Co-founding Halcyon Yarn and my weaving career

A story by Hector Jaeger from 1970-2017

Hector Jaeger in his studio, 2017

Before I moved to Maine in 1981, I had lived in Denver for 10 years. Out there I had co-founded Halcyon Yarn, a supplier of materials and equipment mostly for hand weavers, and in learning to weave as part of the business, I quickly discovered that I wanted to take handweaving down a creative path of my own.

The ’70’s produced an explosion of fiber art from macrame to abstract museum sculpture, but I found myself drawn to more functionally-based forms, especially Navajo blankets and rugs. Their physical strength and toughness, and their purpose appealed to me, and the simple weft-faced weave structure left the visual design in the hands of the weaver.

Relocating a growing retail/mail order business to Maine provided a positive association with traditional craft and craftsmanship. It also felt like a good place to raise a family and a supportive place for creative expression. The strong presence of nature and the respect for work done by human hands are aspects of Maine that are very important to my work.

Although I left the business in 1986, I was able to concentrate on rug weaving for a couple of years around 1990. But starting a new family became the priority and, in order to stay home with two daughters, I left my loom idle. After 10 years, with kids up and running, I went to work as a carpenter, but my goal was still to weave rugs. Happily, I found that carpentry, while a practical necessity for 12 years, also embodies essential elements of craftsmanship and design that have carried over to my weaving: architecture, engineering, construction.

When I finally returned to weaving several years ago, I had no idea what to expect. When I sat down at my loom I discovered right away that the simple physical action of weaving, of my hands knowing what to do without thinking, was there as if I had never stopped. Re-starting spawned a wave of new ideas which, while rooted in earlier work, went far beyond it.

My current work has much more to do with color than before. I have always dyed my own yarns, but in the past, colors filled in the design. Now color drives the design. A drawing provides a skeleton for the colors to inhabit. My composition and plan are a way to start the conversation. As each rug progresses on the loom, the completed portion disappears onto the cloth beam, not seen again until completion. I see only about a foot at a time. So it is crucial that I allow the colors to guide me. Every color stimulates a response, a barely-conscious feeling. Respecting that and sharing control with color is at the heart of my work.

I call my work contemporary, but that’s only partly true. It is a contemporary take on an ancient form. The flat-woven rug is what I use to speak in colors and for colors to speak to one another. For me, it is important to be anchored in such a strong, functional object. In dyeing the wool and building a rug, I feel rooted in the visible and tangible world. I use an old form in a new way to allow others to experience something original, to see a familiar object in a new way.

Like the slower pace of life in Maine, weaving is a measured process. It does not lend itself to spontaneous bursts. As with our seasons, I conform to its pace. The mechanical nature of weaving, with its slow rhythm, allows the unconscious to collaborate with the conscious. Contemporary compositions of color are anchored in traditional structure.

Art embedded in craft.

Untitled, 2016, wool on linen. 59” x 87”

I hand dye my wool. I compose designs by placing the yarn together.

Detail: Untitled, 2016, wool on linen. 59” x 87”

Hector Jaeger in his studio, 2017