Read the original article here.
With the opening of the Digital Weaving Lab at Praxis Fiber Workshop last month, the Waterloo Arts District in Collinwood added another jewel to its already glittering crown. It is the only such training center with a digital loom that offers professional residencies on this side of the Atlantic Ocean.
According to Jessica Pinsky, Praxis’s executive director, the only other program with residency opportunities is the Icelandic Textile Center in Blönduós, Iceland.
Although there are approximately 50 such computerized looms in the U.S., they are all located at colleges and universities that make them available only to students. Once those individuals graduate and become artists, teachers, programmers, designers and so on, they no longer have regular access to the equipment.
Last year, Praxis took out a $35,000 loan to help pay for the $50,000 piece of equipment, the Thread Controller 2 (TC2) computerized Jacquard loom manufactured by Tronrud Engineering in Hønefoss, Norway. Encountering a lack of interest from commercial banks to support their arts endeavor, Praxis partnered with the NoteWorthy Federal Credit Union that was founded by The Cleveland Orchestra in 1960 to help musicians obtain loans to purchase instruments. NoteWorthy considered the digital loom an essential piece of equipment for Praxis. The loom arrived on December 13, 2020.
The TC2 loom operates every thread individually. While manual looms are restricted to a repeat pattern, the TC2 can weave any combination or image and never repeat, so artists even have the ability to weave a photograph. The TC2 is the only loom where the artist is still controlling the weaving but the computer automatically tells the loom which threads to lift or lower.
Residencies start at $500 per week; interested candidates are asked to fill out a short application form including a statement of purpose.
“It was a big push for our board and a big investment, so it’s exciting to see this vision actually happen,” said Pinsky, who’s been working on opening the DWL since purchasing the house behind their workshop facility at 15301 Waterloo Road for that purpose in 2018. Like many arts organizations, Praxis lost revenue from memberships and classes during Covid-19 and Pinsky sees the digital loom as part of their path forward. “There’s nothing like this on the entire continent for an artist interested in renting time on this piece of digital equipment, so we can fill that void in our fiber arts community.”
First resident started in March
The Digital Weaving Lab’s first resident, Haumed Rahmani, a programmer and doctoral student studying at the Advanced Materials and Liquid Crystal Institute at Kent State University, arrived on March 1; the second was scheduled to start on April 1. The DWL provides a COVID-safe space because the resident lives and works alone in the house. Praxis received enough applications to fill residency slots for the entire year. Currently, the organization is in the process of hiring an intern to work in the DWL, Pinsky said, and should have someone in place by summer. Praxis also offers digital weaving classes.
Residents new to the TC2 can take a virtual class on file design prior to starting a half or full month residency. Although Praxis recommends it, no prior weaving experience is required.