Above: Residents create a community tapestry on a loom built by local artist Meli Bandera
Weaving on the West Side
Community Creations at the Western Branch
By Chad Rajski, Youth Engagement Librarian
Around noon on September 23rd, we were visited by Navarre Middle School's Special Education teacher and a group of her students. The kids were already really excited about the number of books that we had to offer for younger kids. The picture book section was getting quite a bit of attention. Our giant tapestry loom just happens to be situated right beside the picture book section, so naturally there were questions about what it was. I explained that we are in the process of creating a community tapestry and that we are inviting members of our community to add to it. This was greeted with excitement and a length of yarn was cut. Some of the students were eager to jump in while others took a bit of coaxing. One of the girls was incredibly apprehensive, worrying that weaving would 'hurt her fingers,' but the teacher and I were able to get her started weaving and then she didn't want to stop. Each of the 8 students took a turn weaving, either sharing the same length of yarn or starting their own. It was great watching each of the kids try their hand at something new.
Prior to this visit, I remember a grandfather coming in with his granddaughter. They had appeared to have come straight from a Girl Scout meeting as she was still in her uniform. I was weaving in a few loose ends when they approached. I explained what we were creating and asked if they would like to add a piece in. The girl said that she did not know how to weave but her grandfather assured her that he could show her how to do it. They sat together and worked for about 20 minutes while he guided her through the process. Eventually, she was doing all the work while her grandfather just sat and admired her work.
This morning, as her mother was checking out the sizable stack of kids books that she had picked out, a young girl decided that she wanted to add to the tapestry. I cut a length of yarn for her and her mother and I sat down with her to show her how to do it. She was having a little bit of difficulty when suddenly she had an idea. She got up and moved to the back side of the loom so that her mother could pass the string through to her and she could pass it back. It was a pretty brilliant idea and it worked like a charm.
With any community project, there are always a variety of approaches brought to the table. One of our regular patrons, Summer, had prior experience weaving hemp bracelets and necklaces. She sat down at the loom one evening and began to weave long braids into the tapestry. After a while, she came to the realization that her work up to that point was beginning to resemble a head of hair. Unfortunately, the braids had enveloped the warp threads and pinched them together, leaving us unable to create the rest of the face. It took a bit of experimentation, but finally we came up with a solution. We attached lengths of yarn to the backs of the braids to create stand-in warp threads to weave more yarn through. From there, we were able to fill in the rest of the face and even added a nose.
It is all still very much a work in progress, but it has sparked some lovely interactions with our patrons. It is messy and chaotic, but it is becoming more vibrant and beautiful with each hand that touches it. It has its problems, but it also invites people to invent solutions. In many ways, it captures what it means to be a community.
Stop by the Western Branch (611 S. Lombardy Dr.) during normal business hours to contribute to our community tapestry. Read more about this project in our January/February Unfold.