Daniela Alfonso Chiñas - A studio visit in Mexico City
Daniela and I have met during a textile residence in Oaxaca at the beginning of 2023. When we received our email with list of our fellow residents, I was very excited to find Dani on it. I have been following her for a few years, and have even featured her in my #fridayfibercrush artist portraits on insta a couple of years back.
During the two weeks we’ve gotten to know each other, and each other's work quite well. Watching her sitting in the beautiful afternoon light at our fiberart studio Texère, creating thoughtful and often poetic objects using macramé, embroidery and weaving techniques, has been one of my memorable moments of this experience.
I am very happy that my textile journey lead me to Mexico City after our 2-week program, where I could meet Dani again and visit her in her sunny studio.
Dani, we met in a small town near Oaxaca, your hometown, during a textile residency we both joined earlier this year. How did you hear about it, and how was this experience for you? Did you learn something new about yourself?
I heard about the residency from Caitlin, the founder of Thread Caravan. We didn’t know each other in person, but we knew of each others work. She reached out to me and invited me to the textile residency in January 2023.
I’m very grateful for this opportunity as it gave me a chance to get inspired, and to hear what it is that Daniela wants to play, prove and experiment with. It also gave me that time to work with my heart and hands and to integrate my new knowledge into my work.
I think that taking this pause in our working routine is enriching, it gives us an opportunity to dig deeper into ourselves and reflect on our work and what we want to accomplish with it. Sometimes it is difficult to remember to take pauses like that because we live in a world that lets us believe that living fast and producing more is a symptom of well-being. But like creative people, we can get lost in all that stimulus. I have the feeling that I have gained more clarity in my role as a textile artist.
When did your textile journey start, and what mediums do you work with?
I was introduced to the textile world by my grandmother, she worked a lot with crochet and embroidery. I have the image of her, very clearly, weaving in a little chair and enjoying the sun in the garden.
She used to visit us at our house, and watching her made me very curious, so I started sitting with her, and slowly adopting her knowledge. I was never a huge fan of crochet, but embroidery was immensely fascinating to me. So I can say that from the age of 5 I've discovered my curiosity for textile arts.
Daniela with her grandmother setting the roots for her love for fiberart
What is your process for creating a new piece? Do you work with sketches or notes, or do you just start and see where the thread takes you?
I always try to start from something, a text, an idea, an image, or space. From that, I always try to find out which way I can best express those ideas: with color, form, material, or weaving. Once I've decided on the form of expression, I draw some sketches that give me more of a structure.
Something that I love about the process of creation is that it is fluid. When I put my hands to work I always try to get what my mind is visualizing, but in the practice, the dance or play of the hands is a time where I can discover new things, where I can integrate my initial idea, or also something new.
Square knot ceramics sculpture by Daniela Chiñas
Would you call yourself a conceptual artists with a greater meaning, or do you simply work as a fiber artist for the joy of it?
I think that I started this journey only for the joy of fibers and textile techniques. Also, this joy has evolved out of love for all the craftsmanship of the cultures that surround me and to which I belong.
I’m trying to find my way and statement that can define me with more clarity in my artwork, but I’m still working on that, so right now I only can say that I work as a fiber artist for the joy of it.
What inspired you to start your macramé journey?
Honestly, it's something that came to me. I studied textile design and when I finished my studies, I tried to discover my role in the professional world. A friend showed me the (macramé) technique and inspired me to learn more, and to teach workshops as a way to earn income.
I began my macramé journey in 2015 when the technique started to get popular again. From then on I started to get more involved with the art of knotting, which opened many doors for my professional work as a designer and artist.
What is your favorite part of the process and what’s your least favourite?
I have a lot of respect for the textile world because everything that is handmade takes a lot of time, and most people don't see the work until it is finished.
One of my least favourite parts is preparing the loom, but once this stage has passed, the weaving fun begins, offering endless exciting and happy moments.
Who are your favourite artists and what do you love about their work?
I have a lot of people that I admire, but in the textile world, there are two that are my favourite.
One of them is Ana Teresa Barboza, a graduate of the Pontifical Catholic University of Peru. [_0127_5_0
Her work is magnificent with a lot of details, mixed handcraft and artisanal techniques. I've been following her for a long time and seeing how her work has evolved over time generates a lot of admiration and inspiration in me. With the help of such delicate embroidery and weavings using different materials, she manages to create such pragmatic images.
Another artist is Cayce Zavaglia, she is a painter from Australia, who specializes in portraits. I think that her explorations of techniques, materials, and color gives her work something unique, she has the base as a painter, which allows her to explore embroidery in an extraordinary way.
What are your personal goals for Daach, your label, and also for you as an artist?
I could say that my path so far has not been easy, but in reality, I think that this is accounts for every entrepreneur or artist. I really can't see myself doing anything other than textiles, and I would love to be able to integrate and grow my team in a social and artisan way. For me, one of the main themes that I try to reflect on as a designer is the value of what is made by hand, and that this hand made art is WELL DONE.
As a textile artist, I wish I had more opportunities to produce my interpretation of the social world and existential things through textile and craft media, for the sheer joy of connection and communication, without the constant pressure of capital. That would be a utopia for me.
Follow Daniela on Instagram here