Rayela Art

Rachel Biel embroidery, self portrait as a baby.
Selling painted t-shirts in the park, Brazil, 1978, with Regina and Rose.

Selling painted t-shirts in the park, Brazil, 1978, with Regina and Rose.

Brazil (1962-1980), St. Olaf College, Minnesota (1980-1984), Chicago (1984-2005) and then landed in Paducah, Kentucky. This has been my path and it’s been a creative and interesting one all along the way. My parents took me to Brazil with them when I was six months old. They were both Lutheran Minnesota farm kids called to 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. 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.

Working with clay in Chicago, 1988.

Working with clay in Chicago, 1988.

I studied political science, religion and sociology in college under 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 about 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 four years. I found the marriage of all my interests in understanding the economic development potential the arts has in empowering disenfranchised communities in the US and around the world. Since then, I have been interested in creative communities and how they can bring opportunities to the area.

In 1992, I opened my first shop which then 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!

Dara Tribal Village in Chicago, 2003, in partnership with Abdul Wardak.

Dara Tribal Village in Chicago, 2003, in partnership with Abdul Wardak. Abdul now has a beadshop and gallery in downtown Paducah, Beads and Rugs at 626 Broadway.

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 online, 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.

Knitted capelet, colorwork.

Knitted capelet, colorwork.

I feel profound distress at our social imbalances and how after all this time, 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 a saying from 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 made a video of my life and how living in Brazil, under a military dictatorship, informed my path. It’s an hour long, so not a quickie. People who have watched it have said they found it interesting….

I don’t have time to make much these days, but I look forward to creating again at some point. I knit at night, but not for sale. Still, I have quite a few things I’ve made in the past or bought which I offer for sale 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. 🙂

 

Grandpa and Grandma Biel Embroidery

Grandpa and Grandma Biel Embroidery

 

Wallpaper Purse

Wallpaper Purse

 

Prairie Point Hat

Prairie Point Hat

 

Will I See You Tomorrow quilt.

Will I See You Tomorrow quilt.

 

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