Lifetime Achievement Award
I was very honored this past Thursday (5/19/16) to receive a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Craftsmen’s Guild of Mississippi (CGM) at a Guild Luncheon. I was introduced by Kathy Perito, my co-instructor for the fiber classes at the CGM, who is also an HGA Board member. I was asked to talk about my relationship with the Guild and what follows is a summary of what I said.
I thanked Kathy Perito, Ken McLemore, CGM President, the CGM Board of Directors, and the staff of CGM: Nancy Perkins, CGM Executive Director, Sheri Cox who has been involved with the weaving class for many years in one capacity or the other, and Tomika Cheatham who besides being a financial guru served as the registrar for the weaving classes for many years. I also thanked past Executive Directors for their support and I was happy that VA Patterson, Julia Daily and Kit Davis were present.
My fiber life started early in Italy where all of the women on Dad’s side of the family were fiber people. But it was my Dad who taught me that I could do whatever I set my mind to do (good thing I didn’t want to become a brain surgeon!), but whatever I did, to take it seriously, without taking myself too seriously; this led my weaving from a hobby to become a passion; he also taught me not to plan too closely because life has a way of making its own plan.
Based on that advice, I decided not to stay in Chicago for my graduate degree but instead to go to the University of Rochester. It seemed crazy at the time, but after some six years, I had met and married my husband Terry Dwyer who build me my loom, learning to weave at the university gallery and got my degree!
When we moved to Mississippi, it was Dan Overly, the Founder of the CGM and its first Executive Director, who convinced me to apply for Guild membership, even though I told him that I didn’t weave enough to sell my work; he pointed out that education is an important part of the Guild. Once accepted, to talked me into teach weaving, even though I objected that I had never taught weaving before.
So started my teaching weaving career. The looms the Guild owned had gone through a flood, needed a lot of work, but luckily Terry was familiar with looms, so he was the one maintaining them. The Guild’s offices and classes were housed in the old President’s House at Millsaps College. The sales gallery, craft demonstrations and festivals were at the then Craft Center on the Natchez Trace, a log cabin owned by the National Park Service. With my weaving class producing new weavers and under Dan leadership, the Chimneyville Weavers Guild became a reality. It flourished and later became the Chimneyville Weavers and Spinners Guild; we will be celebrating our 35th anniversary this fall. Here we are a few years back celebrating my new studio.
When it was time to demolish the President’s House, the Guild’s offices – and the looms – moved to the Craft Building on the Agricultural and Forestry Museum grounds. But we finally got a permanent home! When the new Craft Center was built, the Guild consolidated everything into this wonderful building. Looms had to be moved again – and hopefully for the last time! The studio is smaller, but it’s quality over quantity.
At some point my friend and former student Gio Chinchar asked me whether I didn’t get tired week in and week out to go teach the same class. And I said, no, it wasn’t really the same class; new students come, new challenges arise as we have a seemingly infinite number of combinations of fiber, yarns, colors and weaving structures. Each class is different and the teaching has progressed to writing, starting with the handouts I provided for the students. This led to my writing. In the late 90s I was asked to write a column called Right from the Start for Shuttle Spindle & Dyepot, the periodical of the Handweavers Guild of America. I became its regular columnist and I just wrote my 70th article. Now we also publish monographs on various weaving topics.
But I started thinking about the future; I couldn’t teach the class forever and I didn’t just want to walk away from a 35-year long project. At some point I would need to find someone to take over, but who? One happy day, this great lady entered into my life. Here is Kathy (Perito) with me at the Guild’s 40th Anniversary party. Kathy started as a student and it became obvious that she “got it” from day one. She became my assistant, and soon after my co-instructor. She quickly learned weaving structures, understands the looms, has great creativity and a can-do attitude that makes the class really fun. And it’s a great luxury for me – she does all the hard work, I get to think about what students need to know so I can write about it!
None of this would have been possible without this wonderful man, my husband Terry (Dwyer). He built my first loom, in the front of the studio here, maintained those in the Guild for many years, and assembled the computerized loom, in the back of the studio in the picture, from many, many boxes; he is the webmaster for my website and posts my weekly blogs. And here he is making a mess of my studio to take pictures, but then, I need those pictures!
And here are some of the photos he took of my work. I don’t sell my pieces because every one of them is one of a kind that I need for my teaching and my writing; each one is an example of a weaving structure, technique, fiber, yarn, or color combination. I think of them as my reference library.
Again, I am greatly honored and very happy to have been a part of the Guild all these years.