“I was born in a small community in central Wisconsin. I spent my first four years loving my family’s farm. When it was time for me to go to school, we sold the farm and moved about one hundred miles to the city where the residential school for the blind was located. There was not a mainstreaming program available back then. I loved the school and gained an excellent education there. I was an avid braille reader before finishing first grade. I was highly involved in the music program and had taken three college-level music courses during high school. I earned my undergraduate degree in music education with a major in piano. I then earned my master’s degree from Northern Illinois University in teaching the visually impaired. I coordinated a service unit for persons with disabilities at that same university for over 20 years. Then I decided I wanted to try a slightly different career in the vision teaching field. I was a full-time instructor at the Hadley School for the Blind for over nineteen years. It was a big decision to make a career change after such a long time, but I had no regrets until a new administration and different educational philosophies began at Hadley. Six long-time instructors chose to leave and I was one of them. Sometimes the idea of “transplant and grow” can work out very well!
“My interests include weaving, reading, listening to and playing music, outdoor activities such as canoeing, going birding, collecting seashells, and swimming with dolphins. I also have designed a small-scale children’s book project which I do out of my home office. Volunteers join with me to create print/braille books for youngsters who are blind or for family members or friends who are braille readers who enjoy reading to the munchkin patrol.
“Another project within my adult life that has meant a great deal to me was to spearhead the organization of the first-ever four benefit folk concerts for The Hadley School for the Blind. Two very skilled and caring folk artists, Anne Hills and David Roth, have provided moving and memorable April evenings for all during the spring of 2007, 2008, 2010, and 2011 at performances we called “Spring from Darkness into Light.”
“I began taking weaving classes about twenty-seven years ago. I have had the joy of working with two excellent teachers at the Fine Line Creative Arts Center in St. Charles, IL. It is a wonderful place to learn new art forms to love. One’s teachers, classmates, and others at the center are all very supportive of each other as we gain success with new goals and skills. It was challenging to figure out ways to create complex braille weaving patterns and work out techniques so that I could do the entire weaving process independently–measuring the yarn, threading the loom, and finally having the joy of throwing shuttles and having my fingertips discover the complex patterns coming alive on the loom. At first I only worked with textures, keeping the color schemes simple. But my current teacher, Heather Winslow, has helped me to understand color theory and has encouraged me to work with a variety of colors. I tend to think of them as music–one color might be like a cheerful little melody in a major key, another might sound bold and strong. Add them together and you have a new piece of hand-woven artwork.
“I have begun learning how to do Kumihimo braiding–a complex braiding art form using 8 bobbins in various colors and braiding patterns. My teacher described each movement needed to complete the braiding sequence. I then brailled out the patterns. Once I learned the basic movements of bobbins to create various braids, I then added beads to the mix to create bracelets and necklaces.
“I have also helped to organize twelve 5-day summer weaving classes specifically designed with persons who are visually impaired or totally blind in mind. I create the patterns, braille and large print the handouts, and assist the weaving instructor. We had eight students in our twelfth summer class of 2021 at the weaving studio in St. Charles coming from WI, MN, and IL.”