Weaving Their Stories
What the Shelburne Arts Co-op Means to Me
Lynn Perry, felted wool creations and stuffed animals
When I retired from long careers, first as an independent bookstore owner and then as a child and family therapist, I discovered a love of making animals with wool. I had over 70(!) stuffed animals (“Woolpets”) when I applied to become a working member of the Co-op about 6 or 7 years ago.
The satisfaction of my art being appreciated and acquired by persons who love it is a deep one. Those 70 stuffed animals and dozens more felted wool creations have gone out into the world via the Co-op. One day when I was tending the Co-op, a young couple came in and decisively bought a felted black bear and an owl (who was immediately named Beethoven)—they had been looking at them earlier. It turned out they are musicians, and one day last year I received a photo of my bear and owl perched on a jazz stage in Sweden! When customers come into the Co-op and really look at and appreciate the work there, it is a great pleasure to be part of it all.
As a working member—-tending the shop, hanging shows and arranging displays, doing the window, attending monthly meetings where decisions are made—-I marvel at the teamwork, the directness and honesty of fellow members, the respect for differences of opinion, the generosity of spirit and time given to each other and to the Co-op. In 72 years, I haven’t before found a group in which I feel so able to express myself, so happy to be myself. We come together in the context of sharing an appreciation of each other’s art and meeting the very real challenges of running our Co-op.
My Identity as a Fiber Artist: Watering the Seeds
My grandmother, Bubba, taught me to knit when I was about 8 years old and I took to it immediately. I remember the delight of making something grow from just a ball of yarn and two needles. It had a calming effect on me and I found that I could immerse myself completely, spending long periods of time on a project without getting bored. I recall gifting a knitted hat that I’d made while home sick to my fifth grade teacher for the holidays! It was the first of countless hats, sweaters and vests I would make for others over the next half century! Although the intensity has ebbed and flowed, I continued to knit throughout my teens and adult life. Friends would buy me yarn and I would knit them sweaters. I was rarely seen at meetings without my knitting bag as I industriously worked away on a project. I found that I could focus more and would talk less! (In my 50s I was diagnosed with ADHD. Surprise to me, but not my children :)) Knitting helped to keep me centered and grounded. In my 30s I taught many friends how to knit and eventually started a “Stitch and Bitch Club,” where a group of knitting friends would meet weekly at each other’s homes.
Although I was initially hesitant to “come out” as a knitter (I always thought it was too “girly” and clashed with my tomboy sensibility), it was clear that sharing my knitting passion in a community was mutually rewarding. In my 40s, while teaching at the Rowe Elementary School, I taught my students and some staff how to knit and we formed an after-school knitting club! But it wasn’t until I moved to Conway in 2006 and met Lisa Hill, a master weaver and former SAC member, that I entertained the idea of selling my hats. She encouraged me to fill out the jury form and take some of my latest designs to the shop to see what the community thought. I was totally surprised and inspired when she reported that they had been received quite enthusiastically! It was with great satisfaction that I could finally re-frame my lifelong passion: I was officially a Fiber Artist!
When it was clear that there was a viable market for my hats, I become much more productive, exploring felted and fulled knit hats (the former knit on huge needles and shrunk in the washing machine, and the latter knit on regular sized needles and shrunk minimally to create a denser and softer fabric). I love working with many color palettes incorporating Andean and Greek motifs. I realized that if I was intent on “painting with wool,” I would need to invest in a full spectrum inventory. (I dove right in and still have a rainbow retail supply in my study at home!)
Over the last ten years I have truly cherished my experience as a working member of the Shelburne Arts Co-op. From developing meaningful and mutually supportive relationships with my fellow artists to the delightful and surprising connections that often take place with customers, I have grown into my new artistic identity with confidence to try new techniques and designs. The recent departure of a fellow knitter gave me the opportunity to explore “baby knitware”. Recently, I inspired to start crocheting with PLARN, plastic yarn made from recycled single use grocery bags, lending an environmental facet to my projects. Who knows where all this will lead? The ongoing support and inspiration of the Shelburne Arts Coop has truly watered the seeds of my fiber artistry. Many, many thanks!