A Passion for African Fabrics: Cultured Expressions
Lisa Shepard Stewart is one of TAFA’s pioneer members, joining back in August of 2010. Since then, she has continued to develop her business, offering regular workshops, building community locally in New Jersey, launching her Fabrigasm magazine, and leading textile tours to Africa. Enjoy this glimpse into her colorful and cultural world centered on her passion for African fabrics.
Visit her website and make sure to sign up for her newsletter. She also has a shop on her site that sells supplies. And, if you long to take a cultural trip to Africa, connect with her to find out when the next trip might happen.
There’s something about African Fabrics…
As the owner of Cultured Expressions, I’ve shared my lifelong fabric passion with others through my books, workshops, lectures, special events, merchandise, quilters’ retreats to Jamaica textile tours to Ghana and other SewJourns. And I recently published the fourth issue of FABRIGASM®, the Magazine for Lovers of African Textiles. (Not a big surprise when you consider that Magazine Journalism was one of my favorite courses at FIT, where I earned degrees in Communications and Marketing.)
I learned to sew at age 12, so I’ve always had a “thing” for fabrics of all kinds, and after my first trip to Senegal in 1986, my passion for African fabrics in particular was ignited. I feel their Energy…I imagine the story behind the creators, their choice of colors, textures, symbols…and what inspired them to create. When placed in the hands of a fiber artist, the fabric takes on an added purpose, its story is intensified.
African fabrics have a timeless quality that withstands the usual trend cycles; batiks, bogolan, kente, kuba, and adinkra are never out of style, whether I’m creating a wall hanging, garment, handbag or headwrap – it’s the juxtaposition of ancient fabric techniques applied to contemporary designs that excites my senses – the coarse weave of bogolan, the rich colors of Ghanaian batik, even the earthy scent of kuba affect me on a visceral level, and on a daily basis Something so powerful can’t be confined to a single month, so while I can appreciate the intent behind designation of a “Black History Month”, history is being made all of the time, I’m Black all of the time, so to reserve celebration for the shortest month of the year never really made sense to me.
Through my work, I enjoy sharing the beauty of African fabrics & craft with like-minded people of all backgrounds. Exposing people to positive images of African cultures, beyond the poverty, conflicts, and famine is extremely gratifying. “Feel the fabric…Embrace the Culture” is more than my company’s tagline. It’s become my raison d’être.
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