By Scott Scanlon
Published Buffalo News – Refresh
From left, Kara Mann and Michelle Bermingham, both in the marketing department of Fox Run at Orchard Park, and resident Jane Rube, a resident, admire one of the works created by a member of the Weavers’ Guild of Buffalo. Fifty-one pieces are part of a new exhibit in the Fox Run Community Gallery, which is open to the public. (Scott Scanlon/Buffalo News)
Those who never spend time at a spinning wheel or loom might overlook their abilities to boost health and wellness, but the equation seems simple to Mary Jo La Clair and Peg Houseman, members of the Weavers’ Guild of Buffalo.
“It gives you deep satisfaction. It spurs your creative side,” said Houseman, of Hamburg, a retired Buffalo General Medical Center nurse. “You have to think through projects. Your brain is giving your commands.”
“My son-in-law summed it up,” added La Clair, a retired art teacher who lives in Synder. “At a certain age, you either become stagnant or you become creative.”
The two women are among guild members whose work is on display through May in the Community Gallery at Fox Run in Orchard Park on the senior independent living campus.
The gallery, at One Fox Run Lane, is free and open to the public from 8 a.m. to 8 a.m. Monday to Saturday.
The exhibit features 51 pieces from 26 artisans, including hand-spun yarns, basketry-style wall hangings, lace work and tapestries, as well as ponchos, shawls, scarves and other clothing. Styles run the gamut. All hang in a gallery space that includes a self-contained room and nearby corridor along the Bistro in the Fox Run Commons.
Peg Houseman, left, and Mary Jo La Clair each have weaving work displayed in the new exhibit. Each took up weaving more than two decades ago. (Scott Scanlon/Buffalo News)
“We’re celebrating our 50th anniversary and many members were much more inclined to get their work done and get their work out, so this exhibit was particularly special,” Houseman said. “This was a challenge for us also. We never had an exhibit that was all wall-hung art. It challenged our members to think in a different way.”
The guild, established in 1968, has 60 members, mostly women over 30, some who see the fiber arts as worthy of great passion, others as an occasional hobby. Exhibits often include displays with mannequins and their work tools, including a Sheep to Shawl program at the Erie County Fairgrounds.
“The guild rents looms and spinning wheels to members so they can try them out first before making a large investment,” Houseman said. The cost is $5 a month, plus a returnable deposit depending on the value of the piece. The guild has an extensive library with books on the fiber crafts and host two monthly meetings at the Buffalo Niagara Heritage Museum in Amherst. For more information, visit weaversguildofbuffalo.org.
The latest exhibit is the 51st for the gallery, which creates four temporary displays each year. Fox Run resident Jane Rube, a docent at the Burchfield Penney Art Center, is among six people with ties to the senior living campus who helps select presenting artists.
“It’s very popular,” Rube said, “and it introduces things people have not seen before. Not only do the residents see it but family members are exposed to different artists from the community.”
Exhibits have included works from high school students, professional artists across the region and, in one recent case, from artistically inclined Fox Run residents themselves. New works generally creates a buzz on campus.
“We can tell within a few hours if the residents like it or not,” said Michelle Wilson Bermingham, marketing and sales counselor. It’s generally positive, she said.
La Clair won best of show in the current exhibit, for a woven vest dressed with flower likenesses crocheted and needle-felted, and held together using a sewing technique called “couching.” She also submitted a woven portrait of a woman with curly blond hair, bright red lips and a frilly dress, all of which protrude from a picture frame.
“It’s my party girl,” La Clair said. “That was just a fun piece. It was bought by a lady who said, ‘That’s me.'”
Scott Scanlon– Scott Scanlon, an award-winning reporter, is editor of WNY Refresh, which focuses on health, fitness, nutrition and family matters. A Western New York native, he is a graduate of the University at Buffalo and received his master’s in history from Binghamton University.