Making it

Don’t be too jealous of this fiber artist! I visited her in her woodland weaving studio, just a few miles outside of Port Townsend, my new home town, to learn more about her work.Terry Reitz is a hand weaver par excellence hailing from Minneapolis (among other places) after doing graduate study in weaving design and textile production at the Allegemeine Gewerbeschule in Basel Switzerland, and undergraduate work at Bradford College in England before that.

Before she came to this woodland paradise bordering the Olympic Mountains, she had been designing and weaving large architectural wall hangings (she called them “dust catchers”) which were purchased by elite customers. Through a serendipitous encounter made between one of her wall hangings and a United Airlines executive, Terry spent several years creating woven upholstery fabrics for United. I remember taking note of some very interesting fabrics back in my traveling days on United Airlines. Perhaps they were hers.

After that extremely commercial venture she decided she would rather weave beautiful dish towels than lose touch with her own ideas and designing and weaving skills and opened a small weaving shop in Port Townsend. By the 1990’s through her freelance design gigs she had been discovered by a few other companies and designers looking for unique and original hand woven fabrics of the quality and design that they couldn’t get elsewhere.

When the orders became larger and larger it necessitated an expansion of sorts, with more space, more looms and more helpers, but at last she was back to designing what she wanted using the natural fibers she loved.

Another serendipitous venture she had made was to marry an electrical engineer. As her husband, Mark, watched her weave, he couldn’t help but come up with innovative ways to mechanize and simplify various small parts of her techniques to make the weaving process go a little smoother and faster.

Today Terry and Mark live above her studio in a huge 8000 square foot building that is also home to three 60” looms, and warping setup areas where she designs and weaves and ships woven fabrics using all kinds of natural fibers to companies all over the world, predominantly in New York, France and Great Britain. She keeps a map on the wall in the office with pins showing the locations she has shipped to.

She designs and weaves the most beautiful intricate patterns, infused with subtle combinations of colors and fibers that she chooses and loves: wool (of course) and wool/mohair blends, hemp, Yak, cottons, linen, bamboo, silks and various artistic yarns we may never have imagined.

Her company, Colorwaves, Inc., has no website and does not advertise but her designs are well known in the right circles, and she is in charge of who she works with, is doing what she loves and is able to be supported by her art which nurtures her soul.

She recently bought a huge turn of the century loom that Mark plans to renovate which will enable her to weave 90” fabrics. Her company may be the only source for hand woven custom designed interior textiles in “smaller” and “affordable” quantities. Most of what she sells now goes for about $425/yard. The people in the fiber industry who know of her say, “Oh, yes, she is very high end.” Boy would I agree.

When she is not weaving or knitting, or training her dog, Dosewallops (named for a nearby river), she is practicing, studying or playing the organ, and rehearsing with the Port Townsend Handbell Choir which is where we met.

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