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Art looms large at Sandy Library

Fiber arts on view through Feb. 10

When the Sandy Library hosts an art exhibit, pieces hang above the heads of busy Web-surfers, in the long hallway to the reference area and on the large, white expanse by the children's room.

'It is fortuitous that we have both the wall space and a director who supports the exhibits,' says reference librarian Kathy Draine.

The library hosts eight shows per year - the current one, 'Beyond Stripes,' features 13 tapestries by Damascus Fiber Arts School students.

On a recent afternoon, Audrey Moore demonstrated one of the school's tabletop looms. The owner of the school showed how the loom is set up and how it moves to allow the batten, or weaving tool, to thread the colored yarn in and out. The result is tightly woven pieces with virtually the same design on front and back, yarn ends neatly incorporated.

Years ago, Moore, a retired nurse, wanted to learn how to use the spinning wheel she'd inherited from her grandmother. She signed up for a class at what was then the Damascus Pioneer Crafts School, based in the town's century-old, two-room schoolhouse.

The Sandy resident was drawn to tapestry weaving, which uses a small, accessible loom like the one she's showing.

'I didn't like the mechanics of the floor loom,' she says. 'This gives me a closer feeling to the work.'

She quickly mastered the form, admitting that 'when you find something that's a passion, you know,' and now she teaches at the school, the only one of its kind in Oregon.

Fiber arts are seeing resurgence in popularity, and artists often work with natural fibers. These are reflected in the warm, earthy tones of the tapestries on display.

Many of the pieces have a familiar feel; they're inspired by Navajo patterns that use diamond shapes and a particular color palette.

Other artists have infused their tapestries with their own motifs, such as 'Life Force' by Ceci Wittman - a large red and yellow tapestry depicting a snake, moon and stars around a large spiral. According to Moore, crafting all those curves on a loom is not easy. The slightly choppy quality of the woven curves gives the piece a rustic feel. And all the pieces fulfill the promise of being 'beyond stripes,' the simpler design often seen in weavings.

The tapestries typically take each student an entire 10-week session of once- or twice-weekly classes to complete. The school also offers classes in knitting, twining and spinning.


Beyond Stripes

Sandy Library, Through Feb.10

For school information and a class schedule, visit www.damascusfiberartsschool.com

Spring classes begin April 1.