Uptown update for July

Blue and White Warp on the LoomBlue and White Warp Under the loomToday I posted a sign trying to describe what happens in the uptown studio. This is how it reads:





We provide a safe studio environment for
people to work with their hands and
hearts to make art and recover from the
trauma of day to day living in a complex

You can support our efforts best by shopping
here. Buy products that bring you joy.
Those dollars are used to purchase tools
and supplies needed to make the things
you see and many you may not see as they
part of a very personal journey.

We have no external funding or grants in
this studio. We rely on retail sales to
keep the door open for you.

That sounds so different from a typical weaver’s studio, but I realize that this studio is not about me – it is for my community. Some of my customers are the touring public, those that have just come to Butte to see the sights, somewhere between Yellowstone National Park and Glacier, or a trip to the West Coast and back again. They will never meet some of my new friends and may not even grasp the concept of the work that is being done here. Usually, the comment is: You made this by hand? They are interested in the history, the artist, and finding a product to purchase as a souvenir of their trip.

Others who come to my studio live here and are curious about a big wooden object in the window. It turns out to be a Glimakra Standard floor loom. When it was sold to me I was told it was not a full size, turns out it is a full size loom – I have over 60 inches in the beater bar.  Not something the average tourist encounters frequently in Montana. I hear the typical questions of “how long….” and now I have a new answer. It is not a matter of how long, its a matter of preserving history, techniques and the healing art of weaving. Not many artists could tolerate being on display and having frequent interruptions. I can because I am interested in learning about the people who stop by. I will eventually get my weaving completed, and I am grateful I can just step away from the loom and stop to visit with my guests. Having a loom that does not require electricity lets me do that. I also have a table and a couple of chairs in the shop so that we can work and talk together eye to eye.

Let me tell you about some of my new friends. They turn out to be from the streets, these are the homeless, the addict and the person struggling with mental health issues. I have been running a program called Afternoon Arts, it started because I learned that the local homeless shelter needed to turn out their guests at 7 am in the morning and have them return in the afternoon around 4pm. When the weather is hot like it has been or freezing cold, it can be difficult to find a safe place to stay out of the weather and stay sober. The uptown shop is a few blocks from the mission and it is near the uptown bus stop on Park Street. I probably get to see most of the homeless population walking in front of my window completing their daily tasks of looking for food, work and a place to rest their head in the evening. The Afternoon Arts program welcomes anyone, it is my hope to have my new friends meet some of my old friends so that we can reintroduce them to what normal life feels like. It is important for their continued recovery that they make new friends to help them make better decisions for their future. My experience has been that my new friends are grateful for a cup of ice water – they don’t get ice very often when outside. They love when I have some fresh oranges or apples to share. I am in awe of their response to being in a studio with art materials and they are being invited to play and talk just like normal people. Apparently, many of them have not been able to listen to music without headphones,  just hearing music that is joyful in the open air has an emotional impact. It really is the small things that make a big difference.

When you attend the Afternoon Arts classes the cost is $10 per session – we are not charging a separate materials fee. My new friends who are at the mission and have no resources are being offered a scholarship to attend for free. Those that come and pay, and those that purchase products help to cover the costs of that “scholarship”. (There is no non-profit status here).   We can provide dignity, the scholarship is there, and when my new friends are ready and they say they can afford the cost of the session, they then are helping the next person in need. When their workmanship is of sufficient quality their work will be placed alongside of mine and others and offered for sale when they choose to do so. This will allow them to purchase their own looms and materials for future projects, it is a step closer to autonomy.

I am aware I could be offending some people by inviting my new friends, but if you are willing to take the risk of encouraging someone’s new found sobriety, I welcome you to come to the Afternoon Arts sessions Monday and Wednesday afternoons. We have been doing our Pinterest Inspired projects.  You can see the schedule on https://www.eventsinbutte.com.   I have found that I have three or four budding weavers in less than a month’s time. Today, I had someone walk up to the big loom and sit down and say this looks like it would be very calming to weave on. I can not agree more, it is. But it will be a process to prepare them to be ready to weave on the large floor loom. I have two students on the inkle looms at present. One is weaving well enough that she is generating inventory that we can sell to help her purchase her own personal inkle loom to weave on rather than use the “trainer” ones from the shop. We just need to sell a couple more belts/bands. Her birthday is coming up and it would make a great present for her. Like I said before, this is not all about me. I want to see my new friends succeed in leading healthier lives. These new weavers have found that weaving helps to reduce their anxious moments. When things are overwhelming they can pick up the loom and the yarn and start to weave and soon their mind is able to process thoughts again, this is reducing the tendency to relapse as they have something positive to be addicted to.

But on a practical level, I see a change in their eyes and their hearts when they know they are welcome, respected and even loved. The external world is not often welcoming to my new friends. The studio is a safe place to go to participate, discuss and be part of, they belong somewhere even if they are homeless, or recovering from their substance abuse. They can be honest and open, and start to heal. If that is what the uptown studio offers, I think it is worth the effort.

Someone asked about my hours — I do not have employees, and I do care give and help with crisis management.   I can be called away from the shop when I am needed. I am making my best efforts into be in around 9, and available at the senior center for lunch around noon, and back in the shop by 1:30 most days.  I’m not going to be perfect, but I hope to be consistent. I do respond to texts, and voicemails. If you are looking for me – contact me and I will do my best to make sure we meet up.  I can schedule small classes or individual instruction, what ever your needs are.

What’s on the loom this week — a blue and white table runner, and soon a color and weave project for the table loom. I will be warping, using a warping mill, then weaving. The next project on the floor loom is the overshot threading/ twill tie-up from the Weavers Overshot Challenge Workshop I delivered in January. I have a good tie-up, but will be doubling the number of heddles on the loom – we will take it from 300 threads to 600.

I have also set up a number of $10 Session kits for things other than standard weaving:


Frame weaving – Potholders/ Kumihimi Started Kits/ Lanyards

Craft Stick Art/ Quilling/ Collage

If you came to the Oro Fino  to get their fine coffee you could stop by and request me to bring a kit to the table in the hallway and you and your guests would be able to sip and play together. Works great for parent child days, and best buds just getting away from it all to have some quality bonding time.

If printing is your thing, we have kits to get you started making a plate, and a group of artists meets  on Tuesday evenings for Open Print night from 5 – 8 pm. Often you will have access to two or three experienced printmakers to provide support and ensure that you have a good session on the presses.

All together we now have:

Community Printing Studio – Photography Studio – Ceramic Studio – Weaving Studio and we are working on a start up maker’s space in the building as well. If you are an artist, or lover of the arts – stop in and visit and let’s see if we can connect you even more closely to the Butte Artist Community.