Dora Hsiung Her Story / Our Interview

Dora is well-known for her off-loom creations. This is the story of how she moved from traditional loom-weaving to off-loom fiber art design . We are pleased to be able to showcase her work for our readers as it is both beautiful and innovative.

This is Dora’s story:

1) What motivated you to become a weaver?

Long time ago when I was a mother of 3 young children and full-time housewife, I desperately needed a hobby for diversion. Accidentally I discovered weaving. At a party in my husband’s colleague’s home, the hostess happened to be a weaver. She had her big loom surrounded by a lot colorful yarn in the middle of her living room. I was so fascinated with the loom that I joined her the next day driving to a mill in Rhode Island. I never had so much fun looking and touching so many varieties of beautiful and colorful yarn, all in one place. At that time I was not a knitter or weaver, but I bought 2 huge bags of yarn home. I knew then I wanted to learn how to weave.

2) What is your favorite part of the weaving process?

When I was a beginner weaver, I enjoyed weaving tapestries, because I could weave my own designs and blow them up to large images. Unfortunately, this weaving process is very slow. So, I can say in all honesty that my favorite part of this long weaving process was when I removed the tapestry from my loom. It was then I got to view and enjoy the design in its entirety.

3) What people, elements, or challenges contributed to your personal growth as a weaver over the years?

I enjoy going to museums, specially some of the contemporary art exhibits, which always give me new inspirations and ideas. When visiting fiber shows, I always try to find out how each piece is woven and constructed. Some fiber magazines and books are also very helpful to me for exploring new ideas and directions.

4) On the whole, if you could categorize your current approach to weave what is your focus and why.

I am very fortunate that long time ago through a study group of non-loom weaving workshop at WGB, I learned many different methods of making non-loom weavings. At that time, my 3 children were growing older. With so many after school classes, like piano, ballet, swimming, skating etc., I had to drive them and wait many hours for them. I spent those waiting time practicing and developing new techniques of wrapping yarn on different objects and geometrical shapes. I discovered that square frames offered me the most design possibilities. When one of my husband’s colleagues saw my work, he suggested that I make them bigger, because he thought there would be a market for bigger pieces in corporate office spaces. I took his advice seriously. That’s how my big square wall hangings became in demand by art agents.

5) Lately, where do you weaving design inspirations come from?

My weaving design inspirations come from many different sources like visiting art galleries and museums, also art pictures from magazines and books. There are endless pattern and design around us to be discovered during nature walks: patterns from fish, butterflies, birds and animals as well. Often, I discover new ideas when I am working and developing my own design.

6) What is one of your favorite woven pieces? What makes it special to you?

I have two favorite pieces, one is a tapestry woven on the loom, and the other is a square frame constructed with my original wrapping technique.

My favorite tapestry is titled “Fragrance of a Bouquet.” It was originally commissioned by a client for their bedroom above their bed. But my client rejected my proposal, because she preferred realistic scene rather than abstract design. So I wove for her a piece of landscape, which they appreciated very much. But I intentionally put an extra- long warp on my loom so I could weave the rejected design later. When I finished my “Fragrance of a Bouquet,” it matched our own bedspread perfectly. They looked so well together that I decided not to sell this tapestry. It has been hanging over our bed ever since.

My other favorite piece is “Peacock’s Pride”. I used a lot of brilliant and subtle colors for this wall hanging. I wrapped my yarns in alternating vertical and horizontal directions around a big square wood frame. As the strands of yarn crossed each other, all the little squares begin to move in and out into three-dimensional patterns. When viewers move from one side to another, the colors also move and gradually change. I received a lot of accolades on this piece. I thought the color resembled peacock feathers. When my son suggested to name it “Peacock’s Pride”. Right away I knew it was a perfect title. I really enjoy the color and the title of this piece.

7) What other weavers inspire you? Can you describe what they bring to weaving that is attractive to you?

Among tapestries weavers I admire most is Helena Hernmarck, who does very large size tapestries for public spaces. Almost all her yarn is especially dyed to [produce] very subtle colors for her tapestries. I love her weaving studio. It has a huge wall covered with colorful yarns, looking almost like a big tapestry itself. Sheila Hicks is also one of my favorite fiber artists. Most of her works are very creative and unique. She inspired me to take unusual and different approaches in my fiber art.

8) Please tell us something we may not know about your weaving.

For several years I have collected interesting recycle materials in my basement. My husband thought them as “junk”. But I know someday I can make them into art pieces. As we were considering moving to a smaller place, I decided it was time to use my collected “junk". Usually, I would combine my recycled materials with yarn. But it is very easy to turn them into "junk art" or “trash art”. So, it requires a lot of planning and experimenting with little samples, which is very time consuming. Sometimes, after wasting so much time I would get frustrated and give up. But when I succeed making something nice from recycle objects, it is the most rewarding experience. My first successful piece, “Tangled Tango" was accepted to a recycled art show in Fuller Craft Museum.

It was made of 36 CD cases filled with frizzled and twisted strands of colorful yarn. It was written up in the Boston Globe, and included in a traveling show around the country for 2 years.

All photo images on this page were by Dora Hsiung.

On the all posts page, the image of Dora in her studio is credited to Gill Ross.

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