Sunday, August 23, 2015

Eleven New Weavers Launched

Penland School of Crafts
Session 4
July 5 - July 17, 2015

Beginning Weaving 
Instructor: Bhakti Ziek

Cast of Characters:

Top to Bottom, Left to Right: Janie Woodbridge (assistant); Donna Anthony, Kat Nicholas, Monica Brown, Daniel Garver, Lew Greenwald, Joshua Kovarik, Rachel Qualliotine, Nikki Curry, Haley Toelle, Morgan Elkins, Jacqueline Sullivan
There are 12 people in the images above but Janie Woodbridge, pictured at top, was my assistant, and together we launched the 11 new weavers shown below. Classes at places like Penland self-select, and I am sure that teachers each think they have the perfect class with the right students, and perhaps each class feels like the best one you have ever taught, but I know for a fact that Janie and I made a perfect team for the perfect class and together we launched eleven new weavers into the world. A couple of the students had woven a bit before, but they still qualified as beginners and I think we can safely include them in this launch.

Student Work:
Top to Bottom, Left to Right: Work by Jacqueline Sullivan (pulled threads, detail of pulled threads, brocaded picnic; 4-shaft structure study by Haley Toelle; shaped ground for woven necklaces by Rachel Qualliotine; work by Joshua Kovarik (ombre undulating twills, double corduroy on loom, undulating twills)
Top to Bottom, Left to Right: Undulating Twills by Donna Anthony; work by Nikki Curry (block twills with areas of stuffed double weave, double weave pocket shown on the loom; brocaded elements in plain weave); work by Monica Brown (woven shibori cloth and dyed woven shibori sample; brocaded garden); twill sampler by Lew Greenwald and Lew weaving class scarf for auction
Top to Bottom, Left to Right: Turned twills by Daniel Garver; tapestry by Morgan Elkins; plain weave blocks by Janie Woodbridge; Bhakti Ziek removing her plain weave linen cloth; work by Kat Nicholas (double weave; twill blocks; clasped weft scarf)
Book woven by Haley Toelle in spider weave (deflected warps and wefts)
Almost immediately each student found their own path. This was a group that grasped the principles of weave so quickly that I had to abandon any thought of a plan, and just let each of them lead the way. You can see from the images above that they explored a huge variety of woven possibilities--twills, overshot, monk's belt, huck lace, block weaves, double corduroy, double weave, tapestry, clasped wefts, woven shibori, deflected warps and wefts, pulled thread plain weave, and shaped plain weave. There was more, and of course there were color and material studies along with the structural research. Clean selvedges were not stressed but they all wove long lengths with straight edges. This class had all winners. And watching them, I was the biggest winner of them all. I love weaving--everyone who knows me knows how enthusiastic I can get about the process of weaving--but these new weavers made me love weaving even more.

Visitors & Excersions:
Amanda Thatch, coordinator of fibers, and one of her ikat weavings below 
We packed so much into two weeks. The studio was in excellent condition thanks to the work of Amanda Thatch and her summer intern, Audrey Schroeder. Amanda also accepted my invitiation to talk to the class about her own work in weaving. I wanted the class to be exposed to as many ways of approaching weaving as possible, and Amanda's wonderful ikats were a great introduction into how dye and structure can work together.

Catharine Ellis showing piles of her woven shibori fabric which she dyed with natural dyes
Catharine Ellis lives in the region and has been instrumental in helping the textile area of Penland for many years. I met her years ago in the 80s when I was at Penland and have admired everything she has done ever since. She came with bundles of woven shibori, another way that dye and structure can interact, and filled the table with inspiration. Her book, Woven Shibori, is going to be re-released soon with all new images and the dye portion has been rewritten and deals with natural dyes. One of the students, Monica Brown, also lives in this area and she is an herbalist, so it was a perfect introduction for her to meet Catharine and try woven shibori.

Alice Schlein visited the class and wowed everyone with her handwoven jacquards and books
Our third visitors were my good friend and co-author of The Woven Pixel, Alice Schlein, and her wonderful immensely curious photographer husband, Bruce Schlein. Time with them is never enough, but I will take what is given. Alice can bring me to tears with what she knows about weaving, and how she shares it with others. She is smart, funny, and kind. Alice and Bruce are really engaged in life and everything it offers. Everyone was lucky to meet them and see the cloth and books that Alice brought with her. Not just the books she has written, but the books she is handmaking and covering with her own cloth.

I didn't get pictures of the afternoon visit we had by Susan Morgan Leveille but it was quite a treat. Susan is the great niece of Miss Lucy Morgan, and everyone who goes to Penland knows about Miss Lucy. Susan had some clothing with her that Miss Lucy had woven and worn. Now that was a true piece of Penland history. One student, Donna Anthony, was the one student who contacted me ahead of time saying she had taken two classes before but felt she could benefit from the class--and I encouraged her to sign up and that I would work with her at her level, as long as she understood that rank beginners needed more help the first days than others. Donna came into the studio one afternoon saying she had just bumped into her first teacher--who turned out to be Susan!

Our class spent one evening before dinner with Edwina Bringle hearing stories about the early 60s at Penland and the transition from Miss Lucy's times to today. I loved sitting there looking at my students and thinking that we were the current moment in this long history. Is anything more perfect than sitting on the deep porch of Craft House drinking wine and listening to old Penland stories?

We also were invited to a short visit to the archives by Penland's archivist, Carey Hedlund. Among the things that Carey showed us were some samples woven by Miss Lucy Morgan as well as an old shuttle, that showed the patina of use and love, that might have been used by Miss Lucy. 

Details of looms at Valdese Weavers
Penland is located in an area that used to be full of textile mills. Lucky for us Valdese Weavers is still going strong and Janie knew someone who works there. I had toured the facilities many years ago with another Penland class when I was still teaching full-time and had former students who worked there. Turns out I still have a former student who is a designer there. It is incredibly gratifying to walk into a professional office full of cloth that is in production and designed by someone who studied with you. And I love touring textile mills. Big electronic looms are awesome. I couldn't take pictures of fabrics in production but I think the details of looms above show you some of the beauty of a mill. I know the students as excited about the visit as I was. Cloth is so ubiquitous and most people don't think about the ingenuity that has gone into the technology of producing it today. Also, having woven on looms themselves for a week, the students knew the foreign language being thrown at them--warp and weft and pick and fill and twill and selvedge and harness and more.

Picnic after mill visit--happy and exhausted
Finished Work:
Top to Bottom, Left to Right: Some of the finished work--Kat Nicholas with her clasped weft scarf; Daniel Garver holding his exquisite twill fabric; Janie Woodbridge offering Bhakti the scarf she wove (lucky me!!); Rachel Qualliotine modeling one of her woven necklaces; Joshua Kovarik tired by triumphant after a night of weaving his double corduroy rug; Jackie Sullivan modeling the poncho she team wove with Monica Brown and Dan Garver; Morgan Elkins radiently wearing her new scarf; Donna Anthony showing me her monk's belt fabric that I wish I could say I wove; Kat Nicholas hidden by her twill block fabric; Nikki Curry beaming as brighly as her overshot cloth.
Monica Brown, Daniel Garver and Jackie Sullivan teamed together to design, weave and sew this poncho, that they will continue to share. Penland really makes connections.
Cleaning up the studio on July 17th before putting up finished work at Northlight
It has taken me weeks to cull through the hundreds of images I took at Penland and try to eliminate them down for this post. Even so, it is long. How do you distill a time warp into a blog post? It was two weeks where time was so compressed that at the end of the two weeks you felt like you were saying goodby to people you had known your whole life. It felt like two weeks that really changed lives. I know it brought a very needed reinvestment of energy into my life. I often talk about being exiled in Vermont--but I left feeling appreciated and relevant. I left with renewed respect for weaving and its importance in people's lives. I left with hope for the future. I left very much feeling present. To paraphrase something I heard someone say the other day, it did wonders for my zen. 

Final Exhibition:
Ceramics by Robin Ziek made in Kip O'Krongly's class
Shots of the weavers putting up their work at the final Northlight exhibition
Top to Bottom, Left to Right: Holbrook Newman who taught yoga (thank you Holbrook for creating a space of trust) pointing out the print work she did this session; Lisa Grey, one of my close friends, who assisted Jason Pollen, another great friend, in upstairs textiles (thank you Lisa for quiet walks home to our rooms and sitting quietly in the dark talking); Audrey Schroeder, intern in textiles this summer who was the honorary participant in the studio

No one wanted to say goodby, and setting up the work at Northlight meant goodby for some of us (I left right after lunch, some people left from the show). But watching these students work together hanging each others work, making sure everyone was shown properly, really made me happy. I was grateful for all the wonderful people I met during these two weeks--people not shown in these images. I was grateful for time spent with my sister, Robin, who took Kip O'Krongly's ceramic class this session. I was grateful for the trust I found in Holbrook Newman's yoga class and for my student Rachel Qualliotine who also teaches yoga and who kept at me until I finally attended a yoga session (and went from paranoia to trust). I was grateful for each of the 11 students who took my workshop. And I was grateful for Janie Woodbridge who took my class at Belinda Rose's place in Scotland last summer and was the most supportive assistant anyone could have asked for. 
Janie Woodbridge, Kat Nicholas, Haley Toelle beaming at final exhibit
Me (Bhakti Ziek) and Janie Woodbridge proudly showing all the work the weavers accomplished this session
So I am filled with good memories and very optimistic about the future of weaving and the young people who will carry it into the future. When I think of Penland, this is the image that comes to me--with gratitude:

Left to Right, Standing then Kneeling: Haley Toelle, Donna Anthony, Bhakti Ziek, Joshua Kovarik, Morgan Elkins, Jackie Sullivan, Nikki Curry, Lew Greenwald, Dan Garver, Rachel Qualliotine, Monica Brown, Kat Nicholas, Janie Woodbridge


  1. This is so wonderful! It looks like it was an amazing two weeks. It is how I remember my two weeks at Penland in 2005 and I hope to have a similar experience in 2016! These students are so lucky to have such an amazing teacher. I would have loved this class myself. Congrats Bhakti for creating an atmosphere where such amazing things could happen.

  2. Bhakti: this is such a great blog! Your enthusiasm and support of your weavers is just delightful to read. Infectious is the word Janet used. We would all like to be in that class. Let's see how about Penland in Santa Cruz?

  3. Beautiful weaving looms and wonderful weaving!