This fall, Fiber Art Now is excited to support the work of Stitch Buffalo with a community Gathering Grant. This nonprofit, textile art center in Buffalo, New York, is committed to empowering refugee and immigrant women through the sale of their handcrafted goods, inspiring creativity and inclusion through community education and stewarding the environment through the re-use of textile supplies.
During public artmaking sessions at Stitch Buffalo, members of the wider community stitch along with experienced embroidery artisans from the Refugee Women’s Workshop, a community of more than 80 refugee women based at Stitch Buffalo, who sew textile goods for sale in the Stitch Buffalo store and on their website.
One of their current group projects is a large banner that reads, The World Is Here—a phrase reflecting the community’s vibrant melting pot of world cultures. In the neighborhood where Stitch Buffalo is based, more than 40 languages are spoken and twenty-three percent of the residents were born outside the United States.
A busy day in the Stitch Buffalo studio! Artists from the Refugee Women’s Workshop collect new supplies and drop off finished products for sale. Most are moms, so it’s not uncommon for children to accompany them. Older kids often pitch in to help their moms with English translations.
As everyone stitches together, they share fiber art skills and stories about their lives, while building bonds between diverse community members. This practice of community building through the textile arts is at the core of Stitch Buffalo’s mission. The powerful initiative is weaving together diverse cultures, creativity, and community through the art of textiles.
The banner is being worked on black linen, donated for re-use by a member of the community. The linen features outlined floral motifs that offer opportunities to explore color, texture, and stitch styles—while working in simple outlines that allow even beginners to contribute meaningfully.
At each stitching session, artisans from the Refugee Women’s Workshop are paid for their participation and guidance on the project, as well as for their mentorship of new stitchers from the wider community! Everyone else is invited to participate at no cost, eliminating barriers to participation.
The World Is Here; 2023; cotton, linen fabric, wool felt; hand embroidery, appliqué; 30 x 72 in.
Members of the Refugee Women’s Workshop stitch in the Stitch Buffalo studio together with people from the wider community. Drop-in stitching events encourage a relaxed and collaborative environment where skill-sharing thrives and community building flourishes.
When complete, the banner will be displayed in Stitch Buffalo’s new textile arts center, opening in early 2024. This fall, they will be taking the banner around to two or three events, bringing paid refugee artisans to share the story and inviting more community members to stitch alongside them. They will be working on the banner at the Western New York Fiber Arts Festival in October, and at the Kenan Quilt Guild’s biennial quilt show in November.
The allocation of the Gathering Grant to Stitch Buffalo is the third installment of our four Gathering Grants for 2023, underscoring the importance of coming together through fiber-centric gatherings. The Fiber Art Now team remains committed to recognizing a wide variety of community events. We hope these stories on our blog will inspire your community to shine a light on the myriad ways in which fiber art perpetuates the weaving of stories of creativity and camaraderie. Please feel free to share fiber-related events organized specifically for gathering and building a sense of community. CamiSmith@FiberArtNow.net.
Cami Smith is the Fiber Art Now media manager, a contributing editor, and a mixed media artist.