Saturday, February 25, 2017

University of North Georgia weaving class and tapestry

This is going to be a bit long... I realized that after I started writing so I'm going warn you about that.  You might want to jump to the photos at the bottom!


The University of North Georgia is where I spent twenty-eight years teaching in the art department.  It was North Georgia College at the time and I began working there in 1972 in the newly formed Fine Arts Department that included visual art and music majors and a theater minor.  It was small in number of faculty (two in music, three in visual art, one in theater).  Student numbers were also modest--visual art majors outnumbered the music majors about two to one, about twenty majors in the two offered art degree programs for the first few years.

Although I'm a tapestry weaver now (and have been for over twenty years), my degree was in art education.  I'd selected as studio courses those in drawing, painting and printmaking and my experience in craft making was only in a couple of ceramics classes--and I liked those quite a lot.  I even considered concentrating on ceramics as a studio practice after graduation but soon decided that it wouldn't be a reality in my real life.  After all, sharing a small apartment didn't lend itself to setting up a pottery studio.  It was much easier to continue with drawing and painting media.  And who has time to do much (any?) art work of one's own when teaching art classes at high school anyway?  That's what I was doing for the first three years after I graduated, teaching high school art classes and learning about textile making processes along the way.  My first attempts at weaving were done during my first year of high school art teaching--found the Sarita Rainey book, Weaving without a Loom, in the school's library, built simple frame looms, and plunged in. The students and I warped up those frames and wove with yarn, cloth, sticks... anything we could put into those threads on the loom.  They enjoyed it and I was hooked!

Here's my copy... a bit ragged from use but I still have it!
In graduate school, which I attended during summers as I taught during the academic year, I eagerly took a general textile class that included weaving, spinning, dyeing, and basic surface design methods.  I loved working with fiber techniques and I realized that I could indulge my desire to use process with materials in the making of images.

When I began working at NGC teaching the art education classes was part of my job.  Other courses I taught were watercolor painting, color theory and also textiles.  Although I had rudimentary textiles experience myself, I was learning as I was teaching, reading, trying things and taking short courses.  During my first year, we built and used frame looms.  In 1973 I was able to order three Macomber looms.  Over the next two decades the department chairman was able to find funds to gradually increase the equipment in the weaving studio to include several more looms, to add shafts to the ones we had, and to buy assorted smaller equipment.  A couple of times the department also received looms as donations from the estates of people who knew about our growing weaving program.  When another school in the university system closed its weaving program, NGC was able to arrange a transfer of equipment and we added six more looms.

I'm very happy to say that the three looms that arrived at NGC in 1973, new from Macomber, are still there today and in use by current students.  I'm also very happy to say that the weaving and surface design classes are still supported by the department and the university, have nice separate studio spaces and are well attended by students.  I dearly hope that weaving and surface design will still be around many decades from now.

This long discourse brings me to the reason for the post--to show photos of a recent tapestry experience by the current crop of weaving students at UNG.  I visited with the class for one session a few weeks ago to show how to set up the frame looms for tapestry.  Jo-Marie Karst, the weaving instructor, took them from there.  The class came to my studio for a visit one day last week and I've dropped in a couple more times to see how they're doing.  Most of them have now finished and are mounting their small pieces.  I think they've done a wonderful job!  Congratulations, new tapestry weavers!

And here they are:

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