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CraftSanity Podcast Episode 145: Sally England talks about her career as a macrame artist

Grand Rapids fiber artist Sally England stands by a nearly finished macrame piece she created for a client. England’s large scale macrame work has helped contribute to the resurgence of interest in the knotting techniques that allow for the creation of textiles that can be used in both decorative and practical applications. (Photo by Jennifer-Ackerman-Haywood)

For the last couple weeks I’ve been walking around with cotton twine in my pocket and Sally England is partly to blame. 

I recently attended England’s macrame workshop at Have Company, 136 S. Division Ave., during which she taught a small group of women in their 20s and 30s how to create mini wall-hanging samplers by tying a series of basic knots.

More than three decades after macrame permeated the American craft landscape, it’s once again growing in popularity and England has had a hand in that, too. However, becoming a nationally recognized macrame artist is probably most surprising to England herself. 

Most artists hope to be successful at doing what they do, but I never expected this to happen,” said England as she tied a row of knots on a 7-foot wide piece destined for a New York storefront. “All I could ask for was just to have a job that I could be creative and use my skills, but I didn’t think I would be working on my own and creating my own work. It’s just been a blessing that I’m super grateful for.”

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Macrame Forever: Sally England works on a commissioned piece for a New York client. She recently got a macrame tattoo on her right forearm, underscoring her love of the craft.


Read the rest of my column on MLive.com and listen to Sally tell her story her story on the podcast below. Then check out her Instagram feed and give macrame a try yourself. It’s fun!!

acshomeandwork-300x124Gratitude: A special thanks to my Patreon sponsors and my new sponsor, ACS Home and Work, for supporting this podcast. I discovered ACS when I was looking for a local source for flour sack tea towels for printmaking and embroidery purposes. I’m very happy to be supporting a West Michigan-based company with my business and now ACS is stepping in to sponsor the CraftSanity Podcast through the end of the year. (Thank you!!)

IMG_2498Local West Michigan listeners can shop ACS products at the Red Door, 6837 Lake Michigan Dr, in Allendale Charter Township. It’s the ACS outlet and also a pickup location for locals who want to order flour sack tea towels and other goods and skip the shipping costs. Visit Red door for a variety of tea towels and other home goods.

CraftSanity Podcast 144: A conversation with artist Kelly Allen

IMG_1071459If you crave more art and craft supplies or have a few extras (ahem) stashed in your basement, you need to meet Kelly Allen.

Kelly Allen's collage paintings are available for purchase through LaFontsee Galleries, 833 Lake Dr. SE in Grand Rapids.

Kelly Allen’s collage paintings are available for purchase through LaFontsee Galleries, 833 Lake Dr. SE in Grand Rapids.

A fine art painter with a soft spot for crafting, Kelly, 35, just opened the Wisemaker Creative Reuse Store and Studio at The Geek Group, the maker space at 902 Leonard St. NW in Grand Rapids. Part craft supply thrift shop, part drop-in studio, Wisemaker is a place where local creatives can go to take workshops, use the studio space and buy unique reclaimed supplies donated by local businesses and individuals.

“We are basically like an arts and crafts thrift store,” Kelly said about the shop that opened Sept. 23. “Bring us your old arts and craft supplies that you don’t want anymore because we want to make them available for people who do want to use them at a very low price… We want to make creativity accessible for everyone and promote reuse.”

Kelly is collecting paper, magazines, wallpaper samples, scrapbooking supplies, fabric, sewing notions, yarn, embroidery hoops and floss, knitting needles, crochet hooks, rotary cutters, jewelry supplies and just about all other clean and usable art and craft supplies. Those interested in making a donation are asked to email kelly@thegeekgroup.org before dropping items off to make sure the donation is appropriate for Wisemaker. The bonus is that all donations are tax deductible.

In addition to running Wisemaker, Kelly is the director of the new arts and crafts department at The Geek Group, expanding the science and technology offerings inside the former YMCA building to include a welcoming space for artists and crafters.

“We want to make creativity accessible,” Kelly said.

Read more about Kelly, Wisemaker and Geek Group in my complete column posted here.

Wisemaker workshops are $20 per person, with guests encouraged to bring a friend for $10. Studio time to use the Wisemaker serger, embroidery and sewing machines and other tools is $5 per hour or $10 for the day. Supply fees may apply depending on the project.

IMG_1041IF YOU GO

Wisemaker Creative Reuse Store and Studio of The Geek Group

Where: 902 Leonard St. NW in Grand Rapids
When: 11 a.m. – 6 p.m. Tues. – Fri., 11 a.m. – 2 p.m. Sat.
Featuring: Reclaimed art and craft supplies and drop-off site for unwanted, usable art and craft supplies.
More info.: Kelly@thegeekgroup.org or call 466-4335. Check out her fine art website here. Her paintings are available locally at LaFontsee Galleries, 833 Lake Dr. SE in Grand Rapids.

Listen to Kelly tell her story on CraftSanity episode 144 below.

acshomeandwork-300x124Gratitude: A special thanks to my Patreon sponsors and my new sponsor, ACS Home and Work, for supporting this podcast. I discovered ACS when I was looking for a local source for flour sack tea towels for printmaking and embroidery purposes. I’m very happy to be supporting a West Michigan-based company with my business and now ACS is stepping in to sponsor the CraftSanity Podcast through the end of the year. (Thank you!!)

IMG_2498Local West Michigan listeners can shop ACS products at the Red Door, 6837 Lake Michigan Dr, in Allendale Charter Township. It’s the ACS outlet and also a pickup location for locals who want to order flour sack tea towels and other goods and skip the shipping costs. Visit Red door for a variety of tea towels and other home goods.

CraftSanity Podcast Episode 143: A conversation with ArtPrize Artist and documentary photographer Ryan Spencer Reed

Ludington-based photojournalist Ryan Spencer Reed documented the lives of the 1-506th Infantry Regiment as the soldiers trained for battle and deployed for active duty in Afghanistan. An installation of 61 of his photos comprise his “Despite Similarities to Reality, This is a Work of Fiction” ArtPrize entry at the Grand Rapids Art Museum.

By Jennifer Ackerman-Haywood

Standing before a massive wall-size photograph of the 1-506th Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division inside a C-17 bound for Afghanistan, I grew worried.

The beautifully composed photo was taken by Ludington-based documentary photographer Ryan Spencer Reed on May 5, 2013, and even though I was viewing it more than a year after the fact I still felt compelled to tell the soldiers not to go. When I later learned that five men were killed in action during the deployment, I went back to look at the photo again and wondered if the fallen were pictured among the quiet soldiers, some sleeping, many hiding their eyes behind dark shades.

This photo that made me wish I had the power to stop a war is just one of 61 photos in Reed’s powerful ArtPrize installation titled, “Despite Similarities to Reality, This is a Work of Fiction,” one of five installation pieces eligible for the $20,000 Installation Public Vote award and one of 20 pieces in the running for the $200,000 public vote grand prize.

While the title raises questions about the content of the photos, they are all depicting real events. 

IMG_0578“There’s a lot that people aren’t seeing,” said Reed, 35, a 2002 Calvin College grad who spent nearly a year building a rapport with the members of the storied regiment known as the “Band of Brothers” before deploying to Afghanistan with them. “…Ultimately the title referring to the fact that this may be a work of fiction is in part a disclaimer of my own work in a sense that it’s heavily edited by the time it’s offered up to the public for consumption.”

Reed’s quest to understand the life of a soldier and his family’s own tradition of military service led him to immerse himself in this documentary project and pursue a true understanding of war – something average citizens can’t get from mainstream media.

“It doesn’t have to be some insidious lying on behalf of our military or lying on the behalf of the media or bending the truth or anything like that,” he said. “When you only have 1 percent of (Americans) prosecuting your wars for you, you will have fewer and fewer people understanding the true cost of war.”

Read the rest of my column at MLive.com and tune into this podcast to hear Ryan tell this story in his own words below.

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The public can purchase Reed’s four-zine collection containing 60 of the photos from his ArtPrize installation for $20. Or, if your unable to get to the exhibit in person, order the collection via his website.

Subscribe to podcast via iTunes, use this RSS feed or just search for CraftSanity in many of the popular podcast apps.

CraftSanity Podcast Episode 142: A conversation with ArtPrize 2014 Artist Anila Quayyum Agha

IMG_0515By Jennifer Ackerman-Haywood

A little girl jumps high delighted by her wild-haired shadow.

Nearby a young couple engages in a public display of affection casting a romantic silhouette upon the wall.

Families inch forward and back to get just the right combination of pattern and silhouette before snapping several photos.

Artist Anila Quayyum Agha, of Indianapolis, discusses her “Intersections” installation with ArtPrize attendees at the Grand Rapids Art Museum.

No one seems to mind any of this as the experience of stepping into the room where Anila Quayyum Agha’s “Intersections” ArtPrize entry – a laser-cut, 6.5-foot cube that casts opulent 32- by 34-foot shadows onto the walls, floor and ceiling of the exhibition space at the Grand Rapids Art Museum – seems to be evoking joy for most viewers.

By the end of the first week of ArtPrize 2014 all 10,000 of Agha’s postcards would be gone and more would need to be printed after thousands complete a lap around her sculpture that floods the room with doily-like patterns.

“That is the most gratifying thing to see,” Agha said. “People are dancing and they’re taking pictures against the shadows.”

Agha, 49, an associate professor of drawing at Herron School of Art and Design at Indiana University, spent 15 months creating her sculptural piece out of laser cut wood, a light bulb and black paint. The single light source is enough to wow the masses from where it hangs in the middle of a room, flooding the space with shadow patterns inspired by photos of tiles and other ornate designs she photographed while visiting Alhambra, a palace in Granada, Spain.

Tune in to episode 142 of the podcast to hear Agha tell the story behind her ArtPrize entry that is in contention for a top prize. And read the rest of my MLive.com column about her here.

IMG_0537Up Next: Check back here later in the week for an interview with ArtPrize artist and Ludington, Michigan-based photojournalist Ryan Spencer Reed who has created a moving installation of war photography now on display at The Grand Rapids Art Museum. He will be featured in my next newspaper column as well.

Gratitude: A special thanks to my Patreon sponsors and my new sponsor, ACS Home and Work, for supporting this podcast. I discovered ACS when I was looking for a local source for flour sack tea towels for printmaking and embroidery purposes. I’m very happy to be supporting a West Michigan-based company with my business and now ACS is stepping in to sponsor the CraftSanity Podcast through the end of the year. (Thank you!!)

Local West Michigan listeners can shop ACS products at the Red Door, 6837 Lake Michigan Dr, in Allendale Charter Township. It’s the ACS outlet and also a pickup location for locals who want to order flour sack tea towels and other goods and skip the shipping costs. Visit Red door for a variety of tea towels and other home goods.

CraftSanity Podcast Episode 141: A library love story leads Marianne Gardner and Sean Maginity to handmade business venture

IMG_4939Sometimes handmade business partnerships start in the most unlikely ways.

Sean Maginity was working in the maintenance department at the Grand Rapids Public Library when he fell for Marianne Gardner, a woman at the reference desk.

She had no idea and Maginity kept his feelings to himself until it looked like his window of opportunity was about to close.

“She was talking about how she wanted to move to Los Angeles,” Sean said. “We weren’t a couple at the time, but she was going to be moving, so I was like: ‘I gotta let her know.’”

IMG_4983And so one day after work, Maginity made his move. He hung around after his shift and Marianne kindly offered him a ride home.

“When we got there I was like, ‘I have unresolved feelings for you’ and she was like, ‘I don’t know how to work with that,’” said Sean, 29, recalling the awkwardly endearing way he told Gardner he was smitten.

“It was a surprise,” said Marianne, 35, who went ahead with her moving plans, but not to get away from Sean.

Read the rest of the story and tune into the podcast to  find out what happened after Sean followed Marianne to L.A. and how their love story eventually lead them to be business partners at BirdandFeather.com, their fast-growing terrarium business that has captured national media attention and captivated plant lovers coast to coast.

IMG_2498Gratitude: A special thanks to my Patreon sponsors and my new sponsor, ACS Home and Work, for supporting this podcast. I discovered ACS when I was looking for a local source for flour sack tea towels for printmaking and embroidery purposes. I’m very happy to be supporting a West Michigan-based company with my business and now ACS is stepping in to sponsor the CraftSanity Podcast through the end of the year. (Thank you!!) 

The good news for local West Michigan listeners is that you can shop ACS products at the Red Door, 6837 Lake Michigan Dr, in Allendale Charter Township. It’s the ACS outlet and also a pickup location for locals who want to order flour sack tea towels and other goods and skip the shipping costs. Visit Red door for a variety of tea towels and other home goods.

CraftSanity Podcast Episode 140: Blogger Rubyellen Bratcher talks about her new book ‘Let’s Sew Together’

taken by reese tibayan

Rubyellen Bratcher started blogging to document her life. She’s pictured her husband, Ben, and their four daughters, (from the left) Glow, Brave, Soul and True. Photo by Reese Tibayan.

When California blogger Rubyellen Bratcher started blogging at MyCakies.com to document her life and the handmade projects she was doing with her kids, she never imagined the doors it would open in her life. Tune in to hear the story of how this former elementary teacher and mother of four girls became a top mom blogger with her work featured on several national websites and a book deal to boot. We talk about crafting with kids, homeschooling and how her new book, “Let’s Sew Together: Simple Projects the Whole Family Can Make,” (176 pages, $19.99.)

1book

“Let’s Sew Together” features 30 projects to sew and make with kids. The projects range from a no-sew bunting and glove puppets to a travel the world map quilt, dollhouse pillows, fabric chalkboard and super-happy slippers embellished with kid art.

lets-sew-togetherEnter to win! Leave a comment below about what kind of projects you like to make with the kids in your life and enter the random drawing for a copy of “Let’s Sew Together.” The deadline to enter is Friday Oct. 3. has been extended to Oct. 20 at midnight Eastern time. Thanks to Potter Craft for donating a copy of the book.

IMG_2498Gratitude: A special thanks to my Patreon sponsors and my new sponsor, ACS Home and Work, for supporting this podcast. I discovered ACS when I was looking for a local source for flour sack tea towels for printmaking and embroidery purposes. I’m very happy to be supporting a West Michigan-based company with my business and now ACS is stepping in to sponsor the CraftSanity Podcast through the end of the year. (Thank you!!) 

The good news for local West Michigan listeners is that you can shop ACS products at the Red Door, 6837 Lake Michigan Dr, in Allendale Charter Township. It’s the ACS outlet and also a pickup location for locals who want to order flour sack tea towels and other goods and skip the shipping costs. Visit Red door for a variety of tea towels and other home goods. (I just bought a nice big fancy hotel robe there. : ) 

CraftSanity Podcast 139: Jennifer talks block printing with Colouricious creator and UK artist Jamie Malden

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This was one of the best discoveries of my recent trip to the AQS Quilt Show in Grand Rapids, Michigan – imported block printing stamps from India.

IMG_5439While printing with pre-carved stamps seems a bit like cheating for this printmaker, I absolutely LOVE being able to jump into a project right away without having to carve my own block.

I met Jamie Malden at the quilt show and fell hook, line and sinker for block printing and the lovely blocks she sells on her Colouricious website. My daughters and I shopped for our favorite blocks to start our collection and had a great time trying them out at home.

Tune in to the podcast to learn more about how you can create beautiful handprinted fabrics of your own and then start making plans to travel to India to see how these beautiful blocks are carved. : )


IMG_5748
Gratitude: A special thanks to my Patreon sponsors and my new sponsor, ACS Home and Work, for supporting this podcast. I discovered ACS when I was looking for a local source for flour sack tea towels for printmaking and embroidery purposes. I’m very happy to be supporting a West Michigan-based company with my business and now ACS is stepping in to sponsor the CraftSanity Podcast through the end of the year. (Thank you!!)

In the coming weeks, I’ll be telling you more about this fun company and sharing some videos demonstrating some of the things I’m making with their products. In the meantime, go check out their website and thank them for supporting the CraftSanity Podcast.

Want to suggest an artist or crafter for an upcoming podcast? Just email me, I’d love to hear from you.

Recommended reading for knitters, spinners, vintage fashion lovers, sewists, stitchers and other exuberant crafters

IMG_6144

As the temperatures start to dip here in the Midwest, it’s a fine time to grab a new stack of craft books and plot out some projects to work this fall and winter. This past weekend I featured the seven titles above in my weekly craft column for The Grand Rapids Press and MLive.com. Here are some of the titles in my fall line-up.

“The Spinners Book of Fleece,” (256 pages, $29.95) by Beth Smith

“Knitting Reimagined: An Innovative Approach to Structure and Shape with 25 Breathtaking Projects” (176 pages, $29.99) by Nicky Epstein

“Gertie Sews Vintage Casual: A Modern Guide to Sportswear Styles of the 1940s and 1950s” (224 pages, $35) by Gretchen Hirsch

“The Magic Pattern Book: Sew 6 Patterns Into 36 Different Styles!” (310 pages, $22.95) by Amy Barickman, founder of Indygo Junction

“Felt-o-ween: 40 Scary-cute Projects to Celebrate Halloween,” (132 pages, $14.95) by Kathy Sheldon and Amanda Carestio

“Drink the Harvest: Making Juices, Wines, Meads, Teas, and Ciders” (232 pages, $18.95) by Nan K. Chase and DeNeice C. Guest

* “Let’s Sew Together: Simple Projects the Whole Family Can Make” (176 pages, $19.99) by Rubyellen Bratcher

Read my review of these books here.

Send your book suggestions for future review to me.

IMG_6130

CraftSanity Podcast Episode 138: The story of how a non-quilter oversaw the creation of the 120-foot ‘Quilt of Belonging’

Esther Bryan is the artist who collaborated with hundreds of people to create the 120 foot "Quilt of Belonging." CraftSanity Magazine Episode 138 was recorded last month at the AQS quilt show in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Esther Bryan is the artist who collaborated with hundreds of people to create the 120 foot “Quilt of Belonging.” CraftSanity Episode 138 was recorded last month at the AQS quilt show in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

By Jennifer Ackerman-Haywood

It was the largest quilt on display at last month’s American Quilter’s Society show and probably the most important.

Measuring 120 feet long by 10 1/2 feet high, the “Quilt of Belonging” is an impressive quilt comprised of 263 blocks containing handwork created by 70 Aboriginal groups and 193 immigrant nationalities represented in Canada as of Jan. 1, 2000.

It was awe inspiring to stand before this quilt displayed along a convention center wall in Grand Rapids, Michigan and imagine the hundreds of groups and individuals who had a hand in creating such a bold symbol of cultural pride, international collaboration and peace.

I was one of the thousands who walked past this quilt the first day of the show and I returned hours before it was taken down to record the story behind it.

The quilt was created under the direction of Esther Bryan, an artist and pianist born in France as the daughter of missionaries. In 1963, her parents moved the family to Canada. Bryan, who eventually settled with her husband and three children in Williamstown, Ontario, grew up knowing little about her family heritage until her father – a Slovak refugee, asked her to “take me home” in 1994.

If it weren’t for that trip, the “Quilt of Belonging” may never have been created. Tune in to hear Esther tell the story of how learning about her family history inspired her to collaborate with people from every nation in the world to make a vibrant and inspirational piece of art.

You can read the rest of the newspaper column I wrote about Esther here. Visit quiltofbelonging.ca for more information about the quilt, books, educational materials and the documentary.

Sponsor Appreciation!

acshomeandwork-300x124A special thanks to my Patreon sponsors and my new sponsor, ACS Home and Work, for supporting this podcast. I discovered ACS when I was looking for a local source for flour sack tea towels for printmaking and embroidery purposes. I’m very happy to be supporting a West Michigan-based company with my business and now ACS is stepping in to sponsor the CraftSanity Podcast through the end of the year. (Thank you!!) In the coming weeks, I’ll be telling you more about this fun company and sharing some videos demonstrating some of the things I’m making with their products. In the meantime, go check out their website and thank them for supporting the CraftSanity Podcast.

Enjoy!

 I hope you enjoy this episode of the podcast. Have a listen and leave a comment below. I’d love to hear from you.

CraftSanity Podcast Episode 137 (part 2): The continuation of my interview Eric Hoffman, owner and creator of Spofford Press

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Alright folks, the waiting is over and it’s time to release the second part of my interview with Eric Hoffman, owner of Spofford Press in Warwick, Rhode Island.

IMG_2954If you missed the first part of this interview, you’re invited to go check it out and then bop back over here for part 2. Eric is a fun storyteller and an awesome printmaker and letterpress artist. I met him on Instagram while attempting to soak up all I can about printmaking.

Get inspired by his story and then check out his designs. Eric is a serious artist with a fun sense of humor. He’s willing to spend hours carving the likeness of the jazz greats he frequently jams to in his studio and has no shame about embossing eyebrow-raising phrases onto notecards for the masses.

Enjoy the podcast and leave your comments below.

Subscribe to podcast via iTunes, use this RSS feed or just search for CraftSanity in many of the popular podcast apps.

CraftSanity Podcast Episode 137 (part 1): The story of Eric Hoffman, owner and creator of Spofford Press

BIG Miles Davis

This podcast is about Eric Hoffman, a kind printmaker I met on Instagram while attempting to soak up all I can from more experienced printmakers creating inspiring work. A 35-year-old artist, family man and gifted storyteller with a jovial laugh.

When he’s not answering questions about his technique and equipment on Instagram, Eric is making a go of it pulling impressive prints in his home studio in Warwick, Rhode Island. The level of detail in his “Miles Davis” print for a relief engraving is something you really have to see in person to fully appreciate.

photo

Tune in to the podcast to find out what happened after Eric decided to follow his heart and change his college major, and learn what he did during the time that passed before he took a leap of faith and launched his handmade dream armed with ink, carving tools and a belief that he could make it work.

On part one of this two-part story, you’ll get to meet Eric and learn more about the darling, little guy pictured above. Part two will be posted in the coming days. Leave your comments below and be sure to go visit Eric on the web.

CraftSanity Podcast Episode 136: A story about how jewelry-making helped a young West Michigan woman heal

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Caitlin Myler was turning left out of the parking lot of the Ottawa County bank call center where she worked when she spotted another motorist traveling fast over the hill.

Their cars collided and the impact of the November 2011 crash changed the course of Caitlin’s life.

Her pelvis was broken in several places and her injuries landed her in the hospital for weeks. Once discharged, she remained in a wheelchair for three months, waiting for her body to heal enough to walk again.

Unable to work or attend her community college classes, Caitlin decided to pass the time making jewelry.

“It totally gave me something to do and something to look forward to and get excited about,” she said.

As she recovered, she continued to make jewelry.

“I’m totally self taught,” said the 24-year-old Holland mom, recalling how the accident led her down a creative path and afforded her time to learn. “It was just … trial and error.”

Caitlin Myler, creator of The Lucky Lark jewelry line, and her husband Stephen, sell her designs every Sunday at the Fulton Street Artisans Market in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Caitlin Myler, creator of The Lucky Lark jewelry line, and her husband Stephen, sell her designs every Sunday at the Fulton Street Artisans Market in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Buoyed by a positive attitude, Caitlin made a full recovery and continued making jewelry.

“I love it so much I have to spend time doing it everyday,” she said. “It calms me down and it takes my mind off everyday stress.”

She started selling her jewelry designs online at theluckylark.etsy.com soon after the birth of her son, Carson, now 10-months-old.

She said her online sales didn’t really take off until she and started a Facebook page for her business and became a seasonal vendor at the Fulton Street Artisans Market at the beginning of the summer. When she first started vending at the market, she said she would only sell a few pieces. Since then, she has watched sales increase to more than 20 in a single day.

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“I’m so excited everyday that people are responding to it and love it as much as I do,” she said. “I am beyond thrilled.”

Read the rest of Caitlin’s story in my weekly mlive.com column and visit her Facebook page to learn more about her business and upcoming shows. Listen to her tell the story on this week’s CraftSanity Podcast.

CraftSanity Podcast Episode 135: A Conversation with SAORI weaving instructor, Chiaki O’Brien

Photo courtesy of the artist Chiaki O’Brien is a certified SAORI weaving instructor who will be teaching at the Michigan Fiber Festival this week. You can shop the festival this Friday, Saturday and Sunday at the Allegan County Fairgrounds. 

When Chiaki O’Brien rolls into Allegan County and sets up her SAORI weaving looms at the Michigan Fiber Festival this week, her students will learn right away that they are part of one of the happiest growing fiber art movements.

I have not studied SAORI in any official capacity, but I ran to my loom after interviewing Chiaki about this con- temporary Japanese hand weaving approach designed for everyone regardless of age, gender, disability or intellectual aptitude. The method, which I covered in this week’s newspaper column for The Grand Rapids Press and MLive.com, instructs people to “weave with a happy heart.” It was created by Misao Jo about 45 years ago when she missed a warp thread while weaving a traditional kimono sash and had her finished product turned away by a Japanese shop owner.

“She thought the skip made it more beautiful,” said O’Brien, 46, of Chaska, Minnesota, recalling the story she learned during her SAORI certification process. “So she went home and skipped a lot of warp.”

And the rest is fiber art history because Jo’s so-called mistake paved the way for a movement to introduce children and adults from all walks of life to create whimsical fabrics using a basic plain weave (over, under) method in which there are no rules, just fun.

Official SAORI weaving is done on two-harness Japanese looms that are easily adaptable for weavers of all ages and those with special needs, however this weaving method can be done on any loom set up for a basic plain weave.

“There’s no right or wrong as long as the weaver is happy,” Chiaki said.

O'Brien1

While it may seem that this sort of waving would lead to wild and unusable fabric, Chiaki has made lovely wall hangings and garments from her SAORI fabric.

As I noted in this week’s newspaper column, I thought it was impossible for me to love weaving any more than I already do, but then I talked to Chiaki and got really inspired. When taking a SAORI approach to weaving there are no mistakes and the weaver is free to create without worrying about how the end product will look. It’s the process more than anything that is celebrated. It’s like yoga on the loom.

After recording my chat Chiaki, I hauled my Michigan-made, Kessenich table loom out of the basement and placed in on its stand by the front window. Immediately my 8- and 10-year-old daughters gravitated to it. I got things started by weaving some natural cotton and then sent them out to retrieve a stick from the front porch. A couple rows past the stick I turned the weaving over to Amelia while Abby worked the levers on top of the loom to lift the warp threads for the shuttle to pass through. As the girls worked together, I stuffed random bits and bobs of fiber and paper into the weft.

This is the collaborative SAORI weaving I've been working on with my daughters.

This is the collaborative SAORI weaving I’ve been working on with my daughters. Many of the items woven into this piece are tiny scraps from my sewing table that would otherwise be thrown out. We have also thrown in a stick, a piece of jewelry and bits of paper. It’s fun to see how beautiful all the little bits look when woven together.

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My daughter, Amelia, has been weaving in the mornings while her big sister is away at her summer science class.

And this freestyle weaving has continued for several days and it has been wonderful to steal away a few moments, weaving in the glow of the natural morning light that spills into the dining room.

You can read my full column about Chiaki O’Brien and listen to our conversation below.

And I can’t end this post with out a special thanks to the CraftSanity supports who have kicked in funding to keep CraftSanity up and running. When I decided to start using Patreon last week and asked listeners who are willing and able to kick in a dollar a month to keep the show going, I wasn’t sure what would happen, but right away CraftSanity listeners have started to board my craft adventure bus and fund my dream to make this podcast better. As of this time of this post I have nine supporters contributing $18 total per month. This may seem piddly to some, but I’m quite thrilled and humbled by the kindness of the people who have jumped in right away. Thank you to you all! I really appreciate your support.

If you like the CraftSanity podcast and want to contribute, you can create an account at Patreon.com and then visit CraftSanity’s Patreon page and pledge a $1 a month (or more, but we are only asking for $1).

Thanks for listening! I’ll be back next week with another show.  :  ) In the meantime, please send me your podcast guest suggestions and tell me what you’re working on. I’m always looking for fun ideas.

Subscribe to podcast via iTunes, use this RSS feed or just search for CraftSanity in many of the popular podcast apps.

Let’s try something new to keep the CraftSanity Podcast going

Hello CraftSanity Friends!

I’m taking a page from the playbook of the tech podcasters that my husband, Jeff, listens to and I’ve decided to begin using a service called Patreon to secure funding for my podcast.

I’ll turn it over to him to explain how it works:

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It’s simple. Do you get value in the CraftSanity podcast? Would you be willing to pay $1 a month to support it? Then here’s an easy way to do it.

Create an account at Patreon.com and then visit CraftSanity’s Patreon page and pledge a $1 a month (or more, but we are only asking for $1). That money is automatically paid monthly to support the CraftSanity podcast’s equipment and service fees, such as Skype and Soundcloud.

Here’s a 1 minute video explaining how it works. Note we aren’t asking a fee per podcast, just $1 a month.

Now back to Jennifer…

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I love the fact that I produce a free podcast and have done so since 2006. I want to continue that model because I believe in giving everyone access to the shows I record. Through the years the CraftSanity podcast has entertained commuters and connected people working independently in their studios and kitchen tables with kindred spirits around the globe. The show has done this while simultaneously introducing the art and craft world to artists and crafters launching new businesses, promoting books and telling the handmade stories that make life so fantastic.
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CraftSanity Podcast Episode 134: A conversation with East Lansing Tapestry Weaver Nancy McRay

Tapestry by Nancy McRay

Tapestry by East Lansing artist Nancy McRay

A surprising gift led Nancy McRay in an unexpected direction shortly after she graduated from Michigan State University with a degree in advertising.

Nancy M“When I graduated from college… my parents gave me a floor loom as a present,” she said, recalling how the unusual gift left her feeling “dumbfounded and intrigued.”

Although she was puzzled by the gift at first, it actually made a lot of sense.

“What my parents did not know is that I used to stand in the doorway of the weaving program at MSU and just look,” she said, explaining that she tried but could never get into the popular fiber art class.

The loom from her parents came with some lessons, so McRay finally got her chance to learn to weave. When she asked her mom – who was a potter and painter – why they gave her a loom, her mother explained that she wanted to give her a gift that would be just for her.

“In all her wisdom, she knew that as an adult woman a lot of my life would be taken up by other people and other responsibilities and she wanted me to have something that was all mine,” said McRay, 58, of East Lansing. “I don’t think she had any idea how much she would change my life with that gift.”

From fiber artist to yarn shop owner and back again, read the rest of Nancy’s story in the Homes section of today’s print edition of The Grand Rapids Press or online at at Mlive.com.

Listen to my podcast interview with McRay below.

*** Weave With Nancy McRay ***

Nancy McRay will be teaching a three-day foundations of tapestry course for beginners and experienced weavers at the Michigan League of Handweavers Conference Aug. 8-10 at Hope College in Holland. The conference will include workshops taught by McRay and seven other artists ranging from dyeing and beading to felting and weaving. Visit mlhguild.org for registration information.

She will also be participating in the Interlochen Fibers Arts Weekend that will highlight Michigan’s growing “fleece to fabric” movement Sept. 26 – 28 at the Mallory-Towsley Center for Arts Leadership in Interlochen. McRay, who is an instructor of visual arts at Interlochen College of Creative Arts, will be teaching classes on how to read weaving drafts and design for weaving at the event that will also include classes on indigo dyeing, wet felting and drop spindle. Registration information is available at college.interlochen.org/fiber-arts-weekend.

Now I’m feeling pretty inspired to weave. How about you?

Nancy McRay's "Great Felt Lakes" 20-by-15-foot entry will be on display at Grapids Irrigation, 1170 Plainfield Ave. NE, in Grand Rapids during this year’s ArtPrize competition. The installation is the shape of the Great Lakes cut out of industrial felt. The piece will be displayed on the floor and visitors will be invited to mark locations of personal significance with push pins and and notes.

Nancy McRay’s “Great Felt Lakes” 20-by-15-foot entry will be on display at Grapids Irrigation, 1170 Plainfield Ave. NE, in Grand Rapids during this year’s ArtPrize competition. The installation is the shape of the Great Lakes cut out of industrial felt. The piece will be displayed on the floor and visitors will be invited to mark locations of personal significance with push pins and and notes.