Weaver uses color memory to make landscapes, other abstracts

Oct 31, 2013

Kalamazoo weaver Nancy Crampton has at least six looms in her home studio. When she and her husband got married a loom was one of the only things they had.

Nancy Crampton working in her home studio
Credit Rebecca Thiele, WMUK

“We had a little apartment and we had a mattress on the floor. And the apartment came with a table and then we bought a loom. And that was our furniture,” says Crampton. “My son always used to—as a little kid he would say…we’d go to somebody’s house and he’d go, “And where you keep your loom?” Just because he just thought that’s how it was.” 

Crampton's work will be at Friday's Kalamazoo Art Hop at the Life Story Network & Ignertia gallery on North Street. She has an eerie knack for color. Her studio is filled with about 1,000 pounds of yarn and she can remember ever single color she has.

“Like I can look at a color and I can go into the paint store and I can match it without taking a sample with me. I just can remember colors,” says Crampton. 

Crampton uses this talent to make landscapes that focus more on color than what the place actually looks like. Crampton has woven tapestries to look like mountains, beaches, and rolling hills in the colors of the changing seasons. Crampton just recently started working on cityscapes.

“When we were in New York City we took a boat ride that went into the rivers of New York City and it was a bridge tour. So we went through the rivers and there’s like 25 bridges that go over as you go all the way around Manhattan. And this was one of the scenes taken from the boat. And even though it doesn’t really look like New York City—it wasn’t really meant to—but it’s the beginning of a whole new area of work.”

Crampton says she has been collecting pictures of popular buildings around Kalamazoo to do a piece as well. Crampton says the texture of fabric speaks to her more than a painting.

“There’s a depth that you get with a woven piece that you don’t get with a painting," she says. "When you look here I don’t have any flat bands. Even the places where it’s all one color, I have stopped and started so that you get a texture in the back. You can see it here in the sky.”

Crampton does some works with glazed enamel. She first bends and glazes a piece of metal and then weaves an abstract wall hanging that matches all the different colors she sees in the glaze. But not all of Crampton’s work involves a strict attention to color. Some of it is just fun. Her work called “Exploring Joy” has multicolored zig-zag lines all over a beige tapestry.

“I feel like the lines are exuberant, they kind of fly off the page,” Crampton says.

A few of Crampton’s rugs are only meant to hang on the wall, but many of them are meant to be used—just like her family uses handmade dishes and mugs.

“I just like the feeling of things that someone has made," she says. "I feel good about making a rug that someone can walk on or a pillow that you can lean on. I just like that, I think it’s a really neat feeling. I like to know the hand of the maker is there.”

Crampton and other members of the Weavers Guild of Kalamazoo will be having an exhibition and sale November 21-23 at the Kalamazoo County Expo Center.