Weaving workshops show value of choosing handmade goods

Photo by Casey Cole.
Photo by Casey Cole.

Before teaching her first weaving workshop in June of 2017, The Little Black Sheep Studio owner Kate Koconis didn’t think many people were interested in the craft.

Fast forward seven months and almost every spot was filled for her four classes taught from Jan. 27 to Feb. 4 at Quirk Gallery.

“I had never really thought of being a teacher,” Koconis said, “now I just want to keep doing it as long as people are interested.”

Koconis, based out of Charles City, started The Little Black Sheep, an online shop where she sells handmade woven products, in 2008 and started focusing more on the shop about three years ago.

Koconis said she has practiced weaving for most of her life and grew up surrounded by fiber arts, but became serious about the craft about 10 years ago.

“Working with the materials is very meditative since I’ve been doing it for so long now,” Koconis said. “I’ll just go and get in a zone.”

During the workshop, Koconis went between each table helping attendees with the process. Pages of instructional weaving diagrams were also included in each “kit.” Koconis said that in weaving, if a mistake is made and “you think think it looks okay, then it’s okay.”

Participants made wall hangings, decorative pieces made with wool of varying textures and long fringe. Wall hangings and other decorations make up the majority of products for sale on Koconis’s website, littleblacksheepstudio.com.

Working with her hands is an integral part of most of what Koconis does — in addition to creating woven products for The Little Black Sheep, she works on a farm.

“I work very hard to get to a point where I’m always doing something I really enjoy. That’s what [weaving] is for me and that’s what the farm is for me,” Koconis said. “I’m a really tactile person, doing stuff with my hands is my main drive. It’s a very comforting, warming, cozy thing.”

Koconis enjoys giving workshops because she hopes participants are able to relax while weaving. You can make a lot by weaving, she said, but over the years, fiber arts products have been increasingly mechanized. Products, like the wall hangings Koconis creates, can be purchased cheaper at chain stores.

Fiber arts artists are hurt by this trend, Koconis said, because many consumers don’t understand the value of a handmade good once they can purchase a mass-produced product.

Koconis works between 50 to 60 hours a week for The Little Black Sheep in the winter and said she’s close to being able to turn it into a full-time job. Her summer hours are shorter because she spends more time doing farm work. She thinks consumers can “get a little bit more” from handmade products.

“It’s hard to put into words, it’s more of a feeling kind of thing, having something that was handmade by somebody in your home,” Koconis said. “[A mass-produced product] won’t fill you with as much warmth and joy as something you really thought about and considered.”

Koconis likes to fill her house with things important to her and those objects provide her with positive memories and feelings.

“My hope is that when someone purchases one of my handmade things that those kind of memories and good feelings travel with it into their home,” Koconis said.  

Georgia Geen Spectrum Editor 

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