AR.00060 Helen Thompson Papers

Collection, MOIFA.AR.00060
Helen May Thompson was a jeweler, weaver, painter, designer, teacher, and arts organizer who studied traditional metalwork techniques in India and worked with jewelers in Chordeleg, Ecuador under the auspices of the Peace Corps to expand the market for their products. She was most proud of her role in facilitating the Northern New Mexico Embroidery Workshops (aka The Village Embroidery Workshops) and the Villanueva Tapestry Project, both of which revived and preserved the colcha tradition of northern New Mexico.
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Date
circa 1932 – 2013 Bulk date(s)
January 2018 Date(s) of record-keeping activity
Extent
7 document boxes, 1 oversize box, 1 index file box
Administrative/Biographical History
Helen May Thompson was born in Terre Haute, Indiana in 1932. While attending Indiana University, she discovered a love of arts and crafts and a vocation to teach. After receiving her B.A. in Fine Arts in 1954, she taught art before returning to IU to study metal-working and jewelry design with Alma Eikerman. Concurrent with receiving an M.F.A. in 1960, she was awarded a Fulbright Grant to study Indian crafts and their makers at the Government College of Arts and Crafts in Lucknow. During this residency, she traveled, often solo, to Pakistan and Egypt, in addition to frequent travel throughout India by rail, travel that ignited a passion for textiles and weaving. From 1966 – 1969, Helen was a Peace Corps volunteer in Chordeleg, near Cuenca, Ecuador, where she worked with traditional jewelers, potters, and weavers to design products and promote marketing initiatives. After returning to the United States, Helen moved to Rowe, New Mexico in 1971. She studied weaving with Alice Parrott and opened Artesanía de Pecos where she taught and facilitated weekly meetings of local women to weave, make and fire pottery, draw and paint. Helen planned and coordinated the Village Embroidery Workshops in the summers of 1973 and 1974. Following the success of these workshops, Helen was the coordinator of the 1976 Villanueva Tapestry Project whose work served to revive the colcha embroidery tradition in Villanueva and celebrate the nation’s bicentennial. From 1976 – 1979, Helen was an Art Specialist in the New Mexico State Department of Education, and from 1979 – 1985, she was an Associate Professor of Art and Art Education at New Mexico Highlands University. In 1986 she conducted design workshops on the Navajo Reservation and in 1989 mentored a textile project at the Barelas Senior Center in Albuquerque, New Mexico. After 42 years as a beloved member of the Rowe community, where she served as a mail carrier and fire watcher, Helen Thompson died in in Santa Fe, New Mexico on October 31, 2013.
Scope and Content
The Helen Thompson Papers span a period from the early 1930’s to 2013, illuminating one woman’s pursuit of a career as an artist, designer and arts advocate in post-WWII America and abroad in India and Ecuador. Slides and photographs record Helen’s travels in the late 1950’s and 1960’s and include documentation of traditional artists at work in their studios. Particularly interesting are Helen’s designs for her own jewelry and metalwork. The strength of this collection lies in its documentation of the genesis and execution of the Village Embroidery Workshops and the Villanueva Tapestry Project, both of which helped revive and preserve the colcha embroidery tradition of northern New Mexico and empowered the women of participating communities through exhibits and sales of their embroideries.
Contents List
Series 1 -- Personal Records Series Box 1, Folder 1: 25 slides from slide box labeled “El Salvador.” Box 1, Folder 2: 27 slides from slide box labeled “Honduras and Nicaragua.” Box 1, Folder 3: 14 slides from slide box labeled “Guatemala.” Box 1, Folder 4: 25 slides from slide box labeled “My Family Misc./ Elaine esp.” Box 1, Folder 5: 30 slides from slide box labeled “Opryland/St. Louis/Rose/Laurie” and “Lorain/Camping/Villanueva.” Box 1, Folder 6: 20 slides from slide box labeled “Ecuador misc.” Box 1, Folder 7: 20 slides from slide box labeled “Chordeleg Jew.” Box 1, Folder 8: 29 slides from slide box labeled “Lorain’s Family/Laurie’s Communion.” Box 1, Folder 9: 28 slides from slide box labeled “Pimento home/& Grandchildren.” Box 1, Folder 10: 22 slides from slide box labeled “India – Jaipur/Hyderabad/Delhi.” Box 1, Folder 11: 23 slides from slide box labeled “India/Varkala.” Box 1, Folder 12: 24 slides from slide box labeled “India – Temples.” Box 1, Folder 13: 30 slides from slide box labeled “Ecuador/Playas/Santo Domingo.” Box 1, Folder 14: 29 slides from slide box labeled “India – scenes/Lucknow Fair.” Box 1, Folder 15: 28 slides from slide box labeled “Ecuador – Chordeleg/Jewelry + scenes.” Box 1, Folder 16: 28 slides from slide box labeled “Cuenca Exh./Lois’s pots.” Box 1, Folder 17: 18 slides from slide box labeled “Quito/Cuenca/Market.” Box 1, Folder 18: 26 slides from slide box labeled “Ecuador – ceramics/our house – potters.” Box 1, Folder 19: 30 slides from slide box labeled “Chordeleg/Fiesta/Artisans/Daily life.” Box 1, Folder 20: 30 slides from slide box labeled “Chordeleg fiesta/religious procession.” Box 1, Folder 21: 12 slides from slide box labeled “Ecuador/Puyo/Zuleta.” Box 2, Folder 22: 3 slides from section labeled “MARY CARL WEDDING.” Box 2, Folder 23: 4 slides from section labeled “FLINT HILLS – PRARIE [sic].” Box 2, Folder 24: 8 slides from section labeled “JEAN, DEMIAN, MAGGE.” Box 2, Folder 25: 3 slides from section labeled “AARON ARCHULETA.” Box 2, Folder 26: 2 slides from section labeled “MRS. LANE.” Box 2, Folder 27: 12 slides from section labeled “FOLKS in MEXICO.” Box 2, Folder 28: 7 slides from section labeled “PRICILLA [sic], LORAN [sic], CECIILIA, etc.” Box 2, Folder 29: 6 slides of a basketball game from an unlabeled section. Box 2, Folder 30: 13 slides of jewelry, most marked with Helen Thompson’s name and address, and 1 slide of an unidentified landscape. Box 2, Folder 31: 7 slides from section labeled “DEMIAN, TINA, LAURIE.” Box 2, Folder 32: 10 slides from section labeled “Mother + Daddy.” Box 2, Folder 33: 3 slides from section labeled “STUDENT WORK – HIGHLANDS.” Box 2, Folder 34: 6 slides from section labeled “LORAINS [sic] FAMILY.” Box 2, Folder 35: 4 slides from section labeled “PECOS MONUMENT/Portrait of Doug/Michele Smith + Doug Pederson.” Box 2, Folder 36: 16 slides from section labeled “50 ANN. QUILT.” Box 2, Folder 37: 14 slides from section labeled “MESA VIEWS.” Box 2, Folder 38: 13 slides from section labeled “MISC. MY FAMILY.” Box 2, Folder 39: 6 slides from section labeled “LAURIE QUEEN HS / JUDY + LAURIE PLAY.” Box 2, Folder 40: 3 slides from section labeled “EL MACHO – Laurie, Chuck, etc.” Box 2, Folder 41: 14 slides from section labeled “N. HARMONY, EVANSVILLE.” Box 2, Folder 42: 12 slides from section labeled “MARGARET’S VISIT HERE.” Box 2, Folder 43: 10 slides from section labeled “FRIENDS.” Box 2, Folder 44: 2 slides from section labeled “PAULA’S BLUE SAPPHIRE RING.” Box 2, Folder 45: 2 slides from section labeled “MARY’S BLUE SAPPHIRE RING.” Box 2, Folder 46: 1 slide from section labeled “2 INLAY RINGS.” Box 2, Folder 47: 1 slide from section labeled “NELDA STEVENS SPEARS RING.” Box 2, Folder 48: 2 slides from section labeled “RING – TRUDI STEVENS.” Box 2, Folder 49: 6 slides from section labeled “GINNY’S RINGS.” Box 2, Folder 50: 9 slides from section labeled “SCULPTURE LUCY PRISILLA [sic].” Box 2, Folder 51: 1 slide from section labeled “ASSUMPTION – ELLENSTEIN/Evansville, Ind.” Box 2, Folder 52: 5 slides from section labeled “SONNEBERG [sic]/HANGING/LIFECHAIN.” Box 2, Folder 53: 7 slides from section labeled “LORAIN’S EMERALD RING.” Box 2, Folder 54: 4 slides from section labeled “INTERNATIONAL FOLK ART/COPPER BOX.” Box 2, Folder 55: 1 slide from section labeled “HANGING JOE Thompson.” Box 2, Folder 56: 8 slides from section labeled “ROWE SCENERY.” Box 2, Folder 57: 8 slides from section labeled “DRAWINGS.” Box 2, Folder 58: 4 slides from section labeled “JEWEL PROCESS – ME IN STUDIO. Box 2, Folder 59: 4 slides from section labeled “’CHORDELEG’ EIKERMAN/Sculpture purchase/ coll. Alma Eikerman/Bloomington, Ind.” Box 2, Folder 60: 3 slides from section labeled “JANS[sic] PENDANT.” Box 2, Folder 61: 5 slides from section labeled “RINGS.” Box 2, Folder 62: 11 slides from section labeled “PENDANTS.” Box 2, Folder 63: 15 slides from section labeled “PENDANTS.” Box 2, Folder 64: 0 slides from section labeled “PINS.” Box 2, Folder 65: 9 slides from section labeled “PIN – TURQUOISE.” Box 2, Folder 66: 10 slides from section labeled “HANGINGS.” Box 2, Folder 67: 9 slides from section labeled “BOWLS.” Box 2, Folder 68: 4 slides from section labeled “STICK PINS.” Box 2, Folder 69: 9 slides from section labeled “EARRINGS.” Box 2, Folder 70: 8 slides from section labeled “MALACHITE RINGS.” Box 2, Folder 71: 5 slides from section labeled “ANN PRICE PENDANT.” Box 2, Folder 72: 3 slides from section labeled “BETSY VINTON/JOHN + BETSY.” Box 2, Folder 73: 3 slides from section labeled “ANN PRINCE PENDANT.” Box 2, Folder 74: 7 slides from section labeled “DEL LA PENTA AFRICAN CROS[sic].” Box 2, Folder 75: 0 slides from section labeled “CLOUD PTG. w/c EIKERMAN.” Box 2, Folder 76: Slide box cover sheet found face down over slides. Box 3, Folder 77: 65 slides from a slide carousel tray labeled “Lois + classwork – POTTERY” and “CUENCA exhibit.” Box 3, Folder 78: From folder labeled “Pricing Notes” -- notes on pricing of Helen Thompson jewelry designs and paintings; miscellaneous exhibition entry materials. Box 3, Folder 79: From folder labeled “Resumes” -- draft resumes with final copies. Box 3, Folder 80: From unlabeled folder -- pencil sketches; color photocopies of watercolor titled, “I Am the Good Shepherd”; overlays for cover design of NMHU journal May 1982. Box 3, Folder 81: From unlabeled section -- sketches and paste-ups for cover design of NMHU journal May 1982; small ink sketch titled, “The lake. . . forever.” Box 3, Folder 82: From unlabeled folder – pencil and watercolor landscapes. Box 3, Folder 83: From folder labeled “Resume Odds and Ends” – transcripts; Peace Corps application; job applications; invitation to IU Fine Arts 100th anniversary celebration. Box 3, Folder 84: Unlabeled folder – resumes; transcripts; job applications; draft of Fulbright exit essay; 3 pages handwritten biographical notes that mention the influence of Alma Eikerman and Alice Parrott and Helen Thompson philosophy of art-making. Box 3, Folder 85: From unlabeled section -- drawings of wall hangings and jewelry with prices; index cards with photos of jewelry noting prices and buyer. Box 3, Folder 86: From unlabeled envelope -- 22 photos of jewelry (some with notations on the back); 16 slides of jewelry and hangings. Box 3, Folder 87: From unlabeled envelope -- 33 slides of jewelry, 1 photo of a basket. Box 3, Folder 88: From unlabeled envelope -- color photocopies of jewelry. Box 3, Folder 89: From section labeled “Jewelry” -- 37 slides of jewelry and wall hangings. Box 3, Folder 90: From section labeled “Jewelry in Collection” – 37 slides. Box 3, Folder 91: From section labeled “HANGINGS IN COLLECTION” – 7 slides. Box 3, Folder 92: From section labeled “HANGING” – 10 slides; 8 photos. Box 3, Folder 93: From section labeled “BOWLS, BOXES, etc.” – 15 slides. Box 3, Folder 94: From section labeled “OIL IN COLLECTION” – 6 slides. Box 3, Folder 95: From section labeled “W/C” – 4 photos. Box 3, Folder 96: From section labeled “DRAWING” – 6 slides. Box 3, Folder 97: From section labeled “MISC.” – 68 photos including rings, pendants, weavings, and watercolors. Box 3, Folder 98: From unlabeled folder -- notes and sketches of paintings and wall hangings including price, description and/or submission history (see folder 99 for possible first page). Box 3, Folder 99: From folder labeled “Memo” -- correspondence re: gallery submissions and awards; notes for artist statement; sketches of jewelry, hangings and boxes with numbers and prices (see Folder 98 for possible second page). Box 3, Folder 100: From unlabeled folder -- drawing titled, “KITCHEN SINK IN ROWE – 1ST house” signed by John Powell. Three loose rolls of negatives labeled “Pujo Pots” are in the back of Box 3. Box 4, Folder 101: 2 passports, one issued May 9, 1959, including Fulbright travels, one issued December 1, 1966, including Peace Corps travels, and one Peace Corps “Carnet de Identidad.” Box 4, Folder 102: 64 slides from section labeled “PENDANTS” in ½ envelopes including description and/or drawing of corresponding object. Box 4, Folder 103: 33 additional slides from section labeled “PENDANTS” in ½ envelopes including description and/or drawing of corresponding object. Box 4, Folder 104: 15 slides from section labeled “RINGS, PINS” in ½ envelopes including description and/or drawing of corresponding object. Box 4, Folder 105: 24 slides from section labeled “BRACELETS/EAR RINGS [sic]/BOXES” in ½ envelopes including description and/or drawing of corresponding object. Box 4, Folder 106: 25 slides from section labeled “WALL HANGING” in ½ envelopes including description and/or drawing of corresponding object. Box 4, Folder 107: 17 slides from unlabeled section in ½ envelopes including description and/or drawing of corresponding object including a painting, a ring and a wall hanging. Box 4, Folder 108: 15 slides from unlabeled section in ½ envelopes including description and/or drawing of corresponding object including paintings and drawings. Box 4, Folder 109: 24 slides from unlabeled section in ½ envelopes including description and/or drawing of corresponding object including paintings, collage and jewelry. Box 4, Folder 110: 43 slides from unlabeled section in ½ envelopes including description and/or drawing of corresponding object including jewelry and paintings. Box 4, Folder 111: Loose materials from bottom of shoe box including photos and photocopies of watercolor and oil paintings; slides of jewelry, hangings and a painting; photos of jewelry, boxes and hangings; empty labeled envelopes with no corresponding objects. Box 4, Folder 112: 16 sheets of slides and photos from slide boxes labeled “Macchu Picchu [sic],” “Guatemala,” Anthropology Museum Mexico City,” “Monte Alban / Oaxaca,” “Views of Mex. City, Taxco, Murals / no relations in these,” “Pimento Home,” “Lois’s Guatemala,” “Lorain class embrod.,” and miscellaneous loose photos and slides including a head shot of Helen Thompson timestamped “24 JUL 1968.” Box 5, Folder 113: 11 sheets of small black and white photos from box labeled “Ecuador.” Box 5, Folder 114: Blue “College Notebook” dating from Fulbright India trip with expense accounting, Hindi language notes, addresses and personal musings and small sketches. Box 5, Folder 115: Typewritten personal statement and 4 sheets of matboard with photos of jewelry and hangings interspersed with one loose photo of a bracelet, all clipped together. Box 5, Folder 116: Fulbright Newsletter dated “March 1962” and tourist brochures and a rail map of India c. 1959. Box 5, Folder 117: 5 sheets of slides and photos from large plastic folder labeled “SLIDES OF Jewelry/Ecuador and India.” Box 5, Folder 118: Large folder labeled “India” with drawings in pencil, ink and watercolor. Box 5, Folder 119: 7 sheets of small, unlabeled black and white photos rubber-banded together, possibly of Ecuador. Box 5, Folder 120: 10 sheets of black and white photos of jewelry, found loose, most with numbers that correspond to the catalog of “Andean Products” as found in oversize Box 9, Folder 121. Box 5, Folder 121: See oversize Box 9, Series 1, Folder 121. Catalog of “Andean Products.” Preservation photocopy found in oversize Box 9, Folder 122. Box 5, Folder 122: See oversize Box 9, Series 1, Folder 122. Preservation photocopy of “Andean Products” catalog. Box 5, Folder 123: Miscellaneous materials found in unlabeled manila folder including pricing notes and descriptive drawings for jewelry; valuation notes for Quito exhibit; black and white photos of jewelry with numbers that correspond with “Andean Products” catalog; design drawings for jewelry; Cuenca tourist guide. Preservation photocopies in Folder 124. Box 5, Folder 124: Preservation photocopies of material in Folder 123. Box 5, Folder 125: See oversize Box 9, Series 1, Folder 125. 3 matboards of photos of jewelry with numbers that correspond to “Andean Products” catalog. Box 5, Folder 126: 11 large photos, probably of Ecuador, with a letter from “Judy” dated “10 August 76” found rubber-banded together. Box 5, Folder 127: Miscellaneous materials found in folder labeled “JEWELERS – CHORDELEG” including exhibition pamphlet; scraps with drawings and notes; drafts and notes for lectures; personal correspondence; a notebook of sales and prices; photos of jewelry and craftspeople at work. Box 5, Folder 128: See oversize Box 9, Series 1, Folder 128. Contains added artwork received from Ann Lacy on November 6, 2017 including drawings in pencil, ink and watercolor. Box 6: Materials found in a shoe box labeled “ART WORK” including a handwritten DNR note from Helen Thompson dated “March 1, 1988”; childhood photos of Helen Thompson; 5x8 index cards with descriptions and photos and/or drawings of Helen Thompson’s jewelry, wall hangings and paintings, interleaved with slides in ½ envelopes labeled with descriptions and/or drawings of jewelry and loose photos and negatives of jewelry and paintings, most unlabeled. Please use with care and maintain original order. Series 2 – Village Embroidery Workshops Series Box 7, Folder 1: Photos; notes on Village Embroidery Workshops exhibition at MOIFA; letters and writings from workshop participants. Box 7, Folder 2: Correspondence dated 1973 – 1975 between Helen Thompson and Carmen de Orrego-Salas re: workshops but including contemporaneous descriptions of the coup in Chile against Allende and 1 film negative of the Pecos Quilt. Box 7, Folder 3: Slides of the Village Embroidery Workshop participants and their embroideries. Box 7, Folder 4: Lists of workshop participants; a mimeographed handout of stitch instructions; copies of press clippings and correspondence; sales information for embroideries. Box 7, Folder 5: Type- and hand-written notes re: background and purpose of the workshops and a press release dated August 16, 1974. Box 7, Folder 6: Reports on Village Embroidery Workshops of 1973 and 1974 by Carmen de Orrego-Salas and Helen Thompson; grant request for 1974 workshop; correspondence between Helen Thompson and Yvonne Lange re: workshops; press release drafts; in-loan agreement for Village Embroidery Workshop 1974 exhibition at Museum of International Folk Art, Santa Fe”; “Village Embroidery Workshops Exhibit” original valuation moved to Box 9, Series 2, Folder 8. Box 7, Folder 7: Purchase orders for workshop embroideries; photos of Village Embroidery Workshop participants and negatives of the Pecos Quilt panels; photocopy of Helen Thompson online obituary from The Tribune Star dated November 7, 2013. Box 7, Folder 8: See oversize Box 9, Series 2, Folder 8. Oversize color photocopy of completed “Valle de Pecos” tapestry. Box 7, Folder 9: All original newspaper clippings for Series 2. Series 3 – Villanueva Tapestry Project Box 8, Folder 1: Postcards of Villanueva Tapestry; correspondence between Helen Thompson and Jacqueline Enthoven dated 1976 and 1977, and Helen Thompson and Carmen de Orrego Salas dated 1976; slides of the Villanueva Church; a preservation photocopy of a newspaper clipping of the 25th anniversary celebration of the tapestry dated 2001 and a preservation copy of the original bicentennial program to dedicate the tapestry dated 1976 (both originals found in oversize Box 9, Series 3, Folder 2). Box 8, Folder 2: See oversize Box 9, Series 3, Folder 2. Oversize material found clipped together. Includes Villanueva Tapestry dedication program, July 1976; exhibition catalog for “American Folk Art from the Ozarks to the Rockies”; and “Guide to Villanueva Tapestries at Our Lady of Guadalupe Church” which lists stitchers and describes panels. Box 8, Folder 3: Includes hand-drawn notes of dimensions and sequence of Villanueva Tapestries to be hung in Guadalupe Church. Box 8, Folder 4: Clippings from newspapers and magazines re: The Villanueva Tapestry Project. Box 8, Folder 5: Helen Thompson notes to Rowena A. Rivers re: Rivera’s writings on the Villanueva Tapestry Project. Box 8, Folder 6: Original copy of Art in America, September-October 1978; typewritten notes for press release dated August 16, 1974; 25th anniversary guide to the Villanueva Tapestry and embroiderers inscribed to “Helen Thompson / July 2001 / presented at the 25th celebration”; color photocopy of the tapestry panel, “El Día de Santiago,” embroidered by Sadie Lucero. Box 8, Folder 7: All original newspaper clippings re: Villanueva Tapestry Project. Preservation copies found as noted. Box 8, Folder 8: Photos from envelope labeled, “My photos of Villanueva” to include color photos of the Church of the Guadalupe and negatives. Box 8, Folder 9: Invitation to the dedication of the tapestries dated July 24, 1976. Box 8, Folder 10: Materials re: the 25th anniversary celebration of the tapestries. Small yellow photo album of 25th Anniversary celebration of the Villanueva Tapestry in the back of Box 8. Box 9: Legal-sized box containing all oversize materials from Series 1, 2 and 3. Box 9, Series 1, Folder 121: Original catalog and mimeos of “Andean Products” catalog of Cuenca, Ecuador. Box 9, Series 1, Folder 122: Preservation photocopies of original material in Box 9, Series 1, Folder 121. Box 9, Series 1, Folder 125: 3 matte boards of black and white photos of jewelry, numbered to correspond to items in “Andean Products” catalog found in Box 9, Series 1, Folder 121, including descriptions and prices. Box 9, Series 1, Folder 128: Helen Thompson artwork including a watercolor, pencil sketch, and ink sketches, most unlabeled. Box 9, Series 2, Folder 8: Oversize photocopy of Valle de Pecos quilt. Box 9, Series 3, Folder 2: Includes Villanueva Tapestry dedication program, July 1976; exhibition catalog for “American Folk Art from the Ozarks to the Rockies” exhibition catalog; and “Guide to Villanueva Tapestries at Our Lady of Guadalupe Church” which lists stitchers and describes panels.
Conditions Governing Access
Contact the Bartlett Library and Archives at the Museum of International Folk Art (505-476-1210) for further information.
Citation
Museum of International Folk Art Archives (Helen Thompson Collection, AR.00060)
LOC Terms
Jewelry making [info:lc/authorities/subjects/sh85070232], Embroidery [info:lc/authorities/subjects/sh85042701]
Geographic names
Rowe, Cuenca, Lucknow, Terre Haute
Related people
Bartlett Library and Archives (describes); Museum of International Folk Art (describes); Helen May Thompson (describes)
Related occurrences
Village Embroidery Workshops (was used in); 1971 Southwestern Crafts Biennial (describes); 1972 New Mexico Crafts Biennial (describes)