Many hands make light work.  Read more about the Weaver’s Guild of Greater Cincinnati, Inc., a Fiber Arts Center, that is a hidden gem of woven artistry.

Head north on Winton Road from Spring Grove Ave. and turn left on Gray Road, best known for its nurseries.

It’s an unlikely spot, at first glance, for a building dedicated to weaving, spinning, basketry, quilting and  knitting, among other fiber arts.  Located at 4870 Gray Road in a two-story white house, the guild encourages artistic awareness, technical proficiency and excellence in textile crafts through lectures, workshops, study groups, demonstrations and exhibits.

Nancy Core, Judy Dominic, Beth Staggenborg. Photographer: Karen Anderson.

The guild celebrates its 70th anniversary this year, which also coincides with a weaving exhibit at the Cincinnati Art Museum.

CAM exhibits ‘Innovations in Weaving,’ by Jane Busse (1917 – 1987) from June 9 to September 2.  A long-time member of the Weaver’s Guild, Busse showcases several woven rugs in this display.

You can be a beginner or a professional in any of the fiber arts as a member of the guild, according to Karen Anderson, the current president, elected in July, 2018.  Anderson wanted a refuge from her rearing of her three children.  She felt trapped at home for a long time.  “If I am not busy, I am chewing my nails,” Anderson said.  “I was looking for something while I had babies.”

A friend suggested the guild.  She tried it and was hooked.  She came once a month and took classes.  Although she joined as a knitter, she now weaves and spins.  Anderson co-chaired the fall sale and Roc (distaff) Day, a German tradition of educational sessions twelve days after Christmas, for members only.  The roc used in spinning was the medieval symbol of women’s work. In many European cultural traditions, women resumed their housework during this time.

A theater lighting major from DePaul University, Anderson and friends from college taught themselves to knit.  She sewed bean bags as a child and created friendship bracelets for a swim team, so creating with her hands was familiar.

Terri Brenner. Photographer: Mary Ellen Kramer.

Anderson leads a group of mostly women from the Tri-State area, but also as far away as Dayton, Lebanon, Hamilton and Indiana.  Many are in their 50’s and 60’s and retired, but enjoy the camaraderie as well as educational programs and opportunities to display and sell their work. Some members are shop owners or raise fiber animals such as alpaca and sheep.

Members number 224 in 2017 – 2018, nine are men and 215 are women.

“The guild is a sharing of ideas and knowledge,” Anderson said.  “I have never seen a group of generous members who help others with a question about a particular technique,” she said.  However, Anderson remarked, “I like to stumble in and figure it out on my own.”

A group of women including Jeanette Pruiss, recently deceased, founded the guild to promote interest in handweaving in 1948.  They met at the Cincinnati Art Museum initially, but decided to meet in homes instead until the 1990’s.

Guild members found a home on Gray Road in 1997.  The leaders lived close to this location and chose to buy the building.

Only a few weavers’ guilds in the country have their own building.  That makes this guild unique and on the map nationally.  The closest guild is the Weavers Guild of Miami Valley in Dayton.  Based in the Greater Cincinnati area, the Ohio Valley Quilters’ Guild has more than 300 members.

“At 57, I was looking for a new adventure in life,” Melissa Lusk said.  “I have pursued weaving with a passion for the past two years with a focus on rug weaving.”  She has a Harrisville rug loom that weighs 550 pounds in her Clifton home.

She joined the guild two years ago after a chance meeting with some members working in the gardens at the guild house.  “They offered me a tour of the guild house, and I was sold,” she said.  “The house has a large meeting room, dye room, spinning room, a weaving teaching room, a weaving studio with looms for rent and a library with over 1,000 books.”

Lusk said, “You can learn from a book, but you need to have a hands-on experience with a teacher for personal instruction to really make quick progress.  The members of the guild are available to help a new weaver every step of the way.  This creative support is essential to success and to the continuation of the tradition of hand weaving.”

This guild has attracted national artists to their workshops.

Weaver’s Guild House. Photographer: McCrystle Wood.

Patty Lyons, a nationally recognized knitting teacher and technique expert, is coming October 5 and 6, 2018, for three knitting workshops.  She specializes in sweater design and sharing her love of the much-maligned subjects of gauge and blocking.  Lyons will present ‘Design Your Own Top Down Raglan Sweater,’ ‘Lace Doctor:  Fixing Mistakes in Lace,’ and ‘Patty’s Bag of Knitting Tricks.’

Laverne Waddington, an international weaver, now lives in Bolivia, but was born in India and raised in Australia.   She will teach ‘Finishing Touches…Tubular Bands & Other Andean Finishing’ on September 15 and 16, 2018.

Jason Collingwood, internationally known rug weaver and designer from the United Kingdom, came for a workshop June 22 – 24, 2018.  He discussed how to make a strong, serviceable rug in plain weave and twill.  He covered every aspect of rug weaving from designing and warping to finishing.

Long-time guild member Barbara Gallagher has an art weaving major from the former Edgecliff College.  Her instructor talked about the guild which prompted Gallagher to check it out.  She joined and has been a member for forty years.  She has served as program chair, president, co-chair of the November member sale and participated in several committees.  For the past 25 years she has owned Weavers Loft in Dover, Indiana.  Only thirty minutes from Cincinnati, the Loft is a source of looms, tools, supplies, and yarns for weavers and knitters.

“I feel I have a wonderful circle of ‘fiber friends’ who share my passion for weaving,” Gallagher said.    She feels it is a second family.  “I hope in the coming years to have more time to participate in study groups and hopefully pass on my love of weaving to new members,” she said.

A gallery at the Gray Road location exhibits works by members four times each year.  The member challenge theme for 2017 – 2018 was “Resist.”  The other three exhibits showcase works of members without a theme.

Lindsay Mauger, a new, young guild member, and Kymberly Henson, a well-known Cincinnati artist, are having solo shows at the guild in the 2018 – 2019 season.

Members have also exhibited at Morrison and Me, Indigenous and Gallery 708. Individuals often exhibit in juried groups or have solo shows at such places as The Carnegie, Clifton Cultural Arts Center and The Barn.

The Fitton Center for Creative Arts in Hamilton, Cincinnati Woman’s Club, YWCA of Greater Cincinnati Women’s Art Gallery and Xavier University have invited the guild as a group to show in juried exhibits.

“Space is always a challenge,” said Anderson.  Guild leaders are considering a larger space, whether it be an addition to the house or another building.  The first floor is handicapped accessible; but the second floor is not.  One challenge is keeping the house maintained with a reasonable budget, according to Gallagher.  An additional goal for 2018 – 2019 is a new website.

Members can join for $50.  They receive the benefits of a monthly newsletter, access to an extensive library of books, periodicals about fiber art, swatch collections and access to weaving and spinning equipment for rent.  The next meeting is September 6.  The Fiber Arts Sale is November 9 -11, 2018.

–Laura A. Hobson

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