It has been said that sometimes your heart speaks through your hands.
Fiber artist Ruthann Schoeffield began sewing and knitting from the time she was a young child, and in her lifetime journey of handiwork spinning yarn, dying wool and knitting, her heart has stretched out into the world.
Schoeffield graduated with an art education degree from State University of New York, including three semesters at University of Massachusetts at Amherst.
Three years later her sister asked her to give her a ride to Boulder and she says “I thought, ‘Why not?’ Once I got to Boulder, and saw the beauty of the area, I thought, ‘Why wouldn’t I stay?’ And so I did.”
She worked in the Boulder school system as a teacher’s aide.
“I was really inspired during that time to work in art therapy for emotionally disturbed children,” but few jobs were available, so in 1978 she turned back to her interest in fiber art and began work as a production hand weaver for other weavers.
“I would weave enormous lengths of fabric and the artists would use them for their own patterns and designs,” she says.
After marrying Michael Bullock in 1986, they moved to Clayton, N. M., where Michael, who had just completed his journalism degree, was hired as newspaper editor.
“So, we packed up my loom, our five cats and a dog, and headed out in a blizzard,” she recalls. “What a culture shock; it was moving from hippy Boulder to the ranchlands of Clayton. But, I became pregnant with our son while we lived there, and all these wonderful Hispanic women became Will’s grandmothers. In fact, his first words were in Spanish.”
Schoeffield worked as a public relations director and became involved in the art group, where her interest in weaving grew.
Again, they followed their path where the job called to them, this time to Las Vegas, N. M.
Schoeffield worked for a hospital foundation learning to write grants. “We set up a free cholesterol clinic,” during my time there, while I also took classes in health promotion.”
In 1993, we were ready to move, and Michael landed the job as editor of The Chaffee County Times.
As a newcomer to Buena Vista and the mother of a 3-year-old son, Schoeffield looked for ways to integrate into the community.
“At first, this was primarily connecting with other families through Busy Bees,” she says, “but within a few years I found myself part of a community organization project of like-minded citizens county-wide, who had shared visions for growth in Buena Vista. One of our projects was beginning the recycling program.”
Schoeffield says that the years with the community project was a great way to implement the skill set she developed in grant writing.
“In fact, Michael surprised me. Unbeknownst to me, he had saved money for me and I was able to earn my Master’s degree at Regis University in non-profit management in 2006.”
The purpose of the trip was to network with other non-government organizations (NGO’s) as university consultants. “We spent time with them in the fields and in their communities.”
Schoeffield says that a highlight was visiting Robben Island where Nelson Mandela was held captive.
“It was so profound. The tour guides were former inmates—mostly political prisoners, as well.” She says that “apartheid was still alive and well, just like racism is here.”
Schoeffield experienced living in the shantytowns and saw the degradation of living in corregated shacks. “We stayed in a little home on a hill overlooking this poverty, and we were completely surrounded by iron gates and a bodyguard.”
In 2013, Schoeffield again reached out with artist’s hands when she traveled with a group of women with a non-profit organization to Nepal.
“We went there to teach women in very remote villages how to knit, and lived in a tent village with sherpas who would provide meals for us. We took hundreds of pounds of supplies with us. We were expecting about 20 weavers to show up at the Women’s Development Center in Sabhung, and we ended up with 50 very excited women who wanted to advance their skill set.
“The end-result for them would be to produce hand-knitted garments that they could sell in Katmandu. The average annual earnings in Nepal is about $80. So, a $20 hat would help support their families; they would be able to buy goats and sell more milk or cheese, and education is extremely important to them.”
Schoeffield says she appreciates the life she has in Buena Vista. “It’s hard to duplicate the quality of life Buena Vista offers. We can always escape to the city and get our fix, but coming back down over Trout Creek Pass and seeing the view of Mount Princeton always reminds me I’m home.”