Ashlanders: Analuisa Guzman

Fiber artist and puppet maker Analuisa Guzman has found in Ashland a place that reflects her strong beliefs in community and her desire to nurture family ties.

"We chose Ashland because of its sense of community, its consciousness. Ashland has so much to offer, especially to children who will one day affect the world and our future," Guzman says.

In addition to working with a range of fabrics, paper and dyes, Guzman is working with the MAda Puppet Theater and Gallery on the first of what she anticipates will be many puppet shows that emphasize community awareness, both globally and locally. Her most recent show is called "The Magic Orange Tree," a Haitian story she hopes will bring awareness of Haiti and Haitian culture.

"I get a rush when I am able to bring things to life," she says. "I want to share them with the world. The best part is when you know that what you do has the potential to affect others in a positive way."

The tireless 52-year-old artist and mother also wants to share the joys of fiber arts with children. She plans to offer classes that incorporate dying wools, weaving, puppet making, and other fiber arts. Guzman spoke with the Daily Tidings about her work, her upcoming puppet show, and the great love and respect she has for her mother-in-law and father-in-law.

DT: How long have you lived in Ashland?

AG: We moved here from Fair Oaks, California, in the summer of 2007.

DT: What brought you here?

AG: The need for a community that fosters our beliefs of what is important in life. Ashland has the conscious lifestyle we were looking for; there are a lot of people who share our interest in green living and community activism, working together for good. My husband and I are older parents and we want to leave our children a legacy, a model for how to live. There is alternative education like the John Muir School and there is exposure to fine arts. Also, here we are very culturally integrated. We feel safe in Ashland.

DT: Talk about your work as an artist.

AG: I consider myself a fiber artist, among other things. I work with a variety of materials, wool, cotton, dyes, paper. I weave, I felt. There is so much you can do with fiber. I also enjoy teaching this art to all ages. When I taught classes, my youngest student was 3 and oldest 80. I am currently writing a book called "The Joy of Felting with Children" geared to teachers and parents of young children.

DT: How did you get involved in puppet making?

AG: During my teacher-training years in the late 1970s, I used puppets to do storytelling and as a stage actor, first in Mexico and later in Hollywood. I encountered other experienced puppeteers who planted a seed in me. About 10 years ago, a friend introduced me to my teacher Suzanne Down and her Juniper Tree School of Puppetry Arts. It was then I became fully engaged. Now, I see all the possibilities using my previous experiences with stage productions and movement classes I took. It all came together with a vision for a Puppeteer's Troupe in Ashland.

DT: Any advice for someone interested in doing what you do?

AG: Do not only be intellectual about it, doing research and such. Be experimental and involved. Most of all, enjoy the process. It will bring you many gifts.

DT: Talk about your upcoming puppet show.

AG: "The Magic Orange Tree" opened July 10. We will offer shows this weekend. The story was written by Diane Walkstein, a storyteller who lived in Haiti. The show was created in partnership with Amy Godard and Eric Navickas, local artists and gallery owners. The idea of this show arises out of empathy for the people of Haiti after the earthquake (in January), and with the intention to send a donation via a reliable organization. "The Magic Orange Tree" to me represents the fertility of the land of this country that is now compromised by the forces of nature. The child in the story represents the goodness and endurance of the Haitians and the stepmother is the greediness of others they must face.

DT: Talk about your family.

AG: I have three daughters I am very proud of, one in college, another at Ashland High School and the youngest is a fourth-grader at the John Muir School. My husband, David, teaches at Ashland Head Start.

DT: Tell us about someone in your family who inspires you.

AG: Aside from my own children and husband, I have to say Richard and Marian Witt, my in-laws. I have great respect, love, admiration and plenty of inspiration from these amazing 80-year-old people. So energetic and active. They have been married since 1946. They were both doctors and have traveled everywhere — even after they retired they worked with native children in Alaska. Last year, they went on a rafting trip in Arizona. Now, the wife has Alzheimer's and he is taking care of her and being so strong. Even now, they are amazing together. He loves her and lives for her. I just love them. They are who I want to be like.

Angela Howe-Decker is a freelance writer living in Ashland. Reach her at

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