I’m excited to share the art journey and wonderful creations of weaver and artist Kathy Marty of Windy Hill Weavers. Kathy weaves eco-friendly rugs, runners and wall hangings from Pendleton Wool selvage materials and cotton from her home studio in Washougal, Washington.
Kathy’s art journey is varied and interesting!
Jump Ahead To:
Kathy was enrolled as a sculpture major in college, creating wood laminated pieced sculptures. However, she developed an allergy to the wood dust and had to pivot to a different medium. She took a beginning weaving class as part of her major and began exploring 3D weaving and sculpting with fibers. This began a life-long fascination with weaving and fiber arts.
While attending the University of Cincinnati she volunteered at an inner city art center teaching weaving, spinning and sculpture.
She moved to Berkeley California and enrolled in classes at the Fiberworks Contemporary Textile School. One of her teachers was a Japanese weaver and she introduced her to traditional Japanese silk dyeing and weaving. Kathy was fascinated by this new medium.
She went to Japan and apprenticed at a silk dyeing and weaving school for two months. She learned alongside apprentices who were committed to a two-year intensive apprenticeship.
I asked her if she spoke Japanese and she said very little! How in the world did she get along in a foreign country not knowing the language? Her teacher had prepared her with a notebook with over 500 weaving terms translated into Kanji (Japanese character language). A lot of pointing at words and gesturing helped her communicate effectively.
Before traveling to Japan, Kathy, with the help of her teacher, marked up a large map of Japan with the locations of numerous weaving studios. Kathy went on many excursions to these weavers’ home studios and visited with the weavers. She shared some of her own creations and learned from them. It was a very inspiring and exciting time.
The culmination of her apprenticeship in Japan was the creation of a kimono jacket that she designed, dyed, wove and sewed in the traditional silk Kasuri technique.
Just take a look at the complexity and beauty of her silk Kasuri fabric!
And here is the finished masterpiece:
After returning home, Kathy began teaching weekend workshops in the traditional Japanese style of Kasuri. Kasuri is a unique indigo dyeing technique utilizing resist tying threads and deep blue-black dyes to create patterns and images in the fabric. Here is a museum photo of many different kinds of Kasuri fabric:
Photo by Jyo81 (ja: User) – Own work, CC BY 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=13397003
Kathy’s art journey took another pivot when she enrolled in a graphic design class at her community college. She discovered she had an aptitude for graphic design work and began volunteering at The Sierra Club. It wasn’t long before she was hired to be their first ever graphic designer in the conservation department. Wow! Kathy is part of environmental history!
Kathy did graphic design work for 20 years.
A family move to Washougal, Washington on the Columbia River Gorge brought yet another pivot. Kathy walked into the Two Rivers Heritage Museum one day and saw an antique loom. A volunteer was demoing the loom for visitors and it brought back all the memories of the love she had for weaving. Kathy began volunteering at the museum, doing her own demo weaving on the old loom.
One of the volunteers gifted her a 1930’s loom and Kathy began using selvage cuttings from The Pendleton Woolen Mills store, across the street from the museum. It was a fortuitous combination. Here is a Pendleton Wood loom showing the selvages being cut from the sides:
Here are some prepared selvages waiting to be woven into rugs:
I asked her what is so appealing about weaving. She says the action of weaving is part meditative and part intentional choices. It’s the perfect meld of her love of color, pattern, artisan skill, and design. The simplicity of the pattern for the rugs and runners permits lots of color and 3D texture experimentation.
Kathy creates many custom rugs for clients. Here are just a few:
Just look at how well this rug works in this modern kitchen:
Her loom takes over 36 yards of thread and two days of work to measure out and set up. One rethread will suffice for 20 rugs.
In addition to being a talented weaver, Kathy is also a substitute para-educator for local elementary school districts.
When I asked her what she was most proud of in her art journey, she said it is the authorship of Camp Windy Hill , a summer day camp she created for kids ages 5 to 11. She offers 6 week-long classes in science, arts and crafts, outdoor play and short skit performing that sell out each year. The kids have an absolute ball, and once they age-out at age 12, they can come back to camp and be youth counselors. She loves guiding them into mentoring younger kids and learning the responsibilities of leadership.
When she substitute teaches, kids often run up to her asking when the next camp will be or gushing over their fun experiences.
Today, Kathy has woven over 400 rugs using Pendleton selvage cuts! Weaving is a perfect meld between her years as a graphic designer, her interest in sculpting, color, pattern, 3D artworks and the beauty of the variety of textures in her woolen rugs.
With Camp Windy Hill on hiatus due to Covid, Kathy is busy with commissions for her woven work. She is finishing up a custom 10 foot runner run for a client’s new home.
On deck is another custom piece to be created from her client’s extensive collection of old jeans.
Find her work:
You can order her rugs directly from her website:
Follow her on instagram:
And on Facebook:
You can find her at local art and craft fairs like this one: