WEAVING LEGENDS – MARGARET B. RUSSELL
My looms and I share an infatuation with the fibers that we spend our days and nights with. To my core, I am a texture weaver. It is the robust fibers, raw and untethered, that make this heart beat even faster. The affection between weaver, her looms and her fibers is a love story. My pieces clearly define this union. All are woven exclusively of natural fibers and intrinsically feature the timeless beauty of simple functional design.
Weaving with wool is my métier, specifically the wools of primitive, rare, and threatened British sheep breeds that are being raised in the UK and the USA, often in the face of adversity. These are not the marketable and profitable meat sheep or soft and fluffy white breeds that were preferred by those who persistently culled flocks with “less desirable” characteristics. Separate watchlists in the two countries vigilantly monitor their vulnerable population numbers to prevent further losses. With all of this in mind, I work to promote awareness of these breeds and aid in their conservation through my weaving by using their unusual and often little-known wools.
For the past several years and for more to come, I am dedicated to weaving an extensive private collection of “Preservation Wraps”. Using the naturally colored and textured wools of watchlisted breeds, the wraps are designed and woven to look as if they were lifted right from the sheep themselves. These animals are walking archives going back hundreds and even thousands of years. A wealth of research accompanies each wrap. The stories I am able to share from my research are as crucial as the collection itself. Some are sad accounts of tragedy and loss, while others are celebrations of triumph and survival. Weaving Legends is my tribute to these storied sheep and their wools. When complete, there will be over seventy pieces in the collection.
Margaret B. Russell is a self–taught handweaver with over 35 years of experience. A childhood filled with an abundance of textiles and tales told of ancestral weavers from Ireland and wool workers from England added formative influences, but in her mind she was always destined to be a weaver. As one, Margaret has upheld the tradition of her forebears, something she particularly values.
Vintage looms of many sizes fill a devoted weaving studio and study in Byfield, Massachusetts. A getaway on Badger’s Island, Kittery, Maine provides a space dedicated to historical research. Margaret’s handweaving workshops, classes, presentations, and piece displays are offered at arts and fiber centers, conferences, galleries, and guilds.