Earth Looms: Eco-Creative Expressions of Community

12 October 2022
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As a craftivist and zero-waste textile and fibre artist, the words earth and loom together conjure up unlimited possibilities and conversations about environmental issues. Looms are used to weave; the earth is the single common thread that every person shares. Therefore, Earth Looms have the potential to bring different people together to build a strong foundation based on what we have in common. Our common threads strengthen our ability to listen and understand each other’s differences. It’s time to turn off twenty-four-hour news, go outside, and create strong, personal, human bonds of understanding and compassion.

Earth Looms can be designed in any way the makers choose and with almost any materials you have available. A basic Earth Loom starts with two long tree branches used as the vertical posts, and two or three shorter tree branches evenly spaced and lashed, nailed, or screwed horizontally to the long vertical posts. Using strong twine, yarn, or string, create the warp by simply wrapping warp threads around the top and bottom horizontal tree branches. Weft can be almost anything: flowers, twigs, bullrushes, grasses, biodegradable fabrics and ribbons. While it is common to use natural materials for the weft, other items, like reclaimed wood posts from building projects, rebar, metal posts, furniture, toys, appliances, or recycled materials, can be used instead. To create a specific Earth Loom theme, consider selecting weft with the theme in mind. For example, ecology-themed weft can include natural grasses, weeds, twigs, shells, leaves, vines, and flowers; fast fashion industry awareness-themed weft might use eco-dyed biodegradable fabric, ribbons, and/or thrift store finds.

image description: a table covered with a jumble of crafting supplies and tools, yarn fabric scraps, scissors, ribbons, fabric scraps
image description: a collection of long twigs and sticks, leaning against a car
Screenshot 20220921 151058 Photos~2

In July 2022, the Rails End Gallery and Arts Centre in Haliburton, Ontario, asked me to build five Earth Looms during the Art and Craft Festival. This community Earth Loom project started two weeks prior to the festival, during the gallery’s Patio Tuesdays workshops (free, gallery-sponsored arts and crafts workshops that ran alongside the weekly farmer’s market). I built Earth Looms using silver birch saplings cut from our off-the-grid property. These saplings were growing in a fire line and needed to be removed. Instead of burning them, I use them in craftivism projects. The community was invited to help weave in flowers, grasses, twigs, leaves, weeds, and biodegradable textiles. Many conversations about craftivism and zero-waste art projects took place during the weeks leading up to the festival. We built small square looms to create wall hangings and door wreaths. We talked about how craft + activism = craftivism, allowing our voices to be heard in a calm and gentle manner.

Screenshot 20220921 151113 Photos~2

During the festival we completed five Earth Looms and fastened them to the Rails End Gallery and Arts Centre banister for people to enjoy. We added left-over beads, broken costume jewelry, and solar dyed fabric (from other Patio Tuesdays workshops) to the looms. Anything not biodegradable or compostable will be removed and used in future creative projects.

image description: the front of a small building, a sign identifies it as the RailsEnd Gallery; in front you can see the five Earth Looms, constructed from wood, flowers and leftover crafting supplies and

Installed. Click to enlarge.

The intention of Earth Looms can be whatever the designers want it to be. Makers can add new materials over time, removing older materials to be composted. Or, as in our case, allow the Earth Looms to decompose, representing the idea that nothing is permanent.

 In previous Digits & Threads articles, I’ve written about the 2021 death of my twenty-seven-year-old daughter from heart transplant complications. For me, the 2022 Earth Loom project in Haliburton was a meaningful expression of the impermanence of life. The connections I made this past summer were powerful and beautiful. Watching the Earth Loom flowers dry and fall wasn’t sad. It was a reminder to live in the moment—a reminder of the consistency of the circle of life.

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As summer faded into autumn and the Earth Looms began returning to the earth I was confronted by a person who said that the Earth Looms were ugly. I smiled and said, “We see what we want to see in art.” They looked confused and walked away. At that moment in time, they weren’t seeing what I saw and vice versa. Perhaps another time they will see the Earth Looms differently—or perhaps not.
image description: an art piece made of wood twigs and flowers, suggesting the shape and form of a loom

The Earth Looms are art.

They will continue to spark conversations and opinions. Where I see beauty and the unstoppable reality of impermanence, someone else sees dried vegetation and old ribbons dropping to the ground.

It’s okay that we see different meanings in Earth Looms. That’s their purpose: bringing people together to build a foundation, to weave ourselves into the loom using whatever materials we have at hand in that moment in time. There is a global shift towards building, or rebuilding relationships. Earth Looms are purposeful vehicles for creative conversations.  

All photos by or courtesy of Sandra Clarke.

Copyright © Sandra Clarke except as indicated.

About Sandra Clarke

Sandra Clarke, has been untangling skeins of yarn + making useful shiny things for over 30 years. Born in the colourful, celtic, Montreal neighbourhood of Griffintown, + educated in Montreal, New York, Winnipeg, Vancouver + Toronto, helped Sandra develop her eclectic style. Her textile + fibre arts + courses include; embroidery, weaving, spinning, sewing, felting + knitting. On the shiny arts side, she creates + teaches; fused glass, beaded trees of life, jewelry + button making. Her art can be seen regularly in boutiques, galleries, + online. Sandra's ecology themed colouring books can be found on Amazon + in her courses. She teaches art + art business courses online, in galleries + schools. Fueled by the fast-fashion rebellion, visible mending + craftivism, Sandra's no-waste philosophy results in ethically made + thoughtfully re-fashioned textile art. Sandra lives with her husband + children, dividing her time between her home in Mississauga, Ontario, + her off-grid cabin-in-the-woods near Algonquin Park in Highlands East, Ontario. You can see more of her work at sandraclarke.ca, and on instagram at sandra.clarke.canada.

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