Carolyn Kallenborn headshot

Carolyn Kallenborn

Jane Rafferty Thiele Professor in Human Ecology, Textiles and Fashion Design Program Coordinator, Professor
Design Studies Department; Textiles and Fashion Design Major
Office 3206

Since 2003, Carolyn Kallenborn has been working with indigenous artisans in Oaxaca, Mexico. It has been a rich exchange of ideas and culture. The inspiration for her own artwork comes from her experiences in Mexico and learning with the artists and craftsmen there.

Through my time Oaxaca I have come to appreciate the ability of art to cross boundaries. I have watched as my English speaking students  communicate with their Oaxacan teachers without a common verbal language. As artists, they understand each other through visual and physical expression that is a part of art making, even if they do not understand the words being used by the maker. Both the U.S. students and the Oaxacan teachers find commonalities and appreciation. They teach me that art crosses borders and can create understanding and healing. And to me, that’s the best that art can be.

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Recent press

‘We’ve all lost somebody’: Community Altar Project invites Madisonians to celebrate their dead, Cap Times, October 31, 2020
School of Human Ecology celebrates Day of the Dead, Daily Cardinal, November 6, 2019
UW–Madison partners celebrate Day of the Dead, traditional altars, Channel 3000 News, November 1, 2019

Carolyn's Artwork

Carolyn Kallenborn has exhibited her artwork nationally and internationally. She is the creator of the film Woven Lives, and is currently working on La Vida y Los Muertos, a new film/exhibition project about Day of the Dead in Oaxaca. / /
Visit Carolyn's Personal Site


DS 319 Cloth to Clothing

New courses awaiting permanent course numbers
DS 501 Global Artisans
DS 501 Design and Fashion Event Practicum
DS 501 Collection Development

In the Press:

In On Wisconsin Magazine Spring 2015


Kallenborn Website


Selected Exhibitions

Upcoming: Flor y Cantos

Museo Rufino Tamayo    Oaxaca, Oaxaca Mexico
July – August 2017

Inspired by the poem of the Aztec poet Nezahualcóyotl Flores y Cantos uses imagery, light, shadow and sound to create a space of quiet contemplation.  As a metaphor for moving through time, video imagery of the natural world is projected through layers of floating transparent fabrics.  As an interactive installation, visitors are asked to think of their own contribution and in return, take something back that someone else has left. Like Netzahualcoyótl’s poem the exhibition asks us to think about why we are here and what we hope to leave behind. At least let us leave flowers. At least let us leave song.

La Luz y La Sombra

Biblioteca Principal  Oaxaca, Oaxaca Mexico
October – November 2016

Edgewood College Gallery
October – November 2014

La luz y sombra shares the experience of Day of the Dead as a beautiful and poetic alternative view that embraces death and our relationship to our loved ones who have passed.  Spending a few days each year acknowledging and honoring death and the dead emphasizes the importance of enjoying life deeply by reminding us that we will not be here forever.

Remembrance and Celebration

Bay Shore Art Center,  Long Island NY
October- November 2015

Edgewood College Gallery, Madison WI
October – November 2014 and 2015

This project was inspired by altar making traditions in Mexico for Day of the Dead but community and personal altars of remembrance are created all over the world.  We invited individuals, artists, students, friends, family, churches, hospice group and others to take part in a community exhibition. We were amazed at the level of interest in this project, thrilled by the number of people who wanted to participate, and deeply touched by how personal the work became for so many people.

In the Press:

A Happy Party for the Dead, Oaxaca Style – Wisconsin State Journal

Tormentas Y Sueños

Museo Textil de Oaxaca
July – November 2012

Hong Kong Polytechnic University   Hong Kong, China
January – February 2014

The pieces in this exhibition speak to the beauty of the interaction between opposites. In each piece, one feeling is dominant, but there is an element of another. In pain, there is beauty. In growth, there are things that are discarded. In passion there is shame. Communication,  hearts and relationships are broken, then mended. And the mending, like a scar, become evidence of torments past and the dreams to heal.

Interview recorded in Spanish. Presented here with English subtitles.

Posted with permission of CorTV


Set Design

Flautistico  2015

Bach Dancing and Dynamite Society  2009, 2010, 2011, 2014



Woven Lives

Contemporary Textiles from Oaxacan Traditions

Drawing upon the richness of sights, sounds and beauty of the people and landscape of Oaxaca, Mexico, Woven Lives provides a fascinating look at contemporary Zapotec weavers from six different villages. This colorful documentary celebrates their extraordinary textiles and illustrates how the art of weaving cloth has helped the Zapotecs retain their culture and identity for thousands of years. The story traces the integration of ancient techniques with new technologies and explores how the artisans are now looking to the past to help them move forward into the


La Vida Y Los Muertos

Day of the Dead, Oaxaca, Mexico

La Vida y Los Muertos is a visually rich film that captures the beauty, the joy, the sadness and the magic of the Day of the Dead in Oaxaca, Mexico. From elaborately decorated graves, to frightening demon dancers, to lavish home altars, and enormous sand paintings, the film takes you on a journey through the city of Oaxaca and five nearby villages during the days of the festival. Wandering through the festively decorated streets, homes and graveyards is like passing through hundreds of private conversations between those that are living and those that have passed on. Like the festival itself, the film comes alive as the music dances and interacts with the imagery in a joyous celebration of life.