We met Oakland based artist Meghan Shimek on her last visit to LA to teach a workshop before she headed back up to the bay for West Coast Craft fair. We talk motherhood, feminism, tarot, and healing through creation.
Meghan wears the Her Jumpsuit in Tar
When and how did you get into weaving? Was this always your medium?
MS: I began weaving about 4.5 years ago when I took a scarf weaving class near my parents house in Michigan. I always had an interest in fiber arts, I knit and crochet and even did a tiny bit of sewing, but I never felt the creative freedom I felt until I started weaving. I didn't go to art school, I have a degree in history and nutrition.
What inspires you most?
MS: I began working with roving (the material I use) as a way to heal, it is very meditative. I am inspired by loss, change, movement, diving deep into uncomfortable feelings and gaining knowledge through each day of our lives.
You teach a lot of workshops, is there a specific memorable/inspiring moment in one of your classes?
MS: I think the most inspiring class I ever taught was the very first class I taught! I was so scared and I remember telling myself that if it didn't go well, I never had to do it again. My class was amazing and so many of the students have remained my friends. The other two classes that stick out is teaching in France and Brazil...both countries where I do not speak the language, but being able to bridge that gap and have 20 students leave with beautiful work felt incredible!
Your materials are beautiful; the colors, the size of the roving, etc. how do you source your materials and decipher what you’re looking for?
MS: I work with distributors both domestically and abroad to find what I am looking for, through trial and error I have found the materials I like to work with. About a year and a half ago I switched the white roving I used because I found something I preferred...I am always open to trying something new and not being stuck in thinking I have found the best material.
The scale of your pieces is often large – can you talk us through how you map out each piece? What sort of planning is involved in a large scale work?
MS: I prefer working large scale because it allows me to get up and move my body. Most of the large scale work is done on a commission basis. I begin by speaking with my client about what size pice they are looking for and from there we discuss color palette, if they prefer to have more solid or mixed colors in their pieces, and how much color they want. When it is possible I like to visit their homes and see where the piece will be and get to know about their lifestyle. After all this, I order the colors and visit the hardware store, prepare the loom and finally weave! When I am making something for an exhibition or that I am inspired to make, it generally happens pretty organically. I pick out colors and decide what size loom I want to use. I don't always use every color I pull off the shelf, but I like to see how it all feels as I am weaving.
You told us your son loves crafting and that he’s even been making his own felts. Has being a mom changed the way you work or how you see your work?
MS: Absolutely, in so many ways. I don't think I would do the work I do if I hadn't had a child. I have struggled with depression and anxiety for years and when I had Grey I had no choice but to get out of my head and be there for him. He loves nature, when he was a baby we spent hours everyday going for walks...which means stopping to examine every leaf. Having him taught me to slow down and be present. I probably work harder than I ever have before, as a Capricorn I am prone to never stop working, but now I enjoy the process so much more. I am also grateful to have a child, it means that during the time I have him I cannot work. We go to the beach or see friends, but the time away from work always makes me excited for Monday mornings when I can get back to it!
There is an element of feminism or resistance in your work, specifically in the felted female bodies, can you tell us a little about that?
MS: Two and a half years ago my ex-husband and I split up, this was right after my father died. I had been in that relationship for 8 years and had become very dependent on having a partner. When we split up, and I lost the other strong man in my life, I had to find those resources in myself. Before all that I always considered myself a feminist, but going through these life changes gave me the courage to speak up for myself, my son and other women. It made me want to encourage and support other women to find their power and voice. I also struggled with my body image for most of my life, when I was pregnant I gained a lot of weight and felt pretty bad about myself...then I started breastfeeding. It made me love my body in a new way, I was literally giving someone else life. It especially made me appreciate breasts and it upset me that women should feel ashamed or that they should constantly have to cover their breasts or that there is some kind of breast that is perfect. All bodies are beautiful, they are the only bodies we have and I want to celebrate that more.
You also read tarot! What drew you to tarot? Are there any cards that particularly resonate with you?
MS: Right after my father died and on the cusp of me leaving my husband I felt completely lost. My dear friend Sherise Lee (http://theradder.com) held a popup in SF and asked me setup a loom and weave. During that day I first bought a shirt, it was by The Wild Unknown and it was the three of wands, then I bought a book for my son, also by The Wild Unknown. At the end of the day Sherise gave me The Wild Unknown tarot deck. It wasn't until a couple days later that I realized they were all made by the same person. I didn't know how to read tarot and walked about with that deck in my purse for a month. I finally ordered the guide book to go with it and everyday I pulled 1-3 cards and read what the book said and then journaled about it. Over and over and over I pulled the three of wands. In the book it says, "the future is infinite and it's yours, only you can see through the light and shadow". This card is what made me take the leap into weaving full time, it gave me the courage to leave a marriage that wasn't working, it gave me so much strength. Soon after I met Lindsay Mack, she is an intuitive healer and tarot reader. She and I immediately bonded. She and I profoundly admired each other and wanted to experience one another's work. I took her 10 week tarot class and dove into tarot and I made a weaving for her home. I still take my tarot cards with me a lot of places even if I don't read for others very often.
Follow Meghan here for glimpses into her latest projects and, if you're lucky, you might catch her in your city for a weaving workshop.