Textile arts and vintage. Paducah, Kentucky, founder of Artizan Made.
Brazil (1962-1980), St. Olaf College, Minnesota (1980-1984), Chicago (1984-2005) and then landed in Paducah, Kentucky in 2005. This has been my path, a creative and interesting one all along the way. My parents took me to Brazil when I was six months old. They were both Lutheran Minnesota farm kids called to the ministry as missionaries. Our church in Brazil was primarily made up of German immigrants, but my hometown, Maringa’, attracted people from all over the world. A third of the city was Japanese! Those were years of music, laughter, all kinds of crafts, and great friendships. I painted t-shirts and started selling at festivals when I was 15, so the entrepreneurial urge has been in me for almost my whole life.
I studied political science, religion and sociology in college with professors who taught me how to think critically. From there, I went to Chicago through Lutheran Volunteer Corps and was immersed in inner city life, the beginning of 20 wonderful years.
All along, I made things. A friend and I joined a clay studio which led to four years of throwing and hand building, art festivals and learning the ropes of being an artist. I couldn’t afford the studio fees, so changed over to sewing and embroidery, which I could do from home.
In 1988 I was hired to manage a cooperative of artists and small importers, which I did for another four years. I found the marriage of all my interests: how the arts impact the potential for economic development all around the world, how the environment is tied into our materials and our waste, and how buying and selling is a partnership of aesthetics, vision and respect.
Since then, I have been interested in creative communities and follow several organizations that work with that mission. Paducah, where I live, is a Unesco Creative City, a role that has brought many international exchanges, fun performances and deep connections.
In 1992, I opened my first shop which led to two other ones, each time in a bigger space. I did that until I left Chicago and moved to Paducah. The shops were centers of lively happenings, with live music and other events. It was great fun!
In Paducah, everything went online, selling through eBay and then on Etsy. I had many friends who were small importers and would buy from them and re-sell their crafts, along with the things I made. Over time, I moved more into helping others with their online businesses and in 2010 launched TAFA: The Textile and Fiber Art List, a business association for artists and educators. Artizan Made grew out of that. (Artizan celebrated its 10th anniversary in 2023!)
I feel profound distress at the social imbalances in our societies. We still see so much inequality, racism, poverty and war. I weep for the environment and for the destruction of the Amazon. At the same time, there is a saying in Brazil propels me forward, “Hope is the last to die.” Within all of this, I believe firmly that “handmade” is more than a product. It is a lifestyle that is deeply connected to the earth and to the other arts, a lifestyle that offers hope for the future of this world.
I don’t have time to make much these days, but I look forward to creating again someday. I knit for fun when I can. I do have some things I’ve made in the past or vintage items which I am selling here. Artizan Made is my big creative endeavor now.
I have written about many ideas on my personal site, www.rayela.com. I’m always looking for collaboration. 🙂
I made a video of my life and about how living in Brazil under a military dictatorship informed my path. It’s an hour long, so not a quickie. I did it because I feel that we are facing totalitarianism and fascism in many places, including here in the United States. Much of this is propelled by the church and I felt the need to speak out against it. These ideologies are the exact opposite of what I learned from the Church when I was young. I would like to see a reclamation of Faith center on love, forgiveness, compassion and gentleness. People who have watched the video have said that they found it interesting…. You will find it in the right column. ->> Please leave a comment there if you have any insights on my thoughts.
Explore Artizan Made and thank you for supporting handmade!