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Artist of the Month Interview: Sandy Hartmannsgruber

13 Apr 2020 1:35 PM | Caroline Williford (Administrator)

Meet April Artist-of-the-Month:  Sandy Hartmannsgruber

Sandy loves fiber arts: to weave, knit, spin and play with natural dyes. Her thirst for a fiber community is being quenched by Local Cloth. She studied German and Art at Earlham College, later getting her master's degree in teaching at Bank Street College of Education in New York City. She spent a year in the Andes of Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia, learning with artisan families. Sandy moved to Asheville in 2018, after visiting her Grandma here for 24 years. Currently, Sandy has a rug on the loom, a shawl in progress, and two sweaters from the early 2000s waiting to be finished.  Sandy is currently serving on the Local Cloth Board of Directors as Treasurer. 

Our Interview with Sandy:

How did you connect with Local Cloth?

I heard about the Asheville Refinery building during a class at Penland School of Craft. Jessica Green showed me a photo of the bird mural and I thought "I want to go there!" So, before I had even moved to Asheville, I visited and wandered into the Local Cloth studio and got hooked; I became a member that evening. I didn't know whether I'd be able to take or teach any classes, but it felt right so I listened to my gut.

It's been incredibly nourishing to be part of the Local Cloth community, meet folks with similar passions, and experience being an active member of a fiber-focused non-profit. Thanks to Judi Jetson, who called because I checked off the "I'd like to volunteer" box on my membership application, we ended up starting a knitting group in the fall of 2018. The group made items for Helpmate, a local shelter for survivors of intimate-partner violence. Since then, it's been fun selling at winter Local Cloth maker markets, and now I've landed on the board; my first! And we are always looking for more folks to get involved -- you all have so many skills!

Where is your studio located?  And how did you come to be in this location?

I live in the East End neighborhood of Asheville NC. I moved here the summer of 2018 for two reasons: my grandmother is here, and my life had the flexibility for a big move.

My studio is in the dining room of the duplex apartment I share with a housemate and two cats. I also keep boxes of wool and fleece upstairs in my bedroom. It's a constant Tetrus game of fitting my craft supplies in small rooms, with enough space left to fold out my loom for weaving, or have dinner, or play a string game with my kitten. I consider myself a collector; of yarn and fiber, of drawing and office supplies, of projects I plan to finish one day. When I travel, I always bring knitting and journal-writing materials with me, and somehow manage to acquire more along the way. When I returned from a 3-month Ecuador stay in 2018, I brought home with me a small bag of pottery shards and obsidian from the slopes of a volcano. I treasure broken bits special only to me. Thus, my home is a place filled with color and random artifacts. Despite constantly being on the lookout for how to clear space and winnow down my belongings, I like it that way!

Tell me about a project you are currently making.

My llama project has been limping along for the past three years. It's a labor of love and exchange. I love the folks I'm spinning and eventually weaving for, and in exchange for the shawl and blanket I will make with the fleece from their llamas, they traded me a sweet 26-inch Schacht 8-harness floor loom. The llamas they owned in Bloomington Indiana have gorgeous silver, dark brown, fawn, and reddish roving that I have been spinning into two-ply weft thread. Soon, I will weave the shawl using white wool and alpaca for the warp, and mix these with the hand-spun llama yarn in the weft in a twill pattern. I daydream about finding willing spinners to help me process the rest of the fleece into yarn -- are you out there? Would you like to help, in exchange for a meal or friendship, or something as of yet undetermined?

How long have you been working in this medium? 

Weaving has been part of my life since 2002, when I first stepped into the 4th floor studio at Earlham College and fell head over heels in love. My teacher and friend Nancy Taylor nourished and expanded my textile-affinity over the next 4 years, helping me to secure a Watson Fellowship based on ancient and modern Andean textiles for the year after graduation. I lived and worked with families in Ecuador, Peru, and Bolivia. This year of learning and the relationships I formed accompany me to this day. Thanks to the internet, I continue to be in contact with beloved artisan friends in South America. 

In 2004, I had the great honor of a 5-week apprenticeship with weaver, knitter, dyer, spinner extraordinaire Susanne Grosjean in Maine. I had no interest in natural dyes or spinning... She quickly changed that, saying "All of my apprentices learn to spin," and involving me in her madder dye process so I had no choice but to get absolutely obsessed with both. That summer I spun enough on Susanne's drop-spindle to knit my first sweater, which I was working on when Martha Stewart dropped by our craft booth at a fair near Bar Harbor! A year later, Susanne sold me my spinning wheel, a Louet I still treasure. 

Who are some of the people who mentored/taught you along the way?

There are so many women who have taught and mentored me along the way!! I've mentioned Nancy Taylor, my professor at Earlham, and Susanne Grosjean, weaver in Hogbay Maine. My host mother in Quito Ecuador, Susana Velasco, inspires me with her multiple talents: sculptural tapestries, shoes and boots, embroidery; to name a few. My hosts in Peru, Ruperta and Silvano Huatta Yucra taught me their knitting patterns (Silvano) and helped me weave on a stake loom the Taquile way (Ruperta).

I'm eternally grateful to my family and friends, who ooh and ahh appreciatively when I show them a finished project, and often support me by buying a piece when I get my act together to post it for sale.

What inspires you in your work?

When I look around at my collection of wool, I choose colors that match a certain mood, or a texture that would make a great cowl, or yarn I want to use up, and then I come up with a project to use them. Looking through pattern books helps me imagine the possibilities. Then I usually make up my own pattern because I'd rather be flexible enough to make a "mistake" into a design feature rather than locked into a set of instructions. The desire for cozy and warm really inspires my work. Natural colors from indigo, madder, goldenrod, and cochineal inspire me: I want to spread these colors through the world because they bring me such joy. I love simplicity: knits, purls, and plain-weave. I love keeping my hands busy.

Artists who inspire me today include Anni Albers, Ruth Asawa, Katharine Cobey, Adrienne Sloane, Gunta Stolzl, and Rowland Rickett


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