By Deirdre Dwyer
[Editor’s note: The Eastern Shore is home to a remarkable community of artists and artisans. Poet Deirdre Dwyer knows this community and its works well. In the first in a series of interviews, Dwyer says that she aims to tease out the “threads that weave through these works, the spin of words, ideas and visuals, the senses and the aesthetics.”]
Leslie Hauck of The Spinner’s Loft in West Jeddore dresses in teals, purples and lilacs, and her turquoise and purple trim house and studio are examples of her love of rich colours and textures. On a mild winter’s afternoon, I sat down with Leslie in her studio to talk about her work and teachings. All around us were the raw materials and the products of her work: there were many-coloured skeins of wool, silk, Sable Island pony hair, milkweed pod silk, and even dog hair! Knitted scarves, hats, and necklaces were draped around the room, plus seven different sizes of spinning wheels.
Her decades of spinning have shown Leslie that the art can be a powerful metaphor for how to live. In an article called “Finding Balance: In Yarn and in Life” in Spin-Off, she wrote: “In life, as in spinning, we need to let go of our hold on some things to allow others to unfold.”
Leslie started working with fabric early, taking up knitting at age 8, and sewing and making clothes in high school. She studied Fashion Design at Stephen’s College in Missouri and at the Parson’s School of Design in New York City. She has been spinning for over 35 years, but only opened The Spinner’s Loft in 2006. Looking east over Jeddore Harbour, Leslie said she designed her studio to give visitors and students a “multi-sensual” experience where people can take in the “intense blue of the sky…hear the soft clicks of the spinning wheels, handle the fibres” and much more.
Leslie shares her experience and enthusiasm with anyone who drops in to her loft, and offers lessons and workshops for beginner, intermediate, and advanced spinners. Students can spin yarns from a wide variety of animal and vegetable fibres, depending on the skill level of the spinner. But Leslie makes sure that all visitors get a lesson in the rich history of textiles, which goes back at least 30,000 years. You can hand card wool, or try spinning with a drop spindle, a simple device that started off thousands of years ago as a simple rock and stick.
Leslie’s work has been in shows since 1983, and you can find her at events along the Shore demonstrating the use of the drop spindle and the spinning wheel. She has written for a number of publications, including Spin-Off, a glossy American magazine about making yarn by hand. In 2015, she was honoured to be chosen as an instructor for a “The Year of the Craft” Fibre Arts Conference sponsored by the Newfoundland and Labrador Craft Council.
As I was preparing to leave the warmth of her woodstove-heated studio, I saw these words on a small poster by the British poet Kathleen Raine: “The Earth upon her celestial spindle winds her ecstasy-producing dance.” Leslie Hauck has found that balance with yarn and life, and the results that grace the Shore are her colourful knitted goods and her bountiful teaching.
You can find The Spinner’s Loft at 1626 West Jeddore Road, Head of Jeddore, Nova Scotia, B0J 1P0, and at www.thespinnersloft.ca. The website has details on workshop prices, schedules and accommodation. Call 902-889-2829 or email [email protected].