Flashback on the 20th Birthday of Mirrix
By Mirrix CEO Claudia Chase in honor of Mirrix’s 20th anniversary.
In The Beginning.
I remember with Mixed emotion the first time I ran into tapestry. It was a very informal class held somewhere in San Francisco. I have no idea how I found it and what drew me to it. I guess I had been emotionally attached to weaving for years. I had gotten a rigid heddle loom for Christmas when I as eight or nine (I asked for it . . . saw it in the crafts section of Macy’s (when Macy’s had a craft section) and found myself the proud owner of a four harness table loom in my early 20s. But why I signed top for a tapestry class, six or seven months pregnant and not feeling, in other respects, too creative, is a bit of a mystery.
I believe I attended two of the classes. Informal, it was! It seemed that almost all the other students had been attending this same class for years. It was really just a good excuse for all of them to gather and weave an not much instruction for new students was going to happen. They were having a grand old time. Rigid heddle looms were provided if one did not already own one. The second class was all about natural dyeing, but I had this sense that no matter how “natural” the onion skins were, the heavy metals they used to “set” the dyes probably were not the best thing for a pregnant woman. Whether it was or not, I was pretty high on the “pregnant neurotic scale” so I didn’t return for class three. I did, however, buy the rigid heddle loom they suggested I buy: a 22 inch Beka Loom. I found some gorgeous alpaca yarn at the store where I ventured to buy the loom and went home and before I gave birth wove exactly nine scarves which served as my go-to Christ was gift that year. I don’t know what happened to tapestry concept. A baby was born. You might know here as Elena, the very same Elena who now runs Mirrix with me.
Even though I did not indulge it, the tapestry bug did not leave me. New State (from San Francisco to the North Country of NH . . . quite a change), unburdened from pregnancy, and, what do you know, the tapestry bug resurfaced and I whipped out that rigid heddle loom and set it up for tapestry. I somehow managed to order some yarn (pre-internet folks) and I was off and running kind of backwards because I had very little idea of what I was doing since as you remember, I never finished that class.
I got to reinvent tapestry all on my own. I got to make outrageous awful mistakes and feel proud about them. I was able to “discover” tapestry techniques that, if I had a book would have taken a day, not six months. I stumbled along, wondering why my edges were so impossibly not straight, why circles turned into eggs but, at the same time, having the time of my life. I was obsessed, I was fixated, I was in love with tapestry.
A Story about Looms.
I worked on a rigid heddle loom for several years until one day I ran into someone who was trying to sell her Leclerc floor loom. This loom was sort of designed to be a tapestry loom. It was upright, had a fairly small foot print and I was head over heels in love. There were problems with the loom however. First of all, the tensioning device was completely inadequate. It had the possibility of great tension, but since the device was a band of metal on the end of the top beam about which wrapped a spring-like piece of flat metal that was tightened to keep the beam from slipping. It did not work. This is where my brain began to move into “how do I make this loom better) mode. It occurred to me that the gear was slipping because it was metal on metal and so it needed something abrasive in between. I took a small piece of sandpaper and folded it so that the sandpaper was on both sides. I slipped this in between the two metal surfaces and guess what? It worked. It worked perfectly, until I realized that because I was able to put such great tension on the loom the top and bottom beams were starting to bend, which meant uneven tension where the beams got closer together in the middle. I fixed that by adding angle irons to the top and bottom beams. Also, the aprons that one ties onto were falling apart, so I replaced them with cord. Finally, I had a very functional tapestry loom.
Dyeing and Spinning.
By this point I was selling my tapestries either made into purses or as wall hangings. I did a couple of commissions. I was probably weaving eight hours a day and it was constantly calling to me.I had long ago become frustrated with the lack of available tapestry yarn and the colors I wanted. To that end I started buying up large lots of “rug” wool and dyeing it exactly the colors I wanted.
That lead into meeting a spinner who also sold spinning wheels and buying a spinning wheel and learning how to spin. I remember were living in the Wisconsin at the time and were moving back to NH. I received that spinning wheel a week before we moved. I distinctly remember the sequence of packing boxes, sitting down at the spinning wheel to practice spinning, packing more boxes, etc. By the time we got back to NH, I had learned how to spin. And then I went completely crazy and started buying fleeces and dyeing them and then combining the colors with combs or cards so that all the yarns I spun were actually made from multiple colors of fleece. This made the dyeing process so much easier because I didn’t have to go for even dyeing of the fleece since it got all mixed up anyway and even if I got a color I didn’t particularly like, I could blend with other colors. I went crazy dyeing and spinning until finally the effort to run Mirrix took over my life and I really did not have time for that anymore.
Mirrix was born twenty years ago.
Mirrix has gone through as many changes as my own personal tapestry adventure. It stands on the back of a lot of passion and love. It spreads that almost unexplainable feeling you get when it’s just you and the loom and a bunch of inspiration and excitement because you know, you just know, that something great is going to flow from your fingers and fill you with joy.
Want to help celebrate Mirrix’s birthday?
Sign the Mirrix birthday card here and be entered to win a loom!