Orquidia Violeta is a Salvadoran-American textile artist. Growing up in a dirt-floored farmhouse in Central America, she remembers the embroidered pink dress her mother sent her from the US. Orquidia crossed the US border as a six-year-old refugee and went on to earn an Associate of the Arts degree from the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising. Exposure to labor exploitation in the garment industry led her to co-found LaborFruit — a prominent artist-cooperative storefront and gallery in Los Angeles specializing in clothing as artform. Living in Portland, Oregon, Orquidia continues to challenge herself as a textile artist, exploring new methods and mediums, such as machine and hand embroidery, knitting, weaving, appliqué, beadwork, fabric dyeing, soft sculpture, painting and drawing. For PTXM this year, Orquidia led Collaborative Poetic Weaving, a workshop inspired by Japanese Renga poetry and Surrealist Exquisite Corpse drawings, at the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art in Portland. We recently had the pleasure of connecting with Orquidia to discuss her thoughts on New Traditions. Also, listen to Orquidia speak about her work and practice in an interview by Rachel Snack of the Material Culture podcast!   

What does New Traditions mean to you?

Traditions are ever evolving. You can modify or add to an old tradition, or create an entirely new one. Repetition and the passing of time are what give an action or behavior the significance of a tradition. In Los Angeles, I participated in an annual Día de Muertos art performance. Creating a performance piece for the show became a tradition for me and all the other participants, and in the years it didn’t take place, something was missing. With the pandemic, a lot of our old traditions have been disrupted. This is a great time to start a new tradition! 

What is a new tradition or practice that you’ve picked up recently? 

Weaving is an ancient practice that intersects many traditions. I am new to weaving, but I like to experiment, so as I was learning I started incorporating sentimental objects into the strands of my weaving. Now I always do this when I weave, so it’s a new tradition for me.

What is your first memory of making art with fibers?

When I was a student at FIDM (Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising), I only had one sewing class! During that class I sewed a little dress with ruffles along the hem and sleeves. I didn’t really see my work as “Art” yet, that transition happened slowly over time. My path diverged from textile production toward art after I was exposed to the exploitation of labor in the textile industry. For me, creating the textile itself was a loving act intrinsically connected to the piece and the intended wearer. Thinking like this steered my fiber work into the art world.

What role do you think tradition plays in contemporary textile art?

Studying traditional work helps me to connect to and learn from textile artists from different times, places, and cultures. For example, I recently took a class in Zapotec traditional weaving. In their tradition they incorporate spiritual iconography, and this is something that I’m excited to develop more in my contemporary work. There is really an endless amount we can learn about ourselves and others by exploring traditions.

Through your workshops, what is your favorite tradition to share with others? 

After the regular traditional introductions, I like to have a quiet introspective mindful moment, where we give thanks to the space and clear room in our minds to create something new.

Please also, listen to Orquidia speak about her work and practice in an interview by Rachel Snack of the Material Culture podcast!