Tapestry Topics
A Quarterly Review of Tapestry Art Today
page 22
Spring 2004 Vol 30 No1

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However, her tapestries did get recognition. The first of Theresa Conley’s tapestries, “Le Coq” was included in the book mentioned previously. Also in 1966 the Willistead Art Gallery in Windsor, Ontario held an exhibit of tapestries created at the Fine Arts School. “Le Coq” and two other tapestries that she wove from other student’s design, were displayed along with the work of the woman who replaced her as weaver, Jeanne D’ Arc Corriveau.

In 1985 Theresa was asked by Corriveau to repair a large tapestry commission by the Hiram Walker Company. The tapestry was placed in a banquet room next to the Detroit River and the high humidity had damaged the linen used to sew the slits together. Corriveau suggested using fishing line for the repairs. See the photograph of Theresa next to the stylized tapestry that traces the whiskey making process from grain to bottle.

Theresa feels that part of the reason she did not pursue tapestry weaving after she was married was because of the lack of support given to her in art school. When her fourth child was ready for school, she started teaching in the Cooperative Pre School in Garden City, Michigan. She had a flair for working with young children and teaching became her creative outlet. She retired in 1995.

In 1970 she and her family went to Penland for a visit. They asked her if she could teach during the summers. At the interview with Bill Brown the director, when he asked what she had to show for the interim fifteen years since she wove, she listed her four children. Apparently it was answer enough. She continued to teach there until 1977. The family lived at the school. They spent time traveling and it was also an excellent opportunity for her children to take classes. One of her sons has become an artist.

She also taught adult classes at Greenfield Village in Dearborn, Michigan at various times. The 1970s proved to be a challenging time to be teaching traditional tapestry techniques. The students were interested in more contemporary techniques but she was able to teach a little about tapestry. They wove a sampler on a narrow 5” high-warp setup incorporating methods of creating shapes, slits and working from a cartoon. The students would then work on a 12” warp on a floor loom introducing more elements of texture and materials from nature.

When asked what changes she has seen in tapestry over the last fifty years, she stated that tapestry seems to be in transition. There is less reliance on a cartoon or prescribed plan and a shift in emphasis away from weaving to more varied techniques. She does believe that artists are approaching a way to express themselves that will be consistent with traditional weaving methods but that she will not see its fruition in her lifetime.

Once her husband retired they returned to North Carolina and have celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary in 2003. Many of the people who have been active in Penland’s administration over the years live in close proximity to the institution and continue to volunteer there as docents and tour guides. However, Theresa only occasionally conducts tours so it was fortuitous that Carole Greene came on a day when she was there.

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