At La Hacienda de Los Martínez, a local fiber arts group has organized an exhibit of colcha embroidery on view through June 29.
As part of the New Mexico Fiber Crawl, admission to Hacienda Martínez is free Friday through Sunday (May 18-20). Its hours are 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. The historic museum will host a reception on Saturday (May 19) from 2-4 p.m. This event will include demonstrations of colcha embroidery, spinning, weaving, knitting and felting.
The wide range of new embroideries on display were created by groups in Taos (La Hacienda), Santa Fe (Museum of Spanish Colonial Arts), and a newly formed group in San Luis, Colorado.
Connie Fernandez of the Taos group explained colcha in depth.
Tempo: What is colcha embroidery?
Connie Fernandez: When people hear "colcha," they think quilt bedcovering. To distinguish, this is colcha embroidery we have on display. It's a designed piece of embroidery that could be used on bedcoverings, shawls and altar cloths for churches and capillas. It's a traditional form of expression, an art form.
Tempo: What is the history?
Fernandez: Colcha embroidery started when bedcovering got holes from wear or moths. You don't toss them out; they're precious. Women would cover up the holes and put a design on them to make them beautiful. Women used what they had. The designs were traditional and would often resemble things brought into the area. We were very isolated back then. You could see similarities in designs from Mexico and the East Coast because of the trade route.
Tempo: How is colcha embroidery created?
Fernandez: The stitch itself is universal. It is a couching stitch, which is sometimes called a "bokara." It is a long stitch, drawn back and tacked down with the same thread, with the same piece of yarn. It's very versatile. When you're looking back years ago, women could do this in poor light by the fireplace. You can work with it, put it down, go do other things, and come back to it. You don't have to count stitches like cross-stitch. It lends itself. It's very calming, meditative. Once you know that stitch, which is so easy, it's repetitive. You don't have to think. Your mind can wander, and you produce a very beautiful product at the end. As time went on and the railroads came through, women were able to get other types of material. So you'll still see 1800s cotton and linen, and when commercially dyed yarn would be incorporated. It evolved like any other art form.
Tempo: What is the Hacienda Martínez group?
Fernandez: At the Hacienda, we started three years ago. Our group purpose is to preserve what is a very beautiful form of needlework that is traditional to this area. To cherish and preserve the traditional form and contemporary expression. Neither takes away from the other. Our group is focused on enjoyment. We meet the third Monday of every month from 12 to 2 p.m. It's helping each other. It's not a job. ...Our youngest participant is 8 years old. We range in age from eight to 80s. We have beginners (and) those who have been doing this for years.
Tempo: Tell us more about the exhibit.
Fernandez: We had a very successful, big exhibit in summer 2017. We decided to do one every two years -- the next one is scheduled for summer 2019. But we were asked by Luisa Mylet (manager of Hacienda Martínez), if we'd consider doing a small show. The show turned out to be much bigger than we thought it'd be. We are very grateful to Luisa, Taos Historic Museums, Margot Beutler Gins and the board of directors. ... None of the work has been exhibited before. There are approximately 75 pieces with maybe more coming in. The show fills the sala. This is the first time Hacienda Martínez is participating in the New Mexico Fiber Crawl. We're thrilled. The colcha embroidery show is for display only; this is not a sale. The Hacienda Martínez has free admission during the Fiber Crawl though the Hacienda appreciates any small donation you can give. It's a huge effort to try and preserve and keep that place up.
For more information, call the venue at (575) 758-1000.