“Reflections” by Jennie Lee Henderson received an ATA Award at the Conference of Northern California Handweavers, “Spun Treasures” Exhibition displayed at the Double Tree Hotel in Sacramento, California.
I was born and raised in Southern California. My grandmother, who was a knitter and tatter, lived with us when I was young and taught me her crafts. By the time I was in high school, I was designing, sewing, and selling hand-dyed dresses.
In the early 1970’s while going to college in Denmark, I discovered weaving. I cashed in my return airline ticket to buy my first Glimakra loom and shipped it back to California. Once home, I began to weave with the help of Davison’s A Handweavers Pattern Book and lots of enthusiasm.
In 1977 I moved to Gualala on the Mendocino Coast of Northern California and began to spin. Soon I was knitting and selling handspun wool sweaters at local craft fairs. I bought mail order fleece from New Zealand because local sources were poor at that time.
In 1980 I was invited to New Zealand to spend time on a sheep farm where I learned about sheep breeds and the differences in their wool. I came home with a new spinning wheel, excited to start weaving with handspun.
Over the years I have spun everything from dog hair from my pets to the lint from my clothes dryer. I have gathered mushrooms, moss, lichen, flowers, and bark to use in dyes. I have, though, become a purist, spinning only wool and no longer using dyes. I can now buy a wide range of beautiful, natural-colored, locally produced Romney fleeces. I prefer to spin in the grease with a little flicking, but no carding. I spin a number of fleeces and then weave until the yarn is gone. I make two or three rugs and several throws each year from my handspun wool.
Jacquetta Nisbet– teacher, tapestry weaver, and neighbor — introduced me to Navajo weaving. The use of Navajo techniques allows me a kind of freedom in my rug making that I never experienced with loom-controlled designs. I am able to design at the loom with no cartoon, just an idea. My design usually develops in the first three to six inches, the texture and colors of the wool blending with my idea to guide the pattern. The “Reflections” tapestry rug was woven in this way. I envisioned a push and pull between the colors, creating an impression of reflections on water.
My eclectic lifestyle is mirrored in my textile arts and weaving. I make scarves, throws, and shawls in brightly colored silks, rayon, and tencel on both four- and eight-harness looms. I work in bound weave, shadow weave, and with supplemental warps. I make tapestry-style, handspun, natural-colored wool rugs on both a Navajo loom and a large, eight-harness Glimakra loom. I make whimsical, rainbow-colored, ribbon scarves utilizing a trapped fiber technique. I have an idea for huge outdoor installation: a Navajo rug woven of colored rope or coated wire.
You can see my studio and more of my work on the web at www.jleeh.biz