Weavers will show Zati masks, handwoven textiles

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TOPSHAM — The works of two Maine weavers — handwoven masks and works created using a Japanese style that encourages improvisation — will be displayed at Maine Fiberarts Center/Gallery in June.

Susan Barrett Merrill, of Brooksville, is a fiber artist, sculptor and educator who has been weaving over several decades. Emi Ito, of Bath, will be Maine Fiberarts’ first artist-in-residence throughout June.

On Sunday, June 12, an open house reception will be held from 2 to 5 p.m. at the gallery. Merrill will give a talk, “Fiber Arts in Bermuda and Bequia,” with a slideshow of colorful imagery of island life, from 2:30 to 3 p.m. The reception is free.

Merrill’s distinctive Zati masks are woven flat on a hand loom, then sculpted into three-dimensional masks and headdresses. Each mask is embellished with felted, spun and hand-dyed ornamentations created to speak about dreams, mythology and our relationship with Mother Earth.

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This winter, Merrill lived on the Caribbean island of Bequia, where she shared and learned much about weaving and other fiber crafts. She was also an artist-in-residence in Bermuda, where she set up a loom for community use in the center of the largest village, encouraging people of all ages and abilities to contribute to various woven tapestries and shapes.

Ito, of Bath, moved to the United States from Japan 12 years ago. She creates her works using free-style Japanese weaving known as Saori. This aesthetic encourages weavers to improvise their designs and materials, rather than weave a decided pattern. Ito uses both colorful yarns and earthy hand-dyed fibers in her work and considers the process of weaving to be as much a part of the art as the finished textile. Saori is a Zen concept, meaning “each thing has its own unique quality.” The Saori loom, created by Japanese weaver Misao Jo in the late 1960s, is often used in nontraditional art settings such as schools, hospitals, assisted-living facilities and rehabilitative centers because of its approachability.

Maine Fiberarts, at 13 Main St., is expanding to include the small red building located next-door, which will be used as a revolving studio/workspace to offer more workshops and hands-on activities. Ito will use this space as her studio, where she will demonstrate her techniques for weaving and spinning to the public. For details on when she will be working, call Maine Fiberarts at 721-0678.

Maine Fiberarts is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on weekdays and 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday. For more information, visit www.mainefiberarts.org.

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