Dear Friends,

Another Trail has begun! I almost said ‘another Trail was hatched’ because I always feel like they’re walking around on stick legs until they get a little more organized. We’re very lucky to have this group of fiber artists and shops. Madison is a city with progressive roots and the fiber arts community is no different. They’re amazing and do not lack for opportunity to exhibit, sell, share their work, teach and eat really great food, for that matter! We dubbed our Trail tagline to be ‘rich history-contemporary vibe’ because Madison has an eclectic mix of students and bureaucrats but being smack dab in the Midwest and surrounded by countryside, the group also wants to honor the traditions that are so strong here in the Midwest.

Because I love word clouds, I made one for the Madison Fiber Arts Trail out of the words we used when describing their place. Here’s how it worked; I handed out slips of paper and a pen to everyone and asked a couple of questions. Our next steps were to find patterns or themes in the words that Trail members wrote down. Being new to Madison, some words really popped out to me. One of the phrases was “Wisconsin Idea.” The concept behind this goes back to the late-1800’s when some very forward-thinking individuals (mostly men because that’s how it rolled in those days) put forth the following policy about the university system in Wisconsin. Charles R. Van Hise first enunciated this concept in 1904 while he was UW President:

The Wisconsin Idea is a philosophy embraced by the University of Wisconsin System (UW System) that holds that university research should be applied to solve problems and improve health, quality of life, the environment, and agriculture for all citizens of the state. As explained by Adlai Stevenson, “the Wisconsin tradition meant more than a simple belief in the people. It also meant a faith in the application of intelligence and reason to the problems of society. It meant a deep conviction that the role of government was not to stumble along like a drunkard in the dark, but to light its way by the best torches of knowledge and understanding it could find.”[1]

Connecting People and Place

This level of meaning is very important and connects people to their communities in a myriad of ways. Several people in the room are especially connected to this progressive ideal and it was exciting to witness their pride of place. And it truly started in Madison, seat of the University of Wisconsin system and state government.

We talked about conservation and sacred spaces in Madison, specifically the springs that feed the lakes. The Yahara River Watershed literally forms and shapes the city. Lake Mendota is the big, round glorious lake that hosts UW on its southwest shore and is the north shoreline of the Isthmus. Yes, the Isthmus. This little stretch of land between Lakes Mendota and Monona is very important. It’s urban unlike about everywhere else in Madison and hosts UW and the state capitol and Capitol Square. The Square is a gathering place for the much beloved Dane County Farmer’s Market and Art on the Square; two very popular attractions for locals and regional visitors. For the whole scoop on the Isthmus and everything else that’s going on around Madison go to www.isthmus.com

Other words that pop out from the word cloud are environment and nature. The group is passionate about the accessibility of experiences throughout Madison and especially at Olbrich Botanical Gardens and the UW Arboretum. Whether you’re hiking, biking, or strolling through the greenhouses, they are places for learning, preservation and inspiration.

Lastly, I’d like to address community. Synergy happens with community, you know the old saying ‘the sum is greater than its parts’ kind of synergy. That’s what the Trails are all about. What happens when people who share a passion come together for a purpose? We’re bigger and embolden ideals that we can’t achieve by ourselves. I realize it might sound like something was in my morning orange juice today, but I have seen synergy take effect time and time again. It really comes down to this; when you have a whole bunch of people to encourage you, say you’re great, your art is beautiful and has meaning, you start to feel good about yourself and your mind shifts into possibility thinking and you get in your groove. Not to be too woo-woo about it, but you find your truth and you’re ready to rock.

By now you must be wondering, who are these people?

There are eight founding members of this trail. Gael Boyd calls herself an instigator. She owns Blue Bar Quilts in Madison. It’s part quilt shop, gathering place, exhibit space and class room. Gael does a great job of bringing it all together. Here’s a link to her website: http://www.bluebarquilts.com/

Jennifer Angelo nuno felts wearable art. She lived in New Zealand for five years and her work is inspired by New Zealand’s natural environment and culture. https://midwestfiberartstrails.org/project/jennifer-angelo/

Jen Mulder owns The Electric Needle which is a retail store that sells sewing machines, fabric and notions, rents out long-arm quilting machines and houses a dye studio and classroom. https://www.electric-needle.com/

Jaala Spiro has a fun shop named KnitCircus Yarns. Jaala is also a fiber dyer and has special relationship with a family-run woolen mill in Maine and together they turn out luxury wool-based hand knitting yarns. https://knitcircus.com/

Sheryl Thies is well known in knitting and crochet circles. She has almost twenty pattern books in her repertoire and teaches classes nationally and is known to host knitting and crochet cruises! Sheryl does not have her own website, but is all over Ravelry, so here’s that link. https://www.ravelry.com/designers/sheryl-thies

I first met Julie Pietras when she was in the Fiber Art Almanac book I published in 2013. At that time, Julie was needle felting small creatures with animal-like personalities. Super cute and beautifully finished! Since then Julie realized she loves to dye fabric, so she put away her needle felting and got out the dye pot. Julie likes to create shawls, wraps and scarves in linen and silk. https://midwestfiberartstrails.org/project/julie-pietras/

Jen Falkowski is all about blue. Yep, indigo is her color and she leads retreat style workshops and teaches classes about indigo dyeing all over the region. www.jenniferfalkowski.com

The Cat and Crow is a yarn shop in the charming hamlet of Mt. Horeb, which is just a little ways west of Madison.  Started in 2009 by friends Melissa and Rebecca, they stock patterns, kits, local yarn, baskets and much more. http://www.thecatandcrowonline.com/home.html

Not hard to tell that the Madison Fiber Arts Trail is off to a great start. If you’re of a mind, read some of the basic info about Fiber Arts Trails here. There’s an online application that gives me info about you. We are a very welcoming group, but want to make sure all our members are out for each other’s best interests.

About Midwest Fiber Arts Trails

Midwest Fiber Arts Trails explore the Midwest’s rich textile community through the promotion of fiber arts activities and cultural tourism. All Trail members’ art and activities are featured and marketed on Midwest Fiber Arts Trails website year-round. Midwest Fiber Arts Trails seeks to build a network of community-based art trails to fulfill its mission to honor the Midwest’s rich textile heritage and celebrate and promote the work of contemporary fiber artists. Each community-based Trail may include individual artists, galleries, arts centers, museums, shops, woolen mills and farms. Each Trail is unique to their place, local history, and member objectives. Trail members may offer an annual weekend event, member exhibit, workshops, demonstrations and special programming to promote their members and community to their audience of fiber enthusiasts.

The mission of Wildwood Press is to honor the Midwest’s rich textile heritage and celebrate and promote the work of contemporary fiber artists.

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