Spotlight: April Jouse, Fiber Artist & EVFAC Director of Operations
What a pleasure to interview April Jouse! April is a fiber artist and Director of Operations for the Espanola Valley Fiber Arts Center in New Mexico. Want a reason to visit New Mexico? Then come for their annual Fiber Art Crawl! A three day event filled with studio tours, classes and more!
When did the Espanola Valley Fiber Arts Center open? What was the impetus to start the center and organization?
EVFAC was founded in 1995 by a small group of weavers who learned that there were many families in the area who had inherited looms but who had little knowledge of the techniques and heritage of Northern New Mexico textiles practiced by their grandparents. With donated looms and space in a local church, the group began to teach weaving. It increased in size and started offering classes, so the group moved to rented space in Española, hired a manager, and formally opened its doors for business in October 1996.
What types of classes and workshops are held at the center?
Many types of classes in weaving, spinning, dyeing, knitting, felting, and more!
Most of our classes are for adults, but we have an extremely active youth education program, called the Traveling Fiber Trunk, where we bring weaving classes into the local schools. We also host an educational program called “Walk in & Weave” where anyone can make a reservation and weave a rag rug in one day. We have everything set up so students can just focus on the fun part and come away with something they created. It’s perfect for people just visiting New Mexico.
Tell us a little bit about your journey as a maker. What are your personal preferred mediums to work with? How has that evolved over time?
Personally, I received my BFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago where I focused on Fiber Arts. When I moved to New Mexico I was pleased to find a deep history of weaving, dyeing and spinning that was still thriving. The whole state is alive with contemporary and traditional fiber arts. I struck gold when I found EVFAC since it has such a wonderful mission of supporting the Fiber Arts in all its diversity through education and event opportunities. Beginning as the Education Coordinator, then I moved to the Director of Operations. I still make time for weaving, dyeing and embroidery through my personal art practice and through teaching here at EVFAC.
What does your studio look like? Where does the magic happen?
I have a home studio where I work on most of my creations, but I also utilize EVFAC as my studio. We have looms of all shapes and sizes, a dye kitchen and a wet felting area so just about anything can be accomplished.
How do you make time for creating? Do you try to create daily?
Working on so many projects and events at EVFAC can be time consuming, but I make time in the early mornings or on the weekends to create. I have a fairly regular weekly schedule so that I can fit everything in. I think that making time for crafts a good balance and can help in productivity in both realms.
What is it like to work with makers and creative people every day? Has it changed your personal work?
I love working with artists! I think that creative people bring up some really stimulating questions and answers. Other people can help generate ideas for both work and artwork.
What is the biggest surprise that you’ve had in your role at Espanola Valley Fiber Arts Center?
The biggest surprise I have encountered here is the depth and breadth of the community of Fiber Artists here in New Mexico. There are many cultures and traditions that melt together to create a huge diversity of Fiber Arts. This really comes out in an exciting way through the contemporary artists throughout the state.
What trends do you see with the work of the members and fiber community?
Lately, I see a trend back to styles of fiber arts like macramé and frame loom weaving; really anything with a lot of texture. An even more exciting trend that I have noticed is that more people coming back into the classroom to learn from a flesh and blood teacher instead of asking the internet for everything.
What is your advice for someone starting out in your field?
My advice for anyone starting out either in fiber art or in arts administration is to get involved with your local organizations. Take classes. Ask questions. Volunteer to help out every now and again. There are people dedicated to promoting the education of the arts that would love to have you involved (me included!).
Tell us more about the Fiber Art Crawl. What can people expect?
The annual New Mexico Fiber Crawl is a three day event. It opens the doors of fiber artists all over the state. This event takes visitors on a self-guided tour of over 50 locations and will highlight all forms of fiber arts.
Beginning in Albuquerque and winding north to Tierra Amarilla, the Crawl features conversations with artists, exclusive access to gallery and museum collections, hands-on demonstrations, and chances to win prizes, including weekend getaways and great meals. And for those who are happy to do more than just look, there are plenty of opportunities to buy products directly from local producers and artists.
Whether you weave, felt, dye, knit, or are just interested in New Mexico’s long history with the fiber arts, the Española Valley Fiber Arts Center’s New Mexico Fiber Crawl is a fascinating way to experience the entire tradition. Over the weekend, fiber fans can explore the farms where it all begins, meet people who hand spin the yarn and the artists who work with it, and visit the galleries and museums highlighting the traditional as well as the most cutting-edge work in the state.
We are also offering some really exciting raffle prizes which people can take a look at on the website.