We teach best what we need to learn…

I have been telling my immigration story for the last 22 years. In different formats and through different vehicles I have been re creating my immigration realities and supporting my own identity transformation. My self representation and self identity has been an on going process which has gone through many different stages.

However, in the process of documenting my story as a way of understanding my new surroundings and my own journey as an immigrant in New Zealand I realized that the sense of lack that was with me all the time came from the lack of belonging… a lack of community around me… a lack of family…a lack of warmth from an extended group of caring people. Realizing and accepting this truth was not easy, but as I was processing my AHA moment I was writing “The traveling sewing box project” as a way of sharing, teaching and coming together to fill that void that unfortunately happens when we leave our family and everything that is familiar to us behind.

My story is a positive story, is a story of growth, a story of transformation and appreciation. It is my mission to create safe and encouraging spaces for immigrant women to get together and support each other in their own immigration journeys while sustaining and preserving their own culture, speaking their own native language and documenting their migrating realities in an ongoing piece of cloth.

It is with great pride and appreciation that I share this video of the first “Travelling sewing box project” which was implemented in association with ALAC in Hamilton New Zealand with a wonderful group of women from Colombia.

 

How the travelling sewing box is changing lives

Photo by: Sebastian Vidal Bustamante

When I first came up with this project, my intention was simple: To provide a safe and warm space for Latin American immigrant women in NZ to tell their stories, to share their journeys of migration and to sustain their language while stitching their  memories into a piece of cloth that keeps growing and extending.

What I didn’t expect was to witness the transformation that would take place within the group and within the women themselves as the project evolved from week to week. I know first hand that when you arrive in a  new country, no matter the surrounding circumstances, you are forced to evolve, develop and review your position in the world. In my case this generated a main shift in my own identity which created a horrible sense of dislocation, disengagement and an identity crisis which took me many years to overcome. This project gave me the opportunity to make other women’s journeys a little bit better and to share my own story of migration with them.

It was very moving for me to witness all the energies in motion as these women stitched their lives into our cloth. It was very moving also to experience that the stories and memories which were being stitched were creating new memories as the craft process was happening, and in doing so, new connections were being made, new processes were being learned and new possibilities were being conceived in front of all our eyes.

It was a privilege to work with these women, it was a privilege to work with ALAC and its wonderful team and a fantastic start to the cloth that will keep extending, will keep growing and will keep travelling as the travelling sewing box project travels from city to city in NZ and beyond!

Meet the amazing group of Latin American immigrant women from Hamilton, NZ. Wow, what a fantastic, talented and committed group of women.

 

The group working together, connecting individual stories into a bigger community piece.

 

Stories of migration

“The travelling sewing box project ” has another fabulous day. I am speechless at the talent, the dedication, the passion and the respect that these women have towards each other’s journeys and the commitment to make their dreams come true in their new adopted land!

It’s with utmost respect that I share these images! 

Travelling sewing box project – Hamilton 2018

 

Women stitching their lives through cloth

What a treat! We launched the first “Travelling Sewing Box” in partnership with ALAC. It was so fantastic to meet these courageous Latin American immigrant women who spent the day sharing their immigration stories with me, we smiled together, we laughed together, we were sad together and we certainly stitched together.  What a fantastic experience for us all.

A big thank you to our sponsors Ingrid Starnes for donating their workroom waste and Fabric Merchants/Drapers for donating the backing fabric. Also, a big thanks to the Fashion Department at Whitecliffe  College of Arts and Design for donating their own studio waste. We are re purposing all the textile waste by giving it another lease of life, treating each little piece of fabric with respect and love and definitely saving it from landfill. We couldn’t do it without you!!!!!

How to change the world a stitch at a time?

All my life I have been involved in the fashion industry in one way or another, but I always felt that I wasn’t doing enough, that I wasn’t contributing enough.  I guess that’s what created this passion I have for teaching since I feel its a way of passing on knowledge and facilitating the environment for people to learn and absorb knowledge.

Immigrant women series by Victoria Martinez Azaro

That passion to contribute has been the guiding force behind “the travelling sewing box project”. I am happy to say that in association with ALAC we are launching the first workshop in Hamilton New Zealand. We are all very excited and I will be posting the progress here.

The project involves a travelling sewing box and its journey around Aotearoa-New Zealand to wherever a Latin American group of women is located. The travelling sewing box contains sewing materials donated by the local fashion industry as well as second hand items gathered from the community. Local materials from Aotearoa – New Zealand will also be introduced as a link to the New Zealand environment. Different kinds of wool yarns sustainably and naturally dyed with local materials will be explored in combination to textiles, yarns and dyes which originate from Latin America as a vehicle to celebrate cultural background as well as to develop strong connections with the richness and variety of the new adopted country. Through the process of making and understanding personal and community history through textile craft, women will be given a safe space to foster a strong identity within a cohesive and resilient community of women through empowerment and empathetic relationships.

Participants will have the opportunity to work with materials to sew, stitch/decorate and create by using their own cultural background and creativity to design their own work (they can also bring along their own materials if they desire) that will be part of a major piece of art, seemingly the construction of social tissue and strengthening communities on the basis of common cultural values, aspirations, experiences and lessons in the context of the never ending journey of migration.

The travelling sewing box is a celebration of participants’ cultural backgrounds, life journeys and memories through any particular crafts inherent to their own culture and language.

How has the New Zealand Fashion scene contributed to make this possible? Well, Ingrid Starnes has donated her workroom waste, Fabric Merchants/Drapers has donated rolls of fabric and Charles Parsons has donated off cuts and workroom waste. Its  a fantastic thing when one’s industry is so supportive and keen to work together to welcome Latin America immigrant women into Aotearoa/New Zealand.

Natural dyeing. The process behind the label

 

Five years after typhoon Haiyan, weavers from Basey, Philippines are still weaving their lives together.

 

Viahera stands for fairly made, fairly sourced and above all ethically produced accessories.The process is the base foundation of Viahera’s products and naturally dyed plant fibres are used to create beautiful accessories like scarves and bags.

In her own words, designer Jeanny Buan explains the process and here is what she says:

  1. The process starts with harvesting the raw material- pandan, abaca or tikog when it reaches the proper maturity. Younger plants are not used as they tend to be shorter and softer.
  2. Removal of thorns- the sides of the leaves are manually sliced off, leaving just the middle part.
  3. Drying- Depending on the weather, the leaves are sun dried between 2-7 days. The hotter it is, the faster it dries up. This poses a problem during typhoon season (end of May- September) as the weavers cannot constantly dry the raw material
  4. Flattening/ pounding manually using flat sticks- the dried leaves are manually pounded and flattened using logs of wood in order to prepare for weaving
  5. Drying- 2nd drying process that can take 2-7 days depending on the weather
  6. Plant based dyeing process- the dried leaves are submerged in dye. This can take anywhere from a few hours to a few days.
  7. Drying- Dyed leaves are sun dried for the third time
  8. Flattening- To ensure that the consistency of the thickness and width is the same, the dyed leaves are flattened again and then cut into equal portion of strands
  9. Weaving- Once the weavers have lined up the dried and dyed leaves, the make the designs according to Viahera’s requirement

An experienced weaver holding freshly harvested tikog grass

SCARF DYE

  1. Plant based dyes are manually planted in a local farm in the Philippines such as indigo, turmeric, mahogany and cogon grass
  2. Dye is extracted by boiling the leaves, barks of trees or the plant itself
  3. Natural yarns made from pineapple fibers or organic Philippine cotton is soaked in the dye- detailed ikat dyeing discussed below
  4. Yarns are air dried
  5. “Warping” is done with hands- this is the process where the yarn is stretched on a loom to ensure the tightness before the weft is manually weaved, this is the first stage of the weaving process.
  6. Heddling and Reeding- Two of the most crucial parts of a loom is the heddle and reed. The heddle allows the warp thread to be separated so the weft can be added while the reed looks like a comb, which is used to push the weft in between the threads during the weaving process. Instead of using a loom, the threads from our scarves are manually inserted one by one.
  7. Weaving- once the heddling and reeding is done and the design is finalizes, it is then tightened using a loom.

 

IKAT

Ikat is a beautiful dyeing process which is widely seen in South Asian and South American countries. It is a dyeing technique where bundles of yarn is wrapped or tied together and dyed as many times as it needs in order to come up with the desired pattern. Unlike other dyeing techniques where the dye is applied to the fabric already after woven, ikat is a process where dye is applied BEFORE the yarn is woven together.

Once the yarn is dyed, it is then sun dried between 2-10 days depending on the weather. After it has dried, the thread is lined up together to form the desired pattern.

Ikat weaving

 

Shop Viahera

Weaving social links

Jeanny Buan

A lot has been said about the eco – friendly fashion movement and its efforts and strategies to put an end to practices that harm the environment. However, we are not talking enough about the communities who were once affected by this global over industrialized world and we are definitely not doing enough to re build them.

Weaving social links within the Philippines indigenous female communities is what drives Viahera’s founder and designer Jeanny Buan. Having grown up in Cordillera, Philippines, she knows first – hand what it means to struggle every day for the bare basics and has made social responsibility, ethical practices and sustainable values her main focus within her design practice.
Viahera story begins in 2011 when Jeanny Buan moved to Canada. The beauty of this new environment sparked a love for traveling and hiking in the wilderness, but it also made her aware of the importance of preserving and sustaining our world. And so, as Jeanny traveled around the idea of Viahera was born.

“I chose the name Viahera, also spelled Viajera which means “Female traveller” in Spanish. This name is close to my heart as I am mixed race with a blend of Filipino, Spanish and Chinese”, Jeanny explains.

Fashion and Heart had the opportunity to sit down with Jeanny and this is a little snippet of what she told us:
Fashion and Heart: “You already told us about your passion for sustaining our environment but where does the drive to create a brand that fosters sustaining indigenous traditional crafts come from?”
Jeanny Buan: “In 2013, two disasters occurred which totally impacted my views on  fashion and its implications for women and nature. First, typhoon Haiyan devastated Philippines and left over 10,000 people dead and shortly after the factory collapse in Bangladesh that killed over 1,000 employees. It made me think of a potential solution that can help women inspire other women to dress up without harming the environment. VIAHERA WAS BORN. Viahera is an eco friendly brand of handbags and scarves made by Indigenous women from my home country Philippines in Cordillera, Cebu, Negros and Basey; and accessories which are locally handmade in Saskatoon, Canada. Our aim is to back to the community.”
Fashion and Heart: “What are Viahera’s core values?”
Jeanny Buan: “Respect, commitment to the environment, giving back to the community, inclusion and creating opportunity.”
Fashion and Heart: “Can you tell us about your “giving back to the community” strategy?”
Jeanny Buan: “Viahera gives back to the communities where we do business and where our products are made. In Philippines we pay for the tuition, monthly allowance and one extra curricular activity for three grade 7 Viahera scholars; we pay fairly to the weavers who are making the products, we raise awareness about weavers from Philippines in social media and we have an Annual giving- For the whole month of January and February, where proceeds from the sale of any pink product (wallet, handbag, headband, coin purse or scarf) goes to the Red Cross Pink Day program (bullying prevention education). In Canada we focus on the importance of immigrant inclusion and creating opportunity by employing skilled refugees or new Canadians that can help them gain confidence and experience in the Canadian workforce.”

Leticia Sab-it, Ruth Sanoy and Jeanny Buan at Pines City National high School.

Thousands of kids in Phillippines are unable to go to school due to poverty. Jeanny Buan was a government scholar while attending High School. Her company has developed a scholar system with Pines National High School to give back to the community where her product is made.

Fashion and Heart: “How are these values connected with your upbringing in the Philippines?”
Jeanny Buan: “I was able to finish my education through scholarships and I feel that I have the moral obligation to “pay it forward” and provide students the same opportunity that I had when I was a child. In terms of respect, my family, being mixed race, treated everyone with respect regardless of how they looked like or what language they speak. I owe it to my family for raising me to look beyond skin colour. In regards to the environment, I grew up not having much, we only had water from the tap three times a week so we would fill big tanks with water to have enough supply for the whole week. Some of my neighbors did not have electricity, we “re-used, reduced and recycled” so caring for the environment came naturally to me.”

Florentina coin purse $20 Canadian dollars. Photo by: Titanium Photography.

Flora Wallet $35 Canadian Dollars. Models: Aida Gossa, Melissa Cheetham and Kyarra Sumners-Daniel, hairstylist: Tina Monz, Make up: Hisa Quian, Photo by: Colin Chatfield

Click here to shop Viahera

Profiling emerging jewellery designer Ximena Ferre

Ximena Ferre

 

 

 

For jewellery designer, Ximena Ferre, her pieces are all about questioning our perceptions of beauty and value. Through traditional jewellery processes she creates the illusion of socially accepted ideas of value while contrasting these with her choice of materials. Transforming the public’s perception of plastic is at the core of this collection and what has driven Ximena Ferre’s  work for the last year. This is how she does it.

Collection name: “From Rags to Riches”

Sustainable design strategy: Up-cycling, recycling, waste re-purposing.

Process and materials: By cutting, filling and embedding perspex recycled pieces, which were recovered from waste,  Ximena crafts them into contemporary jewellery pieces. Silver is cleverly utilized to create the desired illusion of fine and precious materials. Her fine craftsmanship results in pieces which challenges our associations with plastic by changing its appearance and associating it with valuable materials such as onyx and ebony.

Transparency: Ximena crafts all her pieces in her studio at home and enjoys showing her customers the development of each of her pieces. She outsources machinery and equipment within New Zealand as required. Her value chain is constantly expanding and improving as she develops links and contacts in terms of her material purchases.

Where to buy: e mail: ximenaferre@gmail.com

rings, silver and perspex

Rings, silver and perspex

Underside of brooch.

Brooch, silver and perspex

Solar dyeing process

In her book “Slow Stitch”, Claire Wellesley-Smith, talks about the process of slow solar dyeing. Part of my slow practice has always involved dyeing, printing and painting of the textile medium, however I had never tried using solar power as the medium to fix natural dye to the fibre. As I mentioned before, my process is becoming more and more sustainable as time passes. I am now growing my own dye garden which has become a very enjoyable part of my textile process. I felt it was time to try the solar dyeing method and this is what happened:

White yarn immersed in water and 1/2 a teaspoon of allum powder and two french marigolds.

White merino yarn immersed in water with 1/2 teaspoon of allum powder and coffee grounds

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Yarn in coffee grounds after 5 days exposed to the sun

Yarn in French Marigold after 5 days exposed to the sun

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Opening the jar with the marigolds for the first time after 5 days…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Opening the jar with coffee for the first time after 5 days…

Yarn in coffee before rinsing…

After a good rinse…marigold (left), coffee (right).