Lila Nelson came to Duluth to teach a one-day workshop in off-loom weaving in the spring of 1973. At that time she suggested that it would be a good idea to have a guild in Duluth. With this encouragement, the Fiber Handcrafters Guild had its beginning in August of the same year. An ad was placed in the newspaper inviting anyone who was interested in spinning or weaving to come to a “Spin-In” at a local farm. Seventeen people came to spend the day on a sunny hillside looking at a variety of spinning wheels and comparing notes on craft interests. From their group a board was formed and classes and meetings started at Endion Station Craft Shop in downtown Duluth under the direction of fiber artist Pat Lenz (Spencer) who taught a variety of loom weaving classes as well as dye workshops, batik, textile printing and inkle weaving.
Early classes included off loom and frame loom weaving, spinning and workshops in vegetable dying. During those first years demonstration were given on television, at women’s groups, at schools and at museums to promote the Guild. Basketry, pattern weaving, batik, knitting and sculptural crochet were added to the class schedule in the fall and members brought their looms and spinning wheels to participate in an open house at the Chisholm Museum. The Guild began a long established tradition of taking part in the Duluth International Folk Festival at Leif Erikson Park each August. The spinning demonstration at the steam show in Esko were another annual event.
The Guild moved its activities to the Duluth Art Institute at the Depot where meetings were held and the loom room facilities (5 floor looms and, later, 8 table looms belonging to the Duluth Art Institute) were utilized. An exhibition of members’ works were mounted in the gallery at the University of Wisconsin-Superior. A frame loom program was begun and outside speakers were invited to lecture.
Swedish weaver, Hand Krondahl, and Robin and Donna Poyner from the University of Minnesota, Duluth were among the early lecturers. Member-for-member workshops were begun with one on “Fair Isle Knitting” Throughout the years the guild has had many fine speakers and workshop leaders from the Weavers Guild of Minnesota. Among them were Marj Pohlmann, Ethel Pettingill, Charlotte Jirousek Miller, Cathy MacDonald, Mary Temple, Adele Cahlander, Irene Wood, Lotus Stack and Lila Nelson who returned, as did others, for a second time. Also, in the early years, Marion Strawson and Sue Tooms came from Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada to teach workshops in drafting and intermediate spinning.
Classes and meetings were shifted to Glen Avon Church in Woodland. Throughout the years newsletter have been sent to members two to four times a year. These have included class schedules, meeting dates, book reviews, and, sometimes, reports of workshops and special events. The “Spin In” had become an annual event with the day spent out-of-doors whenever possible at various locations in the area. Often other guilds from the Iron Range were invited to share the day’s activities.
In September 1976 the Guild participated in the “Spirit of ’76 Festival of the Arts” which was held at Spirit Mountain for seven days and evenings. The demonstration, performed in costume, were: weaving on an antique rug loom, the entire process of flax preparation using replicas of antique tools, wool and flax spinning, frame loom weaving and inkle weaving. All of the craft groups in the Duluth area were represented. Thousands of people – groups of school children and the general public – attended the Festival and observed our demonstrations.
Classes with an emphasis on Floor Loom were again held at the Duluth Art Institute in 1977. In the past, the strongest programs had been in frame loom and spinning. Now the floor loom program began to grow as more members gained proficiency. For four summers, three-day workshops were offered on the campus of the University of Minnesota, Duluth in floor loom weaving, spinning, and dyes. There was an emphasis on two harness weaves especially suited to antique rug looms.
The Tweed Museum of Art displayed the coverlets from the Helen Louise Allen Collection from the University of Wisconsin at Madison. In conjunction with this, the Guild sponsored lectures by Otto Charles Thieme and an expertise clinic for those who wished to bring their coverlets to be examined and evaluated. Another of the early projects of the Guild was a series of lectures and hands-on experiences for the Duluth Teachers. A wide variety of classes were offered after school hours. The response was excellent. Many teachers took advantage of this opportunity to enhance their craft skills for use in the classroom. Pat Boutin-Wald, a guest lecturer from Minneapolis, was in Duluth to present a workshop on unusual fibers and spinning techniques and Richard Nelson, a photographer, discussed his exhibition of Latin American textiles and conducted a workshop with back strap looms which had been constructed and warped in Guatemala.
In recent years, other members of the Weavers Guild of Minnesota have come with a variety of offerings. Jan Carter taught a color “correspondence” course and a workshop on Navajo weaving. Ruth Arnold, Linda Madden, and Susan Brock were also guest instructors. Nancy Butsick from Ely came for a day to teach pine needle basketry. A floor loom study group was formed reflecting the changing interests of Guild members. Several members helped to catalog the Chisholm Museum collection of baskets in preparation for a major exhibition. Trips to the Twin Cities were made both to visit the Weavers Guild of Minnesota and the Wool Growers Association and tour yarn shops. Two looms were purchased for the use of members and for demonstrations and a fiber source committee was formed for group orders.
An especially memorable workshop was one where Black Ash logs were pounded to obtain the flat strips to weave baskets. This was held on the shores of Lake Superior and Knife River. Two well known weavers to come to the Duluth area were Peter Collingwood and Ken Weaver. Collingwood presented two workshops: “Rug Weaving,” at the University of Wisconsin, Superior and “Card Weaving” at the University of Minnesota, Duluth. Weaver conducted a “Commission Weaving Workshop” at the University of Minnesota, Duluth during which a large wall piece was woven fro the new School of Business and Economics at the University.
For programming, the guild has utilized the HGA slide collections as well as the Duluth Public Library’s free movie rentals with a sizable collection which has grown through donation and special purchase. This is available to members upon request.
Looking ahead to 1984 and beyond
As a tenth anniversary event, the Guild installed an exhibit in the display window of the Depot in June of 1984 and the Floor Loom Study Group embarked on a study of fine setts. A “Friendship Coverlet” project was completed this year with fourteen persons weaving squares. With continuation of classes, the regular influx of guest lecturers and meetings at the Depot, participation in the Minnesota Federation of Weaver Guilds and Fiber Artists, and in Midwest ’84, it was hoped tht the second ten years would be as fruitful and inspiring for all of the membership.
The Guild participated in the Duluth Folk Festival the first weekend in August for many years demonstration weaving and spinning. During this period, study groups were formed: Floor Loom Study, Sin Ins, Frame Loom Study Group. The Fiber Handcrafters Library was started.
Programs: Susan Gustafson discussed the different facets of selling crafts. At Denise Perry’s home this film was shown: “These Hands – The Rebirth of the American Craftsman.” Among the classes were Judy Blanck’s Frame Loom I and II.
Ruth Arnold form the Weavers Guild of Minesoat presented a three-day workshop on “Ethnic and Handwoven Clothing.” There was a special tour of the Glensheen Mansion focusing on the handcrafted items which decorate the mansion. It was guided by Vera Dunbar. Another of the loom tours to members’ homes was mentioned. The Floor Loom Study Group made teh decision to examine fine setts. A friendship coverlet was planned where each member would weave fourteen squares 18 1/2″ x 18 1/2″ in an overshot pattern of choice. The squares were distributed and joined to make a coverlet.
Nancy Butsick and Nina Tefft from Ely taught a pine needle basket workshop. there was planning for the Minnesota Federation for Weavers Guilds and Fiberartists Conference. Denise Perry gave a report on the Friendship Coverlet Project. 14 weavers took part and the squares were exchanged, each weaver getting 14 squares to use for her coverlet or for pillows. In March, Carol Sperling from the Range Fiberart Guild taught a workshop on how to make felted mittens. Members were invited to take a Lichen Hike with Myrtle Penner in June at the Encampment Forest.
Phyllis Waggoner from the Weavers Guild of Minnesota was a workshop leader. The Weaving Room at the Depot now offered a place for meetings and classes.
A potluck supper was held after a visit to Esther Kyromaki’s Log House Museum where she esplained all the treasures in the cabin plus a demonstration of spinning with flax. At the potluck Carol Fideldy showed slides of her trip to Scotland. A study group for Spinners was formed. Pay Joyal shared samples and slides of her Batik studies and demonstrated how it was done. Bev Lahti gave us a synopsis of what she had learned at a workshop conducted by Mary Ann Johnson on business taxes and bookkeeping for artists. Susan Gustafson showed us how she has used the book “Spinning and Weaving in Biblical Times” by Joan K. Holborn to present this topic to numerous groups. Jeff Klingufus offered a Dogwood Basketry class at the Depot. Equipment was now available for rent at the Duluth Art Institute (Depot).
At the potluck Eileen Frisell, from the Guild in Ely, showed slides of her recent trip to Sweden as well as a collection of wild flower slides. In February there was a Sheep to Shawl Competition at the Depot with two teams of carders, spinners and weavers competing. At the October meeting Bev Lahti talked about convergence which she had attended in November. Mary Erickson from the Range Fiberart Guild presented her program “Design and Nature.” In March, Peg Torgerson gave a slide show about many different fibers as well as the plants or animals from which they came. Peg raises sheep on her farm. In October, Sue Gustafson and Bev Lahti demonstrated microwave dying while in December Carol Sperling taught basketweaving.
The Duluth Art Institute received funding from the McKnight Foundation for the weaving loft. On President’s Day our Guild again demonstrated Fleece to Shawl. The 7th Annual Conference of the Minnesota Federation met on the Iron Range with Nell Znamierowski as the keynote speaker, “Color Happenings,” and there was a welcome by the Ladies of Kaleva, Virginia, Minnesota. Karen Lamppa taught a workshop on “Marveling.” In April, Sumlee Beede from Thailand talked about raising silk worms and processing silk. Members visited Pine Creek Farm, Al and Jan Ringer’s home with 40 mixed breed sheep. “Inkle Weaving” was presented by Jean Frogner at the February meeting.
Ellie Alspach talked about her time spent teaching in China and her visit to one of the larges silk production companies. An annual Holiday Gathering was held at Julie Ball’s house.
In August, our Gild hosted the Minnesota The Federation of the Weavers Guilds and Fiber Artists, the 10th Anniversary Conference, at the College of St. Scholastica with Anita Mayer as the keynote speaker.
Jane Lorendo – Workshop on Tapestry. Classes met in the Weaving Loft.
Carol Sperling organized the Minnesota Mini Rag Rug Exhibit which toured the state for 6 months. The Knitters created a Handknit Christmas Story. Members were weaving for Loaves and Fishes Hospitality House.
“Spring on the Farm” 2nd Annual Open House at e Pine Creek Farm in Brimson.
The Duluth Art Institute purchased the Lincoln Library in West Duluth. The Fiber Studio was moved to the basement of the new facility (The Lincoln Building). Norman Kennedy, Musician and Master Weaver, led the group in a “Waulking of the Cloth”.
By Members / For Members Workshop Day. Jane Evans presented a lecture on her split-shed method of weaving rugs. Mary Vanderwerp and Deb McLaughlin opened Northern Lights Fibers in Two Harbors. Esther Kyromaki appeared on Channel 8 “Venture North.” The Floor Loom Group explored “Patchwork Rugs.” First meeting of the Rag Rug Study Group.
Exhibit “Uncommon Threads” Members of the Fiber Handcrafters Guild, Theater Hall Gallery, the Depot.
“The Artist’s Doll” with Karen Searle, a one-day workshop. Saint Distaff’s Day Celebration in January: Pot Luck and Spinster’s Challenge was announced. Judy McLaughlin was named Web Master. She created a website for the Guild. DAI Inland Sea Studio, Summer Studies in the Fiber Arts, was held featuring Madelyn van der Hoogt and Deb Menz.
Exhibit “Guilded Threads” Members of the Fiber Handcrafters Guild, Theater Gallery.
Summer DAI/Inland Sea Fiber Studio Offerings: Felting for children and Art Camps. For adults: study with a variety of well known instructors including Heather Winslow.
The Minnesota Federation of Weavers Guilds and Fiber Artists met again in Duluth for Federation 2000. “Topping off the Century.” Keynote Speaker, Anita Mayer, with a workshop following the conference. “Guilded Threads II” in the Depot Great Hall for the conference. Felting of the very large quilt made up of squares of felted images of wild flowers with Marlys Johnson as leader and organizer.
“Culture, Carpets, and Fiber Arts of Turkmenistan,” Rhonda and Mike Robinson plus another program with lecture by Rev. Richard Nelson about his Native American Art collection at the UMD Tweed Museum.
Lake Superior South Shore Tour arranged by Diane Lindstrom was enjoyed by all who attended.
The Fiber Studio was moved back to the first floor of the Depot. Classes, workshops and meetings were now held at the DAI Fiber Studio. The Annual Fabulous Fiber Sale and Open House in the relocated Fiber Studio was hedl in December. Program: “Retrospective of Alyce Coker’s Work.” Alyce showed slides and samples of her art work and her many other projects.
Su Bulter gave a workshop and lecture, “Surface Design for Weavers.” Leslie Williamson White “Free Form Knit and Crochet.” Programs included Saturday By-Member-For-Member at the Depot. One of the first “Open House” and “Open Farm” days at Paul and Marie Glaesemann’s Farm.
Artist workshop with Kay Reiber, “Summer and Winter: A System for all Season.” The Saturday By-Member-For-Member event was in January. Rag Rugs, Paintings on Silk, Lap Weaving and Crocheted Hot Pads were some of the classes.
Sharon Alderman taught “Designing: From Your Idea to the Fabric in Your Hands.” Annual Summer Fiber Retreat at Bev Martin’s farm. “Teen and Kids Art Camp” with Shelley Norden handling the weaving. “Birch Bark Basketry Workshop” with Jon Zazada.
The Karen Sather Butterfly Felting Memorial Project began. A hands-on experience with children in their classroom. Awards and Recognition: The DFHG was selected as one of the year’s winners of Handwoven’s FiberHearts Award. The prize was a Kessenich Table Loom. Studio Manger, Shelley Norden, wrote the application for the award. During this year the DFHG became an organizational member of the Textile Center located in Minneapolis, MN.
Once again members assembled for the yearly Pot Luck in September hosted by Steve and Laurie Cushing at their home. Rep Weave Study Group and Waffle Weave Towel Study Group. Michigan fiber artist, Amy Tyler, presented a weekend of spinning workshops. The first DFHG Rummage Sale was a smashing success! “FinnFest 2008” presented many opportunities to see Finnish textiles and crafts.