This last year, 2014, was full of classes and wonderful events for us here at Weaving Southwest! From the classes taught in our studio, to a special class in Madeline Island, to our first ever Weaving SpringWild Retreat… it was a good year! Below are a few photos, highlighting the year. Enjoy!
Teresa and all of us here at Weaving Southwest
P.S. Our 2015 Class Schedule can be found here!
Habitat, A Study in Verticals
Interweave, A Study in Angles
Little Striped Rug
Neptune, A Study in Building
Stream of Consciousness
SpringWild Retreat 2014
We would like to invite you to join us for the tapestry weaving experience of a lifetime. Joe and I have planned a week of creativity, education, nourishment and relaxation, perfect for any experienced or aspiring tapestry weaver. Click on the Weaving SpringWild Retreat tab above for more information and/or keep on reading!
Growing up in Taos, I sometimes find that I take for granted the beauty and artistic draw of this small Northern New Mexican town. Once I stop and look around, there is no doubt why this jewel has drawn creatives and free spirits from around the globe throughout the last century.
From the Mable Dodge Luhan days, 1920-60’s, where Mable created a space for her talented friends (D. H. Lawrence, Ansel Adams and Georgia O’Keeffe, to name a few) to retreat and explore their creativity. On to the days of the Taos Moderns, 1940’s, when the area became a mecca for artists of all mediums. To the days of the Taos Hippie, 1960-70’s, where the Sterling Smiths (one of the many communes in Taos at that time) spent their days of communal living creating beautiful concho belts and squash blossom earrings, selling them off of impromptu blanket “galleries” in the plazas of Taos and Santa Fe. To the 1990’s when Taos became a destination for art collectors searching out historic and contemporary works of artists of the area. To today when you can still find famous artists painting their masterpieces on the sidewalks of downtown Taos, while local musicians play live on the stage of Taos Plaza.
My family settled in Taos during the time of the Taos Moderns. With backgrounds in the fine arts, color and design, my grandparents, Malcolm and Rachel Brown, moved to Taos to raise their family, live off the land and explore their artistic creativity. The beauty of Taos Valley, the simplicity of life, the cultural richness and the utopian visions of the area kept them both here to live out the remainder of their days.
After the kids had grown Malcolm and Rachel parted ways, yet remained close friends and continued their lives in Taos. My Grandpa created his hand-built masterpiece of a home with visions of the communal lifestyle and living the good life, while creating his collection of grand abstract oil paintings. My Grandma, delving deep into the world of textiles, built a mecca for fiber artists world-wide, while creating contemporary works of art using warp, weft and tapestry weaving as her medium.
Since I took over my Grandma’s business, Weaving Southwest, over six years ago, I have had dreams of bringing weavers to this region and showing them our beautiful world, the way we Taoseños see it. When my Grandpa passed, about a decade ago, my family sold his home to an amazing couple, Dan and Diane, who appreciated and preserved the beauty of the estate my Grandpa had created, SpringWild. Upon meeting Dan and Diane, about a year ago, and visiting SpringWild for the first time in ten years, it all came together. We decided to put together our first ever weaving retreat, held at SpringWild, giving the weavers a rare taste of the Northern New Mexico experience. After a year, or even decades, in the making, we are truly excited to invite you to our first ever weaving retreat, Weaving SpringWild!
During this week together we will dive into the world of the Taos Moderns, exploring your personal creativity through tapestry weaving with the guidance and support of myself, Teresa Loveless, while experiencing living off the land, in the utopia that is SpringWild. You will be living in somewhat of a communal sense, with a shared bathhouse and family style meals. Spending your days weaving on Walking Looms with the finest hand-dyed wool yarns. Your “studio” will be a canopy covered Walking Loom in the grass fields of SpringWild, with four opens sides, allowing for you to fully enjoy the beauty of your surroundings; Taos mountain, Red-winged Blackbirds singing in the willows, summer storms rolling in over the mesa, to name a few. If you have never smelled the summer rains, that is reason enough to pack your bags.
The day you arrive at SpringWild you will be greeted and shown your room. The rest of the afternoon you can spend exploring the grounds or taking a self-guided walking tour of Taos. In the evening, once everyone has arrived, we will all gather for a Welcome Feast. Everyone will get to know each other while Joe sets the table with dishes he has created from the freshest local foods around. We will wrap up the night with a viewing of the documentary Woven Stories, a glimpse into the textile richness that is Northern New Mexico. You end your day, crawling into your cozy bed, with views of the New Mexico summer sky and thoughts of the wonderful day you’ve had and excitement of the day to come.
Each morning you will rise to the smell of fresh coffee and home-baked pastries, followed shortly after by a home-cooked breakfast, a-la Joe. You will spend the remainder of the day weaving your heart’s desire, only to be interrupted by a delicious, nourishing family-style lunch. You are free to weave all day, or if you need a little more inspiration or a break from the loom you can venture into town to enjoy the museums and galleries or go on a short drive to take in some of Taos’ breathtaking sights. Once the day has come to an end, you will head out on your own or with a pack of your new friends and enjoy an evening on the town, finding dinner at one of the wonderful restaurants Taos has to offer. A few of the early evenings, before you head to dinner, will be spent at SpringWild, enjoying appetizers and a short presentation from one of our local fiber icons. On our final night together, we will all gather in the evening for a Farewell Feast to share our experiences of the week and show off our creations. The following morning, we will fill you up with one last breakfast and send you on your way, inspired, nourished and rejuvenated, for the journey home and months to come.
As I am sure you can tell by now, Joe and I will be your hosts. Joe will cook you incredible meals with fruits, vegetables, meats and cheeses sourced from local farms, including our own. I will be there to guide you through your weaving process and help you with any creative or technical challenges. Dan and Diane, the owners of SpringWild will also be around to guide us through the adventure of living at this unique property. We will be visited by Brook and Roxanne, our two employees and experienced weavers. Both of these incredible and knowledgeable women wove for my grandmother at Weaving Southwest for many years. They will offer insight and inspiration of their own to all of the weavers that come to join us. Our little daughter, Elsi Rae, will be stopping by on occasion, I am sure, to further brighten up our days. We are also gathering together some of the most wonderful fiber folks around to come and inspire you during the evening presentations.
This retreat is geared towards any level of tapestry weaver. As this is not a class, I recommend knowing the basics of Southwestern-style tapestry weaving. If you don’t have this right now, not a problem… I can recommend a little homework to get you well on your way before the retreat begins. We will be weaving on Rio Grande Walking Looms, so you will be standing all day. This is much easier on your body than weaving on many other types of looms. So, as long as you are in relatively good condition, weaving for 5-8 hours shouldn’t be a problem at all, even for those with minor back problems. If you have a health concern that you believe would be an issue, let us know before you sign up, so we can make sure this will be a wonderful experience for you. Your “studio” will be equipped with everything you need for the entire week, including a huge selection of our beautiful hand-dyed yarns.
This may be an experience you want to have on your own, however if you have someone who you would like to bring along (that would share your bed) and doesn’t weave, they are more than welcome! If you would like, we can help to arrange activities for them to help to make sure their experience in Taos is just as magical as yours.
There is a lot more information in the remaining sections of this website (see the Weaving SpringWild Retreat tab at the top of the website). Please read everything thoroughly and let us know if you have any questions at all. Space is very limited, so if you would like to join us, please let us know as soon as possible. Experiences like this don’t come along every day… who would have thought you would be able to be transported back in time to experience the life of the Taos Moderns?
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After warping all the looms at Woods Hall and spending a little time exploring Madeline Island, we were ready to go! We had several students from the island and a few that came from afar, to take our five-day Southwestern-style Tapestry Weaving Class. Some of them had decades of weaving experience, while others were complete beginners.
We spent the first day of class tying up looms and prepping yarns, then dove into several days of tapestry weaving! The photos below will walk you through this wonderful experience. Enjoy!
Source: Taos Magazine
Date: May/June 1998
Rachel Brown has created a wonderland of wool at Rio Grande Weavers Supply
by Melody Romancito
“It has always been a priority to make Rio Grande Weavers Supply a place filled with visual delights,” said Rachel Brown as she stood in the middle of her showroom, her arms gesturing to encompass all of the color and activity surrounding her. “It has to be as much a work of art as each skein of yarn, each loom or each tapestry. And from what people tell us, we have succeeded.”
Brown opened Rio Grande Weavers Supply 1985 as a source for better-designed looms, spinning wheels and other tools of the weaver’s trade, including several types and textures of multi-hued, hand-dyed yarns.
Weavers, both professional and beginner, and those simply interested in the history and techniques of spinning, dyeing and weaving wool, find Rio Grande Weavers Supply an informative visual and textural paradise. Here one can view fine weavings being created on a state-of-the-art Rio Grande Loom, experience a hands-on demonstration of a Rio Grande Spinning Wheel or simply admire the eye-dazzling array of colors and styles of yarns that are used in the making of hand-dyed rugs, apparel and tapestries.
One-third of Brown’s floor space is devoted to Weaving/Southwest, her fiber arts gallery that represents twenty of New Mexico’s finest tapestry artists. Artists often work right in the Rio Grande Weavers Supply studio creating rugs, blankets, pillows and a variety of custom orders for interior designers and homeowners.
But the heart and soul (or warp and weft) of Rio Grande Weavers Supply is Rachel Brown. As a weaver and tapestry artist Brown’s credits are long; her dedicated efforts in moving tapestry weaving from craft to high art have been widely recognized. In the world of wool and weaving she is celebrity, and was presented a lifetime achievement award at the Museum of Women in the Arts in Washington, D.C., in 1993. The awards were presented to thirty-seven women in craft arts for “making a difference” in their fields.
Brown has been dyeing wool yarns with acid dyes since the mid-60’s when she developed a sequential method of dyeing. The dyes she uses are the same as those found in today’s finest textile houses and are fast to both light and washing.
“Though we never set out to do this we have actually become color forecasters. We seem to anticipate new color trends in apparel and interior design,” Brown revealed, motioning toward the wall bins brimming with color-saturated yarn skeins.
Commercial yarns are often insufficient for the fiber artist seeking stylistic individuality through color and texture. It is the subtle depth of color created by slight variations in dyeing (referred to as the “abrash effect” by weavers and yarn experts) that gives yarns and finished pieces that special one-of-a-kind, gem-like quality.
“Whenever a weaver brings in something made with commercial yarns it just sticks out like a sore thumb,” Brown observed.
The variety of yarns available at Rio Grande Weavers supply include rug, tapestry, apparel and warp. Trading Post yarn is a specialty yarn that is tightly spun from both natural and commercially-dyed colors and used almost exclusively by weavers working in the Navajo style.
Another specialty yarn is the hand-dyed and natural New Mexico Churro yarn. Churro sheep were brought to the New World by Columbus on his second voyage. The king of Spain would not allow the Merino sheep to be taken from the country, so Churros, with their courser wool, were brought over. Churro wool was used to make the prized handspun Navajo and Rio Grande blankets of the 19th century. Many wool growers today are striving to bring back the Churro breed, now officially named “Navajo-Churro.”
Brown is steadfast in her commitment to, and appreciation for, the weaver’s trade. “I’m often humbled when I see the work of other fiber artists,” she said. “There are so many talented weavers out there. Rio Grande Weavers Supply is dedicated to providing them with exceptional yarns, equipment and tools, no matter where they’re located. We pride ourselves in a 24-hour turnaround of mail orders. We are also delighted to help weavers who call us for advice,” she added. “Our sales people are all experienced weavers.”
Brown is known internationally as the author of The Weaving, Spinning, and Dyeing Book which was published in 1978 by Alfred Knopf and is now in its tenth printing. She has been a force in the revival of weaving and wool production in the Southwest and helped found Tierra Wools, a Hispanic weaving cooperative in Northern New Mexico where she was a teacher and consultant for five years.
“I’m always torn between doing my own tapestry and running the shop,” Brown said. “I love the business aspect of it and am always trying to improve our marketing skills. We now have a network of three computers that does everything from accounting to mail order to tracking every skein of yarn, every artist and every customer.”
Weaving Southwest is located at 216B Paseo del Pueblo Norte. 758-0433 or 800/765-1272.
Woods Hall Craft Shop was our final destination, after our long venture from the mountains of northern New Mexico to the grassy woodland shores of Madeline Island. I was invited to bring a little taste of our region, via a Southwestern-Style Tapestry Weaving Class, to a part of the world that specializes in multi-harness weaving and beautiful handwoven rag rugs. The class was to take place in the Weaving Studio at Woods Hall.
You can imagine my surprise, when I walked through their doors for the first (and second and third) time, greeted by stacks of incredible rag rugs, shelves of handmade pottery, racks of locally made quilts and clothing and a wall of local yarns! These were just the things that caught my eye at first glance. Once I began to explore more, I found handspun yarns, handcrafted soaps and candles, beautiful jewelry and even Rock People! The shop at Woods Hall is a dream for anyone who loves things handmade and the world of crafts.
My next surprise was a beautiful pottery studio, where locals are invited to come create their works and take classes to improve their skills. Then we headed up the stairs to the weaving studio. I had no idea what to expect. As I rounded the corner, a smile spread across my face… I was in love! Looms after loom after loom filled the beautiful open space. Large windows on either side of the studio let the light filter in, casting rays of sunshine onto the beautiful wooden machines. To me this was an absolute treat, knowing I was going to be able to spend the next few days warping and playing with all of these different makes and models, from a sweet little homemade counterbalance to a huge Öxabäck with more treddles than I had ever seen!
Throughout my stay on the island, I learned a lot about this amazing jewel of a weaver’s paradise. Started by the church in the mid 1900’s, Woods Hall serves as a place for the small population of year-round residents to gather in the cold, isolating winters, creating community around crafts. In the summer, the retail craft shop serves as a tourist attraction, where locals are able to sell their crafts they created over the winter months. Genius!
Below are some photos of this incredible place. If you fall in love like I did, you can also visit the Woods Hall website by clicking here. Enjoy!
PS Having been in fiber my whole life, I was amazed that I had never heard of Woods Hall. It made me curious about what other hidden fiber gems must be out there. Is there another one that you know of? Please leave a comment if you have. I would love to hear from you!
As you may know, my mom, my daughter and I just got back from an incredible trip to Madeline Island, Wisconsin. Throughout all of my travels, I had somehow never made it to that part of the world. If one would have asked me what was in Wisconsin, I would have probably said cheese, cows and grassy farm land. Though they do seem to have a plethora of these things, there is so much more.
I guess no one had ever really told me of the beautiful North Woods (though I had heard mention of it in Bob Dylan’s songs), nor of the amazing islands that speckle Lake Superior just off the coast of the mainland. I had never thought of the area as home to the Chippewa, where they live alongside moose, fox, deer, bald eagles and timber wolf (to name a few of the incredible animals of the area). I had never known where wild rice grows or how it is harvested.
To say I was in awe, as we drove north from Minneapolis to Bayfield and boarded the ferry to Madeline Island, would be a bold understatement. We passed through miles upon miles of the lushest farm land I had ever seen, dense forests of lichen covered trees, to arrive at the shore of the grand Lake Superior. We took the last ferry to the island, arriving slightly after dark. After a good night’s rest, we woke to the sound of Canada Geese and the smell of a fresh dewy morning. As I walked outside to sip a cup of tea, while gazing over this foreign (to me) body of water, I was struck with a sense of amazement. How could I have never heard of this place before? This was just the beginning of of awestruck moments that filled my week to come.
Below is the first in a series of photo essays I will be sharing with you. Nether my mom nor I are photographers, but I hope these images still inspire you to visit this amazing place. I can confidently say that throughout all of my travels (and there have been many), I have never found a place with as much beauty as Madeline Island. Enjoy!
I would love to hear from you! Have you visited this area before? Or are you lucky enough to be from these parts? Do you know of another amazing place that just must be visited? Please leave a comment to let us know. Maybe I will be able to visit it too someday!
Source: The Pueblo Star-Journal and Sunday Chieftain
Date: April 18, 1982
Spinning…New Mexico woman champions her art
By Mary Jean Porter, Scene Editor
Rachel Brown is not the spinner of fairy tales, not an old woman bent over a creaking wheel. She is bold and dynamic – much like the art she loves.
The Arroyo Seco, N.M., resident was in Pueblo recently to conduct a two-day spinner’s workshop at El Pueblo Museum. Surrounded by piles of sweet-scented wool and treadling the sleek wheel she helped design, she was the furthest thing imaginable from a fairy tale character.
Lean, with bright blue eyes and weathered cheeks, Ms. Brown looks like the Southwest which has inspired her work. She speaks softly yet knowledgeably and almost crackles with energy – energy she says she gets from spinning.
The spinner said her art has changed and is beginning to get the recognition it deserves. There is new equipment available to do the tedious work of carding, there are new wheels available that allow the spinner to spin various weights of yarn without changing spindles. Some wool growers, too, are beginning to cater to the hand spinner and are producing the long, course, clean fleece needed for hand spinning.
Spinners are spinning wool from the Southwest, silk from China, alpaca from South America, cotton, flax and even dog hair. The art of spinning has become so popular that a Wisconsin spinners’ guild – which has more than 200 members – has a side guild of 26 members who spin dog hair.
“It used to be that spinners did not have the stimulation, the supplies weren’t available, nobody had wheels. That has changed. Spinning today is at the level weaving was 25 years ago,” Ms. Brown said.
That was when she moved to Arroyo Seco from New Hampshire, homesteaded land and began weaving and spinning. “I knew right away this was it,” she said about spinning.
“I do consider it my art form. I get energy from it. It’s very relaxing – I can’t stay away from my spinning wheel.”
She spins because she loves it but also because she wants to make the yarn she weaves. And to be sure it is the color she wants, she dyes all her own wool, sometimes using natural dyes.
When people began asking questions about her work, she wrote “The Weaving, Spinning and Dyeing Book.” She also operated her own shop with eight apprentice wool dyers and worked with a Santa Fe equipment manufacturer to produce the spinning wheel she uses.
“One of the most valuable things I have to contribute is to try to dispel the fears they (beginning spinners) may have – that it is time-consuming and difficult. They can spin any way they want.”
To illustrate her point, Ms. Brown quickly spun a handful of silky multi-hued karakul sheep wool into yarn. “All it is is the drawing out and twisting of fibers,” she explained.
The revolving wheel did all the work, and in no time the thick gray-brown yarn was wrapped around the spindle and she was reaching for more wool.
“I want to make people realize it’s not for a little old lady sitting in the corner by the fireplace for weeks. We’re now spinning great big gloppy yarns for weavers to weave into rugs,” she said.
Ms. Brown said she can spin about three pounds of “jumbo” yarn in about an hour, and can spin the yarn for a 4 -by 6-foot rug in less than a day. Another two days at her loom, and she has completed the rug.
“Some weavers and spinners complain that they aren’t recognized. But it really is becoming a wonderful medium for artists to work in. I think there’s as much worth in a nice striped rug as in a fancy sculptural piece for a gallery.”
“’There are no politics in the world more important than spinning,’” Ms. Brown quoted Mahatma Ghandi.
“Ghandi spun an hour every day. He figured that was what it took to make the clothes to keep the economy going. So you see, it’s not just for dumb little old ladies.”