Multidisciplinary artist Mary McEwen talks about her experience learning to weave during her Artist Talk Saturday morning about her exhibition, “Hit & Miss: Adventures in Textile Reuse,” at the Juneau-Douglas City Museum. (Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire)

Multidisciplinary artist Mary McEwen talks about her experience learning to weave during her Artist Talk Saturday morning about her exhibition, “Hit & Miss: Adventures in Textile Reuse,” at the Juneau-Douglas City Museum. (Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire)

Weaving a new narrative out of repurposed goods

Local artist shares her journey of learning to weave and the importance of reusing

Though Juneau multidisciplinary artist Mary McEwen earned her undergraduate degree in art, she only ever took one weaving class during that time and never kept up with the craft.

Fast forward decades later, intricate weavings large and small lined the walls of the Juneau-Douglas City Museum, all created by McEwen over the past year.

A piece included in Juneau artist Mary McEwen’s exhibition, “Hit & Miss: Adventures in Textile Reuse,” hangs on the wall at the Juneau-Douglas City Museum Saturday morning during McEwen’s Artist Talk. (Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire)

A piece included in Juneau artist Mary McEwen’s exhibition, “Hit & Miss: Adventures in Textile Reuse,” hangs on the wall at the Juneau-Douglas City Museum Saturday morning during McEwen’s Artist Talk. (Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire)

“I wasn’t a weaver at all,” she said, laughing. “It was just something I wanted to learn about and something I wanted to try.”

Late Saturday morning McEwen gave an Artist Talk to a group of Juneau residents at the Juneau Douglas City Museum where she walked them through her current exhibition, “Hit & Miss: Adventures in Textile Reuse,” and demonstrated how she uses a vintage loom.

McEwen explained that diving into the project over the past year, she wanted to explore and experiment with the medium of rag weaving while using the craft as a way to reflect on how she could utilize materials that might have ended up in the landfill and repurposed them into something beautiful.

Mary McEwen gives a demonstration of her vintage loom during her Artist Talk Saturday morning about her exhibition, “Hit & Miss: Adventures in Textile Reuse,” at the Juneau-Douglas City Museum. (Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire)
Mary McEwen gives a demonstration of her vintage loom during her Artist Talk Saturday morning about her exhibition, “Hit & Miss: Adventures in Textile Reuse,” at the Juneau-Douglas City Museum. (Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire)

Mary McEwen gives a demonstration of her vintage loom during her Artist Talk Saturday morning about her exhibition, “Hit & Miss: Adventures in Textile Reuse,” at the Juneau-Douglas City Museum. (Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire) Mary McEwen gives a demonstration of her vintage loom during her Artist Talk Saturday morning about her exhibition, “Hit & Miss: Adventures in Textile Reuse,” at the Juneau-Douglas City Museum. (Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire)

“It’s hard to find homes for stuff and we throw away so much,” she said. “I wanted to find a way to interrupt that cycle in a productive and creative way.”

Mary McEwen gives a demonstration of her vintage loom during her Artist Talk Saturday morning about her exhibition, “Hit & Miss: Adventures in Textile Reuse,” at the Juneau-Douglas City Museum. (Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire)

Mary McEwen gives a demonstration of her vintage loom during her Artist Talk Saturday morning about her exhibition, “Hit & Miss: Adventures in Textile Reuse,” at the Juneau-Douglas City Museum. (Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire)

The art ranged from a rug made out of repurposed Levi’s jeans to one made out of old sheets and a little bit of old underwear to a portrait of her grandmother made out of repurposed buttons. She said she started small, creating coaster-sized weaved projects before she eventually ordered a vintage loom for her studio where she began to create larger and more intricate pieces.

McEwen said she first used old clothing and materials from her own home like her kids’ outgrown pajamas and shirts before she began asking friends and community members if they had any old clothing she could make use of.

“People were happy to chip in all kinds of stuff,” McEwen said.

She said she hopes the exhibition inspires people to think about how everyday materials can be reused and repurposed into something entirely different and have a new life again.

“I wanted to explore the idea of textile reuse in this community,” she said. “Our planet is precious, and we need to find ways to use less stuff.”

• Contact reporter Clarise Larson at clarise.larson@juneauempire.com or (651)-528-1807. Follow her on Twitter at @clariselarson.

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