Upon observing a spider’s web, a bird’s nest, or a beaver’s dam, one cannot help but notice the systematic interlacing of elements that creates a coherent structure. The spider, the bird, and the beaver are nature’s artists, weavers that may have introduced the art form to our primitive ancestors.
Valley weavers Loretta West and Vicky Dalton understand the complexity of the craft and its many facets. Dalton, 45, is interested in the architecture of weaving. She is good at technique and structure, and her final pieces are utilitarian.
“I am a crafter, not an artist,” she said, “I am not filled with unbridled creativity. I do it because it’s a challenge.” Extremely technical, almost mathematical, her pieces take hours to complete and include towels, napkins and placemats.
Dalton began the craft in 1990. She had always been interested in textiles and it seemed a natural transition to go from sewing to weaving. While certain pieces seem common, almost mundane, they are not.
“The structure is actually a fascinating study in engineering,” she said.
She has taken only a class or two and credits her ability to learn easily from books. She is also grateful to the Spokane Handweavers’ Guild and its members’ endless supply of knowledge.
Dalton has no desire to sell her work; instead, she gives it away or keeps it. She is more interested in perfecting the craft. She has a collection of looms. One rug loom dates back to the 1800s.
West, 46, takes a different approach. While she appreciates the process, she is more inspired by color and texture. “I get all jazzed up by new yarns,” she said, “how they feel, catch the light and interact with each other.”
Her work is more fanciful than Dalton’s, and contains a hint of impressionism. Trained as a painter, West discovered weaving in 1994 while she was living north of Toronto. The nights were long and weaving filled a void. She went on to study a multitude of weaving and dyeing techniques.
“I enjoy being in the space when I am creating, where my mind becomes a distant observer and my body an instrument of creation,” West said. “A state of peace comes over me which is impossible to describe in words. It’s a real spiritual connection which I feel.”
West, also a member of the Spokane Handweavers’ Guild, specializes in unique scarves, shawls and bags that could be appreciated equally as an accessory or work of art to hang on a wall. Tapestry weaving will be her next endeavor.
Weaving has gone from a functional necessity to an artistic expression. Just as primitive people added natural dyes and patterns to decorate useful woven configurations, so do weavers today.
“I feel a connection to history when I’m weaving,” said West.
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