Maria Cabriza is originally from Paraguay, where she got a college degree and business and worked as a manager. She is a mother of two children and grandmother to three little ones and she has been enjoying spending time with her family since moving to Kansas a few years ago. The language barrier made it a bit tough to find good work in the United States, but the challenge has given the opportunity to spend time with her grandbabies as well as to devote herself full-time to her art. This has been a great jot for the self-taught artist who always loved to make things with her hands but didn’t always have the time for it when she was working and raising her family. Maria’s art is done in different mediums. In fiber art she enjoys crochet, knitting and embroidery. She also works as a painter and does modeling and jewelry making. We learn more about it from her in this interview.
When and how did you learn to crochet?
I learned to work with yarn at the age of six, watching my grandmother knit with wonderful hands while embroidering real works of art. I started knitting with my fingers then and it lasted for a time. Then I stopped for many years and resumed in my later years. The true art of crochet was learned on my own. I learned to read graphic patterns so that I could work on a variety of different projects.
It sounds like your grandmother was very creative. Are there other artists in your family?
My grandmother embroidered lace and made beautiful garments. My mother was a great dressmaker who also created many beautiful garments. My daughter, Jime, is a great artist; she is a songwriter, pianist, guitar player and an incredible singer, working professionally in music since the age of 16. My son, Alex, is a very good actor and musician, but these are just hobbies to him, not a career path.
What is one good memory you have of crochet?
When I started crocheting again as an adult, I found myself replacing my daily worries at bedtime with crochet. This is a time of day when we might get anxious but instead I found myself thinking about how to solve my challenges in a garment or thinking about the next project. It became a very pleasant activity since then and everything about crochet is full of good memories for me.
In life everything that happens to us does so for a good reason. My whole life,I was physically weak and inept for all kinds of sports activities. This led me to develop a great skill and a great love for everything related to handwork. I learned to work embroidery with thread and beading. I got to embroider costumes of great soirees and even brides at one point in my life. Then followed bijouterie, modeling, as well as painting, knitting with two needles and crochet, which were my first and constant loves.
Life is such a great journey! How have you been adjusting to the United States?
Moving to the US has been extremely easy! I like everything about the place where I live; it is a large but well organized city and my environment is very calm and peaceful. I enjoy seeing how the four seasons are so well marked, each with its own charm and beauty. I love the friendliness of the people here. I’m very grateful to have come to Lenexa in Kansas, among so many places.
Has anything been challenging about the move?
The most difficult thing was that I did not have the language; even today it is still a huge limitation. This made it complicated when first starting to work. There was also just the adjustment of living in a new place; I couldn’t always find the materials that I was used to working with or thought I needed.
How has art helped with the transition?
Art is always a big help. It is a hobby, but it also keeps you company, since it fills so many spaces in a person’s life.
What is different about crochet from the other mediums you work in? And what is the same?
The two primary mediums I work in are crochet and painting. They are very different but do share some elements. I do not know if there are many people working in two disciplines as different as crochet and painting. It is more common to see that a painter also works in modeling, sculpture or simply different pictorial techniques.
What I find different between crochet and the other areas I work in is that crochet does not impose a specific place to work or require isolation. I can work while I look after my grandchildren, Benny and Josie. I can craft while I chat in the middle of a family gathering.
What serves me in all disciplines is an aesthetic sense in terms of the harmony of colors and in the arrangement of details. This is true whether composing a design at the time of painting or in the way of arranging the colors in a garment. This also applies to the details that will give the special touch and uniqueness to an item.
What have you inspired some of your designs?
So many things! Sometimes finding a material awakens in me the desire to turn it into a new project, other times it takes seeing the wonderful things that people do in different parts of the world.
At times, my grandchildren inspire me. I don’t know how to explain how it happens, but I can say that the more creative work, the more there is inspiration. It is like an endless chain of ideas; today I have thousands of them in my mind and heart, but I cannot materialize them all for matter of time.
Do you prefer crocheting toys or wearables?
I do not have preferences, although I feel more enthusiasm in the moments when I’m in the process of learning a new technique. At this time, working on toys is completely new for me, so that is exciting. I’m impressed by the dose of patience needed and the quantity of details that are involved in each piece. I am excited to think that a child can sleep embracing one of those dolls, among so many toy options created by machines. This is something that consumed hours of pure love and dedication: IT MUST make a difference and I notice it in my grandchildren.
Have you also made items for your children?
Oh yes! Very many! I am very fortunate that my daughter from very young enjoyed wearing the clothes I created for her. What’s more, my son returned to his University after his spring break taking with him a customized keyholder.
What help do you have in running your business?
For the past 3 years, and really since I moved to the States, I did not manage to take my work to the business level because of the language barrier. My children have very busy schedules and do not have much extra time to help. I do not have contacts and people do not know me well, yet. So I kept working without losing the faith that at some point all the love and the passion that I feel working in this could also be a source of income, even though it wasn’t yet.
A curious detail of my life is that when I arrived here, I knew that my degree and my experience as a manager for years would not serve me to earn a living. For a while, I could only work as an office cleaner and sometimes washing dishes in a restaurant. This motivated me to put all my energy into making unique products that I could eventually sell. I refused to accept the language barrier and the lack of contacts as a challenge for my art.
I never got discouraged and continued to work as if I had the most successful business, selling very little and only to people I knew, giving away many of my products when the situation called for it. We finally decided to form a partnership with someone who would help me create a virtual store and promote it. This project was started very recently but we are happy to reach people who have a clear understanding of what it means to buy something completely handmade.
What would you say is valuable about items made by hand?
When it comes to my handmade items, I think people are buying something that is absolutely unique. That’s the reason why I do not like to work on demand/ commission; I do not like repeating myself and even when I try it, the item comes out very similar to the original but never identical. I enjoy letting an idea come from my mind and develop into a product using the medium that feels right and then selling that item to customers rather than taking customer requests. Crochet allows me a little more uniformity when I want to create similar pieces, but it’s never the same at all with painting; even the two sides of the same cup or mug are never identical.
Since we are talking about art, who are some of your favorite artists?
I have many artists that I greatly admire. Some are part of the history of art such as El Greco, Velazquez, Monet, Degas, Raphael, Da Vinci, Bouguereau. Sometimes they inspire me and sometimes they discourage me they have that artistic stature that seems unreachable. Others that I like are lesser known, but I admire the talent of so many people that I cannot compose a list.
What else should we know about you?
A few years ago I had a great story of pain and conversion that led me to find a solid faith. During that period of renewal of my soul I became a more serene person. The beautiful thing is that through it the creating process gained more strength and more color, it made more sense.
The faith that I profess is love, beauty, order, light, harmony and much peace. So today every piece that I create carries within my desires (which is definitely a prayer) that all of those things will be received by whoever purchases an item that I’ve created.
So that when you contemplate a piece, or when you wear it, you can perceive the love that is contained in it and it will carry on the good feelings as well as joy and peace. Someone told me recently that the more she looks at the picture she got from me, the more she likes it; it is therefore very possible that my wish may come true.