story by ELIZABETH GRANGER
Gail McKinnon sat at a floor loom at Tabby Tree Weaver in Fishers. She’d already spent a day and a half dressing the loom, and now she was throwing a shuttle through strands of yarn to weave the vertical and horizontal threads together. McKinnon, from northeast Indiana, was in her second day of a three-day weaving seminar. Owner/instructor Sandi Lemons walked among the half dozen looms, eyeing each student’s work, giving pointers along with encouragement.
Lemons has been teaching weaving in her shop for about four years. She said textiles have always attracted her, “and I always knew I wanted to learn to weave.” She said she loves seeing her work come alive as she creates a piece. Now she teaches others to do the same.
Weaving is popular throughout the state, as are other forms of fiber art. The modes are many, as are the practitioners. They’re all ages, male as well as female. They create works of art from mostly natural but also synthetic materials – linen, wool, silk, and acrylics.
Last fall the Wabash & Erie Canal Park in Delphi began offering historic trades classes that include not only fiber arts but also coopering and hearth cooking. “Our volunteers have been dreaming about this for a while,” said executive director Mike
Tetrault. “The allure is that it’s unique, historically important, fun to learn something new – and you get to take home what you make.”
How-to shops typically offer supplies in addition to classes. Consider Homestead Weaving Studio in Columbus, Ply Fiber Arts & Studio in Richmond, Three Moon Fiberworks in Chesterton, Blueberry Cottage in Plymouth, Spinnin’ Yarns in Griffith.
Heritage Farm in Flora, with a friendly herd of alpacas, sells not only alpaca yarn but also clothing items.
In Shipshewana, the big craft is quilting. It’s closely tied to the local Amish presence, with shops offering not only fabric but also supplies. Antique quilts, even quilt blocks and old-fashioned feed sack fabric, are at Rebecca Haarer Arts & Antiques. At the other end of the spectrum is the technology of the Quiltster Coloring Consultation at the Cotton Corner.
Yoder’s Department Store has access to more than 22,000 bolts of fabric. Nearby there’s more at Lolly’s Fabrics and at Essenhaus Quilt Shop. Quilter Elaine Jones hosts groups for a meal and quilt-making demonstrations. “We need to stay with these (traditional) crafts,” she said. “We can make them better. We can make them easier. But we need to stay with them.” Age-old crafts are showcased, and taught, in historic settings at Conner Prairie, Wabash Woollen Works in Wabash, Kokomo Opalescent Glass Works, and Wabash & Eric Canal Park. There are classes in quilting, weaving, bobbin lace, blacksmithing, coopering, hearth cooking, and pottery. Beck’s Mill in Salem has two 1816 carding machines considered to be the oldest in the country.
Consider painting, photography, leather, clay, wood, glass, jewelry and more, available in a variety of venues. Many sites offer not only works of art but also invite visitors to watch the artists work. See Scott Shafer Stoneware in Centerville, Davis Mercantile in Shipshewana, Artisans in Indianapolis, Hot Shop Valpo in Valparaiso, and Magaws of Boston near Richmond.
Many offer classes and supplies and a whole lot of encouragement. Think of the Chesterton Arts District, Gallery 15 & Studio in Peru, Classic Stained Glass in North Vernon.
Indiana Artisan Gifts & Gallery in Carmel and in French Lick offer works from throughout the state that include a myriad of arts. Other shops focus on works from their areas; among them NobleMade in Noblesville, Brown County Craft Gallery, Harrison County Artisan Center, Chesterton Arts District. Still others offer a worldwide look at art; they include By Hand Gallery in Bloomington, O’Onda Gallery & Gifts in Richmond, Global Gifts in Indianapolis and Bloomington.
And while artists produce exquisite work with years of know-how and attention to detail, there’s also a lot of fun and, sometimes, goofiness. Yarn bombing is big in Shelby County. It’s wrapping colorful yarn pieces around objects in public spaces, to spread joy. It’s so popular that a group meets weekly to crochet items for a growing number of sites. Tiffany Kredit, recreation director of the city parks, said, “We all have something in common – yarn!”
And for more goofiness, on Feb. 3, 2024, Lolly’s Fabrics in Shipshewana will host a pajama sale 6-9 a.m. Shoppers come in pajamas.
You can find artists at work, along with beautiful selections of pieces for sale, at art shows and festivals all around the state. One of the largest is the Carmel International Arts Festival, a two-day event that brings in over 100 artists representing nine different mediums. The festival includes lots of entertainment, including free concerts, and a great variety of food and drinks.
At the end of September each year, the two-day Madison Chautauqua Festival of Art is southern Indiana’s premier outdoor juried arts & crafts festival featuring approximately 175 exhibitors. This festival is free to the public and features continuous live entertainment, a riverfront food fest, kid’s activities, and an entertainment garden with local craft beer and wine available. While in Madison, be sure and check out Bicentennial Park where you’ll see the “Flight” exhibit featuring nine large steel bird structures, each weighing more than 200 pounds, with 12-foot wing spans. This exhibit goes through late October.
One of the highlights of summer in northwest Indiana is the Lubeznik Arts Festival, held on the grounds of the Lubeznik Center for the Arts in Michigan City in August. You’ll spend two fun-filled days with more than 60 art vendors, a live mural invitational, indoor exhibitions, family activities, local food vendors, and more.
The annual Art Blitz event in Valparaiso helps the Art Barn School of Art highlight its educational art offerings in September with live demonstrations and exhibitions of regional art, and collaborations with other arts organizations. Art Barn’s retreat-like atmosphere provides plenty of inspiration for creative minds.
In August, the Chesterton Art Fair is a premier juried art festival with more than 100 artists, live music, family activities, food vendors, and more. Held in Dogwood Park, the fair is in its 64th year and brings in almost 4,000 visitors. And be sure and plan a visit during the Chesterton Arts District’s “3rd Friday” events when participating locations stay open late and host special sales.
There are too many special art events to list, but rest assured you can fill your calendar for the rest of the year. Be sure and mark your calendars for two major fiber festivals that take place in the spring: the Jay County Fiber Arts Festival, and the Fiber Revival at Beck’s Mill in Salem.
And in Fort Wayne, the Fort Wayne Museum of Art has just opened their new permanent glass wing, featuring a collection of nearly 400 glass sculptures.