Residency in Review I

Last Thursday, I drove a few hours east to a small town called Star, NC. I’ll be spending the rest of the month here for a textile residency at a magnificent place called Starworks, which is a hub of energy and craft. Generally, the residencies I have been to have been small affairs; a remote house, a few building spread out throughout a little town, a room. My fellow humans during a residency have also been numbered. At the most I think I’ve had a community of seven or eight other folks in residence with me. At the least, I’ve been completely on my own. 

Starworks is a behemoth of a building. I think there’s still a bunch of rooms I haven’t seen or explored. It used to be a fruit-of-the-loom factory before artists took it over and converted it into the craft center it is today. They have a ceramic and glass program where countless residents and employees work, creating beautiful pieces for the large galleries upstairs as well as developing their own personal practice. 

  the rooms are gigantic here

the rooms are gigantic here

  testing from the clay program

testing from the clay program

  complimentary moody outdoor shot

complimentary moody outdoor shot

The textile program isn’t official, which means that someone donated three looms to them and in the slightly-edited words from that Kevin Costner flick, “If you’re donated looms, textile folks will come.” My “studio” is a warehouse (and my warehouse is cold) and it contains yes, three looms (two of which are pretty ancient and lovely) as well as a gym with lots of workout equipment, several racks containing books which display the different kinds of socks that were produced in the factory in its heyday, at least twenty-five tables (both the standing and folding variety), old glass and ceramic pieces from previous displays and shows, around thirty racks filled with boxes (haven’t looked inside), two couches, an assortment of different kinds of chairs and possibly a ton more that I haven’t really taken in yet. What I’m saying is that it’s large in there.

I’ve set up shop in the middle of the room, where the looms are. My first task was to carefully clean the looms, brushing months (maybe years) of dust off of them, and to sweep and mop the floors around them. While it’s nice to have a clean working space, it’s absolutely essential to clean looms before you use them. While I set up and begin to weave, I will be passing textile materials around and through multiple parts of this equipment and dust clings to cotton like eucalyptus in a Koala’s paw (remind me to edit out that dumb joke later).

  measuring yarn on the warp board

measuring yarn on the warp board

  slowly pulling each thread through the reed

slowly pulling each thread through the reed

  dressing the loom (and dressed from the 18th century)

dressing the loom (and dressed from the 18th century)

While I’ve only been here a few days, I’m quite pleased to share that I’ve accomplished a lot so far. I’ve planned my first weaving project, carefully measured the materials, and began dressing the loom (this process is so incredibly time-intensive and generally takes me a bit longer than it has). I’ve also done a bunch of embroidery, planned a large sewing project, and made headway with some painting commissions. While I absolutely love to draw and paint, this time will be mostly dedicated to textile handwork. There’s a blog post in the works about the balance of working with different mediums and if you’re creative like me, I’m sure you understand how beneficial it can be to switch between methods of making.



Coming Up: It’s less than three weeks until the Big Crafty. If you’re local to Asheville (or feel like making the trip - it’s worth it!), please come see me and my dear friend Sarah Matesz (as well as hundreds of other incredible makers) on December 1st and 2nd for this biannual art event. I’ll be sharing more throughout this month about what we’ll have to offer so stay tuned, folks.

grace engel