Holy Family surrounded by Six Archangels
28" x 32"
Textile, Colcha stitch on curro wool and handspun yarn
Region: Santa Fe, New Mexico
In all likelihood, colcha embroidery originated in colonial-era New Mexico and southern Colorado. The colcha stitch is a long, self-couching stitch, secured to the ground cloth by anchoring stitches. (2) This form of embroidery developed as a means of marrying practical and aesthetic concerns. During the Spanish colonial era, women had to make nearly everything required by the dictates of domestic life. They used the wool of the hearty churro sheep brought to the region by their settler ancestors. They spun this wool into yarn and tinted it in the subtle colors distilled from plants indigenous to the high desert or with dyes from other regions of New Spain. The art form now called colcha embroidery was devised to cover woolen ground cloth efficiently and completely. In eighteenth- and nineteenth-century New Mexico and southern Colorado, needlework on altar cloths and bed coverlets featured stylized flowers, vines, and leaves.

Contemporary colcha embroidery is thickly entwined with discourses of continuity and Hispanic heritage. The careful replication of colonial practices today recalls the frugality and the ingenuity of earlier times. It also reasserts the imprint of gender on everyday life; women's embroidery was visible in the home (on burial cloths and tablecloths) and in sacred spaces (on altar cloths and saints' dresses). The endeavors of today's colcha artist--from the use of churro wool and handspun yarn, to the application of locally derived dyes, "traditional" design patterns, and even the stitch itself--are intimately bound up with ideas of value, authenticity, and cultural persistence in a region that refuses the erasure of its deeply Hispanic identity.

About the Artist
Julia Gomez began learning colcha (the Spanish Colonial style of embroidery) about 40 years ago. She later immersed herself in the entire process - from shearing the sheep to dyeing the wool— when she began volunteering at El Rancho de las Golondrinas (a living history museum dedicated to 18th- and 19th-century culture) in 2000.

She weaves her own backing, and spins and dyes her own wool.

Julia has participated in Spanish Market for over eighteen years, winning Best of Show in 2010. Her work is part of the permanent collection at the Museum of Spanish Colonial Arts. She has showcased her colcha embroidery as far away as China, where in 2015 she received an Honorary Credential and Master Artist Recognition. Gomez has showcased her colcha embroidery on multiple occasions in China at the Belt and Road International Forum for Cultural Heritage Cooperation and Exchange and Handcrafts Fair, where in 2015 she received an Honorary Credential and Master Artist Recognition.

Sources: New Mexico Fiber Arts Directory; New Mexico.org; Santa Fe New Mexican