Youmans (pronounced like 'yeoman' with an 's' added) is the best-kept secret
among contemporary American writers. --John Wilson, editor, Books and Culture Marly Youmans is a novelist and poet out of sync with the times
but in tune with the ages. --First Things

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Susan Morgan Leveille + Oaks Gallery

Click to see details.
Shawl by Susan Morgan Leveille.
Again I'm recommending weaver Susan Morgan Leveille (commission a coverlet, shawl, table covering, more!) and her Oaks Gallery at Riverwood (Dillsboro, North Carolina) for weaving and mountain crafts. Susan's great-aunt, Lucy Morgan, founded The Penland School of Crafts and taught a multitude of western North Carolina mountain women the crafts that had once been the birthright of many Scots-Irish settlers. Many surviving overshot coverlets and other weavings are evidence of her important work, as is the flourishing of Penland. "Founded in 1929 by Lucy Morgan, Penland School was originally an outgrowth of a craft-based economic development project she had started several years earlier."

Almost a century later, her great-niece Susan teaches weaving, is a superb weaver (starting when she was barely school age at Penland), and owns The Oaks Gallery with her husband. The Oaks Gallery sells jewelry, handmade clothing, pottery, carvings, metalwork, and more, all from first-rate craftspeople in North Carolina and beyond, and is a part of the Riverwood studios founded by Susan's parents, Ralph and Ruth Morgan.

Susan's work is beautiful; it also has the same sort of collectible cachet that accrues to, say, the Ben Owens family line of potters in Seagrove. The history of North Carolina mountain crafts is tied to the Morgan family in important, remembered ways.
Leveille specializes in overshot coverlet weaving, a form common in the mountains for generations. She says that she enjoys "sharing how these coverlets were made, and sharing their structure." She teaches every chance she can get, she says, both privately and in many workshops and craft schools throughout the region. Among the other traditional weaving styles she teaches are lace weave of huck toweling, and the Summer and Winter weave that was popular in colonial times. She loves teaching children and adults, and can gear workshops to any age or skill level. In her frequent school visits, she particularly loves "helping teachers relate weaving and fiber to whatever they might be teaching," from arithmetic and geometry to history and music. These concepts all come together in surprising but natural intersections in the art of weaving.

Leveille has taught at Penland, the John C. Campbell Folk School, and numerous other important craft centers. She is also one of the co-founders of the Stecoah Valley Weavers, a guild that operates from Robbinsville's Stecoah Valley Center on a principle of economic and individual development much like her great aunt's vision for the Penland School.
The Western Carolina mountains are a frequent destination for East Coast travelers. Take a vacation at Campbell or Penland and take a class with Susan--or meet her in Dillsboro, where she also teaches. She is superb weaver, and one of those people who are a thread in the fabric of a better, more beautiful world.

Susan Morgan Leveille, detail showing Norwegian krokbragd weave

5 comments:

  1. I love learning about the successes of these fine craftspoeple and artists, carrying on the old traditions and passing them on to following generations. They are even more important today as so much cheap work is farmed out to sweatshops overseas. Wish I could visit!

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  2. Yes, you would like her and the work. My mother has taken a lot of classes from Susan. It is lovely to see the traditions handed down.

    We are bombarded with images of celebrities actors and models whose children follow in their steps, but we never hear much about things of this sort.

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  3. How delicious. I'm just now very drawn to textile work,and have discovered there are some astonishingly beautiful things being made with crochet, which I never thought a very promising medium!

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  4. I often regret that I will never be the needlewoman my mother is, weaving and tatting and crocheting and knitting and trying out semi-lost historical modes.

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Alas, I must once again remind large numbers of Chinese salesmen and other worldwide peddlers that if they fall into the Gulf of Spam, they will be eaten by roaming Balrogs. The rest of you, lovers of grace, poetry, and horses (nod to Yeats--you do not have to be fond of horses), feel free to leave fascinating missives and curious arguments.