‘Nordic Journey’ exhibit showcases connection to traditional, historic weaving techniques

  • Opening March 1 at the Salmon Falls Gallery is “Nordic Journey,” an exhibit showcasing the traditional Swedish and Nordic weaving techniques of local artisan Becky Ashenden, owner of Vavstuga Weaving in Shelburne, and photographer John Leni Marcy. Pictured are woven samples by Becky Ashenden. Contributed Photo

  • ”The Glacier Edge #3” by John Leni Marcy, whose photographs provide context to Becky Ashenden’s weavings and the exhibit. Some photos are of the Nordic regions he and Ashenden visited that are home to these weaving techniques, while others introduce you to the Bassett Homestead, in Shelburne, MA – home to Vavstuga Weaving School and the Fabric of Life non-profit organization. Contributed Photo/John Leni Marcy

Staff report
Published: 3/4/2021 8:57:53 AM

Now open at the Salmon Falls Gallery in Shelburne Falls is a “micro-local” exhibit taking visitors on a “Nordic Journey” through time with examples of traditional weaving techniques of a local artisan, paired with photographs from a trip to the Nordic regions where these techniques originated.

One of the featured exhibits is “Nordic Journey,” from Becky Ashenden of Vavstuga Weaving in Shelburne, and photographer John Leni Marcy of Fabric of Life. Vavstuga Weaving recently moved from Water Street to the old Bassett Homestead in Shelburne where Ashenden grew up. The barn has been re-purposed to become a new classroom space, filled with looms and Ashenden will resume teaching traditional weaving classes when COVID restrictions have lifted.

The move helped Ashenden focus on the creation of a whole new nonprofit organization, Fabric of Life, and the exhibit will include a fundraiser for the nonprofit. Handwoven towels will be available for purchase to support their activities. According to a press release, the nonprofit organization is dedicated to helping traditional skills flourish in our modern world. Ashenden and her board of directors strive to see these skills enrich daily life, and make these skills available to future generations.

“Being able to bring that home and share it with people has been one of the biggest joys of my life,” Ashenden said in an introductory video for Fabric of Life.

Ashenden’s focus is Swedish and Nordic weaving techniques, and people come from all over the world to participate in her classes. It started in 1981, when she traveled to Sweden to learn about the Swedish textile world at Sätergläntan Institutet för Slöjd och Hantverk, a school in existence since 1922 renowned for weaving and other traditional crafts. This experience motivated Ashenden to pursue weaving as a life passion as well as a career, according to a statement about the exhibit. She has been passing on her knowledge to the students of Vävstuga Weaving School since 1991.

Another venture, Vävstuga Press, came into existence when Becky created a book series, including translating weaving books from Swedish to English and republishing Swedish weaving books that had gone out of print. She has also been the technical editor for several Swedish weaving books recently published in English.

“Nordic Journey” is a collaborative effort featuring weaving work by Ashenden and photographs by Marcy. Ashenden founded Vavstuga Weaving School, and Fabric of Life, both of which are dedicated to teaching and promoting traditional crafts and skills. Vavstuga focuses on Swedish textile weaving, and Fabric of Life widens the scope by offering workshops in agriculture, cooking, construction, music, community and other necessary activities from a simpler time. Fabric of Life’s goal, as stated in a press release, is to help traditional skills flourish in our modern world. In the introductory video for Fabric of Life, Ashenden has said she was “smitten” and “inspired” by the weaving techniques and culture she experienced  while in Sweden.

“What we really endeavor to do going forward through our Fabric Of Life, 501(c)3 educational organization is to continue to provide a nourishing environment in which people can come and learn,” Ahsenden said in a video introduction on fabric-of-life.org.

The Salmon Falls Gallery exhibit, which opened March 1, serves to introduce the public to programs from Vavstuga and Fabric of Life. Rich woolen blankets, table linens, curtains and rugs, all woven by Ashenden, will be on display as a testament to her repertoire of techniques.

Photographer John Leni Marcy serves on the Board of Directors for Fabric of Life and played a key part in developing the nonprofit. He accompanied Ashenden on a trip to the Nordic regions that are home to the traditional weaving techniques, and these photographs provide deeper understanding of the work featured in the exhibit. Other photographs introduce viewers to the Bassett Homestead in Shelburne.

The Salmon Falls Gallery, at 1 Ashfield St. in Shelburne Falls, has ‘brick and mortar gallery hours’ for Nordic Journey from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Mondays now through through April 25. The exhibit can also be viewed virtually in the Salmon Falls Gallery online store anytime. More information can be found at salmonfallsgallery.com.

Information on Vavstuga weaving school, including classes and an online store, can be found at vavstuga.com.

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