Ability Weavers will host the third annual Weaving and Fiber Arts Fair on Saturday, July 30. The event will take place on Riverside Drive along the west side of the Flat River from 10am – 4pm. There will be 15 vendors selling products and doing demonstrations throughout the day.
A Staple in the Community
Ability Weavers opened its doors in July 2016. The business currently employs 10 people with a focus on employing those with special needs. There are also 9 volunteers who help out. Over the past six years over 30 individuals have been trained in basic retail skills and weaving according to owner Beryl Bartkus.
The business is designed to be a social enterprise in that it’s set up to help people and society. Bartkus and her husband, Eric, opened Ability Weavers as a way to help their daughter, who has autism, be able to have adequate employment. When Michigan school services end, it is often difficult for people with disabilities to find work in their mid-20s. Business profits are used to hire more weavers.
A variety of handwoven products are created on 14 antique looms. Most of the looms are at least 40 years old. Some even date back to the 1940s. The largest loom in the store is almost 10 feet wide and is used to weave rugs and other items that are eight feet wide.
Promoting Weaving and Fiber Arts
The first Weaving and Fiber Arts fair was in 2020. The event was started as an outdoor gathering within guidelines for COVID protocols in place at the time. Both visitors and vendors enjoyed it so much that both parties requested it is continued as an annual event. Last year there were 10 vendors and this year 15 will be participating. Last year 300-400 visitors came to the event. This year an even bigger crowd is expected.
“Our desire is to show that weaving and fiber arts are a fun way to create items that are useful and beautiful,” says Bartkus. “Individual towels can be woven on small tabletop looms or on larger floor looms for multiple quantities. Both of these machines will be demonstrated at the Fair.”
Handwoven rugs can be customized to match a home’s decor. They’re durable and last a long time. However, fiber arts incorporate more than just weaving. Also included are spinning, felting, and dying. Art in this medium is created from natural fibers such as cotton, linen, and wool.
Most of these arts will be demonstrated during the event. The hope is that seeing how different products are made and the versatility in what can be offered will encourage more people to turn to weaving and fiber arts for products and to even pick them up as a hobby. Handwoven rugs, towels, shawls, handbags, totes, clothing items, and wall art will be available as well as handspun dyed yarn, roving, and raw fleece from sheep will be available for purchase from vendors.
“Some people consider the fiber arts to be a ‘lost art’, but that is far from the truth. Working with fibers of any kind is fun, relaxing, and produces something that has beauty and value,” remarks Bartkus.
Visit Ability Weavers
The business motto at Ability Weavers is “weaving a purpose”, allowing employees to learn useful skills, earn a living wage, and increase their sense of purpose. Those interested in learning more about weaving and fiber arts can also visit Ability Weavers during open hours. Custom orders make up a large portion of sales for Ability Weavers. There is no upcharge for custom work.
In addition to handwoven products, visitors can purchase looms, weaving tools, and specialty yarns. Products from other businesses designed to make a difference in the lives of people with disabilities are available for purchase and include Beer City Dog Biscuits, Beyond Bones and Benjamin’s Hope.
The Weaving and Fiber Arts Fair will take place on July 30 from 10am – 4pm along Riverside Drive. Visitors will be able to meet and support local artists, have fun, and celebrate fiber arts. For more information visit the event’s Facebook page.
Photos courtesy of Ability Weavers and used with permission.