In its simplest form, the repetitive act of weaving cloth, driving threads together into an artful entanglement of warp and weft, is something like time itself: slow, steady, drifting, building. The weaver moves deliberately, thinking all the time, perhaps dreaming. And even in the dramatic world of fiber art, where the clockwork of age-old craft intersects with creativity to form new aesthetic alliances, there's a certain amount of isolation involved. What originated around campfires hundreds and thousands of years ago is now a sequestered studio art form.
That is really why the biennial Handweavers Guild of America International Fiber Arts Conference:Convergence 2004 exists, notes Sally Burch of the Rocky Mountain Weavers Guild, the local organization hosting at the Colorado Convention Center this week. "The purpose is twofold," she says. "One is educational: We do come for the opportunity to take classes from international textile fiber people. But it's also about reconnecting: We gather weavers from all over the world every two years, and they get enthused, they get ideas. It's uplifting for them to see new work by very experienced weavers." She estimates that about 2,000 artists will take part in the aptly named "convergence."
In addition to providing a melting pot for artists, it's also a chance to put fiber art into the public limelight. While the weavers -- actually a catch-all term for a group that includes spinners, beadworkers, textile designers, makers of wearable art and more -- gather to share ideas, learn and view one another's best work, the public gets treated to a weave-apalooza that includes eight convention-sanctioned juried exhibits as well as locally generated satellite shows at dozens of Front Range galleries and museums. If nothing else, it should go a long way toward righting the notion that weaving is commonplace stuff.
"Some view weaving as a craft, but it really is an art," Burch maintains. "Weavers go through the same sort of creation process as a painter would in painting a picture."
Step into the convention's public exhibit hall, and you'll see what she means: Shows on display there include a spectacular handweaving collection juried by recent Denver Art Museum exhibit subject Rebecca Bluestone, national exhibits of basketry, handspinning, interlaced textiles and mountain-themed fiber works, plus Fibers With Altitude: GarmentsWith Attitude, a display featuring singularly gorgeous wearable art created for a convention fashion show. Two additional Convergence shows can be viewed along with the American Tapestry Biennial at the Metro State Center for the Visual Arts, 1734 Wazee Street.
The $10 daily admission fee for the Convention Center exhibits includes access to the vendors' hall, a weaver's Valhalla of yarns, equipment, hand-woven garments and books that Burch calls "fantastic," even for the non-professional browser.
It's all a wonderful starting point for a journey through the city and beyond in search of textile exhibits big and small, staid and outrageous, from the Indian blankets and quilts at the Lakewood Cultural Center (470 South Allison Parkway, Lakewood, 303-987-7876) to Edge Gallery's Alternative Fiber Art show (3658 Navajo Street, 303-477-7173) and Studio Aiello's Summer Fiber Arts Invitational (3563 Walnut Street, 303-297-8166).
"It's not just for weavers," Burch reminds us. "It's really for anyone that loves fiber." And we're not talking about Wheaties, folks.