A world of fiber art on display at Cutchogue library
Time doesn’t exist when natural fibers artist Barbara Ringewald is at her loom.
“It’s hard to say,” she said when asked how long it took her to complete a double-woven reversible jacket on view at “Weaving My World,” her exhibit at Cutchogue New Suffolk Free Library. “I have no sense of time at all.”
Patience, on the other hand, is something she has in abundance.
Not unlike the medieval European queens who passed the time laboring over intricate tapestries, Ms. Ringewald devotes inestimable hours to her craft from the second-floor studio of her Nassau Point home.
“You have to have the time to sit [at the loom] and devote to it,” she explained. “I can knit in front of the TV — you can’t do that with this.”
On a recent visit to her studio, the wall-to-wall carpet in the large space was littered with a sea of loose fibers: white, lime green, red, purple. On a nearby wall, a wooden spice rack was stocked not with rosemary and sage but with spools of thread in a rainbow of hues.
“I’m all about color and texture,” Ms. Ringewald said.
These motivators are particularly present in “Mountains,” one of the 22 pieces on view at the library through the end of the month. The tapestry, which Ms. Ringewald said took “days and days” to complete in the late 1970s, depicts a rugged, almost three-dimensional landscape in shades of brown, orange and gray.
“Whereas some weavers do very complex pattern weaving, I don’t,” she said. “I only pattern when it helps me express what I’m trying to do.”
Ms. Ringewald grew up in Ontario, Canada, and taught special education in Nassau County before moving to the North Fork in 1996 with her husband, Bob — and when it comes to weaving, she can seemingly do anything.
Although she admits tapestries are her “first love,” she’s also skilled at making panels, rugs and wearable pieces like shawls, scarves, vests and jackets, all of which are also on display at the library.
“Barbara is not only a creatively artistic weaver, but a risk-taker and a trouper as well,” Ann McCaughey of the Friends of the Library, the organization that sponsors art exhibits at the Cutchogue library. “We were not at all sure how the pieces would look in the upstairs gallery, having never had a show like this one before. But she put it all together beautifully and it has turned out to be one of the most popular shows.”
The piece from “Weaving My World” that perhaps means the most to Ms. Ringewald is “Pink Ribbon,” which she wove from hand-dyed cotton after Mimi Seidman, her best friend of 30 years, died from breast cancer in the late 1980s.
“I was devastated and didn’t know how to work through my loss, so I turned to my weaving,” Ms. Ringewald said. “It was just around the time they were beginning to use the pink ribbon as a symbol.”
Her version of the emblem contains several frayed “windows” filled with photos of Ms. Seidman, her family and her beloved dog.
“They represent the fraying of life,” Ms. Ringewald explained. “I weep for the years not lived. She was a very vital person and had a lot of years ahead of her.”
Her exhibit’s pièce de résistance, she believes, is “The Octopus’s Garden,” an experimental, labor-intensive coat named for the 1969 Beatles song of the same name. The heavy, turquoise-colored garment is hand-dyed and features beaded representations of sea creatures including dolphins, crabs and, yes, an octopus. The silk-lined coat is one of eight pieces in the exhibit to have won awards from weaving organizations around the country, she said.
“I’ve always been a big environmentalist,” she said. “The sea is so important, especially now, with all the emphasis on water quality. It was really worthwhile working through it.”
“Weaving My World” is on view at Cutchogue New Suffolk Free Library through the end of December, Monday through Friday from 9:30 a.m. to 8 p.m., Saturday from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday from 1 to 5 p.m. Call 631-734-6360 for more information.