40 Years!

FORTY YEARS OF GRATITUDE
1977 – 2017
by Bianca Haglich, RSHM

It started in 1977 with the opening of the Craft Skellar at the closed Carpenter Shop on the ground floor of the New Wing at Marymount Academy.  The RSHM (Religious of the Sacred Heart of Mary) College Community gem me $2,000 to buy paint for the cement floor, two floor looms, two smaller looms and some yarn.

Painting the floor at the Craft Skellar

We were offered metal shelving from the Academy Library that closed in 1976.  You can still see the shelving at the New Weaving Center.  Help from friends and faculty was gratefully accepted, which allowed us to open the Center.

The idea to open this Center was born after my sabbatical in Finland, 1968-69.  They had community centers in cities and towns where people could go to weave.  We did not have such centers in the United States, nor did we prize handwoven goods.  But maybe we could start one?  We began with workshops open to the general public.

The Craft Room at Marion Hall

By 1993 the programs had grown and Marymount College incorporated weaving into its Continuing Education Program.  We moved to the Craft Room at Marion Hall with college students and adults sharing the space.  Sister Imelda had learned to weave in New York City from a Mrs. Weaver (her real name) back in the 1930’s.  So we were continuing the tradition of the age old craft.  All benefited from the experience.

The year 2007 was a memorable one!  The college closed.  We had to find a new place to move.  Sister Roz, RSHM Provincial, offered the old Academy gym for the new center.  This was our second move (third location)!  The looms, shelving, yarns, etc. had to brought down the hill and we became known as the Weaving Center.

Putting a loom together at our third location

We continued to offer workshops of Finnish techniques and also became known for creating prayer shawls (or Tallits).  Young and old, children, women and men made the most of the workshops we offered and learned the age old technique of weaving.

In the spring of 2015 we discovered that the floor of the Weaving Center was soft underfoot.  Only then did we realize that termites were devouring the wood!  So we had to move a third time, but where?  The Provincial Council offered another gym in a newer building at the north end of the RSHM property.  It was being used as a storage area, but had formerly been a basketball court and was twice the size of the current space.  There were windows to the north that gave great light and from the south as well.

Moving into our current location

Over 100 30-gallon bags were filled with yarns and transported to the new Weaving Center.  The shelving followed, then the looms (more than 20 of which had to be taken apart) and finally the other equipment and furnishings.  It took much time and effort for all the things to be brought over and the weavers themselves assembled all the looms–quite a team effort!  By the Fall we were ready to open our doors again.

We had fairs, slide presentations and a variety of workshops.  We displayed the handwoven goods created by the many weavers.  In the fall of 2016 we joined the New York City celebration of fiber and weavers–New York Textile Month–and new people found us.  In December, at Fordham University, the Marymount Alumnae Association gave the Mother Butler Leadership Award to the Weaving Center, which I was happy to accept.

The craft of weaving keeps one humble, but always on the road to creativity and learning, using new patterns and exploring new yarns.  But one needs to find time to be able to work at the ancient craft.  It enriches the individual, yet allows for much sharing with fellow weavers.  The varied cultures, throughout history, have contributed to the usefulness and beauty of a handwoven piece.  It has benefited the human spirit and continues to enhance and enrich our life and environment.  For this and much more, I am eternally grateful.

Weaving for 40 years—with 3 moves and 4 locations

  1. Craft Skellar–1977 to 1993–Carpenter Shop–16 years
  2. Continuing Education Program at Marymount College, Art Department–1993 to 2007–14 years
  3. Weaving Center–2007 to 2015–basement of Marymount Convent–8 years
  4. New Weaving Center–2015 to present