For many, Cars Plus in Maite holds an attractive array of flashy wheels and motorcycles, but Nanette Reyes Senior only has eyes for the striking palm trees towering over the lot.
Senior is a fiber artist. Where others see green, she sees gold.
“I don’t know if you’ve ever seen a palm leaf fall down, but the inside of it is beautiful, most especially when it’s wet,” Senior said.
She names parts of the palm tree with ease and expertise. She’s always ready to forage and has a saw on hand. Otherwise, she is ready to swipe any fallen palm leaf that she comes across, which she can transform into a work of art.
Senior has experience making leis and she likes to use local flora, so she’s familiar with creating from natural elements. When she saw a Hawaii-based artist on Pinterest using palm leaves for fiber art, Senior was intrigued. She dove headfirst into learning anything she could about the craft.
She reached out and spoke with the woman in Hawaii she saw online creating fiber art. She watched dozens of YouTube videos from people all over the world crafting with palm leaves. Even if she didn’t understand what was said on the video, Senior said it didn’t matter as long as she could see what they were doing.
When she first started, Senior cut down loads of palm leaves, eager to start creating. “I went crazy and I was getting truck loads and truck loads of palm sheaths from different types of palm trees,” Senior recalled.
Now, Senior is more selective. She has the benefit of experience to guide her when she forages.
She said her favorite pieces to make are standing vessels, almost like vases, sewn together from palm sheaths.
She also makes night lights using seedpods from certain palm trees, and wall hangings from the dried seedlings and seed pods.
She said she feels like this is something she does well.
“Being able to use natural resources is very important to me,” she added.
Last year, Senior lost her job because of the pandemic. She learned of the Guam Council on the Arts and Humanities federal grant and took a chance and applied.
“I had never done anything like this before,” Senior said.
Her application was approved and she was awarded funds from CAHA. The project is supported by a grant from the Coronavirus Aid Relief and Economic Security Act, along with the National Endowment for the Arts, the Guam Council on the Arts and Humanities Agency.
“I just feel so fortunate to be able to do this,” Senior said. “I’m still new to the art stuff. I’m still nervous about it. But there’s some stuff that I do that I think is really good.”
Senior wants to pass her knowledge of fiber art to others and she’s offered to teach women who are recovering from substance abuse.
“I don’t mind other people doing it because there are enough palm trees on this island for other people to do it,” Senior said. “I want to be able to share the stuff that I’ve learned.”
Senior is among the Guam artists featured in Imbentibu Famalao’an, a women art show (slated for opening on June 5) at the Castro Art Gallery in Tumon Sand Plaza in Tumon.