In the Studio
WGM: Please tell us about yourself and introduce your practice
KM: My name is Kelly Marshall, I took my first weaving class in 1979 at WGM during my freshman year at the University of MN studying dental hygiene. I went on to study textile design at the U of MN with a year abroad in Sweden focusing on weaving and fiber arts. In 1992, after quitting dental hygiene, I started my own weaving business, Custom Woven Interiors, making custom Rep weave rugs, working with interior designers, architects and art consultants. In the late 90’s I started doing retail craft shows around the country and my product line expanded to include art for the wall, table runners and placemats, throws and spreads, upholstery fabric, pillows and tote bags. In 2012 I wrote a book Custom Woven Interiors bringing color and design home with Rep. It is a book about designing, Rep weave technique and also has weave drafts for 18 different projects. This brought about a lot more teaching, weaving lectures and workshops for guilds and art centers around the country.
WGM: What projects have you been working on lately?
KM: I have always enjoyed working with clients on custom projects and that has been a strong base for my business. This spring we wove 9 new rugs (above) for a home which we had woven 24 rugs for when the house was built in 1994. Very fun to be invited back and work with the client and designer again! Some of the initial rugs are still being used in the house after 26 years. When preparing the looms I plan out the custom order and then make a few “extra” pieces on the same warp often including fabric for pillows and bags, the extras are available for sale at shows, at my studio or off my website.
WGM: Tell us about your space.
KM: Currently my studio is in the Northrup King building, an old industrial warehouse in NE Mpls with about 300 artists. My studio is 2500 s/f, almost floor to ceiling windows facing east, with 10’ ceilings and hardwood floors. It is invigorating to be enveloped in so much light, and the luxury of spaciousness. I have 5 looms, my first loom a 54” Glimåkra, a 6’, 12’, and 4’ AVL dobby rug looms and a 5’ AVL production dobby loom for my throws. I have 1 full time and 2 part-time employees who help me with loom set up and weaving. We have a constant flow of custom orders and make some stock runners, placemats and throws for shows. I typically attend 10-12 shows and 3-4 workshops around the country per year. This year I did one show and 2 workshops before we were shut down with the pandemic and the rest of my shows have cancelled for the year. Fortunately we have been able to keep everyone employed working on custom orders from our loyal customers who are missing seeing us at the shows. One of the many benefits of being in the business for so long.
KM: My weavings are all in the Rep weave technique and I use a pearl cotton warp and either cotton, linen or a cotton/poly blend weft. I love the Rep weave technique and have grown my business by developing my own patterns as well as using some traditional patterns I’ve found in books. I also figured out a nice weave sett in a balanced weave for making cotton blankets which also reflect my patterns in a nice soft, drapey blanket quality.
WGM: What are some of the tools you’ve been using lately?
KM: Just a few weeks ago, I bought a used Adler industrial sewing machine on Craigslist and had a Servo motor put on it so it has adjustable speeds. I am not a very experienced sewer so a machine going 1725 rpm was scary and daunting and I feared for my fingers integrity. After a couple of weeks of testing, getting the right presser foot, and making a few bags, we are getting to know each other and I am very pleased with the new addition to my collection of equipment. I have a whole duffel bag of our woven fabrics waiting patiently to be transformed into pillows, tote bags, and back packs.