September 23, 2010

"Feira Hippie", Brazilian Art Fair, 1980

"Clay Fishermen", Brazil, 1980, Photo by Rachel Biel

My parents were missionaries in Brazil from 1962 to 1980.  I was a baby when they left for their new life, so that tells you how old I am now...  The "hippie" movement lasted about 10 years longer there than it did in the United States, so when I was a teenager in the 70's, everybody was making something, crafts, music, poetry....  Creativity blossomed, even as the country saw a bloody period of student protests, disappearances, and revolution.  Political awareness only came to me much later.  I drank what I could of the cup of Craft.  My parents encouraged this and placed me with tutors, often lonely spinsters, around our town who offered classes at their homes. 

"Baiana", Brazil, 1980, Photo by Rachel Biel

By the age of 15, my entrepreneurial spirit had been awakened and I sold painted t-shirts at a "hippie fair" every Saturday.  Little did I know that this path would continue to evolve through the next 30 years! 

"Restaurante", Brazil, 1980, Photo by Rachel Biel

My father, an amateur photographer, had a dark room in our house and taught me how to use it.  I continued to study photography in high school and these photos are the result from a study I did for my class.  I don't remember what city this was, but it was on a road trip I took with another guy whose whole family worked at the hippie fair. 

"Carver", Brazil, 1980, Photo by Rachel Biel

Unfortunately, the handmade revolution in Brazil did not last.  The last time I was there, about 15 years ago, the hippie fairs were flooded with crafts from Indonesia, China, India and other Asian countries.  Industrialization has a way of killing off the handmade trades until the day comes when people find that they need it to remain sane.  So, they take a class in something for "therapy".  All of a sudden, the process brings back meaning to life and they can no longer stand to live without it.  I think that is what has happened here in the United States.  We have become revolted by meaningless consumerism and in both supporting the Craft and making it ourselves, we find our way back to the basics, to growing things and to making music.

"Metalworker", Brazil, 1980, Photo by Rachel Biel

I don't know what the Craft movement is like in Brazil now.  I know it had a huge impact on my life and it was my training ground.  I have dabbled in many different mediums and finally gave myself to textiles and the needle traditions.  I believe that every social group has to go through this process and reclaim traditions, taking them to new expressions, in order to find its place in the maze of our contemporary world. 

"Pinwheels", Brazil, 1980, Photo by Rachel Biel

That is what we are about here in our TAFA Team and with our Etsy shops.  One thing I know for sure:  We cannot succeed without your support and buying power.  The makers and the buyers work together in a symbiotic partnership where one cannot move ahead without the other.  So, if you are a potential buyer, visit our shops and help us move ahead in our destiny as makers.  We hope that what we do will also bring meaning and substance to your life.  You can be sure that every purchase you make will do so for us!

"Pipoca", Brazil, 1980, Photo by Rachel Biel

If you are interested in learning more about our time in Brazil, I started a blog about it:  Biels in Brazil.  I work on it when I can.  I'm very excited about it right now because an aunt had saved the letters my mother wrote to her in the 1960's and 1970's.  They are loaded with interesting insights about life in Brazil from that period.  In time, I will transcribe them to the blog.

"Sugar Candy", Brazil, 1980, Photo by Rachel Biel


  1. Very interesting. Photos are a treat. Did you take lot of photos then?

  2. Yes, I did, but mostly of family, friends and pets. My Dad had a huge collection of slides and photos that he took of Brazil which would have been wonderful to look back on now, but most of them were either lost in transit or left behind when we moved.

    A bunch of the missionary kids that were of that same era are now friends on facebook. Recently, one of them posted a whole bunch of photos her father had taken in the 60's and it was so odd because they looked so much like our photos, but none of us were in them! I wish I had taken more of our surroundings and even now, wish I did more with local stuff in Paducah. It was a huge transition for me to go to digital and I really hated it at first. I still have a lot to learn, but feel pretty good about my photo editing skills now. My next big challenge is to learn how to make good little videos...

  3. Great article Rachel. Some really neat "background" information and I love the photos. I'll check out your Brazil blog for sure.

  4. Love this Rachel - now we know the origins of your 'obsession'. ;-D Losing locally made crafts to mass global consumerism is what we're up against here in Turkey as well, which is why I'm doing our workshops. Sites like this are great 'therapy'!


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