Welcome to Friedman Place’s Weaving Studio!

As we reflected upon our past 85 years, we realized that residents have been producing hand-woven cloth at Friedman Place for 35 years! Did you know that Friedman Place’s fiber arts program originated in 1985 with one weaver and one loom? Now, we have a standalone weaving studio right next door to the Friedman Place residence. Nearly one-third of Friedman Place residents participate in the program and enjoy access to more than 25 floor and tabletop looms. Weavers may sign up for up to 2 hours of weaving instruction each week.

weaving project on a loom

We keep inventory on hand year-round in the studio for visitors to view and purchase in addition to an annual sale each November. We encourage our weavers to be a part of the entire design process: from color choice to final product design which can include items like scarves, tote bags, table linens, baby blankets, and rugs so they are passionate about the products they make. The studio is open to public and no appointment is necessary; the studio is open from 9:30 to 4:00 Monday – Friday. There is plenty of parking in the back and you enter the studio through the main building.

While many of our weavers view the weaving process as relaxing or meditative, others consider it their workout for the week. In addition to being a creative outlet, the program was originally developed to be therapeutic in order to improve many important everyday skills such as hand–eye coordination, memory retention, concentration, and fine & gross motor skills. Fine motor skills are also referred to as dexterity. It’s how the small muscles in our hands, fingers, wrists, feet, and toes work together to perform tasks like picking up or manipulating small objects, writing, drawing, and wiggling our toes. Gross motor skills have to do with larger movements (arm–leg coordination) such as walking, running, and crawling. Weaving is a wonderful activity for the residents because the act of weaving requires the use of both fine and gross motor skills (feeling for the end of yarn, threading it through slots in the shuttle, and lifting/pushing on the correct levers in the correct order).

Most recently, the Friedman Place fiber arts program and participating residents have had the honor of partnering with researchers at Northwestern University conducting a study revolving around accessibility in creative making for people with disabilities. The paper “Weaving by Touch: A Case Analysis of Accessible Making” was published this month.

This is an ongoing project being carried out by two of our volunteers who are also PhD students at Northwestern. In a nutshell, they have been observing our weavers and how they (with their visual impairments) have been able to be involved in the creation of their craft (weaving) and what tasks they find intuitive, which they find difficult, and which they need sighted help with. The next step in their process is manipulating a loom to enhance the weaving process for the residents.

If you care to read more about their observations an introduction to the paper may be found here.  Here is the introduction from their published paper:

“The rise of maker communities and fabrication tools creates new opportunities for participation in design work. With this has come an interest in increasing the accessibility of making for people with disabilities, which has mainly emphasized independence and empowerment through the creation of more accessible fabrication tools. To understand and rethink the notion of accessible making, we analyze the context and practices of a particular site of making: the communal weaving studio within an assisted living facility for people with vision impairments. Our analysis helps reconsider the material and social processes that constitute accessible making, including the ways makers attend to interactive material properties, negotiate co-creative embodied work, and value the labor of making. We discuss future directions for design and research on accessible making while highlighting tensions around assistance, collaboration, and how disabled labor is valued.”

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Celebrating the Arts 2019

Celebrating the Arts at Friedman Place was a resounding success last year! Thank you to all of the artists who contributed their artwork for display and to everyone who came out to celebrate opening night with us.

The third annual Celebrating the Arts at Friedman Place exhibition will be displayed at Friedman Place for two weeks, with the opening occurring Wednesday evening at 5:30 on October 23, 2019.

Three mixed-media pieces by Friedman Place residents. The works, cited clockwise, are "Untitled," "We Are Strong Together," and "We Face Today"

Three mixed-media pieces by Friedman Place residents. The works, cited clockwise, are “Untitled,” “We Are Strong Together,” and “We Face Today”

The artwork exhibited in Celebrating the Arts at Friedman Place is related to vision, blindness, or disability. Several of our residents submitted artwork—projects were made in our therapeutic weaving program and crafts put on by our activities department. Some of our residents work on art in their rooms, in their preferred medium, from painting to clay sculpting. Pictured are three mixed-media pieces that a group of residents collaborated on. Many of the woven pieces displayed will be for sale along with many other pieces at our upcoming weaving sale in November!

A woven tapestry, part of the collaboration between Julia Miller and residents, "Blind Weavers Explore Sound"

A woven tapestry, part of the collaboration between Julia Miller and residents, “Blind Weavers Explore Sound”

Several artists in the community submitted art for exhibition. Artist Julia Miller, a professional sound artist and musician, and a group of weavers who are blind and disabled collaborated on “Blind Weavers Explore Sound.” Ms. Miller curated the display. Together, they created several pieces of woven fiber art resulting from their unique exploration of sound and blindness.

"Proud Happy Friends," a collage submitted by the students in room 201 at Amundsen High School

“Proud Happy Friends,” a collage submitted by the students in room 201 at Amundsen High School

Sound frequently helps people who are blind navigate spaces with increased awareness of other people and the surroundings, similar to how people with sight use their vision. Sound helps people with blindness understand physical space in a three-dimensional world. The Guest Artist, Julia Miller, was involved as a partner with the blind-weavers in the development both of the woven art piece(s) and the presentation, which describes both their process in creating the work and what they want to communicate about sound and blindness. 

Fiber art included in "Blind Weavers Explore Sound," by Julia A. Miller and Friedman Place residents. Curated by Julia A. Miller

Fiber art included in “Blind Weavers Explore Sound,” by Julia A. Miller and Friedman Place residents. Curated by Julia A. Miller

The specific design of the project is an outgrowth of the work of the group—blind weavers and guest. The work incorporates sounds through materials used and recorded narrative that is triggered by touch using circuitry, sensors or other types of triggers woven into the piece.

For the recordings, the sound of the weaver weaving (many of our weavers have a very distinct weaving rhythm) were used as well as the weavers being asked prompt questions:

  • What was the best thing you heard today?
  • What was the strangest thing you heard today?
  • Sing/hum us your favorite song.
  • What does happiness sound like?
  • Recite your treadling pattern while you weave (many weavers already do!)
  • Tell us your stories, especially how you became blind and how sounds serve an important role in your daily life
A QR code that contains an audio file describing a selection of artwork featured in the exhibition

Audio descriptions are available by pointing your smartphone’s camera at QR code above. When prompted, tap “open in drive” and you will then hear a description of each piece of art.

This year’s exhibition will debut a new accessibility feature: audio descriptions! Generous volunteers spent time writing and reading concise, objective descriptions of all artwork in the exhibition to help guide listeners through each piece. Try it out! Open your camera phone and hover over the code; a drop-down notification will appear with a link to click and listen to brief descriptions of some of the pieces at the exhibit.

Friedman Place is grateful to the National Endowment for the Arts and to the Illinois Arts Council for their support of the arts at Friedman Place.

National Endowment for the Arts logo
Illinois Arts Council Agency logo
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Celebrating the Arts 2018

Celebrating the Arts at Friedman Place was a resounding success! Thank you to all of the artists who contributed their art work for display and to everyone who came out to celebrate opening night with us on Tuesday, October 16! If you were unable to make it to opening night, the exhibition continues to be open to the public every day from 9:00am – 6:0opm through October 31, 2018.

Masks by Friedman Place Residents, "Friedman Place Family Tribe"

“Friedman Place Family Tribe” by Friedman Place residents

The art work exhibited in Celebrating the Arts at Friedman Place is related to vision, blindness, or disability. Several of our residents submitted artwork – projects were made in our therapeutic weaving program and crafts put on by our activities department. Some of our residents work on art in their rooms from painting to clay sculpting. Pictured are three masks that are part of a collection of masks created by a few of our residents for a collective piece titled Friedman Place Family Tribe. Many of the woven pieces displayed will be for sale along with many other pieces at our upcoming weaving sale on Saturday, November 17, 2018!

Resident touching painting

“Lou’s Lament” by James E. Williams

Several artists in the community submitted art for exhibition. Sally Cooper (who is blind) and Robert Pogtetz submitted Babylonian Braille which drives thought about civilization and communication before the alphabet as we know it was formed. Their art uses tactile items to signify a river, a tribe, etc. rather than works. Artist James E. Williams keeps accessibility to those who are blind or visually impaired in mind when he does his paintings by creating a variety of hills and valleys, smoothness and roughness with the paint. Phrases such as, “Don’t touch the art!” are not in his vocabulary and he invited our residents to interact with his paintings by touching them.

"Never Enough Love" by Susan Dickman

“Never Enough Love” by Susan Dickman

Susan Dickman, became fascinated by Braille when she first began studying to become an educator for the visually impaired and explores it by playing around with size and pop art color in her art such as this one titled Never Enough Love. “Braille creates literacy, bonds, and connection with the world” she said.

 

 

 

Community Woven Tapestries

Community Woven Tapestries

We were also excited to debut our community woven tapestries: My Mind’s Eye Sees What My Regular Eye Cannot. This is a project funded in part by the National Endowment for the Arts. Residents and staff in our therapeutic weaving program teamed up with artist and educator, John Paul Morabito, to collaborate and create woven tapestries that explore color and the experience those who are blind or visually impaired have with it.

NEA Logo
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