Friday, March 22, 2019

Collage to Cartoon at Weavers Guild of Minnesota, or, The Teacher Learns a Few Things, too!

I'd been excited for months about the prospect of teaching at the Minneapolis Textile Center for the Weavers Guild of Minnesota.  I told anyone who would listen how, as a new student in fibers in the mid-1990s, I read about the Textile Center's founding in Fiberarts Magazine and dreamed of visiting such a wondrous place.  Little did I think I would ever teach there.

The experience exceeded my expectations, despite the best efforts of an airline-that-shall-not-be-named (hint:  named for a region of the country and known for blue airplanes) to delay both my arrival and my departure from the Twin Cities, and to make rescheduling impossible without two in-person trips to the airport.  But Betsy Konop at the Textile Center and Robbie LaFleur at the Weavers Guild rolled with the punches, rescheduling my Thursday night lecture to Friday night, chauffeuring me around, making sure my tech was set up and working perfectly, and generally taking care to see I was fed and entertained.  Thank you, Betsy and Robbie!  And thanks, Robbie, for your kind blogpost about your experience in the workshop.

The students in the class worked very hard and very well.  They gamely tackled every exercise I threw at them, made wonderful collages, and began weaving samples before the weekend was over.  I was reminded of some of the stumbling blocks that can impede a new weaver's progress, and I learned a little more about how to effectively teach this subject I am so passionate about, designing  for tapestry weaving.

Kevin and Nancy share feedback on their collages
Barb and Vicki respond to each other's initial collages

Veronna and Connie look at Veronna's log-cabin inspired collage

Kevin shows his weaving in progress

Robbie's collage and weaving, almost halfway done

Jan holds up her torn-shape collage next to her loom

Connie's weaving in progress
Leading up to the visit, I had seen online tantalizing glimpses of a show of Scandinavian weft-faced weavings that was on display at the Center, and I hoped I would have time to see these wonderful pieces while I was there.  As it turned out, the pieces lined the walls in my classroom!

I had plenty of time to study them as students were working.  Local collector Carol Johnson assembled many weavings from mid-20th century weavers.  Some of them were made from kits or widely marketed designs, and it was interesting to see various interpretations of the same design.  Robbie has written several posts about the collection on her site; this one is the most recent and contains links to the others.  (Sorry for the skewed perspective in these photos; looms were in the way!)

I was especially delighted to have a chance to talk at some length--though I know we only scratched the surface of the subject--with Robbie LaFleur about Norwegian tapestry.  In the Twin Cities, where so many are of Scandinavian ancestry, that weaving tradition is a focus of intense attention.  I learned that in Norwegian and other tapestry traditions, slits are not used, but rather dovetails and other types of decorative joins--dozens of types of joins!--and the backs are a perfect mirror of the front, with all weft tails needled in.  I resolved to buy my own copy of Norwegian Tapestry Weaving by Maria Brekke Koppen, in order to study those joins.  Robbie also shared this call for entries for fiber pieces in any medium inspired by the famous 11th-century Baldishol Tapestry from Norway.  While at the moment I do have ideas for tapestries lined up like planes on the runway (ahem) waiting to be woven, I am mighty tempted to do something for this as well.

I love looking at tapestries and fiber online.  Facebook, Instagram, ATA newsletters, and other weavers' blogposts are wonderfully inspiring.  But nothing beats meeting weavers in person and getting our fingers into the "space between the warps" together.  Thank you, weavers of Minneapolis!