Santa Cruz Good Times

Tuesday
May 26th
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

 

Gate Openers

Up-and-coming artists like Ryan Bingham are a great reason to show up early to the Santa Cruz American Music Festival

 

Gemini Sun, Pentecost, Shavuot—Enlightenment and Gladness

As the sun enters Gemini on Sunday, sign of speaking, communication, thinking, inter-relations, writing and understanding languages, the feast days of Pentecost & Shavuot (Catholic and Jewish festivals) occur. During Pentecost’s 50 days after Easter, tongues of fire appear above the heads of the disciples, providing them with the ability to understand all languages and all feelings hidden in the minds and hearts of humanity. It’s recorded that Pentecost began with a loud noise, which happened in an upper room (signifying the mind). The Christ (World Teacher) told his disciples (after his ascension) when encountering a man at a well carrying a water pot (signs for Age of Aquarius) to follow him to an upper room. There, the Holy Spirit (Ray 3 of Divine Intelligence) would overshadow them, expand their minds, give them courage and enable them to teach throughout the world, speaking all languages and thus able to minister to the true needs of a “seeking” humanity. Pentecost (50 days, pentagram, Ray 5, Venus, concrete and scientific knowledge, the Ray of Aquarius) sounds dramatic, impressive and scary: The loud noise, a thunderous rush of wind and then “tongues of fire” above the heads of each disciple (men and women). Fire has purpose. It purifies, disintegrates, purges, transforms and liberates (frees) us from the past. This was the Holy Spirit (Ray 3, love and wisdom) being received by the disciples, so they would teach in the world and inform humanity of the Messiah (Christ), who initiated the new age (Pisces) and gave humanity the new law (adding to the 10 Commandments of the Aries Age) to Love (Ray 2) one another. Note: Gemini is also Ray 2. Shavuot is the Jewish Festival of Gladness, the First Fruits Festival celebrating the giving of the 10 Commandments to Moses as the Aries Age was initiated. Thus, we have two developmental stages here, Jewish festival of the Old Testament. Pentecost of the New Testament. We have gladness, integrating both.

 

The New Tech Nexus

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

 

Off Her Meds

Kristin Wiig runs wild—and transcends her sketch comedy roots—as a truly strange character ‘Welcome to Me’
Sign up for Good Times weekly newsletter
Get the latest news, events

RSS Feed Burner

 Subscribe in a reader

Latest Comments

 

Flats Bistro

Pizza with an artisan twist comes to Aptos Beach

 

What’s your take on Santa Cruz locals?

Santa Cruz locals are really friendly once you know them. I think a lot of them have a hard time leaving, and I would too. Ryan Carle, Santa Cruz, Biologist

 

Soquel Vineyards

If Soquel Vineyards partners Peter and Paul Bargetto and Jon Morgan were walking down the street wearing their winning wine competition medals, you’d hear them coming from a mile away. This year was particularly rewarding for the Bargettos and Morgan—they won two Double Gold Medals and five Gold Medals at January’s San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition.

 

Enlightened Flavors

Squash & Blossom’s artisanal alternative-flour delights, beet kvass from Cafe Ivéta, and the Santa Cruz Baroque Festival