Santa Cruz Good Times

Friday
Dec 19th
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

 

Is This a Dream?

A beginner’s guide to understanding and exploring the uncanny world of lucid dreams

 

Giving and Giving, Then Giving Some More

2014 is almost over. Wednesday, Dec. 17, the Jewish Festival of Light, Hanukkah, begins. We are in our last week of Sag and last two weeks of December. Sunday, Dec. 21 is winter Solstice, as the sun enters Capricorn (3:30 p.m. for the west coast). Soon after, the Capricorn new moon occurs (5:36 p.m. for the west coast)—the last new moon of 2014. Sunday morning Uranus in Aries (revolution, revelation) is stationary direct (retro since July 22). Uranus/Aries create things new and needed to anchor the new culture and civilization (Aquarius). We will see revolutionary change in 2015. Capricorn new moon, building-the-personality seed thought, is, “Let ambition rule and let the door to initiation and freedom stand wide (open).” Capricorn is a gate—where matter returns to spirit. But the gate is unseen until the Ajna Center (third eye), Diamond Light of Direction, opens. Winter solstice is the longest day of darkness of the year. The sun’s rays resting at the Tropic of Capricorn (southern hemisphere) symbolize the Christ (soul’s) light piercing the heart of the Earth, remaining there for three days, till Holy Night (midnight Thursday morning). Then the sun’s light begins to rise. It is the birth of the new light (holy child) for the world. A deep calm and stillness pervades the world.The entire planet is revivified, re-spiritualized. All hearts beating reflect this Light. And so throughout the Earth there’s a radiant “impress” (impressions, pictures) given to humanity of the World Mother and her Child. The star Sirius (love/direction) and the constellation Virgo the mother shines above. For gift giving, give to those in need. Give and give and then give some more. This creates the new template of giving and sharing for the new world.

 

The New Tech Nexus

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

 

Stocking Stuffers

The men behind the women of the Kinsey Sicks Dragapella Beautyshop Quartet explain their own special brand of ‘dragtivism,’ and their holiday show at the Rio
Sign up for Good Times weekly newsletter
Get the latest news, events

RSS Feed Burner

 Subscribe in a reader

Latest Comments

 

Tramonti Pizza

Why there’s no such thing as too much Italian food in Seabright

 

Guitar or surfboard?

Guitar. The closest thing I ever came to surfing was sliding down a rock hill. Charlie Tweddle, Santa Cruz, Hats and Music

 

Fortino Winery’s Intriguing Charbono

At the opening celebration of the new Santa Clara Wine Trail in August, one of the wineries we visited was Fortino. This is where I first tasted their intriguing estate-grown Charbono—a varietal that is one of the rarest in California, with only 80 acres grown statewide.

 

Beyond the Jar

How Tabitha Stroup has built her rapidly expanding jam empire