Women's Craft Circle
Arts, Crafts, laugh, music, dance, and more!
The Women’s Craft Circle is a series of workshops that are designed to use the healing power of craft making to bring
people together as they establish shared experiences with each other.
The friendly environment and home like setting of this class fosters a feeling of community and belonging away from the home of origin. Craft making happens while ethnic music is played and women usually get to dance!
On the afternoons of July 12, 13, and 14, the Center for Empowering Refugees and Immigrants (CERI) hummed with activity, occupied by a group of women laughing, sewing, creating. In partnership with ARTogether, CERI hosted three days of embroidery workshops for Cambodian refugees in which looms and squares of cloth were brought to life by the careful tracing and weaving of colorful threads, metamorphosing from simplicity to personalized treasures.
The workshops were led by Negar Asef, an Iranian-born artist now based in the Bay Area who works closely with ARTogether. Asef, knowing that many of the women in her workshop were unfamiliar with embroidery, helped them choose designs that could be executed at a beginning skill level. Houses, figures, and flowers took shape slowly over the three afternoons, building slowly in dimension and color as stitches transformed into recognizable objects and images.
The women of CERI had high expectations for their October craft workshop with art educator Negar Asef, whose monthly workshops always seemed to transform into lively festivities of laughter, dancing, and, of course, art.
Negar arrived with boxes of empty jars, can, and pots along with a big bucket of modge podge and craft brushes. In order to channel community and creativity, she asked the women to gather in circle, say their name and perform a dance move, which they did with great animation. After completing the circle, the women were ready to create.
Equipped with beads, scissors, and a box of colorful yarn, craft artist Negar Asef assembled her group of workshoppers in a large room at the Center for Empowering Refugees and Immigrants in Oakland. The participants (all Cambodian women resettled in California) were not strangers to each other: they had gathered weeks earlier for a previous art workshop focusing on embroidery. In this session, they were to make tassels.
The women arrived at Oakland’s Center for Empowering Refugees and Immigrants excited to see what their monthly craft workshop held. Negar Asef, the artist leading the workshop, had already set everything out for the participants: beads, pearls, and jewelry making tools lay in the center of the room ready to be used.
For three consecutive days mid-January, different groups of 12-15 women gathered to create macrame keychains hosted by ARTogether in the beautiful CERI (Center for Empowering Refugees and Immigrants). Artist and friend of ARTogether Sofia joined us to teach the art of creating everyday, helpful objects. Provided with cords, wood beads, and keychain rings, Sofia demonstrated how to knot the cords in order to create a pattern.
This time, the women gathered around a huge pile of fabric strips coming from a bounty of fabrics donated to ARTogether. Leva explained that we would be making woven doormats and first we had to braid the strips together to make a braid as long as possible. Using their toes as tension, everyone immediately knew what to do after years of braiding hair. The room was full of colorful threads being woven into new creations.