Off-loom and online — fibers professor creatively approaches studio class

Tights weaving by Jeana Klein

Klein made this weaving pattern demonstration with ladies’ tights and a chair

When Appalachian State University began online instruction in March, Jeana Klein, professor of fibers in and assistant chair of Appalachian’s Department of Art, encouraged students in her weaving class, who typically meet in Appalachian’s Wey Hall, to look around their homes to find items with which to weave. She did the same.

The result sparked creativity for both Klein and her students, who created weaving projects using objects such as horsehair, toilet paper, exercise equipment, ladies’ tights and kitchen chairs to replace weaving textiles and a loom. The students and Klein had to find ways to mimic the role of the looms by stretching materials around various objects, including fly swatters, chairs, forks and even toilet seats.

“It’s really been about finding a place they can stretch things on; some of my students have wrapped yarn through their chairs,” Klein said. “One of my students is weaving individual sections of a blanket until she has enough to construct a blanket for her grandmother. She can’t be near her grandmother right now due to the social distancing restrictions but wants her grandmother to know she’s thinking of her, which is really sweet.”

9.5-by-5-inch weaving project

A 9.5-by-5-inch weaving project created by Kaitlin O’Daniel, a senior studio art major from Sparta

Klein said her students continued to make progress in their work, despite the challenges of creating projects without a loom.

“My goals for this class, as it has transitioned online, have been to continue to offer a meaningful learning experience, and to support our students during this incredibly difficult time. I’m incredibly proud of what my students have accomplished the last seven weeks,” she said.

“As artists they are uniquely prepared to respond to challenges with creativity.”

Klein said she has learned from the experience of teaching online, even as she looks forward to returning to in-person instruction when possible.

“While this is not an ideal environment for a studio art class, my teaching has been forever changed, and there are things from this experience I will incorporate into my future classes,” she said.

Klein will continue to invite artists to speak and share their artistic approaches with students via Zoom video conferencing, she said, and will possibly provide instructional videos for students to watch before each studio class so students “can spend more time in class working on the skill I’m teaching them that day.”

Klein’s Instagram page shows some of the work she completed to inspire her students as she continues to use her weaving skills away from the loom.

Precious Commode-ity

“Precious Commode-ity” by Jeana Klein

One of Klein’s weaving projects, titled “Precious Commode-ity,” features woven toilet paper in a twill weave shown under the lid of a toilet seat. “I folded the toilet paper into quarters and wove it together before putting it under the seat,” Klein explained. “Then I disassembled it so it could be used as it was meant to be used.”

Klein has also begun sewing face masks to share with those who need one.

“It’s been a bit challenging to focus on my own studio work right now, and I needed to use my skill sets,” she said. “By making masks, and doing the demonstrations for my weaving class, I’ve been able to be useful and challenge that part of my brain.”

With the skills she’s learned from this experience and input from her studio art students, Klein plans to teach an entire class of weaving online during one of Appalachian’s Summer Sessions.

 By Amanda Brasier