Episode 134: Weaving Monuments As Memory Signifiers with Carolina Jimenez

by LaChaun Moore

 

In this week’s episode, LaChaun speaks with Carolina Jimenez, a Mexican-American textile artist and designer living in Brooklyn, New York. In Carolina’s weaving practice she makes monuments as memory signifiers, and vessels into which the past is poured, molded or reshaped (woven, unraveled, or stretched). These monuments reference the body - her body and ours - they speak to the magnificence of our daily lived experience and the monumentality of the mundane.

Carolina Jimenez's Website

Carolina Jimenez's Instagram

Carolina Jimenez's Garments (Series 01)

Carolina Jimenez
Weave Podcast episode with Carolina Jimenez
Weave Podcast episode with Carolina Jimenez
Weave Podcast episode with Carolina Jimenez
Weave Podcast episode with Carolina Jimenez
Weave Podcast episode with Carolina Jimenez

Transcript

Sarah Resnick: I’m Sarah Resnick.

LaChaun Moore: And I’m LaChaun Moore.

Sarah Resnick: And we are the hosts of the Weave Podcast, a project of the weaving yarn shop, GIST Yarn & Fiber.

LaChaun Moore: Hello. Hi, everyone. I hope all is well. In this week’s episode, I’m speaking with Carolina Jimenez. In Carolina’s weaving practice, she makes monuments, memory signifiers and vessels into which the past is poured, molded, or reshaped, woven, unraveled, or stretched. These monuments reference the body, her body and ours. They speak to the magnificence of our daily lived experience and the monumentality of the mundane. And we’re very lucky to have her on the podcast this week.

Hello, Carolina. Welcome to the podcast. Thank you for joining us today.

Carolina Jimenez: Thank you so much for having me. It’s such an honor to be here with you.

LaChaun Moore: Well, it’s an honor to have you, as well. Can you start out by telling us about your background and where you’re from?

Carolina Jimenez: Sure. So, I am an artist and textile designer currently living in Brooklyn. I am Mexican American. My parents are both from Chiapas, Mexico, which is the most southern state of Mexico. I studied architecture undergrad. I worked for a couple years in architecture and then I decided to get my MFA for textile design. And that’s kind of the path that has led me to where I’m currently at, where I can be exploring my weaving a few days a week and then part-time working for another textile designer/painter named Caroline Z Hurley.

LaChaun Moore: Wow. And I’m really curious about your architectural background. Has that in any way sort of spilled over into your fiber practice?

Carolina Jimenez: Totally. I mean, I think it definitely does. Just like all of these other experiences that we have kind of like shapes the way that we see the world, and our interests, and what we kind of naturally are responding to. So, yeah, I think a lot of my work now I’m really thinking about space, and kind of creating that space with the viewer and with the audience, because I think the very first time I knew I wanted to be an architect, or at least learn about it, was when I was I think in sixth grade. My class took a field trip from where I grew up, which is San Diego, California, up to L.A., and we went to the Getty Museum, and when I stood there, there was just this moment of kind of feeling transported. I never felt that way before.

And so, I think that’s one of the really amazing things about the arts kind of in a whole sense, is that it can really transport you, so that’s I guess the entry point into being interested in design and being interested in art, and really thinking about humans and how humans are interacting with that.

LaChaun Moore: Yeah. Absolutely. That’s such a beautiful way to kind of be introduced into a form of art. I’m really curious as to how you began working with textiles and weaving specifically, like did you learn your skills when you went on to do your MFA? Or did you kind of start before then?

Carolina Jimenez: Yeah. I started before then. I was always really interested since being little in making, and I was always kind of making cards, or painting, or had those DIY kits where you’d make jewelry. But I think for various reasons, some of which is like coming from the background of my parents being immigrants, and like being really invested in education, arts per se wasn’t something that I knew was open to me as an option, which is kind of why I went into architecture, because I thought it has this really great blend of art and what I thought would be like math, or engineering, things that I was really strong at in school.

But then when I went into my undergrad experience, I really loved being in the studio and thinking about those concepts about space, and about people moving through space, and the relationship that they have with kind of their larger environment, and even like their community, but my very last year I decided to take a studio outside of the architecture department, because you have to take one studio in the architecture department every semester. So, I actually landed on weaving. Some of that was I have an older sister. She’s four years older than me and she had been really getting into weaving and I was like, “That seems so cool.” As younger siblings usually do. I was like, “I’m gonna try this out myself.”

So, that was my real introduction to weaving. I had been interested in textiles before and I taught myself to knit a few years before that in college, just out of interest, but when I first sat down at the loom after I… You know, you measure your warp, and you thread it, and you start weaving, then I felt that kind of moment again of like, “Oh, this is magic.” Very transported and feeling really connected to a long history of textile arts. And so, that’s kind of where the seed was planted for weaving, and in those two years where I was living in New York City and working at an architecture firm, I realized that I really missed creating with my hands, and so I bought a loom. I had two wonderful roommates who let me keep my giant floor loom in our living room and from there I just started making and I knew pretty quickly into that process of weaving again that I wanted to switch my focus and go back to school so that I could be working with textiles and with weaving.

LaChaun Moore: It’s amazing that you kind of just jumped right in and got a floor loom. What type of floor loom did you get?

Carolina Jimenez: I got a four harness. I think it was a Leclerc, Nilus Leclerc, I think that’s how you say it. But you know, I was actually listening to an episode with you earlier this week and you were saying something about like you were around 24 and you had this quarter life crisis, and that very much resonated to what I was feeling. You know, I think we don’t talk about that enough. It’s like you come out of school and you’re expecting one thing, and then you have to kind of start to reintegrate all of these different parts of who you are, or who you want to be, and how that might or might not be aligning with the path that you’re on.

LaChaun Moore: Yeah. I mean, I absolutely understand that, and of course it resonates with me because I said it previously, but yeah. I mean, I will absolutely reiterate that that phase or that moment in time after school, where you go from being around people who seem to care a lot about the things that you create, and care about your thoughts, and then kind of going into the world and having these dreams that you dreamt up while you were in college, and then having to actually make them come true is definitely a challenge, all while living life, right? All while dealing with the everyday struggles of having to exist as a person in this society. And so, I absolutely, absolutely understand where you’re coming from.

Carolina Jimenez: Yeah.

LaChaun Moore: Yeah. And weaving, you know, weaving is such a wonderful craft to get into, because it is kind of at the intersection of being really creative and being free, but also kind of forcing yourself to stick within a structure, and then also being creative at the same time I find is just such a nice balance.

Carolina Jimenez: Completely. Completely. Yeah, like I think that’s one of the reasons why I was also drawn to weaving, because as I said, coming from architecture, it’s quite… I mean, the way that it was taught at… I guess like the pedagogy of how I was taught in school, it’s very rigorous, and it’s not approached so much as an artform, but as its own discipline. So, you really need to have those ideas and reasoning behind each step, or each decision that you’re making, and that relates a lot to weaving. But at the same time, it kind of stretches, and stretches who you are, like it’s really an embodiment of each of us who makes it, whether you’re approaching textiles as a craft, or as a hobby, or as an art practice. There’s so much of the person, the individual, within that textile, so much of your labor really wrapped up in that object, which I think is so fascinating.

LaChaun Moore: Absolutely. And you describe your weavings as monuments and memory signifiers. Can you talk about some of the themes that show up in your work?

Carolina Jimenez: Totally. So, yeah, I think of those two things as kind of responding to the world in two different ways, like the monument is this kind of like external aspect, or like a way that I want to present textiles in the world, because I think a lot of time we don’t as a whole, like in our culture, we don’t bring that into the foreground even though we are… It’s one of the things that’s surrounding us almost 100% of the time. We’re always clothed. Well, not always, but you know what I mean. For the majority of the time, we’re clothed. We have our woven fabric on us or our knitted fabric on us and with that there’s just this whole history of material culture, and material knowledge that’s embedded.

And actually, like my last year of undergrad, for my thesis I was really interested in the landscape of kind of like monocultures, of farming, primarily like in the Midwest with the corn crop. And part of that is just really recognizing the stories that one food or one crop, because it’s not really used for food in the industrial way that it’s farmed, one object is kind of connected to all of these different systems. How are we actually getting nutrients into our bodies? Or if it’s being used for corn syrup rather than directly eaten, what’s that effect on bodies? What’s that, like ramifications of how our cities have been developed, or the food stream?

So, in a similar way, I think trying to raise textiles to this place where we can really understand its connection to a whole host of different individuals along the way, I think that’s really powerful and that’s why I like to think of them as kind of monuments, because when you make them, they’re really the embodiment of a whole bunch of people, and when the Aztecs created their huge pyramids, or the Egyptians made theirs, it really is the labor of hundreds of people all along the way. And I would hope that if you’re standing in front of my work, you start to feel a little bit of that, and it kind of reframes your understanding of what a textile is or what it can be. 

So, that’s the monuments part of it, which is really like a position that I want textiles to have in the world, and then the second part which you said was like the memory signifiers. That’s really an internal part, which I guess maybe because of the nature of my practice, or kind of my response to a natural tendency that I have of kind of longing or nostalgia, making textiles for me is a way to kind of embed my own experiences in a physical way that I can kind of look back on or touch back on. I think part of that for me is being a second generation American and being really aware of a sense of loss for what it means for my parents to have left their country, or even the kind of loss of being within a culture that you have deep roots to.

You know, where you all get to speak a native language together, or have traditions, or even just like be able to spend extended amounts of time with family, so I think since childhood it’s always felt like those moments are really precious, and so I would always kind of like keep those memories and treasure those memories. So, right now my work is starting to kind of unearth each of those moments and try to reflect them back. And I hope also that it invites others to do the same and to really look at those fleeting moments in their life that they treasure and kind of encourage them to keep those close to them.

LaChaun Moore: It’s so beautiful, and I can see a lot of those things really reflected in your garment series. I’m really interested if you can describe what that project entails and what inspired you to begin it.

Carolina Jimenez: Sure. So, that project I think has really… It started a few months after graduation from my MFA program and I really wanted to take a look at a garment as I was saying because it’s tied in all these different processes to different people, or there’s so much labor embedded into them. I wanted to just create a small series using unique yarns and where at the time I thought that I would kind of be doing everything from that yarn stage onto the finished garment stage. And as I went, it really started to help me understand what I wanted my practice to look like.

So, at this point, I’ve woven all of the pieces, and now I have started working with a friend of mine who we actually knew each other as acquaintances from undergrad, and then through the time that we’ve been in New York City. She’s a close neighbor, like we live 10 minutes away from each other right now. She was one of the only people that I could see during quarantine and so we would meet, and we would walk, or we do walk around our neighborhood, masks on, and she was just getting back into sewing, and in making that her work, and so I feel really lucky to be able to work with her and to start to create a community of people who were all kind of thinking about these same issues and wanting to share our stories.

So, through the course of that, I really realized in my MFA program, it was really design oriented, so I went in with a game plan. I made my samples like you do in school, and then I set my little timeline for starting to weave everything, and then I realized that it’s just… That’s not the way that I want to approach my work, like I think everything for me has to come kind of like step by step and naturally evolve, so it’s been a really great project in that way, and I’m just really excited to be able to share it soon. And part of that is really to share the whole process, so we’re working on a little booklet to really describe the entire process of what it means to take yarn and turn it into a shirt or a jacket.

LaChaun Moore: That’s so interesting. I’m really curious because you mentioned that you have someone that you’ve been able to collaborate with in this pandemic where community has begun to mean something so incredibly different. I’m really curious, what’s your surrounding community like? Do you have the opportunity to work with other weavers and fiber artists? Or would you say that you have a good community of online weavers and fiber artists that you connect with?

Carolina Jimenez: I would say both. I think I feel very fortunate to live in New York City and to live in Brooklyn, and there are actually quite a few handweavers here, and I have been able to connect with a lot of them through Instagram, and then meet in person. Do socially distanced meetups even in this past year, like at a park. I feel very fortunate for that. And also, people who aren’t necessarily weavers, or like fiber artists, but people who are interested in… who have their own little clothing brands. So, I mentioned my friend who’s helping me, so her name is Nyla Wright, and then I have a friend, Cass Maria, who has her own project of sewing kind of one offs or commissions, and then she started to sell to stores, a friend, Sarah Nsikak, who has… She’s Nigerian American and she has started something in the pandemic which is just an incredible project.

Just being open to meeting people, it’s really fun, and I think there are so many people who, as you said, are kind of looking for a connection right now. So, I actually think that my community has grown more in the pandemic, and maybe it’s also that I’m clear in the direction that I want to be heading in, but yeah, it’s been… Despite the terrible things that have happened this year, it’s been the biggest glimmer of hope.

LaChaun Moore: Yeah, and that’s kind of been the overarching theme that most people have kind of pointed to for 2020 and going into 2021, where it was such a difficult year to kind of push through, but I think through it, socially we’ve all kind of come together, and it seems like everyone has had a moment of reprieve where they can really think about what they want out of life, and the people around them, and the environment. So much has happened and I guess it’s mainly the power of time and space, right? The power of where time and space create the opportunity for a person to grow closer to themselves.

Carolina Jimenez: Yeah, and also I think as you’re saying, I think that that part really resonated, of like what do you want the world to look like? And how are you going to help shape that? And I think a lot of that is creating relationships with other people who are making and who see the world in a similar way and lifting each other up in that. I think that’s huge, because I think we have to kind of start in a new way. Forget that old system and we’ll just start fresh kind of.

LaChaun Moore: Yeah. Absolutely. And do you have any new projects that you’re working on?

Carolina Jimenez: Through kind of the beginning of the pandemic when we all started spending more time at home, I really committed myself to working at my loom, and out of that has developed a series of kind of like woven paintings, I guess you would say. And that’s something that I’m really excited about and I’m really excited to continue to explore. I think one of the… I was just listening to a podcast while I was working and the host was saying like if there’s someone out there whose work you like, but you’re having some sort of response to, and saying like, “Oh, I would do this this way instead,” then just make that thing. And the way that I framed it is I’ve seen a lot of artists who are trained painters use weaving as their medium to create paintings, and that’s what they call them, and I really recognize in that work that I actually think it’s really beautiful.

They use textile as like a plane almost, or just like as they would any textile that they would find, regardless of whether they had been the one to weave it. So, I was thinking about what… How would a weaver make a painting, and I think a lot of that is thinking about it as an aggregation of lines and of time kind of. So, I’m making works that use double weave and are kind of made in strips and have unwoven areas that I think actually to me look a lot like brush strokes and trying to have a conversation with the larger discipline of art and thinking about weaving and textiles’ place within that. So, that’s what I’ve currently been working on and hoping to photograph as new pieces and be able to start sharing them in a full way very soon.

LaChaun Moore: Absolutely. I mean, the way that you just described that was so… I kind of saw it and I never thought about it in the way that you just worded it. If you think literally about the way painters paint on canvas, a canvas is a woven piece of fabric, and it is seen as more of a vessel for painting as opposed to an intrinsic part. Maybe not intrinsic, because it is an intrinsic part, but as opposed to a prominent component. So, yeah, that’s so interesting. I’m so excited to see those pieces. I hope that by the time this airs we can have some images so people can put a face to the work.

Carolina Jimenez: Yeah. That would be great. Yeah, I really hope so too, and it’s just… You know, it’s really exciting. I think it’s the beginning of a very long road, I hope. But yeah, it’s something that I’m really excited about.

LaChaun Moore: And where can people go on social media and the internet to follow your work?

Carolina Jimenez: You can find me at my website, which is Carolina, and that’s C-A-R-O-L-I-N-A dash Jimenez, and that’s J-I-M-E-N-E-Z, and then @Carolina___Jimenez on Instagram.

LaChaun Moore: Amazing. It’s been wonderful talking to you, and I have one question that I ask everyone that joins the podcast, and that is do you have any advice or words of wisdom to share with weavers and fellow textile enthusiasts?

Carolina Jimenez: Sure. I think my biggest piece of advice is just to really think about what the process means to you and to not let other people’s ideas for what your practice is really shape what you want to get out of it. Let it be true to what you see in the world.

LaChaun Moore: Amazing. Thank you so much.

Carolina Jimenez: Thank you.

LaChaun Moore: That’s a wrap. If you’re interested in supporting some of the projects mentioned in our conversation or to see a full transcript of this week’s episode, you can visit www.gistyarn.com/episode-134. Thank you for tuning into this week’s episode. Until next time, happy weaving!


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