Over the summer, I took a trip to see some artists who are working in the medium of repurposed materials. In Washington state, I attended the Clark County Recycled Arts Festival and met some very creative people. If you like repurposing, or if you like arts and crafts, this festival is absolutely the best.
Artists who create from repurposed materials come from everywhere to sell their one of a kind products, and show guests how simple it is to create from just about anything you can find. It was here that I interviewed Kathy Marty, the owner of Windy Hill Weavers. The rugs that she weaves are made from repurposed pieces from Pendleton Woolen Mills, an American textile manufacturing company located in Pendleton, Oregon.
Read on to find out how Kathy got started making woven rugs and opened Windy Hill Weavers.
Becky: What kind of products do you make? What is interesting about these products?
Kathy: I weave eco-friendly rugs on two large, antique floor looms. One of the looms is 50 years old, and the other is around 100 years old. I create the rugs by using cotton and recycled Pendleton wool. Pendleton weaves their blankets on huge industrial looms, and the edges of those blankets are trimmed before they are hemmed. These edges, or selvage, are the raw materials I use to weave my rugs.
Becky: How did you learn to weave?
Kathy: I first learned to weave in college, and was fascinated by both sculptural fiber arts and fine Japanese kimono weaving and dyeing, particularly indigo dyeing and kasuri (or ikat) techniques. Then, I visited Japan for 4 months in my twenties. There, I met traditional weavers and apprenticed with a kimono weaver and dyer in Matsumoto.
After weaving for several years, I went in a completely different direction. I sold my loom and became a graphic designer and art director, and I raised a family. Two years ago, I began volunteering at the Two Rivers Heritage Museum in Washougal, WA and learned to weave rugs on their 1890s traveling loom. It was then that I realized how much I missed and still loved weaving, and I began to weave rugs at home as well.
Becky: What makes a good/beautiful product? How do you judge one of your pieces a success?
Kathy: I think texture and color are the keys to making beautiful rugs. Pendleton selvage is thick and soft, so it makes a wonderful, dense rug that people love to touch and walk on. I think my best rugs are the ones that use color and balance effectively. The colors and designs may be muted in some rugs, and vibrant and eye-popping in others. I love it when a customer comes to my home and I get to lay out all my rugs on the floor. What a wild array of colors and textures!
Becky: That does sound amazing! What do you enjoy the most about selling your own handmade products?
Kathy: I enjoy explaining the weaving process to people (both the tedious tasks and the pleasurable ones), and hearing visitors’ personal stories, from rolling balls of rags for their grandma who wove rag rugs, to meeting other weavers. And, of course, I love the feeling of passing on something of beauty to other people. Something that they can enjoy in their own homes for years to come.
Becky: What was your motivation behind starting your business/store?
Kathy: Actually, I have just barely gotten started turning this into a business. After I had woven about 20 rugs for our local museum, I was gifted a loom by another museum volunteer. I wove some rugs at home and participated in two school holiday bazaars last year, covering my entry fees and materials costs with my sales, but not much more. But here, at this festival, I have sold 17 rugs, and now I realize I might be able to make a go of it.
Becky: Congratulations! Things are looking good! Where do you see you and your business in 5 years?
Kathy: That’s a tough one. I’ve been weaving and selling my rugs for less than a year, so I’m just beginning to figure out different venues that would be a good fit for my business. I enjoy experimenting with things like sizes, colors, and patterns, and I won’t be surprised if I come up with new techniques, products, and other approaches.
Weaving is very time-consuming, and I have a teaching job as well. So I imagine I will be growing the business gradually. As with most craftspeople and artists, the joy is in the creating, not so much in the marketing. As long as I’m loving weaving I will follow this new path wherever it leads, and take the time I need to do it well.
Becky: Crafters always have a hard time with this question, so I'm asking it: what is your favorite color and why?
Kathy: I guess I would have to say turquoise, coral, and plum are some of my favorite colors, though living in the Pacific Northwest, I’m in love with all the shades of green that surround me. I can’t tell you why—they just make my eyes and heart happy.
Becky: That’s a fantastic answer. Is there anything else you'd like to add that I haven't asked?
Kathy: Just that it’s a joy to rediscover weaving after such a long time away from it, and to be able to share that love of the craft with others. I have just finished my new website, and you can see a selection of my handmade rugs at www.WindyHillWeavers.com.
Thanks, Kathy! And thanks to all my readers, as always. Please leave a comment below for Windy Hill Weavers if you have any questions. And, to see more of Kathy’s beautiful rugs, just head to the Windy Hill Weaver website!