Coastal Marin Artists Gallery

Spinning Out Of Control: Spinners & Dyers of West Marin

December 12 - December 31, 2008

Curated by Elia Haworth

Nine Coastal Marin artisans offer a fresh spin on ancient techniques in this Spinning Out of Control exhibition of spun fiber. Their hand spun and dyed skeins tumble out of the ceiling and puff out of the walls showing imagination, craftmanship and the fibers as art.

“Spinning is a mantra of connectivity to history and hand work.”  says  Marlie de Swart.  “In this highly packaged and manufactured world, one can still collect raw materials from animals and plants and create something wonderful, using the same process that has existed for centuries.”

The lineage of spinning yarn threads its way back some 10,000 years in human history.   Spun bark, grasses, plant materials, fur, sinews, wool and silk were used to make everything from fishing nets and rope, to practical daily clothing and ultimately, sumptuous garments. Spinners first hand rolled fibers, then used drop spindles that are still used in many parts of the world today.   Sometime before 1000 AD the spinning wheel was invented in Asia and adapted around the world. Dye recipes were developed by experimentation and along with natural dye materials, they were traded across cultures and continents.  Locally Coast Miwok people hand twisted plant fibers into carrying bags, hairnets, fishing nets and rope. Spinning wool came to Coastal Marin with Spanish-Californian Rafael Garcia about 1873.

Today both men and women are spinning, dying, weaving and knitting and marrying historical skills with innovation. This exhibition features a delightful variety: for example Ann Asman’s exquisite little skeins of dog furs, Greg King and Charmaine Kreiger’s display of their natural dye materials. Virginia Linder, who wears her fabulous art clothing, presents her colorful skeins as framed art.  Mimi Luebbermann, successful author of books on food, uses wool from her own Chileno Valley sheep. Multi-talented artist Alice Ramos spins irresistible angora. Marli de Swart, also a ceramicist, even spun feathers with sewing thread. Patricia Yenawine brought in her   Great Spinning Wheel as well as skeins that include homegrown flax spun with lichens. Patricia Briceno, who also felts wool onto silk chiffon, likes “ to think about histories intertwined in a skein of yarn.  The people, the animals, the places- even the weather and my thoughts.” Many of these spinners join Mimi Lubberman at shearing time and select wool from her sheep. So the finished skeins, and some dyed will local plants, are literally the product of the rain, soil and sun of the local landscape. As other knitters and weavers buy the yarns, and their work is bought or given to others, the connection ripples outward in ever widening circles. Each time a fiber spinner begins a project, they are grounded in history, but the result depends on their own unique craftsmanship and imagination.

More hand spun yarns and wonderful hand crafted wearables by many more artisans may be seen at Marlie de Swart’s Black Mountain Weavers shop in Point Reyes Station and Coastal Artisans in Bolinas co-directed by Patricia Brecino and Charmaine Krieger.