The Fiber of Our Being
August 3 - September 24, 2023
236 Taylor Street, Port Townsend, Washington
GALLERY HOURS: Thursday-Monday, 12-5 PM
Three women — who've found healing in art — interweave their creations in “The Fiber of Our Being,” the summer-into-fall show at Grover Gallery. Weavers Tininha Silva and Mo Walrath and nontraditional quilter Andrea Alonge are bringing together 30 works of art. They range from Silva’s woven “Kelp Forest” and Alonge’s “Sometimes When We Touch” quilt to Walrath’s “soul boats.”
Silva is a local artist originally from Recife, the coastal Brazilian locale closest to Africa. She was a swimwear designer in Seattle for many years, and then moved to her husband’s home town of Port Townsend.
Silva loved her work in Seattle. But since she had to send her designs out to be manufactured, the artist longed for a practice she could see through to fruition.
She found it here. Mixing raffia, a plant fiber from Madagascar, with materials found on her beach walks, Silva developed her own weaving practice. Her spouse Sean Yearian, a builder, constructed an unusual loom for her: It’s made of chicken wire.
Mo Walrath, a neighbor of Silva’s in Port Townsend, is a Chicagoan who studied weaving in Ireland and Oregon. She works in her attic studio, surrounded by bundles of willow she harvested in Chimacum. A recent visit found her finishing one of her larger soul boat caskets, along with a raw-silk shroud dyed sky blue.
Alonge, who grew up in Mesa, Arizona, has also reinvented her life in the Northwest. Now based in Portland, Oregon, she creates quilts that are anything but square. Their names include “Rings of Flowers Round Your Eyes” and “Couldn’t Stop that Spinning Force.”
All three will share their art practices and ideas in classes and gallery lectures. Alonge will give a presentation at Grover Gallery titled “Breaking the Box with Sculptural Quilting” at 7 p.m. Aug. 19, and a full-day workshop Aug. 20 at Northwind Art School at Fort Worden State Park.
Walrath will also give a public talk at Grover Gallery. Titled “How I Hold You, How I Would Have Held You,” her discussion is set for 7 p.m. Aug. 29. The artist, who works with families to weave caskets for their loved ones, will explore questions of how we grieve and how we, in our families and community, hold one another.
Later this fall, Silva will host “Weave-Along and Conversation with Tininha” at Northwind Art School. In this Nov. 17 class, she’ll discuss the artmaking process; participants will get to create their own woven pieces.
More about these offerings is found at https://northwindart.org on the Courses page.
For each of these women, making art has meant finding their places in the world, and connecting with people. Alonge, for her part, grew up in a religious household. Homeschooled until ninth grade, she was supposed to fit inside the expectations of family and church.
“From a young age, I rebelled,” she recalls. As she got a little older, Alonge didn’t know what to do with her big feelings. Then she got to a public high school and discovered ceramics.
“I realized that this is the place,” she said, “where I feel good.” Alonge later switched from ceramics to fiber, and earned two fine art degrees. Today she exhibits her work internationally.
Walrath works both in her studio and outdoors, making cradles and caskets for children and elders. When they can, families help her weave the vessels that hold their deceased beloved.
“The response I get back from the people, from the families,” she said, “is just heart-exploding. They are so grateful. It matters to them the way their people are held.”
Silva is another kind of weaver altogether. She acknowledges she was at a loss when she first moved to Port Townsend. She has always loved to work with her hands; she’s also dealt with anxiety for much of her life. One day, after her two sons had gone off to school, Silva tried some weaving. She made a hand-held aqua-blue tapestry.
Silva has been weaving ever since, creating her versions of coral reefs, sea blossoms and other marine life-inspired pieces.
“I wish more people knew that working with your hands is such a powerful tool; it’s very meditative,” she said. The artist added that she has found her ikigai: Japanese for the thing that gives you joy and passion. She hopes this for everyone.
“Find that one thing, and hold onto it,” Silva said.
“Keep exercising that one thing that makes you happy.”
Pictured: A willow soul boat by Mo Walrath; Couldn't Stop that Spinning Force by Andrea Alonge; Sea Blossom XIV by Tininha Silva; Death Is a Falling Star: Carola by Mo Walrath; Touching from a Distance by Andrea Alonge; Coral Reef II by Tininha Silva.