Creative Careers Interviews

'The Singing Weaver' Fiber Artist Nadine Sanders

By Molly Anderson | Posted 4/3/10 | Updated 8/14/22

Nadine Sanders - Quilted Self-PortraitNadine Sanders, better known as The Singing Weaver, is one of the most eclectic and diverse artists I have ever had the pleasure to work with.

Not only is she a wonderful writer and singer; she also designs and weaves gorgeous tapestries and shawls. She even leads travel tours for those interested in the connection between music and the fiber arts. Luckily, I was able to catch her in a free moment! Ms. Sanders took the time to speak to me today about the many threads that weave the tapestry of her career.

Q: What is your favorite type of music to listen to when you're hard at work in the studio?

A: I mainly listen to Celtic and folk music on radio stations via the Internet. My favorite programs are Traveling Folk on BBC Radio Scotland, Folk Club on BBC Radio Ulster, and Inland Folk on Northwest Public Radio. If I'm designing, I work in silence or with instrumental music. Since I'm a writer and a singer, lyrics distract me if I'm trying to design visual work.

Q: What is the effect of different types of music on your work? Do you use the same soundtrack to help create several different types of weavings, or does it vary from piece to piece?

A: I get ideas for weave designs from song lyrics. Three weavings and songs specifically come to mind. I designed "The Earth, The Air, the Fire, The Water Return" based on chant of the same title that Libana recorded many years ago. For a commission of an artist who lives on a tree farm, I designed "Forest Moon Womb" based on the lyrics of the round "Where is the Moon?" by Becky Reardon. For the cover of my group's 4th recording "Woven Harmonies" and as a backdrop for performances, I designed "Harvest Home" weaving inspired by the song "Spinning Straw Into Gold" by Barry and Holly Tashian.

My ideas for weavings come from other places in addition to song lyrics. I receive inspiration from traveling, hiking, gardening, dancing, and from stories.

Weaving process by Karolina Grabowska

Q: What informs your choice of music when you're searching for a little aural inspiration?

A: Since I live in the Pacific Northwest, what I most often need from music is the uplifting energy to counteract the grey skies. I turn to fiddle music. I'm a fiddler and am always inspired by the fabulous fiddlers alive today, namely Alasdair Fraser, Lissa Schneckenburger, Eden McAdam-Somer, Martin Hayes, and Jay Ungar.

Q: As I understand it, you're also a singer and performer in your own right. How do these two aspects of your career dovetail? Working on anything new and exciting in the recording studio?

A: Music and weaving go hand in hand for me. Even as a small child I made treasures with my hands and sang in public. In 1993 I formed the women's vocal group, Straw Into Gold, to perform music to accompany my weaving thesis show. We sang songs of weaving, farming, hearth and heart, and released five recordings. Close vocal harmonies relate to the successful marriage of structure, design and materials that make weavings sing! The rhythm inherently linked to weaving and music making is the touchstone to my creative energy.

In May I'm singing harmonies on a live concert recording for my friend, Dan Maher's newest album.

Q: Your events, like "Threads Tunes and Ruins Fiber and Music Tour of Scotland" sounds amazing. What do you plan during events like these?

A: I spent a summer in the British Isles researching links between traditional and contemporary fiber art and music. I met so many interesting people that I wanted to share my experience with others. I've led three tours now. We visit artists' studios, museums, attend concerts and music sessions, see a sheep dog in action on a working farm, take a workshop from a Scottish artists, and walk amidst ancient stones.

Q: With all these creative threads on your loom, how do you stay so organized and focused? What creative projects will you be weaving next?

A: I grew up on a farm where you have to do many things to stay self-sufficient and went to a small school where every student participates in many activities. My mother was an elementary teacher and a farm wife and was very organized. These things taught me to juggle at an early age. It was a natural step to run my own business as an adult.

I will weave a self-portrait based on a design I used for my quilt group's self portrait project. Everyone in my group quilted a self portrait we put together as a group quilt and exhibited at shows. The Theo Moorman weaving technique I teach, a pictorial weave, will lend itself nicely to a woven face. The quilt and the weaving will form a diptych. If I'm still inspired by the end of the weaving, I may machine needle felt a third portrait.

The other woven item is more practical. I need a shawl to wear with the dresses I wear when I sing with Sky Blue Swing band.

Q: What advice do you have for novice weavers and fiber artists who'd like to parlay their passion into a career?

A: I asked this same question to notated weaver and designer Jack Lenor Larson at the start of my weaving career. He answered simply, "have something else you can work at, preferably related to your artistic medium, that you can do half the time to support yourself." I taught music lessons while I was growing my Singing Weaver business. That paid my monthly bills.

My own advice is three-part:

  • Be willing to work long hours.
  • Know what it is that refreshes you, stop work, sleep, and do those things to rejuvenate. It comes down to learning the balance that works for you.
  • Be willing to spend a lot of time promoting yourself and your work.

Learn more about Nadine's work at the Singing Weaver blog and her books Weaving that Sings and More Weaving that Sings.

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