There is one thing that can be said about textile artists as opposed to painters: They are really in love with their medium. For painters, it's usually more about the process of painting, the subject, color and light -- the paint and brushes are just tools. But for textile artists, it's all about the fiber: hand-spun, fine threads, great big lumpy threads, silk, cotton, wool, blends -- these people go into a swoon over an exciting new hank of yarn.
There are so many things a person can do with textiles that it is no surprise that each artist's work is vastly different from the others. This month at the Ink People, you can see this variety in the work of four textile artists: Linda Hartshorn, Sandra Kernen, Bernice Huston and Kay Heitkamp. Their joint show is called Expressions in Fiber.
Some 30 years ago one of Huston's friends decided she would be a good candidate for a loom and dropped one off with very little explanation. "You can imagine that loom sat there for quite some time," Huston recalls. "It was very intimidating." But eventually she decided she'd better do something with it, so she took some lessons and learned to use the thing. Being a practical person, she put all of the worn out clothing that her five sons generated to good use. Rag rugs became one of her staples.
She's also worked with chenille to create a line of scarves that she sells locally, and she's taken the unusual step of incorporating paintings in her weaving. Like many artists, she's interested in more than one medium -- she likes to paint. One day she decided to cut up a painting and see what would happen if she wove the pieces back together. It seems marvelously brave of her to take that step and cut up a painting, but the result was certainly a success, fragmenting and adding dimension to her richly colored work.
One use of a loom is to create a rug or a wall hanging, and when you're done with it, you're done. Of course it's also common to create fabric for garments. This is what Sandra Kernen likes to do with her weaving, because, she says, "I enjoy doing the designing and the sewing and I'm not afraid of cutting fabric."
Kernan has been weaving since the   '70s. She started out at HSU, when they had a weaving program (they no longer do). Now HSU's old looms are at the Ink People, which is the only place locally where you can take a weaving class.
Sandra uses a process in which she lays out white warp yarns and paints designs on them with dye. When the painted yarn is woven, the effect is a shimmer of color that may bring to mind water or a cloudy sky. She explained that one design was inspired by fall trees reflected in a pool. The bright reds and oranges sparkle in deep watery blues.
Linda Hartshorn is a self-taught weaver, which is no mean feat since it's not easy to just pick up a loom and figure out how to use it. But she did, and she's learned an awful lot about the process. She describes her work as "all over the place. I love weaving so much, I like it all."
She is currently fascinated with a process called woven shibori, which you are familiar with whether you know it or not. Ever heard of tie-dye? That's one example of shibori, an ancient Japanese dying process that uses tying or gathering of the material to resist the dye in certain spots. In woven shibori, the gathered threads are woven in on the loom. The result is not only unique coloration; the gathering remains to give the fabric a lovely pillowy texture. In this particular line of work, Hartshorn says, "I've challenged myself by using only natural dyes."
Linda has been teaching weaving at the Ink People for the last four years. If you're intrigued with all of this talk of textiles, color and fabric-making, give the Ink People a call at 442-8413 to find out about classes.
Kay Heitkamp's work is a bit of a departure from the other three weavers. She is most interested in wall hangings. Her pieces are richly colored and textured. She also does spinning and dying and makes a lot of the yarn she uses.
What struck me about the hangings was that their shape was reminiscent of shawls. In my mind, they are an abstract representation of the warmth and comfort that weaving implies. But that was just my own take. Heitkamp was surprised by my interpretation; for her, the work is "an expression of [her] intense love of nature."
The weaving show will be up in the Ink People's main gallery until May 25. During the same month there is an exhibit of fused glass art in the Brenda Gallery. The Ink People is located at 411 12th Street in Eureka. Gallery hours are Tuesday through Saturday, 11 a.m.-4 p.m.
In other news, the Westhaven Center for the Arts is seeking someone to fill its artist-in-residence position, "an energetic and motivated painter to anchor our gallery and be a member of our exhibit team." If you're interested, contact the Center at: WCA Artist-in-Residence program, P.O. Box 2094, Trinidad, 95570, or call 677-9493. The application deadline is June 1.
The WCA currently is showing the work of Derek Bond: exquisitely simple renderings of beach scenes and local wildlife done in egg tempera, an old master technique that not many artists have the patience for anymore. Although they are painstakingly realistic, he says, "I do not attempt to represent nature. Rather, I reflect on my own life experiences through nature and transform the result into art."