What do you get when you have a group of talented artists living in a tiny rural community during a strong economic downturn? Creative, artful solutions, that’s what. Jean Nichols, owner of the non profit Art For the Heart, an ongoing “art for healing” project in Peñasco, New Mexico (a couple of villages up the High Road from my village of Truchas) and Anita Marie put their heads together and created UpCycled Fasion, a creative endeavor that utilizes discarded clothing to remake wonderful new garments (UpCycled Fashion). They train and hire local women to help them, as seamstresses, designers and shopkeepers.
Anita says, “Our project has everything, recycling, rural development, women in need of learning new skills, entrepreneurship… so we’re able to get grants to support what we’re doing.” In fact, Upcycled Fashion is funded by New Mexico Women’s Foundation which supports organizations and programs that create economic opportunities for New Mexico’s women and girls, by New Mexico Arts, a division of the Department of Cultural Affairs and the National Endowment of the Arts, The McCune Charitable Foundation which is dedicated to enriching the health, education, environment, and cultural and spiritual life of New Mexicans, and WESST, which helps New Mexicans achieve economic independence through entrepreneurship. And rightfully so. This program is wonderful.
Anna (see previous post The Art of Anna Karin), Julie (see previous post Who Wants to Move to Truchas, New Mexico?) and I headed up to Peñasco the other day to see the organization first-hand and we came away very impressed. We started at the WEARhouse, a large quonset hut where all the raw materials (donated clothing) are gathered and sorted by color and fabric—no small undertaking—and where the designers make their creations. We were met there by Jean and Anita and two of the designer/seamstresses.
The creative energy was palpable. These women, each artists in their own right, are clearly inspired by what this project allows them to do. And each woman has her own, personal, vision—some more tailored, some more funky. In fact there will be a fashion show on Saturday, January 21, at the Midtown Lounge in Arroyo Hondo (just north of Taos) showcasing some of the more progressive designs. The show is called “Dream Punk” to give you an idea. For those of you in the area, you really should try to make it. The show starts at 7PM.
The WEARhouse is also a resource for local theater groups in search of costumes. And students in need, or women returning to the workforce, can come select clothing at no cost. Call 575-587-0202 to make an appointment.
We then went to the studio, Art For the Heart, which is across the street from the post office in Peñasco (it is located directly behind Walking Woman Gallery). This is one place you all can come to see some of the designs and to try on and purchase clothing for yourselves. The studio is open Thursdays through Sundays from 11 to 5. The phone number is 575-587-0202.
But there is also a wonderful store on the north plaza in Taos where you can purchase items as well. Located in the same building as Sustaining Cultures (121 N. Plaza), you’ll find Upcycled Fashion in Suite B. They are open 10 to 5 every day except Tuesdays and their phone number is 575-737-9496 (please note that the city will be doing some construction there between Jan. 16th and Jan. 25th, so the store will be closed, reopening on the 26th).
Torre Strong, one of Upcyled Fashion’s designer/artists was working the store the day we were there and was most helpful. She is also a leather-worker, jewelry maker and painter. There was a great selection of hats and baby booties, among other things, and I couldn’t leave without buying a gray wool cape made by Torre.
For you retailers out there, UpCycled Fashion will also sell at wholesale, so anyone interested in that should call Anita Marie at 575-387-2308. In fact Stilo, on Nob Hill in Albuquerque, has just started carrying a line of their women’s broaches and baby booties. You can reach Stilo at 505-242-6260 or see more of what they have to offer at stiloabq.com.
Soon Anna and I are heading up to the studio with Finn in tow (see previous post Rescue Dog: Meet Finn (Survivor)) because I’m commissioning a custom-made coat for him (you know I’ll be doing a post about that!) and they want to take some measurements. They’re thinking of creating a new division called PupCycles. I like it!
Any of you who are coming up to the High Road owe it to yourselves to drop by Art For the Heart in Peñasco, or the Upcycled Fashion shop in Taos. Not only are the garments created by these remarkable women worth a look, but a program this wonderful deserves all our support. Happy sustainable shopping!
Love to you all,
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