Paulina Ortiz, Manuel Arce and a few others unpacked about two dozen quilts onto a table at the Costa Rican-North American Cultural Center.
“How beautiful. How amazing,” said an awed Ortiz, as each quilt was revealed.
“These are some of the most beautiful quilts I’ve ever seen,” said Arce, the center’s cultural director.
Each exquisite quilt was handmade by a group of African-American women in the U.S. city of New Orleans. The embroidery featured jazz and African cultural themes. Some quilts showed entire jazz bands playing a nightclub. Others were dedicated to famous jazz artists like Lena Horne.
These detailed works of art will be among the centerpieces of the first Ibero-American Textile Network Meeting taking place Sept. 3 to 16 at venues around the country. The event will be a textile art showcase that hopes to promote textile creations in Latin America.
“We are actually making an effort in educating in textiles,” said Ortiz, president of the Ibero-American Textile Network. “Our goal is to promote knowledge.”
International artists and art enthusiasts will visit Costa Rica this month to see some of the best textile designs Latin America and the world have to offer. Workshops and guest presentations will take place Sept. 5 to 13. Many of the event’s eight exhibitions will remain on display through part of October in various locations throughout Costa Rica.
Textiles can be any thin, flexible material consisting of a network of fibers. Common examples of items that can be created with textile techniques include clothing, jewelry, quilts, flags and Persian or other types of rugs.
In a room inside the Spanish Cultural Center in eastern San José’s Barrio Escalante, 10 days before the start of the festivities, Lala de Dios helped unpack a variety of both quirky and elegant clothing accessories. De Dios, designer, cultural manager and president of the European Textile Network and the Association of Textile Artists of Madrid, brought this collection outside Spain for the first time. Each fashion accessory in the collection was made with textile materials or created through a textile technique such as crocheting.
A felt shawl from Germany was pulled from a box. Brooches from Taiwan shaped like potato chips and sandwiches sat on a plate. A necklace made by a Dutch artist rested among other items made of wool and silk. In total, the “Suave IV” collection includes works by 66 exhibitors from 19 countries.
“This is the very first time we organized the exhibition abroad,” de Dios said. “We felt it was a very good chance to help the Ibero-American network that organized this first meeting.”
In the past, Ortiz had put on an annual textile exhibition. She’s thrilled to see her textile show expand from one gallery to an eight-exhibition festival. Ortiz said recognition of textile art is growing in Latin America – a region where textile work has deep roots – but the art is often underappreciated.
Most textile artists are female, and Ortiz wants to highlight to attendees that textile creation can provide opportunities for women. That theme will be illustrated at the University of Costa Rica campus in the Caribbean port city of Limón, where the New Orleans quilt-making artists will offer special quilting classes.
Costa Rican textile artist Silvia Piza-Tandlich will have the event’s lone solo exhibition. It opened July 1 at the National Museum in San José. Piza-Tandlich took over an area of the museum with a collection of her handmade textile works, entitled “Metamorfosis, un nuevo ciclo” (“Metamorphosis: A New Cycle”).
For Piza-Tandlich, textiles are special because of the way audiences can experience the art. Unlike a painting or a sculpture, touching and feeling the textile is often part of understanding the art.
“The whole public can enjoy it,” she said. “You don’t have to go to a fancy gallery with walls to see art, because nowadays a lot of people feel intimidated by that (in Costa Rica).”
Ortiz said one sign of textiles’ growing reputation in Costa Rica is that the National University recently introduced a degree in textile design.
Although the focus will be on the 22 countries that make up the network, the first Ibero-American Textile Network Meeting will be an international affair. More than 100 artists from the United States, Central and South America, eastern Asia and many parts of Europe will have their work on display at the textile exhibitions.
Guest speakers at the conferences and workshops will touch on topics such as heritage, textile creation and design, management and education. These events will be free to the public. Attendees are asked to make reservations in advance.
“What we are looking for is to have an atmosphere for the exchange of knowledge, and for people to get to know us a little better,” Ortiz said. “Not just Costa Rica but Ibero-America. There is little visibility for that kind of creation.”