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Friday, January 2, 2015


Years ago, when fiber artist Elsa Bouman first began teaching her many skills in summer camps, community centers, and schools, she probably never imagined she would one day be called “The Loom Lady.”  It is, however, a perfect nickname for this woman who lives in Lake Forest Park, north of Seattle, Washington, and is often seen weaving on the shore of Lake Washington. She passionately wants to share the joys of this ancient skill with as many people as she can, especially children. After discovering the perfect small Ashford loom, Bouman knew that she must somehow obtain at least ten of them. Unfortunately, they cost $135.00 each. She needed, and still needs, help to see this dream come true. 

If you are impatiently eager to help you can do so right here, right now, but please read on to understand why this matters so much.

Bouman’s passion to teach weaving comes from her awareness that in today’s high-tech world, kids spend too much time with electronics and not enough using their hands in creativity. They also experience stress, sometimes equal to that of adults. Nothing soothes stress like handling fibers and producing items both useful and beautiful. She wants to reconnect them with the kind of handwork skills that have been used by mankind for tens of thousands of years.  

The video below, in which Renate Hiller discussed the importance of handwork to humanity, says it all.

“When using the loom—rolling it forward and creating this fabric and adding any colors they want—they are in the zone,” Bouman said. “It makes me so happy to see their faces. They just cluster around.” 

Ironically, the computer programming that now occupies so much of society's attention, has ties to the early punch cards used for weaving, as explained in this video.


In addition to teaching adults, Bouman especially wants to reach children between eight and twelve years old, those in the third through sixth grades. With these small, portable looms, too small to intimidate, a six-inch-wide scarf can be woven in about five hours. Judging by the response she has already had, Bouman believes some of these children will advance to larger looms and make some fabulous things, connecting with an ancient and universal experience of creativity and reward as they do.

“I have not have one kid who didn’t want to do this,” she went on. “They get engaged in this process of going back and forth and seeing a pattern emerge, seeing the colors change. They are so smitten and focused.” 

Bouman knew nothing about how to obtain a grant, so she turned to the Shoreline-Lake Forest Park Arts Council for help. Now the arts council has involved other organization, and an anonymous sponsor is willing to match every dollar raised with one of their own. 

“I am writing to share an exciting opportunity,” she stated in an email to friends and family. “The Shoreline-Lake Forest Park Arts Council, power2give/PugetSound, presented by ArtsFund, and 4Culture have put together a grant to support the fiber arts.” 

Good Life Northwest, believing in this worthy cause, would like to extend her invitation to everyone. Here is the link where you can contribute: Loom Lady

As The Loom Lady, Bouman will receive a one-year residency, enabling her to bring what she calls “the joy and art of weaving” to her local community. The grant, if the drive for donations succeeds, will provide the ten looms she first dreamed of acquiring, as well as materials and funds for other expenses. She can hardly wait to see those expressions of delight, self-confidence, and satisfaction on the faces of even more children. 

“I want this, but I don’t want it for me,” Bouman said. “I want it for them.”

I hope the Loom Lady gets her wish. She's doing what we should all be doing—making the world a better place in our own small way.

Here Elsa Bouman's husband, the acclaimed jazz pianist Ray Skjelbred, tries his hand at weaving. 
Best wishes for a happy new year, from Good Life Northwest. Please "like" this blog on Facebook and help share news of good things. Thank you! 

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