“The looms that you see here are floor looms, with either 4 or 8 harnesses, which determines how advanced of a pattern you’re able to get on it,” Sara explains to the AIMEE LACALLE team, running her hand along the large machines which she knows well.
A PASSION FOR FIBER ARTS
To give you a behind-the-scenes look at Savannah College of Art and Design, fiber artist and alumna Sara Wynn has welcomed us into one of the school’s three weaving studios. The weaving classrooms are located in Pepe Hall, a Mediterranean Revival building originally built in 1906 as Barnard Street School, the first free public school in Georgia, and which now houses the fibers department. “SCAD buys and repurposes a lot of old buildings in Savannah and then makes them into a new facility,” Sara says. “They don’t just keep rebuilding and rebuilding, they repurpose and reinvent, so I think that’s a cool quality.”
Sara spent most of her time here in Pepe Hall over the last four years, where she had access to a Jacquard loom and 24 floor looms, felters, and presses. The exhaustive resources at Pepe Hall, she tells us, include a dye kitchen, screen printing lab, sewing lab, felting and paper-making lab, a screen printing lab, and digital textile printing. On her time in Savannah, Sara reflects, “I’m so glad that the campus is integrated into the city. It’s a very cool vibe. As a college student, you’re on a campus, but a campus that’s in the middle of a city, so it’s a really fun way of life here.”
“The palette of the Southern sun and the Savannah trees, down to Tybee Island and the beach, are all such unique colors. They definitely come into my work.”
Sara, who began as a graphic design major but switched to fibers after seeing the work her freshman year roommate was doing, shows us some pieces from her senior thesis collection. Her thesis, called the Historic Alteration Collection, was inspired by fabric and textile processes around the world. Sara created both pattern and woven collections based off her library research into global textile techniques. The goal of her thesis collection? “To inspire people to learn about these histories and these cultures. It’s really interesting, but not a lot of people know about it,” she says.
Sara walks us through her process, holding up pieces she created as inspiration points for her collection: “This is some preliminary work I did for my senior collection regarding altering textiles and being inspired by different textiles.” She continues sharing her experimentation with modern touches on old textiles, such as Indonesian textiles and French toile. She adds, “This is dobby weaving based off of minty greens and blues found around Savannah, and the color I used here was inspired by the yellow flowers you find around Savannah in the spring,” while holding up a finished product, a soft yellow scarf.
Here in Savannah, you are never short on aesthetic inspiration: flowers bloom year round, fig ivy climbs up building facades, palmetto fronds offer geometric patterns, and Spanish moss drapes sensuously across the arms of ancient oaks. Everything is pattern, texture, and color. Sara agrees, “The palette of the Southern sun and the Savannah trees, down to Tybee Island and the beach, are all such unique colors. They definitely come into my work, whether it be just preliminary drawing and sketching, or maybe ending up in a weaving or a print.” Sara sits at a floor loom to demonstrate the physical process, the instrument towering above her.
You can’t help but feel intimidated by such huge floor looms gracing the weaving studio. “Size is deceiving,” Sara assures us. “It’s not as intimidating as it looks. Everybody who starts to weave, wants to keep going. It’s awesome.”
Sara is now working in New York City as a textile designer, pursuing her art on a daily basis. As a creative team ourselves, we couldn’t be more inspired by Sara’s passion for her arts, and the myriad ways both Savannah and its groundbreaking arts school have helped guide students toward their dreams.
“It’s not as intimidating as it looks. Everybody who starts to weave, wants to keep going. It’s awesome.”