We Are Upstate NY with Fiber Artist + Educator Poliana Danila
Poliana Danila’s love for gardening, plants, weaving and fibers took root as a young girl growing up in Romania. She watched her parents and grandparents working in the gardens, teaching in school and weaving wool from their sheep. Poliana’s exquisite hand-woven brooms were inspired by her grandmother, Ioana, who was an avid weaver–she used a large floor loom to make unique tapestries. After graduation, Poliana moved with her husband to the United States, where she eventually enrolled in the New York Botanical Garden’s landscape design program. Poliana fell in love with the flora of the states. Next, Poliana studied with well-known artists at fiber studios at the Textile Art Center in Brooklyn/Manhattan and Fiber Craft Studio in Spring Valley to explore, experiment, and hone her weaving, knotting, and plant dyeing skills. And that brings us to today.
Inside+Out catches up with Poliana Daniela, landscape designer turned fiber artist, textile artist, and educator for children and adults.
INSIDE+OUT: Where are you originally from and how did you wind up in the Hudson Valley – New Paltz specifically?
Poliana Danila: Hello and lovely sharing my story with you. I am originally from Romania. My family moved to New Paltz as my husband and I wanted to send our two daughters to Mountain Laurel Waldorf School in 2017 after five years of homeschooling.
You started out as a landscape designer and now you are a fiber artist and broom maker. What inspired the idea for your business and tells us about your journey?
Plants inspire me. I went to school for Landscape Architecture and Horticulture, in Romania, the Netherlands and at the New York Botanical Garden. For fifteen years, I designed myriads of small, medium, and large gardens and took a break in 2013, when my second child was born. My whole life (since I was 6 years old to be exact) I loved and always worked with fibers, especially those made from plants: nettles, hemp, cotton, corn husks, banana, bamboo, flax, jute, ramie, etc.
My first inspiration was my grandmother, Ioana, an avid weaver who used a big floor loom to make unique tapestries such as blankets, wall hangings, rugs, and floor rugs. My separation from the familiar–from my homeland practices to be exact, triggered my response wherein I started making pieces and works in which I talk about the impact of nature and art. The idea of mass-produced art and products doesn’t feel right to me. I love minimalism in any shape and form.
In 2016, Fiber Art International defined its medium as “anything made of flexible, linear material and/or constructed using textile techniques such as stitching, weaving, knotting, dyeing and embroidering”.
In the US, I had the privilege to take weaving, knotting, handcrafted brooms, plant-dyeing classes and workshops with different well-known artists at great fiber studios: Textile Art Center in Brooklyn/Manhattan and Fiber Craft Studio in Spring Valley.
Your designs for brooms are exquisite – where did you find the inspiration to design brooms?
I still remember how much I loved sweeping with my grandmother’s broom (besom) made out of twigs and cleaning my parents’ hearth fireplace with the goose’s wings. The reminder that it is through art, craft and nature that we connect to ourselves, others and our ancestors.
You work with many different mediums. What are your favorites and why?
I love working with what plants give us–from fibers to ingredients for food/cooking.
You teach and offer an array of workshops, tell us more about that.
I have been teaching for the past 11 years. My first teaching class was “How to Design a Perennial Garden” at Wilton, CT, for continuing education. I still remember how extremely nervous I was about my speech, my students asking me questions that I would not be able to answer, and wondering if I would say something where the students wouldn’t understand what I was saying due to my accent. Also, I was breastfeeding my baby Sophie, so my breasts were full of milk at that time. However, once the class started my nervousness went away. I realized at that moment “Embody what you teach, and teach only what you have embodied.” I am still a bit nervous when I teach or when someone takes a video while I am teaching, but my love, passion, knowledge, and embodiment for plants and fibers, can be felt during my workshops/ateliers. It’s a gift from my dearest parents and grandparents.
Since I taught my first class eleven years ago, I have been instructing, teaching, and leading a myriad of workshops: weaving as meditation, ropes and knots, gardening talks, mending, plant dyeing, handcrafted brooms, and plant dyeing. I teach at New York Botanical Garden, GGrippo Art + Design Brooklyn, Ethos Project Farm, Fall Kill Creative Works, Mohonk House, and Fiber Craft Studio Chestnut Ridge.
What is one question you’re constantly asked about your work?
“Can I really create that piece during your workshop?”
How do you grow your business?
Through recommendations and social media.
What is it about the Hudson Valley that makes it unique to live + work here?
The energy, art, people, landscape, food, farms…
Who or what inspires you personally?
My parents graciously and generously shared their amazing talents with everyone, especially their children, including myself. They are an inspiration to me every single day. Since I was a child, I have recognized their embodiment and passion for sharing knowledge and how that has impacted many lives. I am deeply grateful for the gifts they gave me. Unfortunately, they are not alive anymore but live in my heart.
Tell us something about yourself that people might be surprised to know.
I have loved reading psychology books since high school.
What would be your dream local Staycation?
Sleeping under the sky or in a tent.
What is missing in the area that you wish we had?
We are fortunate to have almost everything around here, but I would add a little bit more awareness, simplicity, and humbleness.
Communities sustain life. There is no better place to learn the art of making and the art of loving than in the community
What impact does your business have on your community?
Communities sustain life. There is no better place to learn the art of making and the art of loving than in the community. I truly love starting my workshops with a circle where everyone shares their names, a speck of their magical story and a personal intention for the day. After everyone’s sharings, I always love to recite a poem….and shed tears while I read it.
Grandma, how do you face pain? By Elena Barnabé
“Grandma, how do you deal with pain?”
“With your hands, dear. When you do it with your mind, the pain hardens even more.”
“With your hands, Grandma?”
“Yes, yes. Our hands are the antennas of our soul. When you move them by sewing, cooking, painting, touching the earth or sinking them into the earth, they send signals of caring to the deepest part of you and your soul calms down. This way she doesn’t have to send pain anymore to show it.”
“Are hands really that important?”
“Yes, my girl. Thinking of babies: they get to know the world thanks to their touches. When you look at the hands of older people, they tell more about their lives than any other part of the body. Everything that is made by hand, so it is said, is made with the heart because it really is like this: hands and heart are connected. Masseuses know this: when they touch another person’s body with their hands, they create a deep connection. Thinking of lovers: when their hands touch, they love each other in the most sublime way.”
“My hands, Grandma.. how long haven’t I used them like that!”
“Move them, my girl, start creating with them and everything in you will move. The pain will not pass away. But it will be the best masterpiece. And it won’t hurt anymore. Because you managed to embroider your essence.”
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Be sure to take. one of Poliana’s Workshops!
Connect with Poliana Danila