Sunday, September 29, 2013

Questioning my competency as a Teacher

Linda Needles, the manager of the Community Threads project recently sent me these images of the last 2 squares to completed on the banners. The weavers include many textures and creative approaches. 
A new term of weaving classes has begun, and the first thing that struck was how happy and enthusiastic  as well as loud and boisterous students have been in the class, communicated by the volume at which they spoke, at times making it difficult for me to be heard and to teach. I wondered if I was a good teacher at this point, thinking that I had lost complete control over my class! LOL! So questioning my own competency I started reading some research about creating good learning environments and I came upon “Constructivist Learning Environments” by  Brent G. Wilson and what I learned is that this is all a very good sign!
Another square completed for the Community Threads project. I was baffled at first as to what I was looking at and Linda Needles told me its someone looking through a camera lens and sees a bird! How original!
I was very relieved to hear what he had to say and what he considered to be good learning environments . The role of  the teacher in his view is one where lerning is fostered  and supported, but not controlled or dictated in any strict fashion.  He talks about the difference between ‘instructional environments’ and  ‘learning environments’. ... a learning environment is one in which  learning is fostered and supported, as opposed to an instructional environment, that is a more controlled and directive of the students activities and interactions.  To someone observing the class, a ‘learning  environment’ appears chaotic  (which it certainly does in our class!), however this only indicates that the environment is  dynamic, responsive and vibrant. This approach sees the student taking more initiative in their learning and leaving the teacher to take a back seat, perhaps guiding, advising and encouraging rather than being directive.  The teacher is responsive to each individual student as they work at their own rhythm and decide individually what direction they want to take and what kind of challenges they are ready to take on.

Kate Kitchen with her recently completed tapestry.

The idea of creating a ‘learning community’ is definitely what is happening in our classroom at the Toronto Weaving School, where students are eager to help each other on projects and inspire others with the projects they have done. The students support each others learning’s a real environment of cooperation and caring.  Thus creating a good ‘learning environment’ is one in which learners have at their disposal the tools, equipment, and resources that are complemented by the impact other people in the learning environment have upon each other.  So I guess I am now convinced that I have intuitively created an optimum learning environment for weaving, thanks to you and your lively participation. In all of this I only ask that you not forget and include the newcomers to the class .....

Agota Dolinay sent me this photo of her (on the left) beside Maximo Laura, Mai Liis Toome and Ellen Allas who are presently in Peru for a total of 3 weeks. What a great adventure. Give Maximo our regards!

Lynn Mayne from the American Tapestry Alliance writes: 

Traveling south from Michigan this week gave me the opportunity to 
visit “Outside The Line,” ATA’s Small Tapestry International 3 in 
Troy, Ohio. This second venue of the show is just six miles off I75 
in a landmark mansion on the main street which has been converted into
a cultural center owned by the city.

The show is up a wide staircase on the second floor on beige fabric- 
covered walls. I enjoyed seeing these actual works which in many 
cases were even more impressive than their images in the exhibition’s 
catalog. The dimension and color of the catalog cover tapestry, 
“Colorin” Books" by Sharon Crary was striking. Margo Macdonald’s 
“Ebey’s Prairie” was made even more beautiful by the paper collage 
mounting which doesn’t show up in the catalog picture. Similarly, I 
could really appreciate the delicacy of Dorothy Clews’ “The Space 
Between” by seeing it in person. “Beyond the Line - A Sense of 
Injustice” by Suzanne Fitzgerald was arresting and Joyce Hayes’ “Etude
4” just shimmered.

This upstairs space could have used more tapestries and would have 
been better if the eight small and 3D pieces would have been 
positioned with the others instead of being enclosed in a big display 
cabinet on the first floor. The exhibit coordinator told me that this 
show met the center’s requirement for a traveling show, especially 
since it is an international one.

I also want to encourage anyone who can to visit The Folk Art Center 
in Asheville, NC for the Tapestry Weavers South show, “ The Beat Goes 
On.” This is a beautiful big show with 49 tapestries in a high- 
ceilinged gallery. The exhibition will be on display until January 
12, 2014.

Tapestry Opening Reception: Community Threads
October 27 2-5pm
Gibson Centre
63 Tupper Street West 
Alliston Ontario
The exhibition is on until November 5. Contact Linda Needles at for more info.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Rug hooking, chair caning and felted contributions to the Fate Destiny and Self Determination project

This week was the first week of weaving classes has begun at the Toronto Weaving School where the Fate, Destiny and Self-Determination tapestry project is housed. I was delighted to have two men come to the site to put in some weaving time. On the left, Maurice Poon, a professor at the York University and Scott Ford, who works for Hydro One.  Scott wrote:  Thanks for showing us your project and how to do a little tapestry too!  It was fun and an honour to help with your amazing project!  It was also great to see your class and all the looms!  Holy complicated!!!   :) It was good to do something a little (a lot!) out of the ordinary tonight. 
While I was busy with class Scott and Maurice had fun!

This is Maurice's contribution to the project.....
....and Scott wove the two centre shapes. 

Donna Kim from Edge of Your Seat in Toronto ( wove this shape with natural materials, some of the materials she uses for chair caning.  

Donna Wills, from Guelph Ontario Canada wove these three shapes.

Leonore Johnstone from created a felted shape.

 Linda Maxwell's submission, employing rug hooking, was carefully thought out. She is from Nova Scotia Canada and she writes:
Being a long standing fibre enthusiast (weaver, spinner, dyer etc...) it was difficult to decide which skill to use in the construction of my submission. Since hooking is both traditional and popular in my community, it seemed appropriate to work in this form instead of traditional tapestry. The piece I have sent uses a sculpted technique which I have recently learned.
 The fibre is 100% wool cloth (strips) for the background and 100% wool yarn for the motif, and these are worked on a linen base.....The subtle colour difference between the background and the design, and the design itself, are significant. The “scribble” of the design is represents two words – Gregg Shorthand symbols – that read, “women’s work”. The symbols fade into the background, just as women’s work, throughout the ages has gone unrecognized despite their huge contribution to their communities and the economy [and families].
 The shorthand symbols were chosen to applaud the women who learned this system which required intelligence, speed and accuracy – enabling them to take down the words someone was speaking, in an abbreviated form (symbols) and later, sometimes weeks later, transcribe them accurately. Really, it was nothing. Just “women’s work”. 

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Community Threads Exhibition - 12 Community Tapestries by the Nottawasage Handweavers and Spinners

From left to right: Sandi Nemenyi, Libby Hoffman, Valerie Splaine, Linda Needles, Natalia Sugden, Janet Fayle. 
Two years ago the Community Threads tapestries project in Alliston Ontario was launched. Inspired by  a fibre artist in Leeds, UK, who worked  for 10 years on embroidered and quilted wall hangings celebrating the city’s history,  the Nottawasaga Handweavers and Spinners asked me to help them design 12 handwoven tapestries depicting the cultural, leisure, agricultural, and historical aspects of the New Tecumseh municipality. Each panel has a theme or several themes, and four accompanying images. Starting from the left, In the first panel  different views of the Gibson Centre in Alliston are featured. The second and third panels feature rural views and monuments that are placed in these settings. The fourth depicts scenes of agricultural life, the fifth leisure and cultural activities, and the sixth show different views and buildings of the Banting Homestead. 
From left to right: Sandi Nemenyi, Valerie Splaine, Janet Fayle (notably absent is Elisabeth Bishof who must be credited for all she has done in weaving tapestries, and the finishing of the them.)
The panel on the left pays tribute to the Gibson Truck company and its contribution to the economic well being of Alliston. The eighth also shows agricultural life, but specifically the kinds of crops grown in the region, eg the last square is a canola field. The ninth features the South Simcoe historic train (, -  children's playground, a church and a trillium. Partially funded by the Ontario Arts Council this initiative could not have been  possible by  many volunteer hours of the members of the Nottawasaga Handweavers and Spinners Guild, and some contributions from other members of the community. To date 9 of the tapestry panels are complete, the bulk of them woven by a handful of guild members. One in progress is being woven entirely with handspun yarn. It's still not complete but I am eager to see it. Two others are nearing completion and all 12 panels may be ready for display for the exhibition that will take place. Here are the details of their upcoming exhibition:

Gibson Centre
63 Tupper St. W, Alliston, Ontario
October 23-November 21, 2013
Opening Reception: Sunday October 27 2-5 pm

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

More tapestry shapes, workshops, exhibitions and calls for entry

JacQueline Kellor , Saskatchewan, Canada

Madeleine Darling Tung
Ontario, Canada
Madeleine is the co-editor of the Canadian Tapestry Network newsletter. Recently she moved back to Ontario from British Columbia. She writes: "Joe Lewis wrote a nice article about in his fibreQuarterly blog. You can click on the link below to see it.

Agota Dolinay created these shapes. She says " There is some Canadian summer woven into these little shapes....sunshine, dragonfly buzzes, loon calls and the scents of the river....I wove them at the cottage this  one sunny day on a tiny loon I made from scraps of wood lying around, waiting to be sued for something lovely. The yarn was leftover from my rabbit tapestry series which are presently at the cottage." Agota will be going to Peru through Puchka Tours and will study tapestry weaving with Maximo Laura.  

Juana Sleizer

  • Show up Mondays and Wednesdays between 10am to 8pm commencing September 16 at the Toronto Weaving School to weave on the international tapestry project, Fate, Destiny and Self-Determination/Le sort, destin et l'auto-determination. Contact Line to confirm attendance at 
  • The Nottawasaga Handweavers and Spinners would like some help in weaving their community tapestry project in preparation for their exhibition in Alliston Ontario: 63 Tupper St W, Ontario Mon-Sat 10am-5pm until mid-October 2013. 

Go to to see current tapestry exhibitions in the Ottawa/Gatineau area, including work by Maximo Laura, Archie Brennan and Susan Martin-Maffei.

Community Threads Exhibition: 12 tapestries depicting community life in  New Tecumseth, Ontario 
Gibson Centre,
63 Tupper St W, Alliston, Ontario
October 23-November 21, 2013
Opening Reception: Sunday, October 27 2-5pm


  • Workshops at the Moonrain Centre in Ottawa during the month of September. Click on the link below to find out more. Of note, there is an intermediate tapestry workshop with Archie Brennan and Susan Maffei Martin. 

  • The Divine Weave with Pam Patrie
September 13,14,15Th 2013
To Evoke is our design concentration this Fall.
This is retreat workshop is held at the Arts Cabins at Mt Hood Oregon.
One and a half hours from Portland.
$275.00 + a lodging fee for a shared cabin with the group. Camping is near by.
All Looms are warped and ready, Materials are included.

Contact Pam for further information 

The Divine Weave
Arcadia Cabin near Cannon Beach Oregon 
October 11,12,13Th 2013
Lodge and learn with Pam at her cabin on the ocean.
Same costs $275.00