World Weavers 2015: Finding Stories in Textiles

December at Urban Gateways means the end of another fiscal year, the close of many fall arts programs, time off to rest and reflect…and as of last year, it also means the much-anticipated World Weavers project culmination. 2015-16 is the second year of this program for 6th graders at Stone Academy in West Rogers Park; thanks to the unique cultural and artistic perspective that this program provides to students, and thanks to the incredible partnerships with Stone Academy and Minasian Rug Company, World Weavers has quickly become a beloved part of Urban Gateways’ program roster.

Here’s a photo essay-style rundown of the fall 2015 World Weavers program, from classroom learning to the culminating event and the announcement of rug design winners on December 16, 2015. The winning designs will be sent to Afghanistan and woven into reality this year, then sent back to Stone Academy for the school community to enjoy. (Further down you can see the completed rugs from last year’s winners!)

The Magic of Woven Art

Storytelling took center stage in the 10-week World Weavers residency with teaching artist Bill Eller, who worked with all three of Stone’s sixth grade classes on a weekly basis. Last year’s students focused on traditional rug design, with an emphasis on patterns, symmetry, and a more limited color pallet. This year, Bill turned students’ attention to the idea of narratives in rugmaking. Throughout their learning process, they examined how folklore and legends have been depicted in rugs from around the world. They analyzed rugs as a class, discussed the cultures from which those rugs were created, and went over the elements of art (line, shape, color, space, and value) and the use of symbolism in art.

On October 15, students supplemented their learning with a field trip to Minasian Rug Company, where they saw hundreds of rugs from around the world. Students had the chance to tie a knot on a loom, and to learn about rug care and repair.

From there, students launched into their own narrative rug designs; their final creations represented stories found in movies, books, nature, folkloric legends, and much more.

The 2015 World Weavers Finalists

When all three sixth grade classes had completed their designs in early December, an expert jury from Minasian selected 10 finalists. Within these 10 designs alone, the variety and detail are amazing, exhibiting the creative voice and individuality of the student artists.

Click on the images below or HERE to see all the finalists in our Flickr set:

Drum Roll Please…

On December 16, experts from Minasian joined teaching artist Bill Eller, his students, students’ parents, and the school staff and community to celebrate the achievements of the World Weavers. The 10 finalists had the opportunity to take a bow on-stage when they received Dick Blick Art Materials gift certificates to encourage further art-making.

The two winning rug designs from last year, which had been sent to Afghanistan and woven in 2015, were complete and on display at Stone – as were all of this year’s student designs!

And this year’s winners were announced! The first design is based on a book – can you guess the story? These student designs will be next up for completion in Afghanistan, where master weavers will finish these rugs by the end of 2016 and send them back to Stone Academy for current and future students and community members to admire.

Check out more photos here >>

Huge thanks to Stone Academy for being an amazing partner school; to teaching artist Bill Eller for dedicating his time and talents; and to program sponsors Minasian Rug Company (they’ll be displaying students’ rug designs in their store window soon!), the King Family Foundation, and the Dr. Scholl Foundation. The cultural and artistic learning that these 6th graders have experienced through the World Weavers Project is invaluable, and the program’s unique inspiration convinces us that decades from now, looking back at their days as students, these artists will remember that they were once World Weavers.

King Family Foundation