Over the course of three days in Peru, American fiber artist Michele Lasker taught workshops, led lectures, learned from artisans, and worked with students as part of her artist exchange in coordination with the Art in Embassies exhibition, in the Residence of Krishna Urs, the U.S. Ambassador to Peru.
Lasker’s artwork, Stratavarious, is part of the Art in Embassies exhibition in the Residence of Ambassador Urs in Lima, where it has hung since February 2018. The exhibition features both American and Peruvian textile artists in a celebration of the textile traditions of the two nations, in how they are alike and how they differ.
The first full day of the exchange began with a free-form knitting workshop in the district of Huaycán, on the eastern edge of Lima. Much of Lasker’s work, including Stratavarious in the Ambassador’s Residence, is created through free-form knitting—directed primarily by color, she knits a large numbe of small pieces that later come together to form a single work of art. Here seventeen women, recognized as some of the most accomplished artisans in the city, arrived to work through these techniques with Lasker and share with her the work they do. Afterwards, she was invited to lecture at the Chio Lecca Fashion School where she spoke to upwards of sixty students about how textiles can be used in fashion and the history of American quilting. That evening, Ambassador Urs held a welcoming reception at the Residence, where Lasker met contemporary artists and artisans from across the city, including the winners of a quilting contest held previously by the Embassy.
The next day began with a fabric art workshop with a series of schoolchildren in neighboring Callao. Twenty-five high school students from a law enforcement-partnered after-school program were selected to participate in the workshop in which each constructed a ‘selfie’ out of fabric, an abstracted way to visualize their sense of self. At the end of the workshop, each student stood to describe the face they had made and what about them it reflected. That afternoon Lasker arrived in Cusco, the historic capital of the Inca empire, and gave a lecture at the Binantional Center. In her lecture, Lasker covered the use of textiles in fashion and her own artistic processes, later taking questions from the assembled audience of nearly a hundred English-language students and community members.
The third and final day of the exchange covered the Andean highlands around Cusco. First, Lasker traveled to the mountain community of Accha Alta to meet the weavers who had completed Textile from Accha Alta, a large-scale woven textile on display at Ambassador Urs’ Residence in Lima. Through translators, the Quechua-speaking weavers described their processes to Lasker—how the fur of a lamb, llama, or alpaca is transformed entirely by hand into the beautiful textiles created in the community. Next, Lasker visited the Centro de Textiles Tradicionales del Cusco (CTTC) in Chinchero, the primary hub of the collective of weavers like the women of Accha Alta, where spinning, dying, and weaving demonstrations took place. “Visiting CTTC further enhanced my knowledge about the weaving communities in The Sacred Valley and made me want to know more about the lives of these weavers.