In the summer of 1982 I had been weaving tapestries based on verses of scripture for two and a half years. The Handweavers Guild of America (HGA) was holding its biennial conference in Tacoma, WA and there was a workshop called Ecclesiastical Weaving which sounded interesting.
The conference lasts a week, so Ray and I came up with a plan to combine my interest with a family vacation. He didn’t want to hang out all week while I was at the workshop, but he knew a guy at work who had a motor home we could rent.
I flew to Tacoma, and at the end of the week Ray, Chris, and Dave drove up I-5 to pick me up. We spent a day in Seattle, had lunch at the Space Needle, and then started down the coast for home. We stopped often to check out the beaches. Ray read his stamp collector newsletters, I picked up shells, and the boys ran off their energy.
As we were riding along, I was trying to decide if I was going to try doing weaving for churches as a business. I had grown up in the Lutheran church where they have vestments—cloth covers for the altar, lecterns, hangings, and other items such as a stole for the pastor. Vestments are changed throughout the year as different aspects of the faith are considered in the music, readings, and sermons. Many denominations used these items at that time.
I decided to ask the pastor of the nondenominational church I attended if I could weave something for the church. My intention was to keep records of the time I spent and costs of materials as if I were doing a commission. The pastor thought it was a wonderful idea. The church had a new sanctuary and a good size lobby which he was eager to decorate.
We discussed what he would like to see in that space, and gave me the theme of: “Jesus Builds His Church.” I made some small drawings, we set a target date for completion, and I got busy. I made full size drawings for the six panels, each measuring 72 inches by 40 inches. I put a fourteen yard warp on my counterbalance loom. This was a huge project. My records say I worked on it from September 1982 to December 1983.
As the weaving went along, I found that I needed to weave a certain number of inches each day in
order to stay on schedule. If I missed a day, I had to get caught up. I found that I was having a relationship with the loom rather than people. This really hit home when I had to leave a holiday luncheon early to get my inches done!
As a practice to see how it would be to do this as a job, this was an excellent trial. I realized I had no idea how I would market myself. (“Market” myself wasn’t even a concept in 1983.) I hadn’t been a member of a liturgical church for five years. Once the major creative work was done, I got bored with the project and just wanted to finish it.
Early in 1984, the community college in Livermore offered a class for women who were thinking of returning to school. The rest is history.
And let me remind you that you can read what happened before and after the tapestries here.