Saturday, August 6, 2011

My grandmother is a weaver...

I remember growing up standing beside my grandfather as he wove on a 60 inch Macomber in his basement.  I think he was working on a large drapery project for their greenhouse (some horrific yardage number in what must have been doubleweave--and all white).  Grandpa learned to weave after he retired from a long career as a metallurgical engineer.  (It is amazing to me how many musicians, engineers, and scientists become weavers in retirement.)  Grandpa got me interested in looms--how they work, how amazing it is you can make cloth on this machine...

But it was my grandmother Marian who inspired me to actually make art.  She received her bachelors degree in art when she was 60 years old.  (Do what you love no matter what age you are.)  I loved her collection of children's books and her garden gnomes in her Tulsa, OK garden (I was never really sure they weren't real because she talked about them like they were).  Grandma was a person who encouraged IMAGINATION in a child (and sometimes terror if we didn't finish our breakfast cereal).

Grandma is in retirement now and no longer has her looms.  In fact, I have her and my grandfather's looms and I thank them every day I sit down to weave for those beautiful pieces of equipment.

This is a piece my grandmother did many years ago which I rediscovered recently when the medical clinic it has been hanging in was being redecorated and the piece was temporarily relocated to my parents house.  I loved the peek-a-boo flaps and all the faces in this round tapestry-ish work and I hear the kids in the clinic still do today.

(Yep, sometimes you have to sacrifice some stuffed animals in the name of art...)

Grandma has a fantastic drawing ability.  Her family Christmas cards are legendary and I wish I had a complete set--the little cartoonish family-member characters all set in their lively lives yet somehow blended on one piece of paper.  Every letter I've ever received from my grandma was covered with little doodles and marks to imply motion.  She also loves to underline and accent her writing.

I have her 60 inch LeClerc tapestry loom.  I am saving it's inaugural tapestry for a time when I have a big enough studio to set it up next to my favorite Harrisville Rug Loom (grandpa's loom) which I use for all my tapestry currently.  Her last cartoon for this loom, which was never woven, was a drawing from Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak--a favorite in her book collection.

Thanks for living such a creative life Grandma... and for inspiring me to do the same.


  1. What a wonderful creative heritage you have! Thanks for sharing this story.

  2. Such a beautiful tribute to your grandparents. I don't have children but hope that maybe someday my niece & nephew's children (if they have any) will be saying something about their Aunt Tommye and Uncle Thomas and what creative things they were doing back in the old days!

  3. You are lucky having a grandma. I grew up without any grand parents as my parents were both the youngest in their families. So I treasure the grandma role so much even though mine lives in London! Too far away1
    How cool your grandma's drawings are1 Great lady!
    Thanks for sharing

  4. Rebecca-
    I am curious about the set-up on the loom picture at the top of your post. It looks like texsolv loops through the eyes of a standard metal heddle? Or some sort of draw system? I love the mechanics of looms- and just need to know.
    (whose dad is a retired metallurgical engineer! but not a weaver. He paints watercolors instead. And I agree, that many retired engineer types are artists in one form or another.)

    1. Hi Jean, That is the shaft switching device that you can get with the Harrisville Rug Loom... designed by Peter Collingwood. I know almost nothing about it except that you can flip the levers and it changes which threads are up in a given shed so you can make patterned rugs with it. They are set at 1/4 intervals, so the rugs are usually 4 ends per inch I think. I don't use it at all and removed it when my grandfather gave me this loom. I'm sure there is information at Harrisville about it though!


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