Laurie Angell, `81, didn't enter ArtPrize 2010 to make a grandiose artistic statement or to gain fame or fortune for herself and her collaborators. Instead, this Grand Valley alumna's passion for the natural environment quietly brought together a community of others who shared her passion. More than 30 fellow artists joined her in making an original fiber arts creation for the art contest in Grand Rapids, which runs to October 10, 2010. Their creation, they hope, will be one that ultimately "gives back" to the environment that inspired it.
Laurie Angell earned her Bachelor's in Natural Resources Management with a minor in chemistry from GVSU in 1981. After she graduated, Laurie began working for the Allegan County Health Department as a field sanitarian, and later a food sanitarian. As a public health specialist, her work included designing and inspecting on-site sewage disposal systems (septic tanks and drain fields). In another position, she inspected kitchens in restaurants, schools, and other public institutions serving food to the public.
While Laurie knew that her professional work contributed to a healthier, "greener" world, she also sought more personal ways to connect with nature. She became interested in natural fibers and textiles, and soon joined the Woodland Weavers & Spinners Guild of Greater Grand Rapids. This venerable group of about 70 artisans gathers regularly to practice their craft and share fellowship.
As this year's ArtPrize drew near, Laurie felt moved to act. 2010 happens to be the 50th anniversary of the Woodland Weavers as well as her alma mater Grand Valley. "The feeling of fellowship and support in the Woodland Weavers has always been a gift to me," said Laurie. "I wanted to help celebrate the Guild's anniversary, and creating a weaving was a way to link with Grand Valley's anniversary, too."
"I wanted to do more than just create something, however. My goal is that what we create will be sold, and the proceeds will go to benefit the Annis Water Resources Institute at Grand Valley," said Laurie. "They've been doing wonderful work to study and help Lake Michigan ever since I graduated."
Laurie `s idea was to involve as many guild members as possible. At a recent guild retreat on Lake Michigan, a particularly stunning sunset gave her the visual inspiration. She photographed it, and her sister created a colored-pencil sketch of an image that was simple yet captured the elemental power of the scene. Laurie showed the sketch to her fellow artists, and the 'Woven Lakescape' was begun.
Coaxed by Laurie, nearly half of the guild's membership joined to create 'Woven Lakescape.' The colors and fibers in each scarf were chosen by the individual artists using predominantly wool, cotton, or silk. Some of the fiber was hand dyed or hand spun, and the scarves were hand-woven, knit or crocheted. Using a construction that evokes the form of a loom, nearly 50 scarves were assembled to portray the Lake Michigan sunset.
"There weren't really any assignments. We all looked at the sketch and picked different areas to focus on, but that was it," said Laurie. "To me, this was both very personal and very communal. Each scarf was made by an individual, but we knew that others were also working on their parts, which would combine with ours."
The experience has deepened Laurie's understanding of art. "When I look at what we did, I see so much more than what is there. I see the friends who worked on their scarves, I think about the time they spent weaving and what they thought about, and what was happening in their lives then. I try to tell our story so that others can know what the `Woven Lakescape' really means."
Laurie noted that the project eventually drew in non-weavers as well. Generous financial support for the entry fees of the 34 collaborators came from Tom Windeknecht of Stanwood, Michigan in memory of his late wife Margaret, called "a great weaver" by others in the guild.
Unless sold during ArtPrize, the scarves will be available for sale at the annual Textile Arts Market, hosted by the Woodland Weavers & Spinners Guild and held at Calvin College's Prince Conference Center December 10-11, 2010.
Laurie lives in Byron Center and is married to Sam Angell; they have two daughters. She works today as a massage therapist and a "busy mother."
Added October 2010