Living the Wellmade Life

Zaida Balmaseda

She hand stitched 2,877 black beans in between two layers of fabric. Talk about slow fashion!

Zaida utilizes recycled or gathered fibers and transforms them into ethereal high-end pieces. Her inspiration arrives during stream-of-consciousness making exercises combined with experiments rooted in traditional artisanal crafts.
  • WMJ
  • What daily rituals help get your creative juices flowing?
  • ZAGB
  • Meditating
    Cooking good food
    Taking time for small rituals
    Writing morning pages
  • Tell us about A Space to Sit With ?
  • ZAGB
  • Two years ago,  I developed a 9′ meditation space for my installation a s p a c e t o s i t w i t h. This project was about the meditative opportunity that slow work provides. A sacred space to sit with the work, the ingredients, yourself. A space for reflection and grounding. I hand-stitched around 2,877 black beans in between two layers of fabric, forming a circle. Once all of the beans are sewn, one needs to nurture them.

  • WMJ
  • When you were a kid, what did you want to do when you grew up?
  • ZAGB
  • I had various options, but I think they all have showed up in my present in surprising ways.
    I wanted to be a painter, a scientist, a botanical alchemist (making potions for the body out of plants), an environmental lawyer, and lastly a fashion designer (a couturier to be more specific).
  • WMJ
  • ZAGB
  • What are some day to day tips you have for things that everyday people could do and would benefit the plant, that perhaps they didn't think about?
  • Mend your clothes, reuse containers, grow food from food-scraps, smile to strangers.
  • What are some of the moments when you are happiest ?
  • Listening to my grandparents telling stories
  • ZAGB
  • HANDSPUN RECYCLED FABRIC YARN is a material development and textile recycling project. I collect textile waste/scraps from textile manufacturers, seamstresses, designers, and artists in my own community. Then, I sort, join and twist with a very simple (non-electrical) tool these pieces of ‘trash’ creating a continuous fiber, full of texture and potential. Giving these materials a new life cycle.

    With this yarn, I create pieces that become a symbol of transformation, community effort, and awareness. I see this project, and my work in general, as a hands on manifesto of the symbiotic relationship we can have with our environment, what we do, use, and consume.

    Since 2011 I’ve gathered (and transformed) scraps in New York and Puerto Rico, Barcelona. Besides having the opportunity of disposing of their waste in an ethical and responsible way, the donors or #parejasdedeshecho become collaborators whose stories are being collected HERE. This journal serves as record of the beautiful links between materials, people, and places that we are creating.

    I am currently looking for new parejas de deshecho in Puerto Rico and Barcelona (Spain). If you are interested in my project, and would like me to rescue your textile trash, send me a note at

  • WMJ
  • What are you working on these days? Anything else you want to promote, share, write about in our blog ?
  • ZAGB
  • I am currently living/working between Barcelona, Spain and Puerto Rico (my home country). Both - somewhat new places- . I left home in 2006 when I was 17, and since then I had only visited 3 times (the longest being 2 weeks). In January of 2015, life's unexpected turns made me decide to move back to Puerto Rico. I didn't really have any contacts there, professional or personal, as I had not really cultivated any relationships since I left.
    However, my time there was surprisingly fruitful. I won 2 art-grants, set up a studio in the countryside, met artisans and learnt from them, started selling my BALMASEDA goods in two really cool -local design- shops, organized the first Fashion Revolution Day in the Island, and made great friendships with people who I share interests, work-ethic, and goals.

    In Barcelona, I am partnering up with a non-profit called MODAFAD to gather and transform local textile waste into one-of-a-kind hand-made garments, accessories, and art-pieces.
    In December I will participate in a pop-up experience called Changing Rooms where each artist/designer gets to set up their own shopping experience/world inside a hotel room.
    In Puerto Rico, I just won a very special Art Grant, and am preparing a textile-installation that will be presented at the Museo de Arte de Puerto Rico next fall. This involves a large-scale meditation space woven using my hand-spun recycled fiber yarn and inspired by the traditional lacemaking technique of 'Soles', which I learned from a Master Artisan there this year.

    I am also the coordinator for the Fashion Revolution Day there, we had our first one in April. I hope next year's is able to reach more people.

    Oh, and I just knit something for a local (Puertorican) dancer/choreographer who is presenting her latest piece called LIQUID at the Gibney Dance Center in NY on November 11-14th.

We cultivate a holistic approach to everything we do. Operating with transparency is important to us, as is community engagement, and contributing to various environmental and social causes.
  • WMJ
  • Who/ What did you come across lately that has been inspiring your work?
  • ZAGB
  • Artisans in Puerto Rico who are still practicing the techniques passed on to them from their ancestors. Keeping knowledge alive through slow-work that not many people are willing to learn and do.
  • WMJ
  • What/ who are some of the biggest inspirations on your ethic ?
  • ZAGB
  • - Sass Brown: by helping me see there are tons of people out there 'making their own path', setting their own rules. Sass was one of my first 'mentors', she believed in me and gently nudged me to pursue opportunities that opened many doors.

    - Abigail Doan: This woman, what a kindred spirit! She has words that explain my thoughts and work better than I can. She is a mentor, a collaborator, supporter, and a sweet friend. Always making the most special connections, giving the most appropriate advice, and inspiring everyone she encounters.

    - My fellow resident artists at TAC Air 5, Jordana Martin and Owyn Ruck: for an amazing year full of textile experiments, constructive criticism, inspiration, and growth. They helped me see that my work is valuable and can be explored/presented in scenarios that I never imagined.

    Rudolph Steiner

    Alabama Chanin

    Rebecca Burgess


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