One night after dinner Dale and I took a stroll down the Old South Warf of Nantucket and, in the least likely of places, had another brush with the loom.
Operating out of a Scallop Shack festooned with soft woolly blankets and silky throws was Karin Sheppard. Karin is an island native, the perfect person to talk to about life on the island and following her passion for weaving. With an infectious and welcoming laugh she happily beckoned us into her studio and launched into her story without missing a beat.
As a young girl, she was fascinated by the weavers at Nantucket Looms and the beautiful fabrics they created dropping in after school to witness yarn being transformed into scarves, stoles, and throws. After graduating from college, she, too, became a weaver at the Looms and worked there for twenty years. She learned her craft from two master weavers before forming her own company, Island Weaves in 2000.
That easy laughter once again strikes up as she tells us a story of her “Madaket Mall Mats”, woven from recycled materials (Standard size 2′ X 3′ – $270). When beginning a rug, Sheppard gathers up the reclaimed towels, wool blankets, denim jeans and khaki pants she finds at the “Madaket Mall,” as islanders affectionately call the local Dump.
“People here throw out the most beautiful things” she says with grin, telling us about many a treasure rescued from the Mall’s “take it or leave it” section.
After cleaning the fabrics, she fashions the perfect bathroom rug, turning other people’s trash into a magnificent treasure. She embellishes most of the rugs with sewn-edge, braided-fringe, or knotted-fringe finishes. Custom rugs are $45 a square foot. I love how she creatively re-purposes this worthless vacation ephemera repacking it for a loftier purpose. A woman after my own heart!
Karin tells us there is no place in the world she would rather be, no other purpose she would have and we can’t help but believe her. She has turned this weaving process into a sort of meditation with her open contentment and dedication coming through in her work. Each piece a study in patience and perfection.
Her parting words resonated deeply with me. “Most mornings while I’m eating breakfast I’m thinking that I can’t wait to get to work. How many people can say that about their job?”
These island women just might be on to something…