Helen May Thompson

Artist, Teacher
1932 – 2013
Functions, Occupations, and Activities
>jeweler, weaver, painter, designer, teacher, and arts organizer
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. [compiled for finding aid from archival sources]
Geographic names
Rowe, Cuenca, Lucknow, Terre Haute