BLOWING ROCK — We didn’t ask Peg Schroeder if she used calculus or trigonometry to figure out her weaving designs, but it wouldn’t be a surprise if she did. She admits that the “math” of her artistry is one of the draws into fiber arts — in her case, weaving — on a personal level. The intricate designs in much of her work could only be achieved with careful calculations.
Schroeder is one of two featured artists the week of July 25-31, at Edgewood Cottage on Main Street in Blowing Rock for the Artists in Residence series produced by the Blowing Rock Historical Society.
To create a finished weaving involves a bit of math, she said.
“I find it interesting that just about every weaver that I have met likes math. There is a lot of to figure out: the different types of yarn that you use, how much you use. There is warp and weft, and how far apart you space your thread in the warp…. It is problem-solving, and I like that,” she said.
Look around her exhibit at Edgewood Cottage at so many delicately, beautiful pieces and it would be easy to surmise that she has been at it for a long time.
“Actually, I only started about eight years ago. During our years living in Wilmington, along the coast, we came up to Blowing Rock quite often. More and more, we found ourselves wanting to spend a lot of time here. So, about 10 years ago we made the transition. We live in Blowing Rock now, but I discovered weaving at the Senior Center in Cove Creek, a few miles northwest of Boone. I also studied at the Penland School, in Bakersville, took private lessons from a master weaver there, Edwina Bringle, and then took a master weaving course out of Saskatchewan, in Canada. I didn’t have to go there because they have a satellite campus in Elkin, of all places,” she said.
Asked what she liked about Blowing Rock, Schroeder didn’t hesitate with a reply, with a smile, “How much time do you have? It’s the people, the climate, the hikes, the natural beauty. It is just a lovely place to be.”
For her, Schroeder said, weaving is both and art and a craft.
“Certainly there is a craft aspect, but I like to think of the art as the creative part, which I am probably more interest in. And that is probably the biggest challenge. Instead of sticking to the tried and true, trying to branch out into the art part of it is where I am going to have more failures because I am learning as I go,” she admitted.
What kinds of failures? “When the warp keeps breaking… How much time to you have? There are endless opportunities for failure,” Schroeder noted.
Schroeder explained that she started weaving in retirement and her interest just sort of evolved.
“I don’t think I knew it at the time, but in hindsight, I think it is the combination of structure and creativity that appeals to me,” she said. “I like the structure and organization of the weaving process, along with the aesthetics and creativity that the artist brings to the work.”
She refuses to be pigeon-holed into a specific style or color.
“From a style standpoint, I am all over the place,” she said. “In just this exhibit, I have all different colors and color combinations, many different fibers, and many different patterns. Some are relatively simple and straightforward, but others are very complex. I don’t have a favorite fiber or color, but I do like to work with yarns that have been burned or dyed creatively by women who are in cooperatives around the world.”
For the neophyte just being introduced to weaving, just learning the terminology can make a head spin.
A “warp” isn’t something bad. And “weft” goes left and right across and through the warp. “Beaming” is not related to a kind of Star Trek transportation, like “Beam me up, Scotty!” Rather it is “winding a prepared warp onto the warp beam” — oops, better refresh my memory about what a warp is. And “beater” has nothing to do with bullying, spousal abuse, or baking a cake. Instead, it is “a swinging frame holding the removable reed, used to beat the weft in place (do you understand weft, yet?).
With a chuckle, Schroeder said, “Yes, understanding the language of weaving can be a challenge when you first start to learn. Then, of course, all of those words become natural, the more you use them.”
Schroeder is exhibiting at Edgewood Cottage through July 31. The cottage is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. each day. The artists are eager to answer questions about their work, swap stories, or just talk. Each piece in the exhibit is available for purchase, with a portion of the proceeds benefiting the Blowing Rock Historical Society.