Lara Manzanares was born right around the time that Tierra Wools opened its doors. Her birth announcement came in the form of a piece of paper scotch-taped to the front door of the newly opened shop: “It’s a girl!”
Lara was one of many children who came to work with their mothers in the early days. She was content to color and draw at the foot of her mother’s loom, roam around the village having adventures with her buddies, or eat cake at one of the many family celebrations that were a part of community life at Tierra Wools. By the time she was 8, Lara was weaving her own pieces under the tutelage of her mother and the other weavers. As she says:
Weaving has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. During my adolescent and teenage years, I spent many long and rich summer hours working at my loom dreaming up new designs, patterns, and color combinations and weaving them into reality.
At the time, I didn’t see anything special about it. Weaving was just a part of life – like breakfast, or baseball practice, or summer thunderstorms. I would never think to take a picture of my breakfast each day, and I didn’t think to take photos of the hundreds of pieces that I wove over a period of seven or so years. All of the weavings went up for sale in the weaving shop as I made them, and they all sold.
I sometimes regret having taken so few pictures of my work… but at the same time, it’s kind of a neat idea to think that there are mysterious pieces of me in peoples’ homes across the country. It’s exciting to think that I could walk into a new acquaintance’s house someday and see one of my long-lost weavings hanging on their wall. I mean, wouldn’t that be wild?
While working at Tierra Wools, Lara was able to take advantage of several great artistic opportunities. In 1993, at age 9, her work was shown alongside her mother’s in the Museum of International Folk Art in Santa Fe, New Mexico, and the Craft and Folk Art Museum in Los Angeles. A few years later, in 2000, she was invited along with her family to participate in the Smithsonian Folklife Festival as a handweaver in the living exhibit El Río.
Since leaving the nest, Lara has continued to “roam around the village with her buddies having adventures,” although her “village” is now much larger. She received her Bachelor of Arts in Spanish, International Studies, and Art from Lawrence University in Appleton, Wisconsin in 2006, a Post-Baccalaureate Certificate in Visual Communications from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 2009, and her Master of Fine Arts in Design from San Francisco-based California College of the Arts in May of 2011. She currently lives and works as a designer in San Francisco, California, weaving pieces on a small loom in her apartment and making regular trips out to Tierra Wools to work on new designs.