Crafty Chica

She said…

I think I have always made stuff.  I can remember as a child acquiring this punch needle kind of thing at the LA County Fair which worked with large bore canvas and big yarn.  That was the year we covered our mother’s house with garish polyester throw rugs.  By the time I was in high school I was making all of my own clothes.  I remember in the summer time staying up all night watching old movies and cutting out patterns.  Still can’t sleep when my brain gets going.  I also went through a needlepoint phase, several crochet phases and an epic pottery phase.

In the 70’s I learned how to weave baskets.  I’m really drawn to enclosed spaces and containers.  I had a couple of gallery shows in Portland and Cannon Beach, Oregon and I spent several years actually supporting myself on the craft show circuit in the San Francisco Bay area selling baskets, bags and fiber sculpture.  My dad used to joke about the amount of money he had spent on college tuition to end up with a professional basket weaver in the family!

Baskets by Mariel
A few pieces left over from Basket Maker Era

In the 80’s I moved to Santa Fe and got into the leather trade.  I partnered up with a saddle maker and I learned to make horse tack and saddles.  I also learned braiding and knot work, an extension of my weaving skills, and incorporated that art into the custom leather work.

Stampede Straps for Cowboy Hats
Stampede Strings for Cowboy Hats

We had a shop on Canyon Road in Santa Fe and I noticed that more people came through the door with sterling silver buckles in their hands looking for belts than ever came through the door looking for saddles. So I taught myself how to make custom belts and struck out on my own.  And that’s what I have been doing ever since. Check out my website at

Caballo Belts Work Tools
Old sign from my store on Canyon Road, Santa Fe, hanging over my tool wall. Flat Cat is in charge.

It seems like everything I have done is either really messy or requires lots of space and equipment. So now I am on a quest to find something to make that will fit into my new mobile lifestyle.  It needs to be portable and relatively neat and contained, and something that I can experiment with in its form.  The end product needs to be functional, not breakable, and something that is easily giftable or sellable.  It has to be small enough so that we won’t be tripping over it or having to find storage solutions, yet big enough so that my large arthritic hands can still manipulate the materials.

There is something evolving in my mind that is a combination of crochet and basketry. The material options are endless, and I think it would be interesting to do weavings incorporating things gathered from the places we visit.  It’s going to be exciting to see where this leads!

3 thoughts on “Crafty Chica

  1. I’m so glad I read this. I’ve been having the same kind of issue for a while. I went to school in San Francisco for fine art and I’ve always painted in oil, and I work large. So since I’ve been living in the camper I’ve been trying to come up with some sort of way to still make art but have it be portable and sellable and all that… Because large scale oil paintings do not travel well!

    1. Hi Rachel, I just keep asking myself two questions,,,who is my audience? and what is my canvas? I know I would welcome something different to look at on the sides of all those RVs!

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