Arts center to host Weavers Guild of Minnesota exhibition in April

The Owatonna Arts Center will host an exhibition by the Weavers Guild of Minnesota in April.

“Every Kind of Maker’s Tool” opens April 7 and closes April 28. The guild will offer various demonstrations on both April 7 and April 28.

With a title of “Every Kind of Maker’s Tool,” the Weavers Guild of Minnesota asked members to “showcase a variety of equipment you can weave and spin on,” said Karin Knudsen, operations manager for the guild. This exhibition will “show all the different tools” utilized to create cloth, from a backstrap loom and rigid heddle, to pin looms and tapestry, to spindles to wheels.

Robbie LaFleur, an expert weaver based in Minneapolis, will bring “Andy Warhol Riff: A Swedish Flower Meets a Banana,” which she made from copper pipe tapestry loom, to the arts center exhibition, Knudsen said. Primarily a tapestry weaver, Lafleur, who studied the art form in Norway, is heavily influenced by Scandinavian textiles, and she often weaves “on a loom with a little frame,” which, among other things, allows for additional “richness” and “colors.”

Tapestry weaving is generally defined by pictorial imagery created by weft threads. LaFleur was awarded the Gold Medal in Weaving from the Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum in 2006.

Margaret Stump, another artist in this exhibition, is “more focused on texture than imagery, how it’ll feel when it’s used,” Knudsen said. “She’s sending basically a blanket throw,” titled “Noah and Namaah’s Ark with Animals,” which has numerous tiny squares combined into a larger piece for this exhibit.

Stump has been a pin loom weaver since childhood, and she’s authored three books on the technique. “Noah and Namaah’s Ark with Animals” is from her third book, which will be released in September.

Other artists in this exhibition will contribute projects crafted on backstrap looms, floor looms, and band looms, the last of which entails “weaving smaller, like one-to-three-inch bands,” Knudsen said. “That can be used for a variety of things.”

“Weaving is so foreign to some people,” but with demonstrations at the Owatonna Arts Center, attendees can “ask questions and even give it a try,” she said. Looms will be available, too, during the demonstrations, which are scheduled from 1-5 p.m. both days.

Nowhere is more weaving expertise concentrated than within the Weavers Guild of Minnesota, the “largest guild in the country,” with roughly “650 members,” she said. “We’re one of the earliest-founded guilds, in 1940, and we’ve been teaching classes the whole way through” with the intent of “preserving traditions while also allowing people to try new (methods).”

“There’s a deep artists tradition in Minnesota, and we have lots of great support,” she said. Though weaving is practiced worldwide, it’s remarkable how many weavers settle in this state.

The Weavers Guild of Minnesota is also a draw because “we have a physical location,” which is “unusual for a guild,” she said. The guild was the catalyst in the formation of the Textile Center, where the Guild currently maintains classroom, retail, and library space.

Durben has visited the Textile Center on many occasions, and “it’s a fascinating place,” he said. It boasts “everything with textures you could imagine.”

“All of us relate to textiles, because we use them every day,” and “these weavers are so creative,” with “various techniques and tapestry,” Durben said. “A loom is one of the first computers, if you think about it.”

The Weavers Guild of Minnesota’s mission is preserving and advancing the arts of weaving, spinning, and dyeing, and Knudsen “grew up in a family where people made things, and that was valued,” she said. “My mom is a master weaver,” and though “I do more dyeing, now,” she still appreciates the many benefits of weaving.

Among the “great things” about weaving is the “entry to success is very low,” she said. A dilettante weaver can set up and complete a project in as little as an hour and “feel that immediate success.”

Perhaps the most-popular class at the guild is Saori Weaving, a “very meditative and mindful Japanese form” of weaving, she said. Even those lacking weaving experience can “leave with something three-four feet long by the end of class.”

Of course, the more time and effort one expends weaving, the more complex and impressive the results, she said. “We have masters who have been at it for years, and they are extremely talented.”

Weaving is accessible from neophytes to experts, she said. “You can do this your whole life and never get bored.”

This will be the guild’s first foray into Owatonna, she said. The Weavers Guild of Minnesota only conducts a few of these efforts each year, although they do maintain an annual presence at the Minnesota State Fair.

“We’re honored they’re willing to come down here and do some demonstrations,” Durben said. “I’m hoping it’s going to be a real dazzling show.”

Reach Reporter Ryan Anderson at 507-444-2376 or follow him on Twitter @randerson_ryan.