It is that time of year where a Minnesotan needs an adventure. To get out and see something new and explore so that the winter doesn’t drive us bonkers. In search of such an adventure, I was scrolling through my Facebook feed. An image caught my eye and I saw it was for a show by the Weavers Guild called “Skilled Hands: Works by Weavers Guild Instructors of Minnesota.” As a weaver and multimedia artist, I wanted to see this show! My fellow artist friend, Jes Reyes (@jesreyes), not only said yes to a drive to Faribault, but suggested we take on a visit to the Faribault Mill to make an afternoon of it.
The Faribault Mill tour was at 11am. So we decided to leave town in time to get to that and then head to the Weaver’s Guild show. The tour was super informative and seeing machines from the 1930s and even 1905 made this weaver a bit giddy. We got to touch some of the finished blankets. And of course walked out with some remnants in one of my favorite colors, peachy pink! (Info for Mill: https://www.faribaultmill.com/pages/the-mill-store)
If you don’t know much about the mill, one fact that surprised me was it has had contracts for military blankets from the Army, Navy, to Coast Guard since forever. That will cause a steady stream of money to flow to a mill! And I bet has helped keep it afloat all these years. I had no idea. The mill itself is inspiring to see with its huge weaving machines and ancient sewing machines. Wonderful spot to check out when you are making a day of it in Faribault.
We traveled to the Main Street area of Faribault after the mill. If you have spent anytime in small towns in Minnesota, there is a great feeling to a thriving small town Main Street strip. Faribault definitely has that feeling with a cheese shop, a bead shop, a coffee shop, a Somali Community Center, food markets, restaurants, and bars.
The marquee of the multi purpose Palace Theater welcomed us. We walked into a space that reads hotel lobby but houses a shop of local artists goods, and two spaces to exhibit art. One housing “Skilled Hands” and the other a solo show by Theresa Harsma (@theresaharsma). These shows complimented each other so well and really got me thinking about how bringing the Guild’s exhibit supported and enhanced Theresa’s show and vice verce. The versatility of textiles to be sculptural or used in new ways is exciting and seen in both shows.
The Weavers Guild show itself is a large mix of work from garments, to jewelry, to sculpture, to fiber art wall hangings. Sometimes I think experimental weavings could be called fiber paintings. Like the Marie Westerman piece “Horizon” (photo above.) Is it a tapestry? It it a painting? I mean what is the difference? I have no answers. Coming from a fine art background I will call it a painting. I enjoyed textile art in the gallery setting and that there is a lot less debate about craft as art. Everything in this show was art to me. I liked how this show brought a bit of the Twin Cities to Faribault. It infuses the Fairbault art scene with something fresh.
With this show being work made by instructor’s all of the work was high quality in execution and in skill level. The show visually had little cohesion as each person made the work with different materials. This at first bugged me, I wanted a more esoteric theme, something to bring it all together. Then I let that go and really saw how each person’s work shown through on it’s own for what it was. Along with the preparator of the show did a great job hanging a lot of work in a smaller gallery.
Some of the highlights for me are Kala Exworthy’s “Evening Sky” the pattern was intricate and moved in a wonderful way. Along with the use of natural dyes made it a real show stopper for me. It was completely functional. I would buy it. And the colors and pattern were painterly.
Behind it in the photo above, the all hanging, “Mindful of My Stitches” by Maddy Bartsch. (Sorry Marty, I didn’t know I would need a close up for a blog.) I found this piece so wonderfully thoughtful. This piece feels like a drawing to me. With it’s blocks of colors and the way she uses stitching. The meditative feel of it’s meandering and thoughtful colors made it definitely mindful.
As a weaver, I see Kelly Marshall’s work and I want to learn from her. The way the ends of her weavings with the black yarn that is so much larger than the warp. I need to learn from her how she does it! I have seen her work before and I enjoy this style of weaving.
Lastly, of the Weavers Guild work, is Karen Searle’s work. I lived in Los Angeles for five years, and I would like to see Karen’s work in Culver City. I would like her work to be seen in Fairbault but skyrocket to larger stages. She is always pushing herself and straddles the world of fiber and visual art in a unique and vibrant way.
Overall, I enjoyed the use of non traditional materials like plastic bags, large yarn as sculpture, wire, etc and that continued when we stopped in and say Theresa Harsma’s work in the other art exhibition space. Her work was made out of things she recycled out of her studio. Some felted, some paper glued together and painted, and plastic objects. I took two close ups of the piece I wish I had the money to buy.
Getting to see a new small town, experience some history of weaving in Minnesota, and explore contemporary textile art in an afternoon made foa great adventure. Jes bought a Harsma piece to support local art. And we both drooled over textiles in the Guild’s show. More importantly, I saw a caliber of art that was truly fine art.
–By Paige Tighe, 2018. Paige Tighe is a public practice art with a concentration in performance and video. Her work is based around intimate connection and public disruption through fun. More about Paige can be found here: paigetighe.com