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Featured Artist: Eric Weit of Studio Weit and Giveaway Winner!

by The SpinArtiste on December 8, 2013

EW - Self - me and banjoPublisher’s Notes:  The funniest little things can start something, you know?  There I was taking a Rigid Heddle Weaving class at The Mannings in East Berlin, PA a couple of years ago and my instructor pulls out her lunch from this hand woven bag the likes I had never before seen.  I immediately asked her where she got the bag.  It turned out to be made by Eric Weit of Studioweit.  The instructor helped me get in touch and soon enough I made arrangements to see what he had.  When we met and Eric showed me what he had available, it was impossible to choose…out of the half a dozen he brought, I bought three on the spot.  I guess he mentioned or I saw on Facebook that Eric played old time music and so last summer when I was planning my wedding with not much time, I reached out to Eric to see if he could help us out with the music.  Thankfully, he did and our day was much better for it.  Now, this blog is about to be a whole lot better too as I have the pleasure of featuring Eric and his work this week.  I know you will enjoy it!

Spin Artiste (SA):  Eric, let’s start with hearing about  us your “fiber story”.
EW - Other - nanaEric Weit (EW):  When I was a kid I spent lots of time with my grandmother at her loom and going with her to demonstrate spinning flax and weaving. I never thought that I would end up doing the same in my future. I tried to weave and spin but I found that I didn’t have the patience for it but never realized that I soaked up everything my Nana was doing and showing me. Then one day, about twelve years ago, I sat at her loom with my head full of dark thoughts and started weaving. Time stood still and before I knew it I had woven three yards and my head was clear. From that day forward I was hooked. She showed me some things and I learned how to spin, knit and warp the loom by watching her and others do the same. I couldn’t get enough and had to do more. I did need to be more creative with it so I started weaving rag rugs because I found that I had more creative freedom with this form of weaving. I took a class on shaker rag rugs at The Mannings and off I went. I made hundreds of rugs and table runners coming up with a new pattern each time and all on a two harness loom. From there I started going to craft shows all up and down the east coast having a blast living like a gypsy. It was a hard life with many ups and downs but I never looked back.  As all good things do, this all came to and end in 2008. Life happened and I had to get a job and my weaving slowed down and I stopped going to shows. I deeply miss this life because it is what I was put on this earth for. Now I am really working toward this life again with the support and love from my sweetheart Kim who is supporting me mentally and helping me back to were I belong and to her, many thanks for believing in me.
EW - Process - Weaving - me weavingSA:  A lot of us have the experience of an “Aha!” moment.  If you would, tell us more about your turning point twelve years ago.
EW:  That day I sat at the loom in a deep depression. It was a dark time in my life and as I wove all time stopped and I felt so much better about myself. I was in a state of flow and it felt so good. I was the best thing at that time for me. Still, to this day, I still feel that way when I am at the loom and even more so warping the loom which is to most people, the worst part- but I love that part; winding out the threads, coming up with new patterns and putting it on the loom. This is true magic when you throw that first shuttle and all is right and your vision takes shape.
SA:  As you know,  I love your rugs and bags, they are amazing. But the big question is, why these items? What about them keeps calling you back?
EW - FO - more bagsEW:  Well, the rugs call me back because I don’t make the same thing over and over. I put on a warp and start weaving. The magic is in the colors I pick out and how I approach it. Some times I use one shuttle, then others I use two, then a small thread to keep a certain block on the top. I never know what I’m going to do or what colors of rags I feel like using until I use them. There hasn’t been a rug that I hated. Now the bags I challenged myself to come up with involved a new way to make a bag on one warp. I figured out that I can weave the front, bottom and back first then I would split the warp and weave the two sides. The down side of this is that I like to change things up and found that I was using up to six shuttles on the sides. Now I weave them on another loom so I have a little more freedom and can get it done quicker. So what it is that keeps me coming back to the bags is that I keep trying to get them done faster, but not lose quality. I also love the different way they look and how they come out.
SA:   I greatly admire your artistry.  You create wonderful fiber pieces, paint, and you’re a banjo player and entertainer. What would you say are the connections between your art forms?
EW - Other - new banjoEW:  That is simple, Creating! I have to create because that is who I am. If I find myself with no new ideas I move to from one medium to another. Whether it is playing music, weaving or painting I can hide there for a while and generate new ideas for something else. And entertaining is all part of this – I do like being on stage because I get to be someone I’m not allowed to be in everyday life!
SA:  I am envious of your weaving abilities. How would you describe you creative process while sitting at the loom?
EW:  I heard this wonderful quote in a Nature program, “The Life of Eels” that I wish I had come up with, “Don’t look up to me, Look with me”. I see colors that work well together. There isn’t a process or formula that I use, it’s that I just have a feeling that they work. This is the same for planning a warp. I see parts in many of my other weavings that I like, and cut and paste them together in my head. I don’t view things in numbers like you would think, I see it as patterns and colors and I can usually see it as it would be in the end. So look with me and find two or three colors that just move your soul and seem to vibrate when together and just weave, knit or spin.
EW - Process - spinning flaxSA:  That is a great approach to creating.  Another aspect of your work that I find very interesting is that it strikes me as modern while possessing  classic old-world style. And, I know you’ve done some re-enacting — What era of history are you most inspired by and why?
EW:  Every era up to the industrial revolution. I like the fact that everything had to be made by hand. Don’t get me wrong, I am sure it was all hard work, but I don’t think that we have that “pride” in our work today. We get up and drag ourselves to a job were we are just a little part of the big picture. I know when I am finished with a piece that I worked on for days, I sit back and look at it, and to this day can’t believe I made it. Very few things are made by hand anymore and I know it would turn into my job, but to make the whole piece with my hands, well that would soothe my soul.
SA:   You also have a great interest in the history of fiber tools. When did this love develop and what would you say is your favorite historical fiber tool?
EW - EQ - nanas wheelEW:  My Nana used to volunteer at the Ephrata Cloister spinning, processing and weaving flax. I would spend time with her there and I think it all started when I smelled the flax for the first time. It had this  wonderful honey dirt smell. I absolutely loved that smell. I didn’t start to demonstrate the flax process until later in life but I always loved the tools that were used to get ready to spin. The flax break, scotching tools and the hackles all are beautiful in there own way. But I have to say that I love the spinning wheel, my Nana’s spinning wheel to be exact. These wheels are a feet of engineering and made totally with know how and never was there a computer involved!
SA:  So, that leads us onto…What fibers are your favorite to spin, and why?
EW - Process - Flax spinning - dressingEW:  Flax! I love to spin flax. If you haven’t figured out by now that I love the process, then I am telling you. I love how it smells and the way it feels in my hands as it passes through them on the way to the bobbin. I love what you have to do to it to get it to the point where you can spin it; – I mean who ever figured out how you have to rot it so that you can remove it from the stalk of the flax plant? It is magic! You start with this stick (and if you ever felt flax before it is retted it is very stiff) and you rot it. Then you chomp it up in this heavy tool with wooden blades that if you stuck your finger into it would break it. Then you beat the hell out of it with a wooden sword. Then you pull it through a tool that looks like something Uncle Fester would sleep on. All this to get this wonderfully silky fiber to spin into a thread. So I like flax, sorry for geeking out just a little.
SA:  Hey, no problem.  I agree with you.  It is miraculous.  And, as you’ve pointed out when we consider all the processes involved from plant to finished cloth, it is simply incredible.  I’ve seen you demonstrate some of these processes.   You seem to always be willing to help and teach people whenever you get the chance. How would you describe your teaching style and what do you hope people take away from your instruction?
EW:  I learn best from watching others and listening to what they have to say about how they got to where they are in their ability. These people have been nice and shared their knowledge with me and I take it all in, process it and apply it to my work. So I like to pass on what I know and help others and I hope that they will do the same. As far as teaching, I’m not sure I have a style as of yet, maybe more hands on? I like to show something to a student and then let them work for a little then show them a little more. I like to let them make mistakes because then they start thinking more about what they are doing. I personally feel that if you make a mistake and figure out how to fix it, then down the road you know how to avoid the mistakes from the beginning. I have made lots of mistakes and have learned from each of them. Some mistakes have lead to something exciting that I never thought of before. I’m not afraid of mistakes, I’m more afraid of NOT making because then I am not growing anymore. If I teach someone, I hope they leave with the thought that it is ok to make a mistake and feel they can grow from it.
EW - Process - Weaving - kim at loom
EW - Self - Ava weaving
SA:  Someone else recently recognized your talent.. I know you were recently featured in the book, “Living Crafts, Historic Tools”  — tell us about it.
EW - Process - Spinning - spinning fastEW:  To tell you the truth, I didn’t even know I was going into the book. Those pictures were taken at Harvest Days at Landis Valley Farm Museum and I can’t even tell you the date. I was demonstrating flax processing for the event and someone took the pictures as I was working. I kind of remember someone asking to take the photos but that always seem to happen when I was out with my tools. The way I discovered I was in the book was that my sister Michelle Cable, who works at The Pennsylvania Guild of Craftsman, was looking through the book and said “Hey,- that’s my brother!” then she called me and said, ” You know you are in this book?”. I didn’t even see the book until I was in there spinning flax for Art Walk. I was surprised to see “how much of me” was in that book and it really came in handy for showing people who where asking me “What is flax, and how do you get it to be so soft?”. My sister was kind of upset that I bought the book because she wanted to get it for me for Christmas. Let me ask you, if you found out you were in a book wouldn’t you buy it right then and there? I thought so.
SA:  Ah, yeah.  I would be pretty excited, too.  Tell us where all the weaving magic happens. 
EW - EQ - barn loomEW:  My main studio is in a 100 year old church in Salunga Pa. I share a space with 5 other Artist.s It is a lively place with a lot of creativity. Most of us are musicians and we play music every Tuesday night. I learned a lot about art from my fellow craftsmen; music and books. I keep my two big looms there. One is a 200 year old, 2 harness barn loom which is my work horse. I love this loom because it has so much history. You can see grooves worn on the beater, it is in the wood from years of weaving linen. On the post there are tally marks scratched in the wood to keep track of how many yards of cloth that were woven on certain days. I often wondered why they did this but finally figured out they  just didn’t have paper. I can’t even imagine how many people sat at that loom. It came from New Hampshire. I bought it from a coverlet weaver named Bill Leinbach.
EW - EQ - macomber My other loom is a Macomber 16 harness jack loom. I got this one from my Nana who got it from a woman named Isabel Able who wrote a book on 16 harness patterns. She wove all her samples on this loom. I can’t tell you the name of the book but I think I have it somewhere in my collection , of which most were given to me by my Nana. My other studio is in my home in Millersville. I do most of my prepping rags and finishing here. I do have two Gallenger, 4 harness counter balance looms here and a three harness barn loom that I found in a junk shop for $60. This loom needs a lot of love. I have more looms than people to weave on them but the good news is Kim is doing very well learning to weave and soon will be weaving like a mad woman. Some day I will have all the looms in one space with a wood stove to keep the studio warm and toasty. Some day?
SA:   Sheesh, collecting wheels is nothing next to collecting looms!  What can you tell us about your wheels?
EW:  I have 3 wheels. The only new one I have is an Ashford country spinner. I use this for spinning rags and plying anything else I would spin. I don’t need to talk much about this one because you all know how great a wheel it is. The first old wheel I have is a great or walking wheel. I don’t know who made it but I am sure it was made in the 19th century. I want to spend time with this one and really learn how to spin wool. The third wheel is a flax wheel made in the mid 19th century by M. Carpenter. I love this wheel basically because this was my Nana’s wheel. I have so many great memories of her sitting at it spinning away. I think there are more pictures of her with this wheel than with my Grandfather. I learned to spin at this wheel and I now demonstrate with this wheel like she did. Even though at 93 and still very much alive I can feel her when I sit behind it. I will always be grateful to her for the gift she gave me. Not the wheel per say, but the time she spent with me at this wheel and the looms that she worked on. I am a fiber artist because she was/is in my life.
EW - Weaving - bagsSA:  One last question and it’s going to be a fun one to hear your answer.   As a musician yourself, who is your favorite musician and why?
EW:  Wow, ask me who my favorite weaver is, I can answer that one. Music is my soul, playing it and listening. I used to say that if I could be anyone I would be Andy Partridge from a band named XTC. He could write anything and is a hell of a musician, but as I get older and I discover different music and musicians, I can’t say that anymore. There is so much great music out there and so much I haven’t even heard yet, that I can’t say I have a favorite. I have favorites for different moods and times of year. Some for rainy days and then something else for sunny days. There is always music playing where I am and at work and most of the time it is loud so I can distract myself from distractions. Someone asked me once if lost one of my senses what would it be? My answer is sight. I can live with out seeing things and making art but I can’t live with out music. It moves me like nothing else and I can always create music.
Thank you so much, Eric!  Readers, I have to share with you something I got for myself as a Christmas present this year:  a beautiful woven table runner with a tree pattern — it is really incredible and so well made.
EW - FO - Xmas tree
Love, love, love!!!  If you are interested in getting one of Eric’s bags, “like” his Facebook page so you can be sure to know when something comes up for sale or send him a message through Facebook to see what he has available.  If you are like me, you love bag and I promise you will treasure one from Eric!  Please show all the Spin Artiste love you can muster and “like” Eric’s FB page…just leave a comment on this post letting us know you did by Wednesday, December 11th at 5:00 PM EST to be entered in a random drawing for a fibery goodness surprise kit…:-)
And…I didn’t forget…we have a giveaway winner for the lovely fiber from Lynn Wigell!  Lee Charlton, it is yours!!  I will get in touch by email and help you claim your prize.  Thanks to all who participated!
I wrote a post over at www.fiberygoodness.com this week also — some thoughts and resources on fiber preparation.  Click here to check it out!
See you in a few days for more fibery goodness.  Until then, all my fibery best, Arlene

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