As an occupational therapy student in 1984, I was exposed to weaving in “Craft 101” classes at East Carolina University. At the time, weaving was still a rehabilitative craft medium used with WWII and Vietnam veterans in rehabilitation and mental health facilities. So, in the therapy context, I studied which muscles were used to dress the loom, press the treadles, push and pull the beater. I considered the cognitive aspects for reading drafts, and which patients could develop the delayed gratification and patience for a craft that required so much of each. However, even though still taught in the 80’s, weaving and other crafts were beginning to diminish as a therapy tool. It just required too much time, space, expensive material, and equipment. So, I dutifully finished my required textile and other craft projects, and buckled down to learning the science of rehabilitation practice. But, still, I would always remember that love of texture and color coming together as cloth! I always appreciated its therapeutic value and esthetic.
Upon graduation from East Carolina University, I was hired as an occupational therapist at Western Carolina Center (Now J Iverson Riddle Developmental Center). WCC was developing an Arts and Crafts program for its residents, and had been given several weaving looms. I had been enlisted to help start the weaving program and luckily found myself immersed in the craft once again. I was thrilled to see how people with intellectual challenges gained such pleasure and satisfaction from weaving, as I had. I joined the South Mountain Handweaver’s Guild and purchased my first floor loom in 1988 and have been weaving since. Weaving became my “therapy”! I was fortunate to live in western NC, were many master fiber artists also lived and taught, and was thus mentored me in weaving practice and design. I was equally fortunate to work in a health care facility that still appreciated the health benefits of craftwork,
It continues to be the interplay of texture and color that draws my spirit to weaving; the solitary meditative clack of harnesses as they raise and lower, the sound of bobbins unwinding as they move to and fro, and the revelation and mystery of cloth that presents itself as yarns are woven together. I also love being part of craft that has been in existence for thousands of years, in countless forms, and an integral part of every culture.
As I explore the boundless variations and techniques of weaving, I will always appreciate the “therapy” it has provided to me!