Meet Mary Jean Martin, the Art Weaver.
This summer I received a call from an artist in Helena. This woman, Mary Jean Martin, had just seen the "Behind The Scenes" process photography I had done for her nephew, and NEEDED to have a session for herself!
Often, I have clients bring their work to my studio, but this was a special case. Mary Jean is a weaver who makes beautiful fabric on a large wooden loom. I needed to travel to her. So we put a date on the calendar, I drove to Helena with my photography gear and I documented the magic of her process.
TELL ME A LITTLE BIT ABOUT YOURSELF AND WHAT YOU DO:
Hmm... I am Montana born and raised quirky Granny. I live in Helena with my great Hubby and spend my days weaving beautiful fabric and making mixed media collage in the basement! I have a passion for color, poetry, bird watching and my Granddaughter.
HOW/WHEN DID YOU DISCOVER YOU LOVED WEAVING?
I first learned to weave when I was in the Army stationed at Ft. Bragg, North Carolina. There was a craft center on base with a weaving loom and a lovely woman there taught me to use it. I spent the next few years saving every penny to buy a loom of my own. My life got a little rocky and I was forced to put weaving on hold. I rather forgot about weaving and played with all the other fiber loves of my life. About six years ago, when I began to weave again, it was like finding an old and beloved friend. I was a little sad at losing all that time but rejoiced in the renewed passion for the loom. I think it is really cool that I am now doing what I dreamed of doing so long ago. You never know where life might lead!
WHAT HAS THE LEARNING PROCESS BEEN LIKE?
Weaving is a pretty technical and precise medium, so it has taken a lot of practice, for sure. I was told early on that I was not making fabric, I was making a weaver. That really helped me focus and be easy on myself when the "fabric" was questionable. I was going down the path of becoming a weaver.
WHAT IS THE MOST CHALLENGING PART OF WEAVING?
The most challenging is narrowing my focus! Weaving is such a vast and complex medium that I could have been weaving every day since I was tall enough to reach the treadles and NEVER get a chance to try everything and learn everything. My brain is constantly going "oh!! What about this! Maybe I should try that!" I have to corral myself, otherwise I would never develop my own distinct artistic voice and gain the technical skills to bring it forth.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE PART ABOUT WEAVING?
Hard question!! I really like the whole process but I suppose my favorite thing is having an idea pop into my head and seeing it materialize on the loom. I also like the surprises, especially color, that I didn't predict.
HOW DO YOU GO ABOUT DESIGNING A PATTERN?
My ideas for weaving usually start with color. I see something that catches my eye (like colors in the clouds or spools of thread on the shelf) I then begin to plot out the structure of the fabric. I use a computer program or plot the weave out on graph paper to get an initial sense of whether my idea will work or not. If I am trying out a new thread or new weave structure, I will take the time to actually weave a physical sample. Nothing is more discouraging than to put a long warp on the loom that turns out ugly!!
WHAT ARE YOUR FUTURE GOALS?
My long term goal is to be self-supporting as an artist and things are moving nicely in that direction. Along with that I would, someday, like to create a large installation with an accompanying book – “365 Dishtowels, A Celebration of 10,000 years of daily kitchen work”.
HOW DID YOU FIND OUT ABOUT MANDY'S TAXONOMY WORK?
I first saw a greeting card that Mandy did with golf clubs that looked like musical notes. I thought it was so cool. I then found out she was doing a shoot for my nephew, Brittan Ellingson of Notice Snowboards. I just had to have her shoot my tools and process too!
WHAT WAS YOUR FAVORITE PART OF THE PROCESS?
Surprisingly, my favorite part was the portrait shoot. I was dreading that because I don't think I am particularly photogenic. Mandy made it fun AND the portraits look good. She captured my personality in a way that I just love.
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tags Mary Jean Martin, Montana Entrepreneur, Montana Artist, Weaver, Art Weaver, Helena Montana, Mandy Mohler, Field Guide Designs, Artist Process, Artist Tools, Behind The Scenes, Loom, Art Interview, Artist Studio, Studio Tour, Handmade Movement, Fabric, Notice Snowboards, Notice Custom Snowboards, Brittan Ellingson