Sarah Saulson's personal story of weaving started here in Boston, and we are lucky to have her back after many professional years spent in upstate NY. She is fascinated with cultural differences in textiles: color, fiber, and native weaving practices. Currently, she is creating personalized prayer shawls, which are very beautiful and infused with meaning and ritual.
I first joined the Weavers Guild of Boston in the mid-1980s, after taking weaving classes at Beth Guertin’s Batik and Weaving Supplier store on Mass Ave in Arlington. It was wonderful to be introduced to such excellence in Handweaving at this early stage of my weaving life. We moved to Syracuse, which was home for 30 years. In mid-2020, we came to Providence, our retirement home. It is a great pleasure to have the opportunity to return to WGB. In upstate New York, I was part of both the Syracuse and Rochester Guilds (which has run a remarkable teaching center for 20 years); I belong to HGA; and have been an active member of Weave A Real Peace (WARP) for many years. To learn more about me, please visit www.sarahsaulson.com
1. What motivated you to become a weaver?
I asked for a loom when I was about 8 years old. Growing up in in Ann Arbor, Michigan, there was a neighbor who had a large loom. I was also intrigued by the colorful cones of yarn on shelves in her weaving room.
2. What is your favorite part of the weaving process?
I like opportunities for decision-making in the design and fabrication process. Once I have a concept or theme for the piece, I like using it to influence and guide my decisions as I go. And since I’m kind of a structure geek, I enjoy threading the heddles, as I use that time to keep considering the threading and how it creates the future pattern in the cloth.
3. What people, elements, or challenges contributed to your personal growth as a weaver over the years? There have been so many. But one thing that stands out is the experience of going to school and then teaching in the School of Art at Syracuse University was very influential. I learned so much about thinking visually; curiosity and exploration; exploiting the potential of materials; and translating concept into my work.
4. On the whole, if you could categorize your current approach to weaving, what is your focus and why. I will never tire of exploring the relationship between color and structure in weaving.
5. Lately, where do your weaving design inspirations come from? I weave Jewish prayer shawls for private clients. I find my inspiration for the designs in the details of their lives, which means each one will always be unique and uniquely suited to them.
6. What is one of your favorite woven pieces? What makes it special to you? For a kimono show, I created a wall hanging in the shape of a kimono woven in the traditional 14-inch wide strips, with 4 strips to construct the kimono. Each strip has one of the phases of the moon woven in twill. The finished piece has presence and dignity and I never tire of looking at it.
7. What other weavers inspire you? Can you describe what they bring to weaving that is attractive to you? Contemporary living ethnic fiber traditions have been a great inspiration to me. The colors and patterns of west Africa; the amazingly complex and beautiful Huipls of Guatemala, which are woven on the simplest of looms, the backstrap loom; the complex cloths from SE Asia and Indonesia; unbelievably sheer handwoven fabrics from India. The list can go on and on. Often textiles from other cultures give us ideas for color use that are so different from what we find in the West, so great color inspiration can be found in ethnic textiles.
8. Please tell us something we may not know about your weaving. I wove our living room rug from Pendleton Woolen blanket waste selvedges. It was woven in 4 strips and then pieced together. It is 12’ x 11’ and weighs about 70 lb (!).
8+. I went to the Navaho reservation to study weaving with a traditional Navaho weaver.