Nfld. & Labrador

The perfect loom for this artist is 100 years old and carries a special history

Joelle Blandford found a century-old loom with lots of local history in its frame for sale on a buy and sell website.

Joelle Blandford says she bought loom online from widow of artist who wove Newfoundland tartan placemats

Joelle Blandford is a textile artist in Twillingate. (Martin Jones/CBC)

When Joelle Blandford scrolled through an online buy and sell website, she couldn't believe her eyes: a post for a century-old weaving loom that was available for purchase.

It was exactly the kind of thing she was looking for.

"I was in store for a loom, and this was perfect for me," Blandford said.

"This is an antique loom, it's over a hundred years old, and I got it on the buy and sell."

When she bought the loom, Blandford had just graduated from the textiles program at the Anna Templeton Centre in St. John's.

It takes a lot of time and patience to weave on an old-fashioned loom, but Blandford says it allows her to put more of herself into her art. (Martin Jones/CBC)

Back in Twillingate, where she runs Nature's Threads, she wanted to make locally sourced textile artwork with natural materials, and an antique loom was exactly the right medium for her, Blandford said.

And while the loom has given her a way to make traditional textile products, she said it's so much more than that.

"The original owner of this loom used to weave Newfoundland tartan place mats," Blandford said.

Samuel B. Wilansky is the man who originally designed the Newfoundland tartan.

Blandford said she unfortunately can't remember the name of the woman who sold her the loom.

But after its owner died, his wife wanted to find someone who would use and value the loom as much as he had.

"All the varnish of the loom is worn off … where his arms would have laid as he was weaving the Newfoundland tartan place mats," Blandford said.

Using the old-fashioned loom is time consuming, but Blandford says it makes the textile art she creates that much more special. (Martin Jones/CBC)

"I feel there's a happy spirit with this loom. He enjoyed what he was doing and this was his life. He wove place mats to support his family.… You can feel his spirit in the loom. He was a happy weaver, I just know it. I can feel it."

Blandford said she doesn't know much else about the weaver from whom she inherited the loom.

"I don't know a whole lot about him. I believe before he owned the loom there was another man who owned the loom and he was a weaver, so I think I might be the third owner of this loom," she said, adding that she feels privileged to use a machine that holds such cultural significance.

Blandford operates out of the Artisan Market in Twillingate. (Martin Jones/CBC)

There are plenty of more modern machines that Blandford could use to make her designs come to life, and those would make the process much faster, but Blandford said there's something special about using older equipment.

"Of course, if you had a newer machine that was electronic, I could put my design into a computer system and then the computer could weave it for me, but I'm doing it all by hand," she said.

"I'm a textilist, an artist. I'm connected to what I weave. It's important to carry on this weaving tradition of hand-made goods. It's our past, but it's still relevant."

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

With files from Martin Jones and CBC Newfoundland Morning

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