On a rainy road trip day, Kelly Marshall and I visited our friend Marian Dahlberg at her idyllic cabin/studio in the woods near Cumberland, Wisconsin. Our first observation of the area was that we have never seen so many street names with fractions: 4-1/2 Street, 26-1/2 Street, or 2-3/4 Street. Tons of these! It must be a Wisconsin thing. But we found our way to the Small Dog Weaving Mill at 335 25-1/4 Avenue.
Marian’s wood-paneled, vaulted-ceilinged, cozy, beautifully-designed cabin is a treasure tucked in the woods. It is filled with years of small town auction finds and family keepsakes, like this hutch, painted by her grandmother who didn’t take up Norwegian rosemaling until she was 70 years old.
But the first thing commanding your attention? A giant industrial AVL loom takes up the entire (former) living room. When Marian weaves her signature linen bath towels and dishtowels, she stands in the light of the large window overlooking trees and the lake.
The three small dogs run to the farthest away room when the pneumatically-driven loom starts up. There are two towels warped right now. Watch the shuttles race–all by themselves!– in this short video.
Marian is moving into a more colorful phase, she told us. She is adding brighter statement color lines in addition to her successful subtle neutrals.
And of course her signature woven center hanging tab remains. See more photos of her linens on her website, Väva! Veve!
Marian is deeply committed to the values of local fiber production. In the last year she has been working with area fiber producers and testing new ways to showcase local products. She showed us several test pieces woven with linen warp and locally-produced alpaca weft, fabric for blanket prototypes. My favorite in this set was the one in the left top corner, with soft alpaca bumps. Some had not been wet-finished yet, so the full effect wasn’t available. Marian described it well, “It hasn’t become a fabric yet, it’s just a set of interlaced threads.” Read more about Marian’s research into fibershed activities in her post, “It all started when...”
We felt lucky to check out Marian’s current experiments. She was testing some thirsty linen towels in waffle weave, which a friend appropriately noted would be wonderful woven as scarves.
I’m so happy that I can now visualize where all of Marian’s beautiful weaving is done. If you’d like to visit, too, one opportunity is an upcoming Weavers Guild of Minnesota tour to the Small Dog Weaving Mill on September 20. More information here. You can check out the small dogs, too, as Kelly did as as soon as we arrived.