Whether designing Ohio Historical Society exhibits or making paper studded with pine needles and flower petals, my friend Bill exudes talent and creativity. For the last couple of years, my fellow admirer of all things Arts and Crafts has been taking classes at the Cultural Arts Center to learn how to work with copper, brass and sterling silver to create jewelry. Thanks to Bill, I recently discovered that the Cultural Arts Center is a great resource that can help me add another handicraft to my repertoire.
On Thursdays from 12:00 to 1:00 p.m., the Cultural Arts Center offers “Conversations and Coffee,” a free weekly program where you bring your lunch and listen to an artist talk about and share examples of his or her work. Today, Jay Burton gave a presentation called “The Art of Becoming a Weaver.” Ever since I made potholders out of fabric loops with a hook and a metal loom as a little girl, I’ve been fascinated by weaving, so I traded in my usual lunchtime yoga class for this special opportunity to learn more about this very artistic craft.
I knew I’d like what Mr. Burton had to say about weaving when I heard that he’s a fellow librarian. He’s worked in public libraries in Utah, for the State Library of Ohio, and as a consultant for libraries in Ohio’s prisons; now, he’s the director of the Southeast Regional Library System and works part-time in the Columbus Metropolitan Library’s Arts and Media Division.
Mr. Burton tried painting, pottery, beading, and glass-blowing, but he found his niche in fiber arts. He and his wife are knitters, so a couple of years ago, he expanded his repertoire and took a weaving class the Cultural Arts Center. He was hooked.
First, Mr. Burton relayed interesting facts about the history of weaving. He defined weaving as lacing threads and yarn together to form cloth, explained the concepts of warp and weft, and introduced us to the traditional over-under “tabby weave,” the “twill weave” that’s most often seen in denim blue jeans, and weaving patterns like hound’s tooth check. He talked about spinning, carding and dyeing yarn, passed around examples of unspun wool, and showed us how a drop spindle works. Using a very portable drop spindle that he made himself out of two recycled CD’s and a wooden stick, he showed us how he’s spinning 1000 yards of yarn for his next weaving project. He also shared videos of how a spinning wheel called a walking wheel works. After telling that his children had bought him an antique walking wheel for his birthday, he made this remark about spinning: “I could do it for hours. It’s a lot of fun.”
Then, he shared stories of his personal experiences with weaving. It requires both an ability to do a repeated thing over and over, as well as a lot of patience. Setting up the loom is particularly tedious, since there’s no room for error and it has to be exactly right before you start a project.
“It’s a solitary craft, but time flies and you can watch your work progress,” he said. “It’s so relaxing.”
Before I walked back to work, I looked at the projects under way on several looms on the third floor of the Cultural Arts Center and talked to three very friendly and welcoming students. I saw Mr. Burton’s loom, on which he’s weaving cloth to make a poncho. One new weaving student showed me how she was making towels on her loom, while another more advanced student shared a woven handbag she had made and a scarf she was making on her loom. An especially skilled student named Lisa was making a beautiful Tencel shawl in autumnal hues. All of their projects were amazing.
I’ll admit, I’m not sure if I’m ready to tackle setting up heddles just yet, but I was entranced watching the shuttle pass through the loom. Maybe I’d better get started on weaving by trying a few potholders again first.
The Cultural Arts Center’s next weaving class session begins November 7. Pat Bullen teaches one class on Tuesdays from 7 to 10 pm and a second class on Thursdays from 1 to 4 pm. Click here to see the class schedule.