Quilting a Community Affair at Galería Octágono, Creative Energy Abounds in Heredia Gallery

February 25, 2005

SILVIA Piza de Tandlich wanted hercommunity to be known for something –something involving the people, theirhands, and education in every sense of theword. And so, she created GaleríaOctágono.The gallery was built on land Silvia, aCosta Rican, and her husband Richard,from the United States, bought seven yearsago. Richard, with the help of a friend,built the octagon-shaped gallery out of 60cypress trees behind their home in 2001.The gallery officially opened two yearsago.Silvia is a firm believer in working andlearning from what you have. Before creatingGalería Octágono, she was a teacher.Upon returning to Costa Rica after spendingseveral years in the United States, shehad ambitious dreams of creating a placethat exuded Costa Rican hospitality whilereaching within the community to help thecommunity. Valuing the importance ofeducation and hands-on learning, she combinedthese two elements with her skills,energy and spirit to make up the ingredientsto her success.THE core of Galería Octágono is composedof a group of eight women and theirchildren, who create masterpieces withtheir hands. Silvia helped these womenlearn basic quilting skills; what hasevolved is nothing short of extraordinary.The women are now working on skillssuch as free-motion stitching, which isgenerally a machine-made technique.Many of these women, who live in themountains, do not have machines or gadgetsto perform these functions. Instead,they have determination, creativity, andSilvia to lead the way.Silvia provides all of the materials forthe women, including fabric, thread, yarnand stamps. The profits from the art creationsare split evenly among the womenwho work on the piece; sometimes asmany as five women or even a whole familywork on one item, such as in the case ofone piece of artwork, a unique mask constructedusing a coffee-filter.All items for sale include a small notecard: a journal of sorts, detailing who createdwhat part of the artwork – whichwoman crocheted, stamped or sewed. Eachpiece is signed, or sewed, with the namesof the artists. In this way, the women learncalligraphy in addition to quilting, andbuyers enjoy the nice personal touch ofknowing which artists put time and energyinto each distinct piece – or, as Silvia callsit, each “sweat investment.”SILVIA makes sure Galería Octágonoisn’t all work and no play. She coordinates quilting parties for the women and theirchildren – the women quilt while the childrenpaint glass or make papier-mâchéitems. And, while the pieces do demand alot of time, energy and work, the womenget to be creative with the pieces.Sometimes one piece is the creation ofmultiple techniques, from crocheting,sewing and embroidering to stamping.Walking into Galería Octágono, one isoverwhelmed by an enormous creativeenergy. Silvia wants to make sure thegallery has a “sensorial mood” to it.Tranquil music plays, aromatic candles areburning.Most impressive of all is the art, ofcourse. The colors, shapes, textures andmoods jump out at the visitor from the varioustapestries hung on the wall. Alteredbooks made out of felt, cloth and othermaterials for use as scrapbooks, photoalbums or journals adorn the shelves, andhomemade furniture – crafted by Richard –entices visitors to sit and take it all in.SILVIA has a profound connectionwith the women who have helped createwhat Galería Octágono is today. One,Beatriz Valverde, whom Silvia tutors invarious high school subjects, works at thegallery in the afternoons, assisting visitorsif Silvia is holding a class, or working onone of many art pieces.Watching Beatriz intently stitch part ofa quilt, one would think the intricate workhad taken her months, especially knowingshe is currently busy studying to receiveher high-school diploma. But Beatriz saidthe piece had only taken her two weeks,and pointed to the woman to her left, workingbeside her. Aura Madrigal, anotherwoman from the community, had helpedstitch the flowers Beatriz was placingstrategically on the beautifully craftedquilt. One of the reasons for the artists’success at the gallery is that their worktruly is a community affair.UNIQUE and varied, the pieces in thegallery range from $4 for small items suchas cards to $1,000 for some of the larger,more intricate quilts. Art for sale includesquilts, picture frames, candles, furniture,painted glass, cards and altered books.Galería Octágono is next to ResidencialAve de Paraíso, on the road toHotel La Condesa, in Los Ángeles de SanRafael, Heredia, north of San José. It isopen every day from 9 a.m.-6 p.m. Silviaoffers private quilting lessons for beginnersfor ¢16,000 ($35), including fourextensive sessions. She prefers ages sevenand up. For information on quilting classesor other art workshops, call 267-6325.

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