Jewelry to Fiber

In the summer of 1969, between my junior and senior years in college, I went to Haystack. This was the summer of “One small step for man,” when the astronauts walked on the moon in July. I arrived as a jeweler and left as a fiber artist. What happened? Walter Nottingham. The jewelers were having fun, but the real action was next door in the Fiber Studio. These artists were up working and partying till 3 and 4 in the morning, listening to Bob Dylan and blissfully cranking out work.

Walter Nottingham, from Fiberworks catalog
at Scripps College, 1973.

One night, Walter gave a talk on the Magical, Mythical Qualities of Fiber. He showed groovy slides of his student’s work. I remember one so vividly. The artist fabricated a quilt into which she had a sewn a secret interior pocket where she hid a lock of her lover’s hair. It was a secret that nobody else knew. I was sitting there with my mouth hanging open, and my eyes as big as saucers. This must have been my introduction to the notion of revealed and concealed.

After the talk, Walter came over to me and said, “Your hair is so black, mind if I do something with it?” Imagine being in a weaving studio, with bins and bins stretched out across the length of the room, full of yarns, all arranged by color, a feast for those of us who love color and texture and organization! My hair was cropped pretty short. He took little strands and wrapped my entire head with every color yarn possible. I looked like I had a gazillion tiny palm trees all over my head. That was the end, or should I say, the beginning of me! I was hooked, gonzo. I was a now Fiber Artist. Over the years, I have heard other say that they, too, were seduced into the fiber world by Walter Nottingham’s charms.

And then there was the Prince Among Men, Fran Merritt, the director of Haystack. I can’t say enough about the man. Kind and gentle, a very special man, one of the most fabulous people that you would ever want to meet. He had vision, knew everyone, and was full of wisdom. During one of sessions that summer, Jack Lenor Larson was there, weaving in the sun, out on the deck with steel cable.

I returned home to my senior year at Cal State Northridge, which we then lovingly called Valley State (fer sure, totally), only to take every textile class they offered, with such lovely teachers as Mary Ann Glantz, and Bea Colman.