Teacher by Day, Textile Artist by Night – An Interview – with Alicia Herrera from Spirit House Designs


Don’t you just love them?

I know I do.

There are those that inspire me and those that make me laugh. Some help me solve problems in my classroom and others that help me solve problems in my life.

I’d like to introduce you to some of my favorite teachers here.

Teachers in studios, classrooms and in the world at large. These are the folks you will see featured in my new series of interviews here at Teacher Goes Back to School.

I hope you enjoy these teachers as much as I do!

Alicia Herrera is November’s Featured Teacher. Alicia and I know each other because we are both Thailand-adoption-waiting- mamas-to-be.   






Alicia of Spirit House Designs

Did you miss Part 1? – Teacher Travels and Vows of Silence.

How did you first start working with textiles?


My mother was trained as a home economics teacher and my father collected textiles when he traveled in Latin America, they were framed all over his house.  He introduced me to the molas of the Kuna people of Panama when I was very young.  He took me to Nicaragua when I was a young adult to work as an interpreter for a group called Medical Training Worldwide.

The sweltering markets of Nicaragua ignited my love of folk fabric and the stories that go along with them.  My relationship with textiles has developed steadily, bit by bit, over the years.

Who and what inspire you?

A close friend’s mother sealed the deal.  Karen Tan (Chang) was a textile artist and I was able to absorb quite a bit of Textiles 101 by being in her home, seeing her work, and by reading the books in her library.  She did her graduate work in Indonesian ikat and is still my hero.

I am always inspired my travel and colors and texture found in the natural world.  The smells, sounds, and feeling of being in open-air markets always send me to the moon.

Where have you traveled?

I am have traveled many places, but have spent the most time in Southeast Asia (Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, Burma, Indonesia), Japan, the subcontinent (Nepal , India) and Central America (Nicaragua, Guatemala, Costa Rica, Panama).  I spent nearly half of my 20’s living in these places.  






Traveling Teacher


How do you get your fabrics?

Well, in the case of the world textiles, I usually go to the country of origin, meet the makers, listen to the stories associated with the pieces and the people who make them, and bring them back myself.  Every pieces of cloth has had a history and a story, both regional and personal.

I also collect vintage scraps from the US, gathered from various sources, and then repurpose them into their next lives. Handbags and pillows once were tablecloths and curtains from half a century ago, all loved-up but not worn out.

I also work with raw fibers, specifically wool and silk, which I also source locally, dye, and then use in my own textiles.

What do you make?

Right now I am enjoying designing pillows and purses from vintage and world fabrics. I recently traveled to Guatemala and went from town to town gathering huipiles (blouses) and cortes (skirts) that were hand-woven and then embroidered.  Some are quite old and distinguished.  Guatemalan work is fascinating because it is so regional.  Every village has its own designs and patterns and the items can initially take up to 9 months to complete because it is all handwork.  Huipiles are often worn for a decade.  By the time I come into the picture, they have served their purpose as clothing and are ready to be reborn and repurposed.

I also work with fiber though spinning yarn, dyeing, weaving, and felting raw merino wool and silk.  I am currently enjoying a process called” nuno felting”, sometimes refered to as “laminated silk.”  Nuno means “fabric” in Japanese and the tradition involved felting wool fibers through pieces of silk fabric to make very lightweight, organic pieces.  I make scarves that are art to wear.

Many of the purses are made from vintage fabrics from the US.  Curtain samples from the 60’s, mumus, handkerchiefs, tablecloths, and whatnots are the raw materials that I gently guide into a new life.  All of the purses are made with care and fully lined, with all sorts of little touches that make them unique.  You can see samples of current pieces on the blog.

{Want to see MORE? Click HERE}

Where can people buy your goods?

I will be at the Davis Art Center’s Holiday Sale on December 3, 4, and 5th .   You will find a selection of felted and woven scarves, as well as handbags and pillows from vintage and world fabrics on display.  Each item comes with a tiny card giving some of the history behind the creative process involved.  I will be happy to tell you the long story of any particular piece on the spot!

15% of all sales go towards supporting the Davis Art Center and its fine work in the community. 

I will also be having a Spirit House studio presale on November 20th, for those who are unable to make the Davis Art Center Sale.  From 10 AM-2 PM, the studio will be open and items will be available for purchase.

The studio sale is by invitation only, but all are very welcome.

{For an invitation, simply submit a comment of interest}.

I would love to see you there and prices will reflect a 10% discount off the DAC Holiday Sale.

All of the profits from the presale go directly toward our adoption fund.


Alicia has generously donated a scarf to the readers of Teacher Goes Back To School.

Here’s how enter to win.

For One Entry:

Leave a comment about what color palette interests you most: warm tones or cool tones.

 Options for Extra Entries:

Subscribe to Teacher Goes Back to School via Email & Confirm Subscription (upper right hand corner) and then leave a blog comment telling me you subscribed.

Subscribe to Spirit House Designs via Email & Confirm Subscription (upper right hand corner) and then leave a blog comment telling Alicia you subscribed.

“Like” Teacher Goes Back to School on Facebook and then leave a blog comment to confirm.

Tweet this post or share it on Facebook and then leave a blog comment to confirm.

Who is eligible to win?

Anyone with a valid e-mail and a U.S. mailing address is eligible.

When do I find out if I am the winner?

The contest is open from November 1, 2010 until midnight PST on Friday, November 19, 2010. The winner will be announced on November 20th at the Presale. {Need not be present to win.}

You will have 2 weeks to e-mail us back with your home address so we can mail the prize.


This contest is now CLOSED.


42 thoughts on “Teacher by Day, Textile Artist by Night – An Interview – with Alicia Herrera from Spirit House Designs

  1. Pingback: Catching Up with Alicia Herrera of Spirit House Designs + a GIVEAWAY! « Teacher Goes Back to School

  2. Pingback: Song of the Day « Teacher Goes Back to School

  3. Pingback: Saturday Senses « Teacher Goes Back to School

  4. Pingback: GOTG’s Must Reads of the Week | Girls on the Grid

  5. Totally Amazing! Thanks for sharing this story! I love textiles and most importantly love reading about a dream follower/artist. Fabulous goodies! The purse is so cool!

    Color palette… warm is my desire! I’m drawn to deep burgudy or purples. They create as sense of peaceful beauty.

    Can’t wait to win a scarf!! ;)

    • @geanette: you are welcome. stories like alicia’s are ripe for telling. she is truly amazing.

      the purses are to die for. have you seen the new grey and the felted flowers? omg.

      you are now entered to win!

      ps: i love your subliminal messaging there.

  6. Pingback: Saturday Senses « Teacher Goes Back to School

  7. I too have Guatemalan clothing that I have bought on travels there… unfortunately no story to go with each piece… just drawn to them. Haven’t yet had the inspiration to actually cut into one to provide “rebirth.”
    Alas, they just stay in a box…. or hanging in my closet.

    Would love to make it to the Davis Arts Fair.
    ;-) Donna
    (cool colors)

  8. Such an inspiring interview! So fascinating to read about her travels and sitting and fabric collecting. The purses and scarves are beautiful; it’s a shame I’m not closer to Davis.

    I think I am drawn to warmer tones in the cooler months and cooler tones in the warmer months. Which makes sense. At the moment, I am definitely in the warms.

  9. Love the shape of those bags! I have a friend who is in her second year of service with the Peace Corps in Guatemala. How nice that these textiles, already with such a history, are given lovely new lives!

    I love color so much, I couldn’t even tell you if I like cool tones or warm tones more. Warm, I guess. :]

  10. Those are some danged cute purses. I absolutely love the colors. Thanks for the info about the Davis Arts Fair– sounds like fun. And I hope to meet you sometime. :-)

  11. This time of year? Warm tones.

    And omg, as a fellow textile lover (quilter in this case), I’m *dying* to see this fabric/textile stash. And to run my hands all over it, like I can’t help secretly doing whenever I’m in a quilt shop or even JoAnn’s.

  12. Wonderful interview. Thank you, Tami (and Alicia)!Gorgeous designs. I may have to track down one of those purses. And I would love to win a scarf. Cool tones, please.

  13. O.K…you are truly amazing, Mrs. H! Not only have I had the wonderful fortune of seeing you teach but I have also witnessed your natural talent with fabric. Your scarves and purses are beautiful and your sense of style so fresh and yet bohemianly retro! Truly an inspiration to all educators.

  14. dear me… i didn’t think i could love alicia more. but here i am. thanks for sharing about your travels and buddhist adventures. wow.

    and how do i git me one of them purses? i have teacher training during both of the events. but i *really* want a purse. or scarf. or both.

    and may i say… what cute hair you have.


  15. Dear Yogini- this series is muy rico- very delicious. I have enjoyed all the interviews. And I especially love this one because I also have a love of fabrics cultivated since I was a little girl making doll clothes on the treadle machine and then by hand-the kind of sewing I still love. Here by the sea in Loreto I am desiring a cool palette- especially since my house is the color of chili sauce. I am in Alta California for 2 weeks and bueno fortunata I will be there on the 20th and would love to shop local and handmade at the estudio sale. Tami thanks for all of the energy you put into this site- I will ‘like’ it if I can figure out how. Hasta Pronto, Cecile

Comments are closed.