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October Issue 2010

sutherland Handweaving Gallery & Teaching Studio in Asheville, NC, Features Works by Wence and Sandra Martinez

sutherland Handweaving Gallery & Teaching Studio located at CURVE studios & garden, Asheville River Arts District in Asheville, NC, will present the exhibit, Kindred Spirits: Contemporary Tapestry by Wence and Sandra Martinez, on view from Oct. 8 through Nov. 7, 2010

Weavers love finding other talented weavers during their travels. So it wasn't unusual for Barb Butler, of sutherland Handweaving Gallery & Teaching Studio in Asheville's River Arts District, to wander into the studio of Wence and Sandra Martinez while attending a weaving school in Door County, WI. She wasn't, however, expecting to fall in love with the contemporary tapestry rugs being woven there by Wence, a native of Oaxaca, Mexico.

Before Butler left Door County, she had three of Martinez' rugs in her car and a contract in hand for a special exhibition of his work at Sutherland.

"These simple, expressive images and beautifully blended, hand-dyed colors took my breath away," Butler said. "I knew the rugs would be a wonderful complement to the weaving being done by Karen Donde and me at sutherland." Butler specializes in weaving very fine threads into sheer scarves and shawls. Donde loves weaving multi-shaft structural patterns and teaches weaving at sutherland.

Wence and Sandra Martinez will stop in Asheville on their way to Teotitlan del Valle, Wence's home village in Oaxaca. Sandra is a painter whose images often find their way into Wence's rug designs.

The husband-and-wife team, who settled near Sandra's Wisconsin home, spends winters in the village, working on their art, visiting neighboring households to select yarn for new weavings and hosting guests at their bed-and-breakfast that serves as a cultural immersion retreat. Kindred Spirits will showcase several of Wence's pattern-driven handwoven rugs and some inspired by his wife's paintings.

"Barb walked in at the right moment," Sandra said. "Now that we winter in Mexico, our work needed a new home for those months.  Our research on Asheville filled us with respect for the area's deep tradition of creativity and appreciation of the handmade.  Barb and Karen's enthusiasm for their work and their new gallery is infectious. We are honored to be a small part of it."

"It wasn't hard at all, to pretend Asheville is on the way to Oaxaca," she added. "We love a good road trip."

Master weaver Wence Martinez is a Zapotec Indian whose family still lives and works in Teotitlan del Valle. The community of approximately 7,000 people has been renowned for textile weaving for centuries. Martinez himself has been weaving for more than four decades, and he has garnered international recognition for his one-of-a-kind artwork. He carries on the Zapotec legacy by using hand-spun, hand-dyed wool, weaving his original contemporary designs and adaptations of traditional patterns into museum-quality tapestries for the floor or wall. His looms are handmade in the village.

Martinez was working there with his family 22 years ago when his path crossed that of a young Milwaukee artist named Sandra Hackbarth, now his wife.

"Wence wove my first tapestry design, and it was love at first sight, for the rug and the man," she said. "Five years later, we painted up a sign, opened our gallery, the Martinez Studio in Door County, and fulfilled a dream."

At Martinez Studio, Wence and Sandra Martinez continue to produce hand-crafted pieces that celebrate a soulful artistic process. "For Wence, working directly with our clients stands in stark contrast to the system of his home village, where anonymous weavers rarely rise above to develop their own designs and their own following," Sandra said. "For me, a formative study of conceptual art and roots in 3D combined to erase the hierarchy of 'fine' art. Having our own gallery gives me an instant venue to exhibit anything I may be tempted to make."

"Together we have flourished - enjoying each other's input and encouragement as we work on collaborative and individual projects," she concluded. "We welcome everyone to visit us at our studio - anytime - to see what comes next."

Butler will undoubtedly be back whenever she returns to the Door County weaving school.

For further information check our NC Commercial Gallery listings, call 828-513-1814, 854-261-4324, or e-mail to (sutherlandstudios@gmail.com).

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