SUE ELLEN JACOBS

Handweaver of Tribal Wraps

 
 

A move to New Mexico ensued, where there exists a thriving, centuries old tradition of weaving and textile design. From the Navajo rugs of the Four Corners to the serapes and blankets of the pueblos along the Rio Grande, New Mexico is weaving country. I was lucky to find my weaving “maestra,” Judith Drew, with whom I studied. A technical guru, she could thread any type of loom. I remember the first time I walked across her wooden front porch and into her adorable adobe house. It was filled with looms of every size and style and fibers in every color from floor to ceiling. I felt comforted, inspired and anxious to get started. This was me.

I have always been fascinated by fiber, color and textile design.


When I was an art student at California College of Arts and Crafts in Oakland, I often felt frustrated because I couldn’t find my “niche” as an artist. At the time there were no courses available in fiber arts. However it was my good fortune to find myself enamored with the history of art, which has been a part of my artistic journey and as a result has influenced my work as a weaver.


A Bachelor of Arts degree in the history of art from The University of Michigan followed my studio coursework in California. During those years, I found myself drawn to the paintings and tapestries of renaissance Italy and Flanders as well as the mosaic work in the churches of Constantine in medieval Ravenna. The richly jeweled colors of the Venetian painters, the texture of the Flemish textiles, the intricate mosaic work in the cupolas of the churches -- I believe that this exposure, combined with a little world travel, has greatly enhanced my life and my weavings.

Travel to Latin America followed, where I became overwhelmed by the beauty of the textiles of Peru, Bolivia and Guatemala. The intricate work of this part of the world is created on back-strap looms, while the pre-Columbian designs are memorized and passed by rote from one generation to the next. Amazing. Whenever I gaze at my “mantas” from Ollantaytambo, I know that those mysterious symbols were once woven by the Incas and are faithfully continued today. They never cease to humble the weaver in me -- and when I sit at my loom and toss the shuttle, I feel a sense of awe and excitement as I proceed to carry on the tradition of those who wove before me.


A move to colonial Mexico with had an enormous impact on my work.


Color. Flowering vines and trees in every direction. Crumbling adobe walls smothered by magenta, pink, yellow and orange bougainvillea. Violet petal-covered cobblestone streets beneath the dripping Jacaranda trees that bloom in March. Stunning emerald green mountains that emerge each rainy season, only to turn a deep golden ochre when it’s dry. Iridescent hummingbirds and miniature parrots soaring playfully around the garden. The lake that transitioned from blue to grey to violet to grey to blue, depending on the time of day and the light it embraced.


Overwhelmed by it all, I sought to interpret the experience in my work. The result is my collection of Tribal Wraps -- beautifully patterned handwoven shawls and scarves that are one of a kind artwear.