Tucked away in the basement at Centre 64 may be one of Kimberley’s best kept secrets. For just over 35 years the Kimberley Guild of Fibre Artists has been weaving beautiful creations using all kinds of materials.
“It’s quite an amazing space, and group, and some of the founding members are still weaving and spinning today,” explained Cecilia Falke, who has been part of the guild for the past year.
Stepping into the surprisingly well lit basement room is like stepping back in time. Bill Henriksen, who is a founding member and helped build Centre 64, can be found spinning away while simultaneously sipping on tea and reading a book. You may have run into him spinning at the Kimberley First Saturday events or the Farmers’ Markets.
Treasurer Maureen Clark, who has been part of the guild for over 15 years, can be found working on a scarf, or a pillow, she’s not quite sure yet but it’s beautiful none the less.
“It’s a great endeavour for such a small community. We have been lucky that so many people have donated looms and other equipment over the years. We’ve got a really well equipped space,” explained Falke, who says that many people don’t realize the guild even exists.
“We are constantly learning and teaching each other something, there’s a lot of ongoing learning taking place” she said. “We also work on group projects. For example, I’m setting up a rug right now that others will end up working on and finishing.”
The guild is currently made up of 18 members, most of whom are retired. They meet every Wednesday from 1p.m. to 4p.m. and they are a happy bunch of creatives. Despite the fact that weaving is literally ancient history, the hobby is alive and well for these few Kimberley residents.
According to an article on weavedesign.eu, weaving is acknowledged as one of the oldest surviving crafts in the world, tracing back 12,000 years ago to Neolithic times. The Egyptians used weaving to make baskets, sandals, mats and bags.
The technique involves taking two separate materials, the warp and the weft, and interlacing them with the help of a loom to form anything from a rug to a coaster.
“Weaving has given me an entirely new appreciation for fabric; for recycling and re-using materials in a different way,” Falke said. “I made each of my kids something for Christmas last year. It’s fabric art.”
Everything from old t-shirts and rags to silk, fur, leather and even old cassette tape and VHS film are recycled and turned into something not only beautiful, but useful as well.
“Unofficial” Vice President Marie Wright has made rugs, handbags, scarves and table runners out of all kinds of materials.
“Setting up the loom, getting your warp ready is the hardest part,” she says. “After that it’s all about fun and experimentation. You can make some very interesting patterns.”
All of the equipment that one would need to learn how to weave or spin is available in the space. If you use thread or yarn, you simply pay for it at cost. You can also bring your own and experiment, and sign out the table-top looms and pattern books to practice at home.
The group hosts a workshop every year, usually in the fall. They have also taught elementary and middle school workshops, and often have tours of their space for field trips.
“I think we accomplish a lot, especially having Bill here for 35 years,” Falke said.
Henrikson was instrumental, Falke says, not only in the construction of Centre 64 itself, but especially the guild’s space.
“I built this room,” said Henrikson. “It’s gotta be about 20 years ago now.”
He explained how he helped to install the windows and casings, put in the ceiling and floor, and is the one who takes care of the many looms.
“If anything breaks or gets sticky, Bill knows how to fix it,” Falke said. “He’ll also show us, so we know what to do if it happens again. If we run into a problem, we’ll help each other. We have our own little community here.”
If you want to learn to weave, join the guild, or simply check out the space, Falke says to pop in on a Wednesday meeting.
“We have an extensive resource library and some expert spinners and weavers,” said Falke. “We’re always happy to see new faces down here, and we’re happy to help anyone who wants to learn.”