Ashley Rodriguez Reed
TEXTILES, SCULPTURE, AND INSTALLATION ART

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Why Teach Fiber and Textile Arts?

Kindergarten students learning the basics of weaving by making potholders.

Kindergarten students learning the basics of weaving by making potholders.

Recently, I was talking with local artist about the state of fiber and textile education. She assists a textile class at San Francisco City College and unfortunately they are cancelling the class this year. She wondered, is this the direction things are headed or is this an exclusive case? She sent a letter to the school urging them to understand the value of her and other students’ experience with this kind of educational access. She states, I feel it an important field of study not only for creativity sake, but “slow fashion” has made such a comeback in the last decade for self expression, environmental and therapeutic reasons. The decision to end the class is still happening, however, I do see a resurgence of textile education in the form of workshops and people outside of academia spreading these important art processes. I don’t know where the state of fiber and textile education is but I feel fortunate to be able to teach these processes even on basic level.

5th grader sewing fabric scraps together to make a quilt inspired by the work of the Gee’s Bend quilters.

5th grader sewing fabric scraps together to make a quilt inspired by the work of the Gee’s Bend quilters.

I teach visual art to Kindergarten through Eighth grade at a school in Oakland. As a textile artist, I see so much value in what these processes teach. To name a few: cultural history, appreciation of process, patience, fine motor skill and of course the empowering feeling you have when you make something! When I was teaching the kindergartners how to weave one of them said to me: “why are we doing this, it’s too hard!” I said, “well you don’t grow if it’s not hard.” He paused and thought for a moment. I continued to say if you do something that’s hard, it’s okay. You might not enjoy parts of it but it feels good to stick with it and learn. He sighed and didn’t know what else to say but he continued to try without tears so that meant something! Any time I’m teaching a fiber process to students, I get this frustration from students at some point. It’s a real part of learning these crafts but I know it’s good for them. In the end, they really feel accomplished and even surprised by what they do. More on this topic to come….


ashley rodriguez reed