Friends Mary Lou Steptoe and Carolyn Wollen truly love to explore fiber art when traveling. Mary Lou found the studio of Barbara Burns in Maine Fiberarts’ “Fiber Art Masters Book”—a small publication profiling the work of 20 great artists. Carolyn made arrangements for a visit at the height of Spring, and I was glad to come along.
Barbara’s studio is filled with yarns, works in progress, luscious fabrics and an extensive library. She is sewing garments that are for sale at Markings Gallery and at Maine Crafts in Portland. She is deep at work on a major tapestry entitled “Never More” inspired by Covid and Trump. The tapestry is full of symbolism taken from “The Apocalypse Tapestry,” in Catherine of Cleves’ Book of Hours; from Edgar Allen Poe’s poem, “The Raven;” from “The Lady and The Unicorn” tapestry; and from other sources. She is posting photos of her progress on her Instagram page “burns.studio.” It is a true work of art. Her studio holds spinning wheels, looms, a dye kitchen, sewing machines and cutting tables. Everything is surrounded by light-filled windows and is accented by her Maine coon cat, Darwin.
A feast for the eyes.
Barbara showed us some of the tapestry books she is studying in order to create her current work. She also showed how she has dyed and documented yarns in order to achieve the reds, blues, and golds in tapestries of yore. One of her corsets (created using a pulled-warp tapestry technique) was on display, as well as her inspiration board.
After an interesting investigation of all, we stepped outside to view yet another one of the master works that Barbara has been developing over several years. Fantastic vegetable, herb, woodland and perennial gardens surround her home and studio. The gardens are filled with artwork, some from her husband Steve, and others Barbara has been gathering.
Between working, weaving, dyeing, sewing, studying and gardening, it’s a beautiful life.
—Photos by Christine Macchi and Mary Lou Steptoe