Tucked away next to Grace Lutheran Church on Woodland St, the Hartford Artisans Weaving Center is led by Executive Director Katie Glass along with a handful of part-time staff and a team of about 30 volunteers. Glass recently joined the ranks at the Center with as much curiosity and excitement as a kid in a candy store, and you can hear it in her voice. “Soup to nuts, it’s a team thing,” Glass says. “I’ve never felt more kindness or support [in a workplace]…people help each other start to finish.”
In fact the Center, entering its 10th anniversary year after moving from Oak Hill, is a candy store in its own way. Enter the gate and walk up the stairs, and one of the first things you see is a community weaving project the Center brought to downtown Hartford for Art on the Streets. The Center itself is full of life and color – artisans and volunteers alike can be seen at their looms, with a patient, focused, yet light-hearted attitude towards their craft. How can you frown when you see brightly colored scarves, rugs, shawls, wall-hangings, and pillows in progress all around you?
Every year, the Center presents an exhibit of their artisans’ work on the third floor of the Hartford Public Library. This year, “Block by Design” explores the endless designs one can weave using the basic unit of a block pattern. The artistic force behind every stitch is Creative Director Fran Curran, who not only conceptualizes the colors and patterns, but she also personalizes each design to every artisan. At most looms you will see a piece of paper with a set of numbers in a specific order; that is weavers’ code. For the artisans who are 55 and older, they will use the code as a visual guide. For the artisans who are visually impaired or blind, they might listen to the numerical pattern on headphones, translate it to braille, or even memorize it!
When you visit the exhibit at the Library, the finished products are truly works of art. On the surface they clearly have an aesthetic and textural beauty, but the benefits of weaving go beyond the aesthetic. The art of weaving is multidisciplinary to the core. It combines math and art, and the act of weaving increases artisans’ opportunity for creativity, builds community, and helps build synapse connections in the brain. Glass added that doing things with one’s hands helps lessen anxiety. One of the artisans, Joanna, said it best: “You have to be very present…you can’t miss a stitch because you’re thinking about what you have to get for your groceries.”
“Block by Design” is on view at the Hartford Public Library through September 29, and you are invited to meet the artisans at the gallery on Monday, August 13 at 10:30AM.
Mark your calendars – their annual open house and sale is November 10-11 from 10:00AM to 5:00PM at 42 Woodland St! Visit www.weavingcenter.org for more information.