"Physically and metaphorically, we both weave in our ends."

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:

My hope is that there will be more people who become inspired to weave tapestries and to pass on that important tradition because it is worthy of continuing in a way that is not stuck in a specific mold. It is an art form that enables people to enter into their own creative process where they can explore the medium and expand the possibilities that are inherent in it. . . . I like to live my life from the vantage point of considering unexplored possibilities, and I am passionate about approaching my work in that same way.
— James Koehler, Woven Color, p. xxiv

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.

James Koehler at the opening of Interwoven Traditions: New Mexico and Bauhaus in Erfurt, Germany, Sept 2010. Photo: Hamish Appleby

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.

James Koehler, Passage, 1987. 18 x 22 inches, hand-dyed wool, tapestry

James Koehler, Rhythms of Nature III, tapestry

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.

Rebecca Mezoff and Sarah Swett toasting James Koehler, March 4, 2018. Tapestry is Sarah Swett's Rough Copy #4.