Honorary Members Portraits
PORTRAIT OF LAURA VANDERBEEK
When Laura joined the guild in 1974, the organization and its members were a vital part of her life. She insisted on regarding herself as a staunch and appreciative member, not particularly as a leader. However, she served the Guild with vigor, good humor, and patience on numerous committees and for many years she was the Guild’s Treasurer. She especially valued the Guild’s tradition of members helping one another and sharing their skills rather than competing.
Laura was a knitter first though she became an excellent spinner and dyer as well as weaver. Like our booth at the county fair, she was dedicated to “fiber arts”. We saw some of her favorite garments at guild meetings, including a tabard, knit from lichen dyed yarn spun entirely on a drop spindle; a cardigan sweater knitted from several exotic fibers was a special achievement. There was a single-ply silk (which came from the estate of Ann Meerkerk, carried though with one of Laura’s handspun exotic fibers: alpaca, camel, qiviut fine wools. The silk gave a unifying sheen to the whole garment.
During the 1980’s Laura regularly taught advanced knitting and beginning spinning at the Coupeville Spinning and Weaving Shop.
The inspiration for her to learn both weaving and spinning was a handsome antique coverlet. The yarn was spun and dyed with madder by her great-grandmother; it was then sent to a weaver, according to Canadian customs at the time. She found her coverlet pictured and documented in “Keep Me Warm One Night” (Burnham, University of Toronto Press). The coverlet first made her want to weave, but later she decided (with characteristic thoroughness) to begin at the beginning and learn to spin. She began to spin in about 1974, using the fleece from her own sheep.
This lady drew energy and inspiration from others who shared her passions. Some of the people who illuminated her own work included Ann Meerkerk, the Guild’s first leader who (with other early Guild Members) taught her to weave; and Mildred Sherwood, our second leader who taught her to spin on a drop spindle. She learned dyeing with fermented lichens from Michelle Whipplinger in a trade for knitting lessons. She greatly admired Sharon Alderman’s color work and her excitement and pleasure in her work, but (like the rest of us) Laura was overwhelmed by Sharon’s prolific output.
Laura liked her fingers in the fiber!
1998 Shirley Owen/ Designed Honorary Member 1999/ Deceased 2009/Revised 2019 Sally Starnes
A PORTRAIT OF ANN MEERKERK
What most Whidbey Islanders associate with “Meerkerk” is “Rhododendron Gardens”.
For elder WWG members, however, “Meerkerk” follows “Ann” who was an inspiration and a challenge to many Island Weavers, as well as the benefactor who opened the Gardens to the public.
As an artist Ann was not a specialist, but a talented, creative explorer who, it seemed could understand and master anything. When Doris Macomber first met her in a Greenbank laundromat, Ann was working a very intricate piece of crochet. What did she plan to do with it? “Oh, nothing in particular. I just wanted to see if I could do it.” She was a weaver who could build looms. She learned to be a spinner and raised her own sheep for a wool supply. She was a collector of spinning wheels, many other kinds of art and artifacts, not to mention books. She was an enthusiastic dyer, and was known for keeping a couple of good indigo pots at the ready
Ikat was one of the forms of weaving she favored. She was a painter in oils and watercolor and shared many painting outings with Mildred Sherwood. According to her friend Sylvia Tacker she had “the eye of an artist, the mind of an engineer and a soul borrowed from Leonardo”.
In New York she met her future husband Max, a descendant of Prussia nobility, a man of ranging interests and some 30 years her senior. They raised Weimaraners and moved to Idaho with 55 dogs but in 1961 Max bought 13 acres on Whidbey Island, the beginning of their “Secret Garden”. The rhododendrons were one of Max’s passions and the first varieties he ordered were Chinese. Ann put her artistic talents to work in developing groupings and color schemes and continued to develop and complete the garden after Max’s death in 1969.
On Whidbey, Ann’s interest in weaving was reawakened by Helen Munn’s supply shop in Langley and the local weavers she met there. She joined the Seattle Weavers’ Guild in the mid ‘60’s and a few years later, helped Doris Macomber start WWG, during the ‘70’s until her own death in 1979. Ann flung herself into fiber work, to include spinning, macramé, tatting, dying, tie-dying, ikat. She kept sheep, especially black sheep, saw them sheared, worked with wool, spun it and knitted or wove it.
Considering the influence, she had on so many, it is strange to realize that, according to Lynn Murphy she was quite shy and somewhat self-effacing. Her creative energy and spirit of exploration and sharing made a memorable legacy to weavers; her generosity left a great gift of natural beauty to the public.
2008 Shirley Owen & Sally Starnes/deceased 1979/revised 2019 Sally Starnes
PORTRAIT OF VIRGINIA DUSENBURY
Virginia joined the Guild in 1983. She was our first Elected President under the newly formed By-Laws in 1987.
She was an artist in watercolor and oil; portraits were her favorite. She put that palette of color into her many weavings. She wove yardage for garments, towels, placemats and when she participated in the guild lunch bag exchange, she included a napkin in her reversible bag. She was a firm believer of sharing ideas and techniques.
The 4-shaft Study Group (aka The Twill Group) which is now Samplers met at Virginia’s house for the first time in April 1999 with about 4-6 in attendance. The group grew to more than twenty.
2019 Sally Starnes
PORTRAIT OF WIN ANDERSON
According to Win Anderson, “If you’ve read Jack Lenor Larsen’s autobiography ‘A Weaver’s Memoir’, you’ve read my biography!”. That’s not far from the truth. The two shared an almost symbiotic working association for twenty-five years, from the formation of the first Larsen company in 1952 until rheumatoid arthritis forced Win’s retirement in 1977.
Together, they established a position as the leading edge of New York's highly competitive fabric design market. It was an exciting and challenging time to be a designer in New York.
Win took up life on Whidbey Island in 1986. Even though she couldn’t manage finger-controlled techniques due to her arthritis she managed a knitting machine, a serger and a sewing machine. Made many garments from her antique wardrobe packed with interesting materials from New York.
She brought her New York life with her and seemed to find life on Whidbey as rich, rewarding and full of fun as it was then.
1999 Shirley Owen/Designed Honorary Member 1999/Deceased 2010/Revised 2019 Sally Starnes
PORTRAIT OF DORIS MACOMBER
Before there was ever a guild president, there was “Queen Bee,” as Ann Meerkerk dubbed her. All her contemporary weavers point to Doris Macomber as the engineer and organizing force of the future Whidbey Weavers Guild. Doris acknowledged the title with a chuckle and wanted today’s members to know “how proud” she was “of what ‘my’ guild became”. Though she retired in Lacey, she read the newsletter cover to cover.
The future guild first met in Doris’ living room in early December 1969. She was firmly at the helm for the group’s first five years. Many of the Guild’s characteristic activities took root in those early days. At all meetings, Doris insisted on having an educational component (“not just tea and crumpets”). Still our favorite program segment, SHOW AND TELL also dates back to those times. In Doris’ day, however, members were required to tell in detail what they did with what materials, and why, and what problems were solved, what alternative solutions were considered, etc.
Our booth at the County Fair had its origins in the educational displays the weavers’ group put on at the Coupeville Arts Festival – quite ambitious demonstrations of weaving, spinning and dyeing, and all without the incentive of ribbons and awards.
What did Doris enjoy weaving? Almost anything. She especially loved pattern weaving and playing with color. The application seemed less important to her than the enjoyment of the structure and the colors. Several years ago she figured that she had woven over 600 placemats, usually with over-all pattern, and many stoles both of which were in demand at craft sales in the ‘60;s and ‘70’s. She loved working with fine threads and wove earrings of sewing silk (though she had the customer assemble them herself!). She did wall hangings, yardage, towels, upholstery fabric - some of everything. She did them all well: “I can’t stand sloppy weaving”!
At the onset, Doris didn’t want to learn to spin, “because it would take too much time away from weaving.” But eventually Mildred Sherwood started her spinning on a drop spindle, then a supported spindle, and that led to a spinning wheel of the box variety, in which the wheel revolved inside a square frame. Again, she was fascinated by the process. She wound up spinning four-ply, seduced by her love of fine yarns. She also did enough work with natural dyes to make her husband suspicious of anything that came out of her kitchen in a pot: “Is that dye or is it dinner?”!
Her sense of humor was lively: “If you lose your sense of humor you’re out of luck!” In that spirit, she sends guild members the following thoughts from her refrigerator door:
Five Good Reasons for Buying Yarn
I. It keeps without refrigeration, you don’t have to cook it to enjoy it, you never have to feed it, change it or walk it.
II. It is less expensive and more fun than Psychiatric care.
III. It insulates the closet where it is kept.
IV. It provides extra weight in the trunk of the car for traction on icy roads.
V. It is our patriotic duty to support cotton farmers, textile mills and fabric stores.
2001 Shirley Owen/ Designated Honorary Member in 1999/Deceased 2011/ revised 2019 Sally Starnes