October 15, 2013
Springfield, Mo., Oct. 14, 2013 — They sound like terms from science fiction or pet-care “warp, weft and shedding,” but those words are associated with an art form that is also an academic pursuit: weaving. The art of interlacing two sets of threads at right angles to each other has been around for tens of thousands of years, but few universities in the Midwest have courses to help students learn the art, but Drury offers students the opportunity to take classes in beginning and advanced weaving.
Students enrolled in the classes practice traditional weaving using floor looms at The Harriet Mears Weaving Studio at Drury on C-street. Paula Rosen, adjunct instructor of weaving and fiber arts at Drury University, said, “Weaving connects us to our past as well as our future and requires a lot more creativity than most folks think. It’s important to the human experience.” Although some may consider weaving “old-fashioned,” Rosen sees it in a different light. She says weaving is like painting or drawing with yarn. It is just another form of artwork and expression.
Rosen’s students create a variety of artwork using simple and intricate designs—everything from scarves to tapestries. They use all natural fibers of wool and cotton, and sometimes, even recycled materials like the yarn from old sweaters. In the advanced classes, Rosen teaches students how to dye their wools and make their own colors.
The looms are not cheap. A new loom costs around $3,000. Drury has had some donated over the years and some are 50-60 years old. Rosen keeps the looms in working order even if she has to sacrifice some skin, “The other day my hands looked like hamburger after trying to repair a loom,” Rosen said
Rosen, who previously taught within the Springfield Public Schools, took over the weaving program and continues the legacy of her longtime friend and mentor, Harriet Mears. Mears started the weaving program at Drury in Wallace Hall over 40 years ago and retired in 1992. After the dorm’s renovation in 2010, however, there was not enough space to continue the program in its original location. During the 2011-2012 school year, the weaving studio at Drury on C-street was established in Mears’ honor and contains many of the original looms and yarn cabinets from Wallace Hall.
Stepping inside a weaving class is a very different experience than what most people would expect. It is not a quiet and solitary experience, but rather a loud and social one. Students talk with each other while the looms noisily clank together. Weaving requires patience, planning, and perseverance—qualities often overlooked in a technological society that is seemingly obsessed with speed and efficiency.
After all this time, people continue to turn back to weaving because “humans have an instinctual need to do something tactile,” Rosen says. “As people become more and more removed from society, I think there is more of an urge to step back for a moment and really take the time to create something meaningful, one thread at a time.”
Story by Kaleigh Jurgensmeyer, a junior English and Writing major at Drury University.