elanie Morel has been fascinated by the loom and the art, craft, texture and mathematics of weaving for over twenty-five years. It might seem unlikely that someone who worked in law offices for many years should become a journeyman of the difficult art of weaving. As happens so much in life, her interest arose by pure chance.
In l974, Melanie was living in Toronto’s Annex, sharing a house with a group of friends. One of them had a loom, and the complex device and the intricacy of the work it could produce intrigued and attracted Melanie. She assesses herself as the kind of person who tends to look at something and try to figure out how it works.
Melanie began to take weaving lessons at the Village Weaver in Toronto. The owners, Robert Cawood and Jan Huk also owned the Schoolhouse in Belwood. In the fall of 1979, Melanie went to Belwood for a weekend retreat to learn about natural dyeing. She was hooked on these new interests and ordered her first loom from The Village Weaver – a four harness LeClerc “Fanny”. Over the next few summers she continued to take courses at the Schoolhouse. Robert Cawood provided excellent teaching, good food and a meeting place for fellow fibre spirits.
In 1983, Melanie learned that the house next door to the Schoolhouse was for sale. She took the plunge and bought it as a retreat from what she laughingly terms “legal secretaryism” in Toronto. The name she gave her house (and laterally her business), “Bellevue” is a fanciful combination of the name of the village (Belwood) and the “view” of the lake from there.
Melanie continued to take weaving courses and attend seminars. One she particularly treasures was Textile Design with William Hodge at O.C.A in 1988/89. This was followed by courses on colour theory and various weaving techniques. She feels, however, that colour sense is, to a large extent, an innate gift or intuition. Melanie also attended workshops and found new avenues for tools and yarns at Convergence, a biennial conference on the fibre arts, in Toronto, Chicago, San Jose and Washington, D.C.
Melanie had begun to adopt a family of looms – some purchased, some found at garage sales. In 1984 she invested in the “love of her life” loom, an eight-harness jack loom, lovingly built by the artisans of Fireside Fibrearts in Washington State. This custom-made oak loom, complete with hand carved acorns, came to Belwood that summer.
The 1990s brought enormous changes to Melanie’s life and art. She met and married the second love of her life; joined the Elora Arts Council as a volunteer Treasurer and found it to be a doorway to the vast local arts community and to a palette of new friends. She opened a weaving studio and craft/gift gallery on the Boardwalk in Elora.
She feels, however, that colour sense is, to a large extent, an innate gift or intuition.
The Millennium year brought floods to the Grand River and a major change in venue. Melanie, her husband Peter and their two dogs, moved into their dream home. A foundation was clawed out of the West Grafana clay. Great pine logs from New Brunswick now house them all in quiet tranquillity on 95 acres of pine, tamarack and spruce (future) forest. Here Melanie continues to create her work – now in a loft studio –inspired by the flora and fauna surrounding her.
Working mostly in natural fibres – silk, wool, mohair, linen and cotton, with a dash of chenille thrown in – Melanie produces mostly functional pieces for home and body, but delves occasionally into mixed media pieces for fun and a creative outlet.
A recent adoptive mum – of a four-year-old paint Quarter Horse – Melanie hopes her next few projects will be Navaho inspired rugs and custom saddle blankets. She is leaning less toward production weaving and seeking to create more spontaneous one-of-a-kind pieces. Melanie feels her work is becoming finer and more imaginative as the seasons pass. She hopes to watch it grow slowly and steadily like the fir trees outside the windows.
by O Domjan, Spring 2000
Updated by Melanie Morel