James Koehler was my mentor. I was his student and apprentice for about six years before he died unexpectedly on March 4th, 2011.
I like to remember James on the anniversary of his death each year. And this year I think he would be pleased that I was able to celebrate his life with a mutual friend and someone who has been a mentor to me since he passed. Sarah Swett is an artist full of the joy and mystery of creation. And she takes that love of life and fiber right into her work and her writing.
Sarah wrote the forward to James' book, Woven Color. Though the imagery in their tapestry work is very different, there are many similarities in their approach to weaving. As Sarah says in her forward, they both experienced early adulthoods spent in isolation. James was a monk and Sarah worked alone in the Idaho wilderness as a forest ranger and caretaker... "experiences which forged lives of self-discipline, honed inner resources, and influenced, in one way or another, our subsequent work. Physically and metaphorically, we both weave in our ends."
James also had a mighty love for weaving and as I worked in his studio, one of the best lessons he passed on to me was his unending curiosity about what might come next in his work. He was very grounded in study. He loved the Bauhaus and the work of Josef Albers. And his work was informed by his spiritual practices, mathematical principles, and koans.
In her forward to Woven Color, Sarah quotes James:
Curiosity. James used it as the basis of his passion for tapestry design. He kept asking questions. He read widely. He traveled the world looking at art. And he translated the things that interested him into his work.
I have written many other posts about James and they are all listed HERE including a series of videos done by the Denver Art Museum interviewing myself and another student about our experiences working with James.
May we always stay curious, continue to ask, "what's next", and support each other in a love of tapestry weaving.
Here's to you James.