January 1st, 2019 begins my 50th year as a weaver.
Like the straight line of a well-beamed warp, my path as a weaver has never wavered from my passion for the materials and techniques. It’s true I have wandered from utilitarian products such as rugs, clothing and household fabrics to art fabrics, installation, free-form construction and now fabric reconstruction/destruction.
At the core of all my work is my love for thread, texture, pattern and a deep curiosity for what is possible with these materials and techniques.
As I enter this 50th year, I still thirst for new ways to stretch (literally and figuratively) my medium and techniques. As a child, I found imaginary play and making art to be my sanctuary from an often bewildering world. I was fortunate that both my parents recognized my need to express myself and I received art training starting at age 8.
By the time I was in high school, I was deeply immersed in painting, drawing, photography, printmaking, graphic arts and sculpture. Strangely though, I lacked the self confidence to trust my artistic voice. And so, I chose a liberal arts school for college where I could pursue the arts amidst an academic program.
While I was a freshman in college (1979), I met Susan Rumsey, a NH weaver, who presented a series of weaving workshops in our art studio. From the moment my hands connected with the threads, my heart knew that I had found my creative medium.
In the beginning I loved the ability of threads to fracture color, similar to the colors that I found in the natural world – colors that are imbedded in the material object. I found that with thread I could build imagery that was constructed from color and pattern – not color or texture applied to a surface.
I also learned the root of textiles is text – and how textiles can be a visual poetry as well as a narrative and metaphor.
I found peace and sense of order to organizing threads on a loom. I found that creating textiles slowed my busy mind, I became focused and grounded with the repetitive activity of weaving. And I began to soak up everything I could learn about weaving – eventually ending up at Rhode Island School of Design.
Now 42 years after graduation from RISD, I am cognizant of this finite time line called life. The art pieces, collaborations, artist residencies in schools and far away places, commissions for residential and commercial interiors, community art projects, commercial design, private students, college teaching and raising a family – all these projects and accomplishments tell one life story.
But there is another story – one not as visible or concrete. Just as in a woven cloth there are some threads that are visible and dominant and there are some threads that are buried or hidden – in my own life’s journey there are subtle or hidden “threads.”
Reflecting on these less visible achievements, I am struck how these are qualities at the core of my life. In my work as an artist/weaver I have learned the art of patience – patience because the work of textiles is slow and mediative.
I have grown confident in my artistic voice and vision by repeatedly trusting my intuition. And I have learned to observe and listen not only to my own heart – but to bear witness to a larger community.
When We Remember
Today I am interested in these subtle metaphors, the hidden roots of a busy life, the emotions beneath the chaos of our culture. As I expand my heart to be more open and I witness the effects of aging on my body – I push the same in my work.
I am curious about the parallels between the human body and cloth. Both are subject to wear and tear, both breathe and show evidence from abrasion. Both have qualities of absorption and flexibility.
Following this path of inquiry, I weave linen which I expose to the elements, weather and time. I rust print and embroider on this aged, weathered linen. I take what I once protected from the elements and put under glass for museums and galleries – and I am letting go, letting it breathe and exploring the “what if?”
Secrets of the Infinite
So for this 50th year, I plan to continue to lean into the quiet stillness inherent in making woven cloth and ponder the invisible.