Homespun exhibit at Spurlock
URBANA — Members of the Champaign-Urbana Spinners and Weavers Guild have had a long relationship with the Spurlock Museum, donating hours of work to create fabric support blocks for artifacts at the University of Illinois museum.
More than a decade ago, guild members covered the blocks throughout the museum in linen, hand stitching each corner seam.
Now they're front and center with an exhibit called "Inspired By ... Works of the C-U Spinners and Weavers Guild." They've created fiber works that have artistic connections with those artifacts, never before displayed in Spurlock.
In addition to seeing the paired objects, visitors can read the artists' explanations of why they chose their inspirational artifacts and hear filmed interviews on how their pieces came together at the exhibit.
The "Touch It!" section of the exhibit features samples of fibers and touchable fragments of some of the works, while the "Putting It Together" section shows examples of how the works were created, said exhibit curator Kim Sheahan, Spurlock's assistant director of education.
Sheahan said the exhibit, which runs through March 9, 2014, offers surprising inspirations from the artifacts.
"These are some remarkable re-interpretations of the pieces into a different art form," she said.
For instance, Dottie Wolgemuth knitted a beret based on the colors and design of a 16th-century dish, and Pat Thalhauser wove a teardrop poncho inspired by the pattern on a Colombian basket.
Debbie Mandel of Philo created "Elizabeth — A Journey" in lace, inspired by a small cup and saucer in the collection.
"Unfortunately, I chose the saucer that's round, and lace in the round is a lot harder to design," she explains in a video shown in the exhibit.
On Wikipedia, she found an "amazingly beautiful lace round tablecloth." It led her to a website in Polish — and to the son-in-law of the creator of the tablecloth, who gave her detailed information on the lace.
That in turn led her to Herbert Niebling, a German lace maker active in the early 20th century. She incorporated his design work in her finished product.
"And then the other interesting link was that my mother's family is Polish and German. The saucer was made in Germany, and here's Herbert Niebling and these patterns in Germany and Poland. So I made a lot of friends and got information from all around the world," Mandel said.
Esther Peregrine, also of Philo, made a silk scarf from scratch — from growing the silkworms to obtaining coloring agents from nutshells to weaving the scarf on a loom.
She will reel silk at the guild's annual show and sale from 5:30 to 7 p.m. Nov. 1 and 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Nov. 2. (The full show runs from 4 to 9 p.m. Nov. 1 and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Nov. 2 at Hessel Park Christian Reformed Church, 700 W. Kirby Ave., C.)
Peregrine said she was inspired by a brass betel bowl in the collection. She estimates she spent 200 hours on the scarf.
That includes raising the silkworms — "I have become an expert at identifying mulberry trees!" she said — and reeling the silk they make.
She had to "degum" the filaments. Natural dyes came from dried weld leaves from plants she had grown, goldenrod collected from a roadside ditch, walnut hulls, padauk sawdust left over from a woodworking project and indigo.
Peregrine said the scarf weighs about 24 grams, equivalent to about 120 cocoons worth of silk.
If you go
What: "Inspired By ... Works of the C-U Spinners and Weavers Guild"
When: Through March 9 (museum hours noon to 5 p.m. Tuesdays; 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays; 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturdays; noon to 4 p.m. Sundays)
Where: Spurlock Museum, 600 S. Gregory St., U
Admission: Free ($3 suggested donation)