CNCHnet . . . The Textile Arts Webzine of the Conference of Northern California Handweavers

The Art of Deflection

Off the Grid with Elisabeth Hill at Asilomar

The map told me we were in Pacific Grove, California. But I could have bet that we were in Scotland. The west coast wind howled as it carried us along the path to the Asilomar room check-in. The blowzy sky broke thin patches of sun as the day quickly churned into evening with the failing light. Our weaving adventure had begun!

Six years ago, I moved to Phoenix, Arizona from the Bay area. This trip was a continuation of an annual weaving workshop tradition my good friend Laura Schickli and I started after my departure. We were both excited to see Elisabeth Hill on the teacher list – I have been following her plainweave.com blog and we had both been looking for her workshop opportunities west of the Mississippi. Elisabeth Hill is the deflected weave master, and I have been playing with this structure for about two years now. Adding icing to the cake, my very first CNCH conference had been at Asilomar – so this was a full circle experience. Time spiraled into a vortex as I reconnected with familiar faces and caught up on life journeys.

Personally I love the smaller “off-year” CNCH venues. The class sizes are reasonable. And while there are activities to fill up the down time, the whole ambiance of an Asilomar venue allows the freedom to really dive into a workshop and get a lot out of it.

Lisa (Elisabeth Hill)’s class is called Off the Grid, and that is a great description. GRID: A network of lines that cross each other to form a series of squares or rectangles. OFF: No longer supported or attached. Pull that together in a weaving environment and the most delightful adventure begins.

Our class had a wide range of ages and experience. Weavers being weavers, there was no one left out in the cold as we helped each other through our fourteen round robin samples. Most of us brought table looms (I borrowed one for the occasion), and that made for a lot of handwork. But no matter what the background or weaving style, I have always found that there is a lot to learn from other weavers, and I am always amazed when someone tells me they’ve learned something from me.

Cutting the samples apart

Cutting the samples apart at the end of class

Lisa also had the most amazing sample table – it was eye candy at it’s best, with a lot of inspiration for more and more projects. Her teaching method is straightforward, and she’s great at explaining how to get from point A to point B. And the whole time she was right down there with us, encouraging us to experiment as we circulated through the looms.

Claudia's samples

Claudia’s washed samples

It was also fun when we participated in the silent auction – of course that was the excuse we used to keep going back so we could re-visit the Eugene Textiles booths. The flashlights sure came in handy when we had an “open house” and could tour the other workshops. There was a lot of creativity going on!

The classmates

Our class picture by Matthew Hill

Particularly impressive was the keynote speech by Deborah Valoma. To think we were in the very same room that in 1905, the Arts and Craft movement met for their own conference, with people of the caliber of Annie Albers in attendance. Deborah’s talk was based on her experience in documenting the life of Julia Parker, who is known for her basketry art, and the continuous fight for the free practice of Native American tribal culture. I found her words particularly compelling, as the area in which I now live is home to the third largest Native American population in the country. Many of the issues from Julia Parker’s history are still in play throughout our nation. Parker’s story is heartfelt and brave.

Post workshop, I am already on my second workshop-inspired project. The first was a linen doubleweave poncho, and I am currently planning a mixed cotton and linen placemats project from the deflected weave sample. So much weaving, so little time!!!!!

Claudia has been weaving since the late eighties, continuing in her family’s fiber arts tradition. She is a member of the Telerana and the Desert Weavers and Spinners Guilds in the Mesa/Phoenix metro area. Her focus is color and texture using natural plant fibers within the eight harness loom environment. Currently retired in Cave Creek, Arizona, Claudia now gets to weave, hike, and play the Native American style flute to her heart’s content.

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