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MailTribune.com
  • Nature inspires tapestries

    Ruch artist has created handmade weavings for more than 30 years
  • Thalia Truesdell carefully weaves lengths of handspun yarn tied to a piece of driftwood, slowly creating a scenic riverfront landscape.
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  • Thalia Truesdell carefully weaves lengths of handspun yarn tied to a piece of driftwood, slowly creating a scenic riverfront landscape.
    "Over under, over under, over under," says Truesdell, standing Wednesday in front of the large, half-finished creation in a downstairs room of her Ruch home.
    Truesdell, who began weaving in the early 1980s, has created and sold one-of-a-kind tapestries for more than three decades. This summer, her tapestry booth will celebrate its 33rd year at the Oregon Country Fair, taking place July 12-14 in Veneta, 15 miles west of Eugene.
    "I was looking for a craft of the week, and I just made this up," says Truesdell, who spent a year working on her first tapestry, a series of lines and blobs of color that represent her learning the art of weaving.
    She started with abstracts and then moved to landscapes, using the nature she sees every day as an inspiration.
    "Nature — I wallow in it," says Truesdell, 64. "It's what inspires me. I often will be driving and just slam on the brakes, and if I don't have a camera, I will just observe it."
    A former kindergarten teacher, Truesdell began weaving with acrylic yarn she bought in stores, but soon discovered that she could spin her own yarn.
    She has mostly spun yarn from sheep's wool, along with hair from llamas, alpacas and dogs. Her preference is yarn spun from the hair of Samoyed dogs, because it is white and easy to dye.
    After retiring from teaching and moving from Sawyers Bar in Siskiyou County, Calif., to Ruch in 1988, Truesdell began spinning yarn and weaving tapestries full time, often working on them eight to 10 hours a day.
    By the time she has just a few inches left to finish on a tapestry, the idea for the next piece of art is already in her mind, she says.
    "I can't even tell you how the designs happen," says Truesdell. "They just come to me."
    Her constant work has slowed over the last few years, she says, because she took on a job as branch manager at the Ruch library. She also teaches piano two days a week.
    Still, Truesdell says she always is working on a tapestry.
    "There's always something," she says.
    It takes about an hour to complete just a few square inches of the design, so a large tapestry can take more than a month to complete, she says. Spinning yarn is time-consuming too, with a half-pound of yarn taking about an hour to complete.
    The tapestries range from small creations up to several feet across, and range in price from about $100 to $1,200.
    Each is attached to at least one piece of driftwood, which Truesdell collects by hand, often from near the Applegate Dam.
    "I've always loved driftwood," she says. "I used to walk down creeks for hours and come back with an armload of driftwood."
    Though she sometimes shows the tapestries in galleries, Truesdell says the best place to see her work is at the Oregon Country Fair.
    She also sells and ships pieces sold on her website, www.thaliaweaver.com.
    Teresa Ristow is a freelance writer living in Ashland. Email her at teresa.ristow@gmail.com.
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