Santa Cruz Good Times

Sunday
Jan 25th
Text size
  • Increase font size
  • Default font size
  • Decrease font size

A Picture’s Worth

ae2-1Local photographer Kalie Ilana Cassel-Feiss weaves art and activism

Brightly colored strands of cotton slant taut into the hands of an indigenous Guatemalan woman weaver, wearing an intricately patterned skirt. Similarly elaborate shawls and scarves hang in the background and hint at the handiwork the woman is about to create. The scene is captured in a photograph taken by local photographer/painter Kalish (Kalie) Ilana Cassel-Feiss, as part of a series entitled “Weaving Women Guatemala.”

Cassel-Feiss explains that the woman in the photograph is weaving with thread made of cotton flowers, which the women in an indigenous Mayan village spun and colored by hand with dyes from local plants.

“I really love the photographs of the weavers in Guatemala, and just of women,” says Cassel-Feiss. “Something I want to get into more is the beauty of the designs on women because I feel like in our culture we are lacking the strong beautiful feminine portrait.”

Cassel-Feiss is an entirely self-taught photographer, and her love affair with the art form began when she picked up a disposable camera at age 8. Her work focuses mainly on artisans, farmers, and activist movements, and she is motivated by what she calls a “passion for sustainability and craftsmanship.”

Past participation in social work, especially teaching photography to homeless children at the New Horizon School, inspired Cassel-Feiss to dedicate her photography to shedding light on significant people and causes.

“I hope to inspire people through sharing beauty,” she says.

In addition to documentary photo work, Cassel-Feiss’ website features some of her event, portrait and wedding stills, some of which viewers have mistaken for paintings on more than one occasion. Cassel-Feiss chalks this up to painting classes she took at UC Santa Cruz.

“I did a lot of painting and it helped me learn about composition and color, and light and shadow,” she says. “[Photography] allows me to directly experience and live in the moment. I can be fully present and also capture a glimpse of something that can evoke emotion and share a story later.”

Alongside her photography, Cassel-Feiss founded the organization Weaving Women in partnership with indigenous Mayan women. Its mission is to preserve the traditional, sustainable weaving arts of Guatemala. Via Weaving Women, Cassel-Feiss features the shawls, scarves and medicine blankets woven by a small collective of indigenous Guatemalan weavers she met last year by a twist of fate.

“I had a really strong intuition,” she says. “I was like, ‘I just have to get to this place in Guatemala.’” The journey even haunted her dreams.

ae2-2Weaving women Kalie Ilana Cassel-Feiss helps share the talents of Guatemalan women through her photography.“I finally got there and fell in love with this place,” she continues. “It felt like home, and I met this small collective of weavers. … I thought, ‘Oh—this is why I'm here.’”

Cassel-Feiss was so touched by the women weavers that she decided to use her photography to help them sustain themselves.

“It’s just beautiful work, such an ancient technology,” she says. “It was so inspiring to me to see these women making all of their clothes with so much intention. It just felt so rich and I wanted to help them. I thought, ‘Maybe I can bring these back and sell them for you.’”

In the past year Cassel-Feiss has sold more than 100 woven items via Weaving Women. She returned to Guatemala recently to document the women weavers for two months and eventually create an educational, photo-filled book about the plants and colorful plant dyes the women use in their projects.

Cassel-Feiss says part of her admiration for the women stems from a deeper appreciation for the art of creating things by hand.

“Our culture is coming from the industrial revolution and everything is mass produced—we’re lacking the handmade craft,” she says. “You get back to the creativity, dignity, and spirit of the work when you make something by hand.”

She adds that her last photography show in September 2011 featured an artisan bread baker who uses a wood fire and all natural ingredients, “the old school way.” Nature and natural patterns are present in nearly all of Cassel-Feiss’ photographs, and she says the “colors and shapes in nature” are her greatest muse.

“I’m always photographing when I’m in a beautiful place,” she says. “I love capturing the spirit of people and different types of people. I hope to be of service to artisans, farmers, activist movements, and people, or businesses, or causes that would like to show their story in a beautiful way. … There’s a tremendous power in the still image. When it’s done right, [photography] can really make a difference.”


For more information about Cassel-Feiss and to view her work, visit weavingwomen.org and Luna13.com. Photo 1: Luna

Comments (1)Add Comment
...
written by Teresa antonia , February 24, 2012
Beautiful

Write comment
smaller | bigger

busy
 

Share this on your social networks

Bookmark and Share

Share this

Bookmark and Share

 

Force of Nature

Santa Cruz’s Carlie Statsky brings her love of the natural world to the hyper-personal art of wedding photography

 

Mercury Retrograde in Aquarius

The magical time of Mercury’s retrograde cycle is here once again, until Feb. 11, and then some. The Mercury retro cycle actually lasts eight weeks when we consider its retrograde shadow, giving us six months a year for review. We know the rules of Mercury retro: Be careful with everything; cars, driving, money, resources, friends, friendships, groups, interactions, thinking, talking, communications. Avoid big purchases, important meetings and important repairs. Mercury retrograde times are for review, reassessment and rest. Our minds are overloaded from the last Mercury retro. Our minds need to assess what we’ve done since October—eliminating what is not needed, keeping what’s important, preparing for new information in the next three months (till mid-May). Mercury in Aquarius retrograde … we reinvent ourselves, seek the unusual, we don’t hide, we’re just careful. We live in two worlds; outer appearances and inner reckonings, with both sides of our brain activated. Yet, like the light of the Gemini twins, one light waxes (inner world), the other (outer realities) wanes. Like Virgo, we see what’s been overlooked—assessing, ordering and organizing information. It’s an entirely inner process. When speaking we may utter only half of the sentence. We’re in the underworld, closer to Spirit, eyes unseeing, senses alerted, re-doing things over and over till we sometimes collapse. Because we’re in other realms, we’re wobbly, make mistakes, and don’t really know what we want. It’s not a time for decisions. Not yet. It’s a time of review. And completing things. Mercury retro: integration, slowing down, resolution, rapprochement.

 

The New Tech Nexus

Community leaders in science and technology unite to form web-based networking program

 

Film, Times & Events: Week of January 23

Santa Cruz area movie theaters >
Sign up for Good Times weekly newsletter
Get the latest news, events

RSS Feed Burner

 Subscribe in a reader

Latest Comments

 

Bye Bye Benten!

Benten closing, plus Award-winning gin, a massive burrito and chocolate review

 

Trout Gulch Vineyards

Scanning the shelves of Deluxe Foods of Aptos, which carries an impressive selection of local and imported wines, I picked up a bottle of Trout Gulch Vineyards Chardonnay 2012, described as “a local favorite” by the busy market.

 

Cremer House

What’s old is cutting-edge again in Felton

 

How are you going to make a tangible difference in your community this year?

Spread more kindness and compassion.