Small Tapestry International 7 in St. Paul

With so little travel these days, it’s a good deal when a wonderful exhibit shows up close to home, like the Small Tapestry International 7: Elements show at the American Association of Woodturners Gallery of Wood Art in St. Paul. I knew it would be fun to see the tapestries from many artists whose work I know well, but it was even better than expected, when combined with fun conversation with the curator, Tib Shaw, and the amazing wood sculptures. When I entered the gallery, Tib greeted me and said she would be happy to answer any questions about the wood pieces, but she didn’t know much about tapestry. I told her if she had questions about tapestry, I’d be happy to answer those!

The gallery is in the beautiful Landmark Center, a former courthouse with many repurposed wood-lined courtrooms

The show is masterfully hung, and many pieces are near wood sculptures that play well together, either in terms of color or shape. Tib said that her only regret was that there weren’t more tapestries.

I know I will return with friends before this show leaves in June–a good thing, because I realize that my photographing was incomplete! Clearly I was too busy peering at the amazing intricacy of Kathe Todd-Hooker’s tapestry, and trying to puzzle out the woven words, to remember to take photos! I’ve seen many digital images of Kathe’s truck tapestries, so it was wonderful to see one in person. Plus, I forgot to take photos of many of the labels.

Next I moved on to Ellen Ramsey’s beautiful feather homage. I collect feathers on golf courses, but only put them in my bag. Ellen examined her feather and wove this beautifully-proportioned piece. Its presentation in a deep box was perfect.

Ellen Ramsey, “Flight Pattern”

If you turn around, black-and-white switches to startling red, in both a sculpture and Ulrikka Mokdad’s tapestry.

The fineness of the weaving in the swaying branches and the subtle variations in the surface are exquisite.

Lindsey Marshall wove a wave! It mirrors the twisting shape of the sculpture perched below it.

Lindsey Marshall, “Roller.” Two things are amazing–how the tapestry mimics the shape of a wave near the shore, and how it got from England to Minnesota without being squished!

The colors in Jane Freear-Wyld’s tapestry blazed from the wall: small size, big impact.

Shiny embroidery cotton in the finely-woven piece by Jane Freear-Wyld’s “Worm-eye View: Water Window 1”

I love pieces woven with small shapes, varied only by color. When this works well in tapestry, it is a good trick–it’s not like you can just rearrange a square if you don’t like its position! This arrangement by Mary Jane Lord is a winner; I find myself studying it again and again.

Mary Jane Lord, “Earth Sea Sky #3”

Jennifer Sargent’s piece made me shake my head in puzzlement. How did she even plan it? Oh, I’ll just leave long warp ends in one section and then twist them and form them into a spiral and attach it to the bottom of the tapestry? It’s so cool. The shapes are intriguing, but it is when you get up close and notice the variation in color and technique within the piece, that you truly admire it.

Jennifer Sargent, “Learning by Layers.”
Look at the difference in sett and weft in the looser, linen-y center section.

I loved this abstract piece by Turid Teague. Is the central black section a little ominous, a la Robert Motherwell? When I looked at it now, writing this post, I suddenly saw the black area as the back of a reclining cat. Even the black lines be deconstructed whiskers. (I apologize to Turid if she doesn’t want viewers to visualize a cat!)

Turid Teague. “Interaction 2”
Again, you can see the interesting juxtaposition of pieces. This was a lovely arrangement, especially since the plinth placement allowed you to walk closer to examine the tapestry surface.

Nearby on the same long gallery wall was Mary Lane’s tapestry with the same rich golds and reds.

Mary Lane, “Reconsider 3”
To me, the two wood pieces to the right of Mary’s tapestry had a sort of similar “ancient” feeling. Some of the figures in Mary’s tapestry look like ancient Peruvian weaving.

Joan Griffin’s evocation of evening fit well with a starry-night sort of wood bowl sculpture. (Yes, it’s wood.)

Joan Griffin. “Evening”
Joan Griffin wrote that the metallic flecks might be fireflies.

Both Tib Shaw and I LOVED LOVED the humor in Terry Olson’s interpretation of the “Elements” theme in “Element of Surprise.” (Also, such beautiful soft colors)

Terry Olson. “Element of Surprise”

While Sharon Crary from Napa, California, was weaving sparkly blue triangles, far away in Dublin, Ireland, Roger Bennett was making the perfect companion piece.

Sharon Crary, “Twinkles”
Roger Bennett, “Earth Air Fire Water”

Small tapestries can certainly have an impact in a larger space. Here is Louise Halsey’s “Summer Thunder” shown in the context of the full-width gallery space.

Such vibrant color and texture. Pop! Louise Halsey, “Summer Thunder.”

Joyce Hayes’s “Etude 10” sparked a sudden switch to calm and order and contemplation, a need to move closer to see the subtle and even, musical-like marks in the image.

Joyce Hayes, “Etude #10”

“Waylon,” by Laura Center, finished my gallery tapestry tour. A funny guy! The fuzzy surface was unusual, and she left longer fuzzy pieces at the top of his head for hair–perfect. There was a sort of candy-cane striping at the top and bottom edges. Lucious candy colors.

Laura Center, “Waylon”
Coming in closer to “Waylon”

After examining the tapestries, I made a second round of the gallery to admire the wood sculptures. It is worth making a trip to the Gallery of Wood Art to see the tapestry show or the wood show. Getting to see both is twice as fun.

To finish, here is my favorite wood piece, by Jim Christiansen from Moscow, Idaho.

“We are all influenced by others. They are the elements that largely determine who we are. This work represents our existence as a vessel with a form and shape determined (sometimes unwillingly) by those with whom were have relationships. Diversity adds meaning and interest.”


  1. Thank you Robbie for making this beautiful post of this exhibition.

    So glad you were able to see it.

    Your beautiful presentation of the works and appreciation for their relatio ships with the wood sculpture in your photos made my day!

  2. It was a pleasure to spend time with you in the gallery, Robbie, and what a wonderful presentation you’ve created here. I’m hoping you will come back again, since of course I thought of several questions after you left! Meeting up with Susan Iverson, who was the bridge between ATA and AAW, and who curated the show, was a fortuitous event.
    I’ll be posting images of all the pieces in the show on our Instagram page, @aawpop over the next few months, and the show will be up until June 13th. We are open Wednesday through Friday and Sunday, 12-4. After Elements closes in St Paul, the tapestries will be traveling to the Lincoln City Cultural Center in Oregon,