Lowell residents will have the opportunity to see fiber arts demonstrations and buy handcrafted items from nearly a dozen artisans during the 2020 Lowell Weaving Fair. The event, which is hosted by Ability Weavers, will run from 10am-4pm on Saturday and be located on a section of Riverside Drive just north of Main Street.
Many weaving events were cancelled this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic, says Beryl Bartkus, co-owner of Ability Weavers. After seeing the success of Market on Main, Beryl and her husband Eric thought an outdoor fair in Lowell might help fill the gap left by the loss of those other events.
“It’s a win-win for the community and artists,” Beryl says. The fair will not only allow fiber arts experts to show off their wares, but it is also a chance for residents to learn more about a craft that can be both soothing and satisfying.
Event Expected to Become an Annual Tradition
Although called the Lowell Weaving Fair, other fiber arts such as spinning and twining will be represented during the event as well. Spinning is the process of turning fiber into thread or yarn while twining is an older technique that involves interlacing fabric, yarn or other material.
Some weavers will be demonstrating their craft at the fair while other artisans will have booths to sell their items. While most of the artists are from West Michigan, some are coming from as far away as Traverse City. Yarn, scarves, capes and rugs are some of the many items visitors might see.
“Our handwoven towels are very popular,” Beryl says. By Christmas, they will likely be gone so the Weaving Fair is a great opportunity to pick up gifts while items are still in stock. She adds, “There will be tons of nice handmade products.”
If all goes well, Eric and Beryl hope this will turn into an annual event that celebrates the fiber arts and brings together artisans from near and far.
Weaving a Purpose
The Lowell Weaving Fair is just the next step in what has been an unexpected journey for Eric and Beryl. Prior to opening Ability Weavers four years ago, the two had little knowledge of the craft. That changed when they happened upon a loom in a thrift shop and decided to take it home.
Beryl put it to work and realized that weaving might be something their daughter, Erin, would enjoy. Erin, who has autism, was getting ready to finish school at the time, and her parents were thinking and praying about what the future would hold for her.
“We believe the Lord helped us out,” Eric says. The loom from the thrift shop sparked an idea that weaving might not only benefit Erin but could provide jobs for others who have disabilities and might have trouble finding traditional employment.
Ability Weavers was soon formed, and the store now employs 12 people who all earn above minimum wage to create handwoven rugs, towels, runners and more. Eight volunteers also help out in the store to assist employees as needed.
In addition to employing people with disabilities, Beryl has held weaving classes and taught the skill to hundreds of people locally. Now, the couple is hoping the Lowell Weaving Fair will introduce even more people to the joys of working with a loom.
“Once they try it, they really enjoy it,” Eric says. What’s more, weaving has an additional benefit that may be particularly applicable in light of the current political climate and ongoing pandemic. Eric explains: “Weaving has a long history as a stress reducer.” And a stress reducer may be something we could all use right now.
The Lowell Weaving Fair runs from 10am-4pm on Saturday, September 26, 2020. The event will be held outdoors on Riverside Drive, just north of Main Street and near the Lowell Light & Power building. For more information and photographs of vendor goods, visit the Lowell Weaving Fair 2020 Facebook event page.