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Cranbrook Academy of Art - Fiber Department


My sister sent me some wonderful photos yesterday.  She and a group of friends were walking around the Cranbrook campus in Bloomfield Heights, MI and needed a bathroom.  They entered one of the buildings and stumbled into a weaving room to make my heart sing.

The last time I saw this many floor looms in a single room it was at the Penland School of Craft in North Carolina.  For a weaver there is nothing so exciting as looking across a huge room filled with all types and sizes of looms.  So much possibility!

Of course, if I had been there I could have taken an hour or more to walk around and look at each and every warp to evaluate what each and every weaver was doing - fashion fabric?  Kitchen towels?  Silk Scarf?  It's probably all there in that one room.

Any weaver will recognize the list of steps in warping your loom.  It's pretty much exactly what I do every time I start a new project.  Except for the steps I don't do.  I don't use a warping board or a raddle, for example, because I sectionally warp my looms but the list is totally accurate.

I had to google Cranbrook just to see what they are about.  I recognise the Cranbrook name because of my love for Cranbrook looms but the school is a different beast.  The Cranbrook Community was born in 1904 with the purchase of 319 acres.  Building began and has continued almost to the present.  There are K-12 schools for day students and boarding students.  There is an Art Museum, the Cranbrook Institute of Science, a small church and the Academy of Art.  This is where all those looms can be found.  The Academy of Art includes fiber/textiles, metalsmithing, ceramics, design, painting, photography, sculpture.  Wow.  The Academy of Art is a graduate-only school where the students are guided by the artists in residence.  Pretty darned cool. 

There are distinct similarities to Penland School of Craft.  Penland is where I learned to weave back in 1961.  Both schools were both started in a similar time frame, both wanted to teach a respect for the process of creating high quality work.  In terms of the textile/fiber portion of the learning, there is a significant leaning towards art in textiles rather than craft.  I definitely lean towards the craft end of the spectrum but quality work is quality work whether you are making a towel or a wall hanging.

By the way, the Cranbrook loom was designed by a Swedish craftsman, John Bexel, to the exacting specifications of Loja Saarinen in the 1920's.  Saarinen was in charge of the weaving being done at the Cranbrook Community and Bexel was allowed to call the loom Cranbrook.