|first page of the article!|
|ME at one of our Fiber Guild of the Savannahs looms in our Fiber Guild of the Savannahs fiber studio at Oatland Island Wildlife Center. I'm wearing a dress I wove and holding some of my Saori way fabric.|
|my NUNO FELTED fiber artwork|
Through the Eyes of Art:
The Fiber Guild Offers Something for Everyone who loves to explore Fiber Creativity
By: D. Annette Sasser for Chatham County LIVING magazine – Winter 2016
It was November and the early morning air was cool and crisp with an occasional breezy scent of nearby marshes. I made my way down a little path at the Oatland Island Wildlife Center until I came upon a small cabin where members of the Fiber Guild of the Savannahs had gathered after spending months in preparation for their annual Harvest Festival.
Several members of the Fiber Guild were dressed in authentic early American garments. The place was charged with excitement and the sense of a former era. Several homemade items, which included a couple of lovely quilts, displayed the Guild member’s skills in spinning, carding, weaving, embroidery, and etcetera.
Two large looms had been set up in the cabin and adults and children alike watched as two of the members wove colorful yarn through the warp yarns. Later we were all given an opportunity to try our hand at weaving. I felt as though I had stepped back in time. It was hard to imagine that not far away from this early American setting cars were bustling up and down Savannah’s busy Island’s Expressway.
My introduction to the Fiber Guild of the Savannahs came through Suzy Hokanson, a delightful retired art teacher who moved to Savannah from Albany, New York, seven years ago.
“I had a friend who grew up in Savannah and told romantic stories about the place,” said Suzy. “As an art teacher I knew about SCAD and all the wonderful things they do. My in-laws lived in Gulf Shores, Alabama, and when we stopped in Savannah one year on our way home from visiting them, it was not difficult for me to fall in love with the city. I loved Savannah’s rich history, many cultural events, and the busyness and excitement of large container ships coming and going along the Savannah River.”
Working with fibers is a major part of Suzy’s life. She served as president of a weaver’s guild for several years in New York, before moving to Savannah. “I searched on line to make sure that there was a fiber guild here,” said Suzy. “I contacted them even before I moved.”
Suzy grew up in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and learned to knit at age seven. “My mother was an amateur artist and knitter,” said Suzy. “I enjoyed knitting but I found my greatest love when I was ten years old. I got one of those little potholder looms children often get. I became obsessed with making potholders. It was my first taste of weaving. Then I started putting potholders together to make place mats, handbags and other things.”
Suzy and her husband, Bob, were married in 1967. Although they owned and operated a dairy farm in Central New York for eighteen years, she always found time to weave. “I made rugs, sweaters, hats, scarfs, and tops for our four children,” said Suzy. “I started out with one loom. But eventually I had several of them set up all over the house.” She laughed. “I love the feel of beautiful fibers passing through my fingers. Weaving can become very addictive.”
Suzy especially enjoys a freestyle form of weaving known as Saori, which was introduced in the late 1960’s by a Japanese lady named Misao Jo. It was while visiting Japan on a scholarship funded for teachers (called the Japan Fulbright Memorial that Suzy had the privilege learning about the Saori style of weaving.
“I was one of two hundred teachers who received a scholarship,” said Suzy. “The experience was life changing. Misao Jo wanted weavers to be able to create at the loom instead of following an exact pattern so that it would be a more joyful activity. Many American Weavers are ‘pattern weavers’. They follow a draft that looks similar to a musical score and weave in a particular way. That style produces lovely work. But at this stage in my life I prefer the freestyle form. I don’t like to do the same thing over and over. I set a loom up with a pattern but I play with it and make it my own. We encourage all Fiber Guild members to be creative.”
Emmie Howard and Janet Bailey formed the Fiber Guild of the Savannahs in 1972. The organization was first known as Handweavers Guild of the Savannahs. The name was later changed to Fiber Guild of the Savannahs to reflect the current membership, which encompasses South Carolina, and includes people who work with various kinds of fibers. Member activities consist of weaving, spinning, basket making, knitting, crocheting, quilting, beading, rug hooking, doll making, and bookmaking.
“We participate in two yearly events,” said Suzy. “Oatland Island Wildlife Center’s Harvest Festival is held in November and their annual sheep shearing is held in the spring. Most of the wool we weave with is hand spun from our resident sheep here at the Wildlife Center. “Storm” gives us black wool and “Cloud” gives us the white wool. Members of the Guild shear the sheep and we send it away to be cleansed and carded or fluffed up, which makes it very easy to spin.”
Members of the Fiber Guild are presently involved in a huge, magnificent project, which can be seen in the main entrance to the Oatland Island Wildlife Center. I was truly amazed by the lifelike creation of a large oak tree, which spreads its branches out and over the front desk in the lobby. It is truly a superb work of art.
“We add to the tree weekly,” said Suzy. “It’s still in the process of ‘growing’. We use a lot of different browns to make this variegated look for the bark. We wrap the tiny branches. Everybody is doing something on the tree. A former Savannah guild member, who is a spinner, recently moved to Oregon. She had been so involved with the project she mails us packages of felted leaves because she knows we need so many. And another young lady spent almost her entire summer putting bundles of leaves together.”
Members work on the project in the Guild’s upstairs meeting room at the Wildlife Center. “It will all be downstairs when it’s finished,” said Suzy. “The members keep working on it and then take it downstairs, which is not an easy task,” she laughed. “We then attach it to the tree.”
Urban Jupena, a gentleman who lives in Michigan, comes to Savannah in December and stays through April. He retired from teaching in the fiber’s Department at a college in Michigan and has been a tremendous help to the Guild in their tree project.
“He is a Godsend,” said Suzy, “and a great encourager. He is the one who came up with the whole process of how to create the branches. We use chicken wire and surge the fabric after it is cut. We have old sheets we iron and use for stability. We hand stitch it all together. The tree is growing beautifully.”
The Fiber Guild does a big show yearly where members can sell their projects. This past year it was held at SPACE (Savannah’s Place for Arts Culture and Education) which is a gallery run by the city of Savannah. “We had many different handmade items and several beautiful large quilts,” said Suzy. “We also hold a series of fiber related quick workshops yearly called ‘Taste of… (the Fiber Arts)’ and is held in January and February. People who attend these workshops are offered a taste of felting, hand spinning, weaving, quilting, etc., to see what they might be interested in doing.”
Suzy is a past president and a member at large in the Fiber Guild of the Savannahs. Her love for working with fibers and helping others find their creative niche keeps her busy. She is in charge of the web site, Facebook page, and various workshops.
“The Fiber Guild offers something for everyone who loves to explore their creativity, ” said Suzy. “Weaving and working with fiber is soothing and satisfies the desire to touch. I love it because it’s not just a temporary exercise but produces something that is beautiful and lasting.”
Membership in the Fiber Guild of the Savannahs is open to all who are interested in the fiber arts.
Here is the cover: