Maker Profile: Exploring Fibers and Looms with Hillary Bird
Breathing new life into a centuries-old craft, Hillary Bird is weaving vintage yarns into beautiful wall hangings and necklaces. When she is not occupied by her loom, Bird spends her time rescuing vintage fabrics from being shredded at a textile recycling company. Both inside and out of the studio, she is living a life immersed in fibers.
Bird stepped away from the loom and piles of colorful yarn to answer some questions about weaving and her company, Wabi Sabi Textile Co.
What do you make?
Hand-woven wall hangings and jewelry. I’m also working on weaving rugs and yardage of fabric for clothes, but it will take a little while longer for me to finish those projects.
Where did you learn your craft?
I’m very curious by nature and do a lot of research for both work and pleasure, so I’m almost entirely self-taught. The women of the St. Louis Weavers’ Guild and the community of weavers on Instagram have been an invaluable resource for me when I have questions I can’t find answers to in books or online.
What is your process?
I usually begin with a sketch, but almost always head in a new direction once I see how different fibers and colors work together. I rarely end up with a piece that looks like my original idea.
Weaving is the perfect creative process for me, for many reasons, but one thing that makes it possible for me to continue with such a busy schedule is that you can set a piece down and pick it back up at any time. Because I work full-time and am also enrolled in school, I usually start a piece one day, work on it when I have a few free minutes at home and finish it within the week. I really enjoy waking up early on weekends, listening to an audiobook and weaving with a cup of coffee and my dogs curled up next to me.
What materials do you use?
I use mostly vintage yarns that I gather from various sources, but I do use some hand-spun/hand-dyed yarns as well. I’m really drawn to weird, unique fibers so I use a lot of nylon, rayon, bamboo and things of that nature, but things like wool, cotton and linen find their way into my work too.
What are your influences?
I’m heavily influenced by rugs (Moroccan Berber and Boucherouite, Navajo and Turkish to name a few), Japanese Ikat fabrics and interesting color combinations found in nature. For my day job, I work with vintage clothing, so I’m constantly finding myself flipping through pictures I’ve taken of cool garments and sketching designs based on them.
Where does your creative inspiration come from?
I’ve always had a creative itch and have tried as many artistic practices as I can get my hands on. Fibers have always been an interest to me, but when I was younger, sewing dresses and making pom-poms, I didn’t really see it as a form of art. It wasn’t until I started weaving in 2013 that my passion for creating something beautiful and working my hands came together.
What led you to start Wabi Sabi Textile Co.?
In late 2014, it struck me that I had made more pieces than I had room for, so I began selling them online and at craft shows. When I started seeing success from that, I decided I needed to take myself a little more seriously and in April of 2015, I launched my website.
What are a few of your best-sellers?
I regularly sell necklaces, but have actually had to remake one of my larger pieces (“Navajo Triangles”) four times now! I guess that one’s a favorite!
Do you have any upcoming collaborations?
In early December, I’ll be a part of a pop-up shop with Angela Malchionno (of Enamel) and woodworker Collin Garrity. I have also been working on a pretty big project with someone and I’m really excited to share, but it’s in the early stages so I don’t want to give too much away just yet—you’ll have to stay tuned! I’ll be able to announce something within a couple months.
You can find Wabi Sabi Textile Co. items online or at Urban Matter 4704 Virginia Ave, Dutchtown, 314.456.6941 and Ruby Francis, 2310 Cherokee St, Cherokee, 314.339.5909.