Alice came into our world last year…and when she sensed a need, she was there like magic to help the world move smoothly. Not only is she an extremely talented artist who makes weaving and spinning come alive with a firm foundation in history, but she is a born organizer, capable of smoothing wrinkles with a quick flick of her wrist. Coming over to our coast from her home in the Hudson Valley, we’re thrilled to have her teaching three classes…Weaving on Thursday, Beginning Drop Spindling on Friday and Advanced Drop Spindling on Sunday.
In her own words, here’s a little peek into the world of a woman we both love and respect:
1) Teaching takes courage and experience…and so much extra time. When you’re not teaching, what else do you like to do?
Gardening, I’m a Master Gardener Volunteer with Cornell Cooperative Extension I’m also a board member for our local Arts Council. I think its important to support the arts community. My new love is Photography. AND my husband Nick and I love to Sail! We keep our boat in the Hudson River but try to get to Penobscot Bay whenever we can! I also love singing and playing blues harmonica with Nick (he plays banjo and guitar)
2) Fill in the blanks for the following statement: Inspiration for my work comes from Nature and from places I’ve visited that are beautiful and moving. The sunset in Taos New Mexico, the Smokey Mountains of West Virginia are so beautiful they make me cry. The fog as it settles in the harbors of Penobscot Bay and they way the early morning sunrise turns the calm water rosy. I just can’t believe my eyes! It makes me so glad to be alive and grateful for such wonderful opportunities ! COLOR is a very important aspect of my life and work something to which I find I am very sensitive. Whenever I create a piece, I am most pleased when someone is moved by the colors and can imagine a time or place suggested by the colors.
3) Describe the perfect class that you’d like to take…
Anything creative I can learn to do with my hands. Best of all in a community at a beautiful place, over several days with time for potlucks and spinning circles and … oh.. this sounds just like Fiber College
4) We’d like a sense of your expertise and ability to teach the class you’re offering…so tell us how you came to feel confident about leading a group through your particular class. How long have you been practicing?
It was love at first sight in 1975 when I chanced upon a 200 year old barn loom at a “Bicentennial“ demonstration. I was attending Art School at the time, I’d been making my own clothes for years. I stood for a very long time mesmerized by this loom. Even after leaving the exhibit it just seemed to work it’s way into my dreams, I couldn’t get it out of my mind. The idea of designing and creating my own fabric soon became an obsession and ultimately my life’s passion.
I took workshops, and found a used loom, then went about weaving some very ugly, rough cloth when one day, more out of curiosity than anything, I answered an ad in the paper for a weaving assistant. Much to my surprise Handwoven haute-couture designer Martha Zimiles hired me and for 18 years our work sold at luxury department stores, wearable-art galleries and boutiques as well as high-end Craft Shows
During that time, my local yarn shop began offering classes, I was invited to to teach some beginning classes in weaving and spinning A few years later when the yarn store owner retired and moved south, I realized how much I enjoyed teaching and opened my own studio Woodland Ridge Spinning & Weaving! I taught classes and became a dealer of weaving and spinning equipment. Since my children were young at the time, it was hard to travel to take workshops. I would hire the best fiber teachers, most of whom were being published by Interweave Press and invite them to do workshops in my studio. I got the education I wanted and became good friends with many nationally know artists.
It was a great time! Idylic really! I had a small flock of sheep and a dairy goat (for my son who was allergic to cows milk.) Students would weave or spin and hang out around my kitchen table- eating homemade soup and bread, nourishing our creative souls as well as our bodies and sharing our life’s stories.
My story then took a drastic turn. My marriage broke apart and as lovely and successful as the weaving studio was, it just wasn’t enough to pay the mortgage and raise the boys.
You know how they say “ When God closes a door (S)he opens a window”? It happened that a good friend was getting married and leaving the area. She had developed a program for school children teaching them the significance of spinning and weaving in the Colonial American Period. It was a perfect fit! A solution for both of our situations. I bought her business and she went happily to live her life in Arizona. I was then traveling to more than 40 schools each year teaching 4th graders to weave!!
I am very happy to say that in 16 years I have taught weaving to more than 10,000 students!
Now the boys are grown. My travels and teaching have put my oldest through college They are standing on their own and have wonderful girlfriends
Thanks to another loom in my life I met and married to a wonderful guy! Now I find I am trying to pull back to growing a garden, raising animals and sharing weaving and life with a group of like minded souls while searching for what it is that I want to do next.
I look forward to being at Fiber College again this year.
5) If you make a knitting error (substitute your art form here) do you jump right in and frog it (rip it out) or do you call it a design feature and keep right on going? Does the mistake cause you anxiety or do you feel like it’s just one more opportunity to make the project your own?
There are many mistakes or problems in weaving that can be either overlooked or solved in a creative fashion during the warping process. Some mistakes, in threading, treadling or tension, MUST be taken out and fixed. ( I wish I had a nickel for every yard of weaving I’ve taken out.) There’s no anxiety, only pride of craftsmanship.
6) What techniques are in your bag of tricks for motivating a student to struggle through a difficult step…maybe something that’s just a bit out of his/her range…and come out the other side feeling successful? I let students know the learning curve in weaving is steep with lots of stuff to wrap your mind around. The terminology is unique to weaving so it seems like you’ve just landed in another country with a different language. I try to invite students to have faith in themselves and m. Be patient, Don’t worry. You’ll get it. I”ll do whatever it takes to help students succeed. I recognize students’ different learning styles,and present the lesson using auditory, visual, and physical demonstrations. Students may stop me and ask for clarification at any point in the lesson. There’s no such thing as a stupid question.
7) If you could ask your students questions and class time wasn’t an issue, what sort of things would you like to know about the people sitting in front of you? I always want to know what has prompted them to want to learn what-ever-it-is that I’m teaching and what sort of related experience they may or may not already have. With this information I can specifically tailor the lesson to fit their needs, desires and expectations.
8) I am an avid collector of:
Spinning wheels, including 4 great wheels dating from 1780- early industrial age, and other various and sundry antique spinning equipment. (I need a bumper sticker that says “Caution I brake for spinning wheels”)
9) The best advice I have ever been given:
I think I like giving advise better than taking it. My friends call my words of encouragement and advise “Alice-isms” Here’s a general one I seem to use a lot when life becomes uncertain or frustrating. “Just because you can’t see the top of the mountain, doesn’t mean it’s not there.”
10) What is your favorite color? List three qualities of the color. Consider that these qualities apply to your work.
My favorite color changes pretty frequently. Right now I’d have to say I’m leaning toward Teal Green it’s cool, deep, verdant, healing, mutable, blends well with other colors.
11) My formal educational background is _
Two years of art school then many years of study with leaders in fiber arts field. It was a constant struggle to balance raising children, weaving for a designer and creating my own work. I’m not sure where my work is going right now, I want to use my photography and love of color and fiber. What I need is TIME!
12) What do you do differently from the way you were taught? Why?
I learned from many different teachers, the result is a blend of their various methods that has become uniquely my own. I highly recommend this approach in learning anything.
13) What’s your favorite tool? Why?
Tools are cool! I love most of my gadgets but I’d have to say my threading hook is one of my favorites. The wood handle feels great in my hand and using it to thread a large piece is very meditative.
14) What do you like best about what you do?
The joy of creating and sharing it with my wonderful fiber friends.
15) What do you mean when you say that a piece has turned out really well?
Colors that evoke a feeling or memory. A pleasing weave structure that creates a pattern which enhances the color. Fabric has good texture and drape. Weaving has been well executed with straight edges and even beat.