Asylum seeker artisans will have work on display at a Tucson event Sunday

By Kendal Blust
Published: Thursday, November 18, 2021 - 4:30pm
Updated: Friday, November 19, 2021 - 9:06am
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Courtesy of Valarie Lee James
Asylum seeker Irene holds up an embroidery she made as part of Artisans Beyond Borders.

An artisan group that sells embroidery made by asylum seekers waiting at the U.S. border in Sonora, Mexico, will display their work at an event in Tucson this weekend.

Artisans Beyond Borders is a binational initiative that connects asylum seekers waiting in Nogales, Sonora, with resources to make and sell beautiful embroidered cloths, or mantas, in the U.S.

The group usually sells those embroideries on Etsy. But this weekend they will be on display in Tucson alongside more than 100 other artists and sellers at the Tucson Museum of Art’s Annual Fall Artisans Market.

"It’s a pop up on Sunday, so it’s a one-time-only-event in person," said Valarie Lee James, who founded the group in 2018. "This holiday marketplace is an opportunity to get original beautiful embroideries that are made on manta cloth by asylum seekers who are stranded in shelters and on the streets on the border."

She called the event an unique chance to see the embroideries in person and talk with volunteers who know the artists and their stories.