This Weaving Skies project is a multi-layered, ever-evolving project about expansion, reclamation and visioning regarding sustainability. Just as my personal artwork is layered, Weaving Skies, an outdoor activation, was intended to be multi-layered too. During my Gist Yarn residency I wanted to host a workshop where people from my community could come together outdoors and work with textiles, as an act of reclamation of time and space. The emphasis for this community activation was connecting to nature and translating that through weaving. Working outdoors with textiles can be incredibly healing and connecting.
To be able to participate in a collective gathering is about the art of knowledge-sharing. For me, it's important to take education and in-person teaching out of the classroom. Reclaim the safety of gathering outdoors, where folks are free to be who they are and through this weaving exploration, reclaim time and space.
As an educator, accessibility is essential to me, so for this exploration it was important to show no cost or low-cost, accessible ways to weave, including how to find materials for weaving. During the exploration we used handmade looms made from cardboard, using materials found around the house like cutting up fabric scraps to create yarns , pulling yarns from my library which of course includes Gist yarns. Expanding materials beyond just yarns and again showing how to explore mixed-media ways of weaving, I pulled not only from my library of textiles but also materials, such as paper, to share with participants for this activation. Building and combining these different layers was very important to me for this project.
It shows how I connect to a history of being sustainable and innovative through our resourcefulness. I always share about Black women and Black femmes history + impact with the fiber arts. I also share books I was reading or revisiting during my residency…[see Below for a reading list.]
Oftentimes people of marginalized identities are excluded from textile and fiber spaces in NYC. In 2020-2021, I was doing these fiber art surveys based off of the artist Howardena Pindell’s Art World Surveys from the late 1980s. Through these surveys, I found that in NYC’s textile /fiber arts communities, only 1-4% of Black artists are often selected or included for grants + residences in the textile/ fibers arts in NYC. Meaning Black voices are heavily excluded from the textile + fiber opportunities in a “diverse” city like New York City. So for Weaving Skies, this inclusive outdoor activation was a free workshop and open to people to come. During this residency, I was able to collaborate with other artists I’m in community with. Outside Clothes NYC (@outsideclothesnyc) came through. They let folks know about nature events + fun outdoor things to do in NYC and share vignettes of New Yorkers who love to be outside. #dayonesart, who help empower artists + cultural workers through creating pop-ups and collaborations for artists around NYC, helped co-produce this outdoor activation and photography by Mikey Burns (@itsmikeynyc_), a local photographer who's work I truly admire. SO it was really a community affair.
A great way for me to cultivate community, has always been coming together with people to learn new things together. Fort Greene Park is my neighborhood park and was really a comforting place for me during the 2020 part of the pandemic. The neighborhood of Fort Greene has strong historical ties to Black History and Black culture as a neighborhood, though it is a highly gentrified neighborhood today.
Weaving Skies, while it’s also a poetic approach to create something from nothing, it’s also literal reclaiming of space outside. To look out into the great expansive sky and be inspired to create. But to reclaim weaving, which is a technique cultivated by so many indigenous cultures across the world and can be done alone but is often done communally.
Weaving amongst communities is not a new practice. This slow tool can be a great way to slow down, breathe, meditate and practice being in the present moment against the backdrop of the hustle and bustle of the big city. We were lucky to have such beautiful weather on the day of the workshop and the trees of Fort Greene park provided much needed shade.
Often when I’m working I don’t make sketches of the projects with a pencil instead I mock up with yarns and layers. Make mini weaving studies using the colors and textures. Never one to use only yarn, my process is very layered. And I enjoy using materials of all kinds. These cardboard/ handmade looms are great for those quick studies. looms for mocking up textures, colors and scraps. Research is always important to my work, so here are the books I was revisiting a lot during the time of my residency:
While my focus was on the outdoort activation during my residency, I can’t wait to continue working on making a new body of textile work connecting to Weaving Skies. The next part of my process is to develop this new body of work further. I hope to grow Weaving Skies, by making new mixed-media work related to this concept through the rest of the year and into 2023. Next up, these initial studies that I did on the cardboard loom will be translated into new work made on the Rigid heddle loom I received from Gist yarn. As I stay inside more during the cold winter weather months of the Northeast, I hope to make more time to weave. Stay tuned and follow me for new work @kesiena or www.kesiena.com
Kesiena is a textile & mixed-media artist and natural dyer. She was born in Reno, NV. She moved to New York City at age 17 to attend Parsons School of Design, where she graduated with a BFA in fashion design in 2011. Upon graduating she worked in New York’s fashion industry until she was recruited to join Nike’s Flyknit innovation team at their WHQ in Beaverton, OR in 2014. After returning to NYC in 2015 Kesiena began her artistic practice. During her formative years she traveled to Japan, China, and Europe cultivating a deep awareness of fiber and textiles. She currently lives and works in Fort Greene, Brooklyn.