BY HAND

Exhibit features two weavers, different cultures

Posted June 06, 2011, at 4:11 p.m.
Last modified June 06, 2011, at 6:43 p.m.

Christine Macchi, executive director at Maine Fiberarts in Topsham, emailed this information to let readers know about coming events at the center:

Maine Fiberarts will present a gallery talk and reception with Maine weavers Susan Barrett Merrill and Emi Ito on Sunday, June 12. An open house reception will run 2-5 p.m. The talk, “Fiber Arts in Bermuda and Bequia,” will take place 2:30-3 p.m. at Maine Fiberarts Center and Gallery, 13 Main St. The event is free and open to the public.

The gallery talk is part of an exhibition of handwoven masks by Brooksville fiber artist Susan Barrett Merrill and handwoven textiles by Bath weaver Emi Ito on display at Maine Fiberarts through June 30.

Merrill is a sculptor and teacher who has been weaving for several decades. The exhibition features Merrill’s Zati masks, which are woven flat on a hand loom, then sculpted into three-dimensional masks and headdresses. Each mask is embellished with felted, spun and hand-dyed ornamentation created to speak about dreams, mythology and relationship with Mother Earth. Merrill often teaches weaving in community projects, which she will discuss in a talk on June 12.

This past winter, Merrill lived on the Caribbean island of Bequia, where she learned from the native people about weaving and other fiber crafts. She also served as an artist-in-residence in Bermuda, where she set up a loom for community use in the center of the largest village, encouraging people of all ages and abilities to contribute to woven tapestries and shapes. The process of the island stay and residency, and the many tangible and intangible effects, are at the center of Merrill’s gallery talk, which will be accompanied by a slide show of island life.

Bath weaver Emi Ito moved to the United States from Japan 12 years ago and began freestyle Japanese weaving known as Saori after her arrival. The Saori aesthetic encourages weavers to improvise designs and materials, rather than weave a decided pattern. Ito uses both colorful yarns and earthy hand-dyed fibers in her work and considers the process of weaving to be as much a part of the art as the finished textile. Saori is a Zen concept meaning “each thing has its own unique quality.” The Saori loom, created by Japanese weaver Misao Jo in the late 1960s, is often used in nontraditional art settings such as schools, hospitals, assisted-living facilities and rehabilitative centers because of its ease of use.

As a special treat, Ito will be on hand throughout June as Maine Fiberarts’ first artist-in-residence on location.

Maine Fiberarts is expanding its center to include the small red building located next door, which will be used as a studio and workspace to offer more workshops and activities. Ito will use the space throughout June as her studio and will demonstrate to the public her techniques for weaving and spinning. Contact Maine Fiberarts to learn when the artist will be present and working.

Maine Fiberarts is a statewide arts nonprofit formed to advance Maine fiber art, craft and farms through bimonthly solo exhibitions, studio tours, workshops and other programs. The group recently announced an open call for participants to take part in the annual Fiber Arts Tour Weekend to be held Aug. 5-7. Maine Fiberarts is 10 a.m.-4 p.m. weekdays and 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturdays. For more information, visit www.mainefiberarts.org or call 721-0678.

Snippets

An Early Summer Fair, featuring art and craft, will be held 9 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturday, June 18, at the Palermo Community Library, Route 3, in Palermo. Organizers said they are seeking artists and artisans to take part in the fair, and the participation fee is minimal, but space is limited. For more information, call Linda at 993-2246 or visit www.palermo.lib.me.us.

Ashwood Waldorf School recently donated three colorful hand-knit blankets to the local agency New Hope for Women. Students, parents, faculty and friends of Ashwood had knitted and stitched together wool blankets for its Knitathon school fundraiser.

Over the course of 10 weeks, Ashwood knitters created as many 8-inch squares as possible. Sponsors pledged donations for each square knitted. A screening of the documentary film “Handmade Nation” at the school helped to raise awareness of the benefits of knitting, and other types of handwork, for brain development and creativity.

The knitted squares were stitched together into five blankets at a cast-off party, which culminated the knitting marathon. The donated funds will go toward the school’s operating expenses.

The three blankets donated to New Hope for Women, which provides services to people affected by domestic and dating violence in Lincoln, Knox and Waldo counties, will be given to children of the agency’s clients.

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