- Associated Press - Monday, November 9, 2015

SHOPIERE, Wis. (AP) - When clients told master weaver Juanita Hofstrom they wanted a thought process illustrated in black, brown and gray with a sprinkling of copper to match their floor tile, she surrendered to serendipity.

“One morning I heard cranes migrating overhead, and thought that’s a good theme. I put together an idea on migration and made a wedge of birds flying,” Hofstrom told the Beloit Daily News (https://bit.ly/1Nx7AfE ).

When her clients called her to say they were tracking some warblers on their Arizona vacation, Hofstrom knew it was meant to be.

Hofstrom, a retired art teacher and weaver extraordinaire, makes many dreams come true via her studio. Located in the basement of a Methodist church building she owns at 5420 Highway S in Shopiere, the studio is home to almost 30 looms.

In her “church of weavers,” Hofstrom teaches a variety of weaving techniques, collects scraps for rag rugs, counsels the occasional wanderer and has even helped orchestrate a baptism in the sanctuary upstairs.

On Oct. 22 she made one of her own dreams come true when she was featured on “A Craftsman’s Legacy” on PBS. The TV show features a variety of lost arts such as blacksmithing and woodworking. Not seeing any fiber arts on the show, Hofstrom emailed producers to pitch her idea.

“To be a weaver you have to have tenacity and audacity. You have to push it now and then,” she said.

Hofstrom said she’s been loving looms since a college class, mostly because of the logic of the art.

“Warp is the beginning threads and weft is the filler. It’s the way they arrange themselves at right angles,” she said. “It just gets into your blood.”

In 1962 her husband Norman bought the emerging artist her first loom and the rest was history. She began doing multi-dimensional pieces like designer pillows in the 1970s, showcased in elite galleries.

Twelve years ago Hofstrom wanted to hone her art even more and offered to sponsor a master weaver from England, Jason Collingwood, in her shop. The man took her up on the offer and moved operations to the church basement. Between the two of them, classes reached up to 20 weavers from around the country.

Hofstrom said she’s always preferred the older looms with cast iron gears. Although she said newer looms are good for lightweight items like a table runner or clothing pieces, rugs require “a loom you can’t kill.”

Her most prized possession is a 200-year-old rug loom “operating beautifully.” The 100-year-old looms are youngsters.

Today she weaves wool saddle blankets, seamless tote bags, guitar straps and stoles for pastors. She also embroiders, spins, knits and crochets.

“My favorite things are serendipitous projects where the journey counts,” Hofstrom said.

Because she inherits a lot of white warp and sheets, she paints the weft before it’s woven for more unique designs. She can manipulate the gears of a loom to make all kinds of elaborate designs within textiles.

Over the years a variety of seekers have migrated to Hofstrom, many from other states desiring to learn the loom. For some she offers a “rug a day” class in which people come and use looms which are already warped and ready. Others she teaches the patience-requiring art which can take years to master, as one struggles to wrestle with the complex machine. When asked how long it takes to make a rug, Hofstrom joked “50 years.”

Hofstrom is also a keeper of wayward looms which seem to find their way to her caring embrace. When one sad loom may have had its metal stripped off, Hofstrom purchased new parts and resuscitated it. Her restored looms are often used to teach or to be passed on to others needing an affordable option to begin their new hobby.

Many of Hofstrom’s seekers are retired people looking for a new hobby and a fresh start. Hofstrom, who calls herself a “throwback,” is also trying new things all the time. Her next mission is to weave camouflage rugs for man caves.


Information from: Beloit Daily News, https://www.beloitdailynews.com

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