Handmaking, Weaving, Community: How One Thing Leads to Another

We asked fellow Coloradan Sarah Neubert to write about her making experiences and the importance of community. She also shares how her passions led to creating The Weaving Kind, an online community for weavers, and to co-sponsor The Weaving Kind Makerie weaving retreat in Boulder this fall. 

About five years ago, I was browsing one of my favorite style blogs, and I happened to stumble on a beautiful woven wall hanging that the blogger had purchased for her home. It was a combination of bold colors, shapes and textures; although now it sounds strange for me to say this, the use of yarn as decorative art took me completely by surprise.

I blame my surprise on the 80s. I was born in 1981, and what I remember of the décor, fashion, and atmosphere of that time is a fascination with all things synthetic. I remember the neon colors, ultra-modern metallics, primitive computer graphics and a general obsession with future technology. The macramé planters and shaggy wall hangings of the 70s had all been hidden away in attics or sent to Goodwill. Home goods were mostly manufactured. My friends had no interest in learning traditional crafts, which were rarely being taught in schools. When I learned to crochet at the age of eleven, it was in a group of gray-haired (and wonderful) women, not among my peers. I was conscious of the fact that my friends thought working with yarn was old-fashioned and nerdy, and so I was a sort of closet crocheter. I made simple, functional items for the older folks in my life who still appreciated handmade things. My need for the rhythm and tactility of yarn-work was almost compulsive, so I never gave it up, and eventually learned to wear my crafty status like a badge – but in all my years of crocheting and knitting, I never even considered using yarn to create a piece of art.

When I saw that wall hanging on that blog, something sparked. It felt so freeing – here was a way to use the yarn I loved so much, but without a pattern, and with the sole purpose of artistic expression. It totally changed my approach to fibers, and I’ve been weaving almost every day since.

Many other weavers in my generation have similar stories. We didn’t necessarily grow up making things because we came up alongside the new world of computers, when the rush of technology took the place of heritage crafts in school and at home. Some of us were lucky enough to have some hand-making skills passed on to us, but many of us didn’t learn to make anything simply because we didn’t have to. As a result, I belong to a generation that, by and large, almost missed out on the beauty of the handmade.

Luckily, though, the very thing that temporarily eclipsed hand-making – namely, modern technology – has once again brought it to the forefront. With the advent of Pinterest, Instagram, blogs and podcasts, the Internet has brought us inspiration at a level no generation has ever seen. Suddenly we have access to the visual archives of textile museums, the writings of fiber art historians, and interviews with influential fiber artists. Craftspeople are using technology to share their work with the world and thereby inspiring countless others in the process. My generation has been smart enough to react to all this new technology by returning, seemingly en masse, to the slow, the tactile, the historical, and the textural. We are pushing back against our mass-manufactured, impersonal, and disposable consumer culture by learning how to make things. This return is not out of physical necessity – we don’t need to make things with our hands, and in fact, it’s cheaper not to – but rather out of love.

Wall Hangings by Meghan Shimek

 

The result of all this, of course, is the realization that everything handmade, no matter how humble it seems, is a piece of art. It’s also the recognition that the crafts we thought we lost never actually went anywhere. I am so thankful for the women and men who’ve kept making things and passing on their knowledge over the past few decades, even when it wasn’t practical or necessary. It’s given the rest of us a place to return to, a space where we can reconnect with our fundamental need to create.

In the spirit of continuing to hold that space, I founded The Weaving Kind in the spring of 2015. I simply wanted to create an online home for this vibrant generation of young fiber artists. It has been amazing to watch the community grow with weavers from all over the world who have found a place to connect, inspire, and encourage one another. It’s one way that technology can work for the good of creativity, and I’m very proud of what’s been accomplished through this online platform.

Tapestry in progress by Janelle Pietzrak

 

That said, I truly believe that the internet isn’t enough! We need more than pixels on a screen for inspiration and learning, and want our community to have the chance to experience the rare magic that happens when creatives gather. To this end, The Weaving Kind is partnering with The Makerie to host a 3-day weaving retreat on Oct. 19-22 in Boulder, Colorado.

There’s something special about sharing physical space with other makers, about looking them in the eye and touching the things they’ve made, about the reciprocity and vulnerability of sitting down with someone and having a real-time conversation about what motivates you to create. Those are the experiences that stay with you. We’ve put together a beautiful team of weaving instructors from some of the most well-known and innovative young minds of the fiber art world, including Meghan Shimek, Janelle Pietrzak, Erin M. Riley, Neil GossLucy Poskitt, Natalie Novak, and Maryanne Moodie. There will also be wonderful self-care elements, nourishing food, fun and inspiring evening programs, lunch time weaving clinics, Q&A sessions with our instructor team, and more.

Our retreat is also an opportunity for young weavers to get their hands on some of the best tools of the trade. We are thrilled that Schacht Spindle Company will be offering tours of their Boulder, CO headquarters to our attendees plus a discount on purchases made, providing sample looms to “play” on during the retreat, and allowing us the opportunity to share our vision with the Schacht community as well. It is my sincere hope that everything about this retreat will bring greater connections, both inter-personally and with the amazing companies who support weavers all over the world.

I cannot wait to be in the same room with so many weavers who’ve inspired me. I feel so fortunate to be a part of the weaving family, and The Weaving Kind is honored to do our part to share and grow this beautiful craft. A huge thank you to Schacht for giving me space to write about our event, and for everything they do for weavers. I look forward to sharing more in the future!

-Sarah Neubert

Schacht Spindle

Schacht Spindle Company, Inc. was founded during the back-to-earth movement of the late 1960's and its accompanying craft resurgence. Their first loom was a simple tapestry loom, a version which they still make today. Over nearly 50 years, Schacht has developed a broad range of high quality hand weaving and hand spinning tools, including their popular Cricket Loom and Ladybug Spinning wheel. Schacht’s mission is to create beautiful and well-designed products that enhance customers’ weaving and spinning experience through innovative problem solving, creative ideas, skilled woodworking and craftsmanship, and friendly, knowledgeable customer service. Schacht’s family owned business is located in Boulder, Colorado.