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The Eric Carle Museum
of Picture Book Art
  • 125 West Bay Road
  • Amherst, MA 01002

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  • Thursday, Friday10 am-3 pm
  • Saturday 10am – 4 pm
  • Sunday 12 pm - 4 pm

Closed Monday,Tuesday, Wednesday

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Picture Books We Love

Women Weavers

Hey Y’all, this is Sara from the Carle Bookshop and I have some wondrous weaving books to share with you! I have long been a champion of the magic that is the picture book biography and the first two books here are perfect examples of why I love the genre so much.  

 the book A Life Made by Hand stand upright in a pile of woven blue cloth

Andrea D’Aquino wrote and illustrated A Life Made by Hand: The Story of Ruth Asawa (Princeton University Press, 2019) to celebrate the life of the sculptor best known for her enormous woven wire shapes that hang from the ceiling. D’Aquino’s mixed media collage illustrations create a playful atmosphere that impart the lifelong artistic curiosity of Asawa, who was inspired by everything she saw around her, especially in the natural world. 

interior page shows spider in a web with close-up eye of girl watching

Both figures and landscapes are created with a mix of collage and drawing, the textures of the cut papers creating much of the rich environment. The text is simple yet poetic, with shorter lines of text often dispersed thoughtfully and creatively about the page.  

Part of what I love about picture book biographies is how the creators can distill an entire life into carefully chosen words and images that tell the entire story in a succinct way. Readers get the story of young Ruth and her curiosity for everything, with emphasis on how her arts education played such a vital role in developing her artistic voice and practice. She was deeply impacted by the wire basket weaving technique she learned from a local craftsman on a trip to Mexico, and continued to use them to make her most famous works. 

illustration of Ruth Asawa learning basket weaving from a man

This book was created with the input of Asawa’s family, D’Aquino was able to interview her two daughters, and it focuses on the passion and joyful drive the artist had for her craft. Ruth Asawa was both a prolific artist and a mother of six, there was not a separation for her between life and art. She made her art while with her children, teaching them as she later taught so many more with her art activism.  

There is a short section in the back that briefly touches on other parts of her story and provides resources for learning more about the great sculptress. This is a feature of many picture book biographies and is why I so strongly encourage anyone interested in learning more about someone to start by reading a picture book biography! In reading them, one can relish in the brief yet intense immersion into the sensations of a creative life and be inspired to learn more. 

cut paper collage illustration of Ruth Asawa making wire sculptures at table with her children

 

Louise Bourgeois is the subject of this lyrical and richly illustrated collaboration between Amy Novesky and Isabelle Arsenault. Cloth Lullaby (Abrams, 2016) begins by stepping into a lush memory-scape of the artist’s childhood in France. It was in those formative early years, helping her family at the trade of tapestry restoration, that Bourgeois became immersed in fiber arts. 

the book Cloth Lullaby sits atop a lap loom with a half-finished weaving

Her mother taught her how to discern patterns, weave threads and mend things with patience and skill. Bourgeois's relationship with her mother impacted her work deeply and this book illustrates their bond. 

mixed media illustration of mother showing Louise Bourgeois a selection of tapestries

With the tactile quality of the illustrations and mark making, this book delves into the sensory joys associated with fiber crafts, the vibrant color dyes, the sharp tools of the trade and the meditative state achieved only through hand-crafts. The text melds seamlessly with the illustrations, creating a world that beckons the reader to join in this world of dreams and creation.

 illustration in red shows the tools needed for loom weaving including scissors and threads

Though she is most well-known now for her larger sculptures of steel and stone (the most famous of which is of the ultimate weaver: a spider), Bourgeois worked with cloth throughout her career. “She sewed. She stitched. She reworked. She wove. She stuffed stockings to create cloth sculptures and figures. She sewed colorful shapes and spirals and circular webs with small spiders.” (pg. 27-28) Later in her life she created cloth books with hand sewn illustrations on each fabric page.  

illustration in red of two hands weaving a loose looped pattern

I love how both D’Aquino and Arsenault have used a different loose looping line in thier illustrations that both create the illusion of woven threads, a gorgeous visual connection between drawing and weaving!  

There is a grander conversation to be had about weaving and its importance in the lives of women, but these two books can get you started on learning how two amazing artists used weaving as a way to make themselves known in the world. I highly recommend reading these two books together as the lives of these two women were contemporaries, producing art at very similar time periods. 

 

cover of Wind Child shows woman with long white hair and delicate weaving blowing in the wind

As I was immersing myself in these wonderfully woven biographies, an out of print favorite jumped out at me on my shelves, Wind Child (Harper Collins, 1999) by the incomparable Leo and Diane Dillon. I have a collection of picture books by the Dillons and am an avid admirer of their art, especially their ability to create diaphanous pastel illustrations such as the ones created for this original fairy tale by Shirley Rousseau Murphy. Each page also features a border motif with a sculpted relief made by the Dillons’s son Lee, giving another dimension to the faces of characters. 

The story follows a young girl, the daughter of the wind who yearns to be recognized by her airy kinsmen and learns to weave tapestries that have a magic of their own.  

She uses a variety of fibers in her quest to create a woven companion, reeds and grasses, but also tufts of wool, horse hair, spider webs and feathers. 

interior page of Wind Child with text and illustration of woman weaving a man out of vines and plants

Without giving too much away I will say that I very much enamored with this contemporary fairy tale that exhibits a strong female character who takes charge of her own fate and uses her masterful craft to find the happy ending she seeks. 

illustration by Leo and Diane Dillon of a white haired woman weaving a tapestry that floats off her loom

 

The Bookshop Staff has a few weavers among us and we thought it would be nice to share a few of our recent projects here! 

 

Hannah made a woven border of slender branches and twigs for her garden! 

 sticks woven into a tiny fence around a garden of plants

detail of decorative woven branch fence

 

Sara used artificial sinew and cotton thread to create a loom and weaving on a forked branch.

forked branch and waxed sinew shown in process hot of weaving project

detail of weaving project, cotton thread on waxed sinew tree branch loom

weaving on forked tree branch held in sunlight to show shadow pattern

 

Allie made a cut paper strip weaving using her own drawing of a caterpillar. 

process shot of cut paper strip weaving of caterpillar drawing

cut paper strip weaving of caterpillar drawing

 

Eliza used her loom and a variety of yarn fibers to make these lovely woven hangings. 

 

 small standing loom with progress shot of white and gold weaving

 wall hanging of white, grey and gold fibers 

 white, grey and pink wall hanging of warn fibers with tassels

 

One more creative thread to follow: 

Keeping in mind that the wonderful worlds of fairy tales, folklore and mythology is positively riddled with an amazing array of tales of powerful weavers and other craftspeople, all of which could be the topic of a number of blog posts, here is a short list of other picture books featuring Weaving:  

The Weaving of a Dream by Marilee Heyer

Aneesa Lee and the Weaver's Gift by Ashley Bryan

The Crystal Mountain by Ruth Sanderson

The Weaver by Thatcher Hurd, illustrated by Elisa Kleven

Weaving the Rainbow by George Ella Lyon, illustrated by Stephanie Anderson

Abuela's Weave by Omar S. Castañeda

Rainbow Weaver/Tejedora del Arcoiris by Linda Elovitz Marshall and Elisa Chavarri

The Cloud Spinner by Michael Catchpool, illustrated by Alison Jay

Waiting for the Owl's Call by Gloria Whelan, illustrated by Pascal Milelli

Therese Makes a Tapestry by Alexandra Hinrichs, illustrated by Renee Graef

The Magic of Spider Woman by Lois Dunca, illustrated by Shonto Begay

A Weave of Words: An Armenian Tale by Robert D San Souci, illustrated by Raul Colon

 

by Sara Luttrell

This entry was posted on Wednesday, May 20th, 2020 at 8:00 am and is filed under Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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