Monday, March 20, 2017

Weaving Fabric at MASS MoCA

Ian Halim of New York weaving in the MASS MoCA.

One month ago, I was weaving at MASS MoCA with many participants. While at the MASS MoCA residency, I wanted to work with building's rich and layered history. Before these space where galleries, they were once part of the Sprague Electrical Company and even before that they were Arnold Print Works. The history of these gallery spaces once being a part of a textile printing facility was of interest to me.

I enjoy working with the layers of history, as shown here in a piece I did about Vermont using bits of wool from the Johnson Mill and remnants of flannel from the Vermont Flannel Company.

Visual Layers of History, Vermont #1

Detail of Visual Layers of History, Vermont #1

I have also been interested in involving people in the creation of the fabrics so I have set up my loom in places such as galleries, beaches and laundry mats.

Andre working on the loom on the VSC gallery on November 9, 2016
Weaving at the Laundry Mat in Johnson, VT

 Building #7 was once the bleaching house. Fabrics would be woven at other surrounding mills and brought here to be bleached, whitened and void of any imperfections before they were dyed and printed. Now Building #7 houses the Sol Lewitt installations. Many people came together to follow his instructions and create these murals without showing any evidence of the human hand. The Saori weaving philosophy is the opposite. It is about embracing mistakes and letting the evidence of human hands show through in the work. To quote Saori's founder, Miaso Jo, " Existence of people is in their expression, we won't exist without it."

Saori weaving is a contemporary Japanese method which I learned from Mihoko Wakabayashi at Saori Worcester Here are a couple of photos of us from when Mihoko and her son Nori visited me while in residence.

With Mihoko standing in front of the piece I made about my Nana.
Our contribution to Tanja Hollander's exhibition Are you really my friend?

Sunday, February 19th I was set up near Sol Lewitt's Wall Drawing 422. I had thirty participants that day of all ages and from many different places from Boston to Alaska and from New York to France.

Sy Rosenberg Weaving Photo Courtesy of Ann Belle Rosenberg

 of New York

Thank you to Penny Mateer for helping to document the process.

 Fellow MASS MoCA resident, Penny Mateer (, who also works with fibers and understands that when your hands are working, there is a natural tendency for deeper conversations. We were both interested in having dialogues with the visitors about the current exhibitions, especially the Nick Cave show, Until. This part of the Sol Lewitt wall drawings bumps right up next to an entry way into Nick Cave's installation. This little girl was clearly interested in trying the loom, just look at her face! However, it was with this family from Boston that we had a conversation about the Nick Cave show and that dialogue would have never happened without this hands on experience to help start the exchange.

"It was fascinating to watch how visitors were drawn to Stacey weaving. Many eagerly responded to the opportunity to participate, a testimony to the power of making.  But what excited me most were the interactions which resulted in meaningful conversation about the historical significance of the building and the art within it's walls, that arose naturally while volunteers wove.  An example is a discussion with a young family who responded to the expansiveness of Nick Cave's Until but did not realize that Cave was tackling issues around race and social justice.  This led to his earlier work with Soundsuits, which in turn sparked their interest to research his work further.  The conversation inspired them to share the animated video Castle in the Sky which parallels Until by depicting an immersive world which reflects universal struggles and asks what if?" Penny Mateer

My youngest participant that day was able to push and pull the beater bar adding a few rows to the community made fabric.

Vincent Homer of Paris, France weaves even though his leg is in a cast.
Some of the thirty participants on February 19th, 2017.

There was a nice flow of people that Sunday, but on Monday (the first day of school vacation week) it was even busier. Kids lines up to try the loom and add to the project. I actually had a line of people waiting. There were many comments about how they were happy to be interacting in the galleries instead of just looking.

Over the course of two days and in six hours time, over fifty people participated in the creation of this fabric. However, my very last participant was quite memorable. A boy named Luca who clearly had lots of energy and was really interested to try the loom. He sat down and was immediately focused. His mom was pleasantly surprised. I was joking about how weaving and textile manufacturing holds a history of child labor, but now what once was child labor has turned into a recreational activity or a meditative way to settle and calm and fast-paced little boy. Someone walked by and said, "I hope that you are paying him minimum wage!" The mother looked up and said, " I should be paying her!" Times have changed!

Luca wove the most of any of my participants. He moved quickly and did not want to stop. I told his mother about a Saori studio in NY called Loop of the Loom ( It turns out that the weaving studio is right near where he goes to school. I really hope that he goes there and continues to weave. It seemed like a perfect fit for him and he left feeling so happy and proud of what he had done. When he signed my book, he wrote his name and then he wrote, "I did art at the Mass MoCA." I can't think of a better way to complete this piece of fabric. Thanks Luca!

チャンスというものは無言で過ぎていく,掴むは己 の心一つに

Chansu to iumono wa mugon de sugite iku, tsukau wa onore no kokoro hitotu ni

Chances pass by silently, grabbing it or not is up to your heart. -Miaso Jo


  1. Wow! So great Stacey. I always love the stories of Saori cloth and this one has so many layers!

    1. Thank you Terri! Isn't it funny how it all comes back around full circle? ... Especially when last year at this time I had just wrapped up my very first residency weaving with you on the beautiful island of Salt Spring!

  2. Bless you my friend, the entire article kept me captivated, but the final quote from Misao-san filled my heart with light and my eyes with tears.
    Especially since I know so well that "A friend is someone you can weave with." You have made my day.

    1. Thank you so much Gene. Your kind words have made my day!

  3. What a beautiful project in the perfect place. I have loved Mass MOCA from the first year it opened and frequently travelled over the hills from Albany, NY to enjoy its repurposed gallery spaces and the amazing artwork within its historic walls. Living far away in Savannah now makes it mpossible to enjoy this amazing art museum but you have motivated me to prioritize a return visit when we are up North again!
    How far you have grown with eyes that shine since I met you over 11 years ago on our Japanese adventure with other teachers! Thanks for sharing your ever challenging and inspiring path!

    1. Thank you so much Suzie for your kind words. It is amazing to think of all the adventures we has in Japan and how long ago that was now! Do you remember that temple we stumbled upon at the top of that steep road one night? The unexpected ritual we went through guiding our hands over the wall as we walked the perimeter of that pitch black room... then the light and the color orange as we exited the building that was just overwhelmingly beautiful... May we both have more adventures like that one, the surprising and memorable, the things that stay with you for years... So glad to hear from you.

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