We have been in our new space here in Arroyo Seco for a year now! Over the last few months we have been honored to bring several of our local artists back into our shop. We now have five of our tapestry and rug artists and three of our apparel artists work displayed here. We are working on uploading everyone to the website, for you all to see!

This starts a series of blog posts featuring each of our artists. Today we would like to welcome back Donna Loraine Contractor! Below is her artist statement, the description of her process, a little about why she weaves and her current work and a little about her relationship with Weaving Southwest. Of course, we’ve included several photos of the tapestries we have of hers in the shop! Photos are great, but seeing these pieces in person is incredible. She uses our hand-dyed tapestry yarn to create beautiful pieces of art. Enjoy!

Donna Loraine Contractor, Artist

Donna Loraine Contractor was born in Waukegan, IL and came to New Mexico to attend St. John’s College in Santa Fe. Since she moved to Albuquerque 23 years ago, she has won over 30 art competitions and commissions throughout the state and country. Contractor’s work incorporates the landscapes and colors of New Mexico with bold contemporary architectural frames that create depth and optical illusions. The late Douglas Kent Hall, in The Thread of New Mexico, said, donna photo ( photo credit Sandra Coreless)4_jpg“Contractor combines unlikely dynamic forms with a scintillating palette to achieve an evocative and compelling style of weaving. She utilized traditional….concepts as well as certain graphic constructs that fueled the work of many twentieth-century painters and brings to contemporary tapestry a freshness that is sometimes startling.”

Contractor was named a Local Treasure for her contribution to the Duke City’s visual art scene by the Albuquerque Art Business Association in 2008. In 2002 she created the Bravos Award for the Arts Alliance – a series of small weavings. She operates an apprenticeship program at her Nob Hill studio. She has won numerous art competitions and commissions such as a triptych for the City/County Building in Albuquerque and a large tapestry for the Bernalillo County Courthouse. Other accolades include the display of her tapestries at the Albuquerque Museum, MFA at Santa Fe and an appearance on a HGTV special. Donna’s work is shown and collected throughout the United States and abroad. Her Tapestries were awarded “BEST OF SHOW” 2 years in a row at the Weems Artfest in Albuquerque. Two of her Tapestries in the Fractured Square series were installed in public spaces through the New Mexico State Public Art Program. One is located in the Zimmerman Library on the UNM, Albuquerque Campus and the other in the emergency room of St. Vincent’s Hospital in Santa Fe, NM. Most recently, two of Donna’s tapestries were featured in national magazines: Scientific American and American Craft Magazine.


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Neon Orange Curves and Rectangles, Original handwoven tapestry by Donna Loraine Contractor, 79″ x 40″


Donna’s Process

Color is a source of constant joy for me and I delight in the full range of its use from the bold and surprising color combinations to the subtle gradations of a single color. The image of a window set within a frame, a view to another place, another reality, is a unifying theme in my work. The colors and the unique quality of light in the southwest make up a rich and diverse palette that I naturally make use of and the diverse forms of its land and skyscapes find their way into the window “views”.

I use wool as my medium because of its particular light reflecting characteristics that are so unique and beautiful. No pigment on paper could reproduce the texture and luminosity of the hand dyed and tightly spun wool that I use in my tapestries. I am very concerned about creating a fine textile which is the vehicle for my image; each should be of the highest caliber. I use a flat tapestry technique, with no slits or holes ensuring the integrity of the tapestry as a piece of cloth. The tapestries are hand woven with 100% wool and have been moth-proofed. The wool has been hand-dyed, giving the colors richness as well as some slight variations and is light fast. I use a strong cotton warp, the underlying structure of the weaving, which is finished at the ends with a hand-manipulated edging technique, then finely braided and looped to fit around acrylic poles, which are provided for installation. All the tapestries are fully finished on both sides, as I laboriously sew in the tails of yarn from color changes, enabling the work to be free hung or used as a room divider.


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Black Neon Square, Original handwoven tapestry by Donna Loraine Contractor, 38.25″ x 39.5″


Why Do I Weave?

The answer to this has many layers. The first is probably my love of machines. I fell in love with the pottery wheel and the loom at the same time, at the end of my college years. I walked into a “loom room”, never having been at close proximity before, and fell in love with the way it looked, the things it could do, and all of its parts.

Next layer would be a love of the materials, from the strong smooth cotton warp to the luster of hand-dyed wools and the sparkle of silks. In the future I hope to be using some unusual materials which I am falling in love with like stainless steels, paper and UV changing fibers.

One of the final layers would be my love of the metaphor. This is present in the very act of “weaving” and is woven into my choice of imagery such as the use of the “window” and in my current theme of mathematics which is the underlying balancing force of the natural world.



Blues and Golds, Original handwoven tapestry by Donna Loraine Contractor, 30″ x 20″


About Donna’s Work

I usually work on several pieces concurrently. The various themes and motifs of the pieces cross-pollinate each other, the patterns and pleasing ratios found all around us: the golden mean, the spiral of a seed head or the placement of branches on a tree. The three specific bodies of work that I am working on concurrently are:

The Architectonic Series is challenging me to create three-dimensional imagery from a two dimensional plane. Hand-dyed and tightly spun wool, with its particular, beautiful, light-reflecting characteristics produce a texture and luminosity that no pigment on paper could.

The Universal Language Series draws from my background in liberal arts at St. John’s College, and my studies of Chinese mathematical images. Circles, curves, and fractal patterns explore the concept of nets or webs, all in order to showcase the principles that order our world.

The Feng Shui Series is a meditation on color, balanced energy, and finessed design, combining symbols found in the I Ching with geometric forms and vivid hues. All the pieces in this series celebrate the precision and elegance of geometric forms and formulas and the beauty of color and balance.


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Black, Red and White Skinnies, Original handwoven tapestry by Donna Loraine Contractor, Skinny Runner One (Left) 50″ x 9″, Skinny Runner Two (Middle) 42″ x 9″, Skinny Runner Three (Right) 50″ x 9″


Donna and Weaving Southwest

I have been showing my tapestries and buying my yarns at Weaving Southwest since 1989. Rachel Brown was a great mentor and inspiration for me through the years. And I now feel privileged to be working with her lovely granddaughter, Teresa, whom I first met when she was 11 and working in her Grandma’s shop. I love supporting a local company when I am buying the essentials I need to create my tapestries and their large selection of hues, each in 5 shades, satisfy my love of color. The fact that they are hand-dyed in small dyelots adds to my color palette enormously and gives the yarn variations and luster that is lacking in commercially dyed yarns.
Over the years, Weaving Southwest has built a wonderful relationship with both artists and collectors and has established itself as the place to go for contemporary fine art tapestries of the highest caliber and I am proud to tell people that they can see my work there.


We hope you enjoyed this post and we would love to hear from you! What do you think of Donna’s work? Have you seen her work in person? Leave a message in the comment section to let us know what you think!

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One comment on “Our Artists: Donna Loraine Contractor

  • Wonderful article, and marvelous weaver. I saw her work in Taos, at Weaving Southwest, a few years ago. Thank you, thank you for your inspirational work, Donna and Teresa, too!

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