatemalans to help themselves, slowly, patiently, always seeing the possibilities.

Diane with beadwork that Sharing the Dream sells on behalf of women in Guatemala.

It was a treat for Susan Schaefer Davis to share stories and photos from her new book Women Artisans of Morocco. From her decades of travel in Morocco, her in-depth research, and work with a variety of women artisans, she told their stories of economic survival and adaptation, the possibilities they create for themselves. After she autographed a big pile of books, we raised our glasses to toast the success of Women Artisans of Morocco and to honor Susan’s work.

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In a moving presentation, author Mary Anne Wise walked us through events that led to forming the nonprofit rug-hooking cooperative Multicolores in Guatemala. Through powerful stories and photos, she detailed the economic opportunities she and her team have helped create for Maya women in several communities. The Multicolores story is the basis for her book, Rug Money: How a Group of Maya Women Changed Their Lives through Art and Innovation, co-authored with Cheryl Conway and available from Thrums Books in September. You will want to have it.

Rug Money
Rug hookers from the community of Patanatique, Guatemala. From the book Rug Money by Mary Anne Wise and Cheryl Conway-Daly. Photo by Joe Coca.

And there was so much more: We piled in cars and drove out of town to take a tour of Seed Savers that was just as magical as Linda anticipated it would be in her Seeds and Threads missive last month. Laurann Gilbertson, curator of the Vesterheim National Norwegian-American Museum & Heritage Center, not only gave us an inspiring lecture on the power of tradition and innovation in textiles but organized tours of the Museum and its collection of folks arts made by Norwegian immigrants and their descendants. Artist Mary Hark told us about a paper project she’s been heading up in Ghana for the last decade where she teaches how to make paper from an invasive non-indigenous plant rather than using native vegetation. Sales of the paper help to support the project and its participants. Talk about creative economies! And there were  other presentations covering significant projects working with textile artisans in Mexico, Peru, Bolivia, Bangladesh, and Nigeria.

It’s has been important this week to reflect on the good that so many are doing in the world, the bridges they’re building across borders, working hand in hand to weave a real peace. Thank you, all.


Thrums Books available at bookstores, museums, and galleries, around the world.

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One thought on “We Live in Possibility

  1. susan says:

    y’all are doing such great work. i appreciate your sharing, otherwise i might not know about these things.
    enter that photo in a photo contest–it is such great imagery–made my hairs stand on end.
    we all need to imagine the possibilities! thank you.

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