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Lizz Brown


Lizz is a textile artist, primarily a handweaver, a quilter, and natural dyer. She is also a Programs Manager for Maine Crafts Association (MCA) and the Director of Guild Fine Craft Shows under MCA’s sister organization, Shop Maine Craft (SMC). She has been an RWS member in this capacity for the past four years. In her professional roles, Lizz is responsible for the Craft Apprentice Program through MCA and the Maine Craft Content Project, an online digital storytelling project in which underserved artists in Maine are awarded a grant to create new content for their website (they can pick from professional photography, podcast, or video services). She is also the creator of their monthly newsletters, among other responsibilities. Her family originates from Jersey but has traveled abroad as missionaries for generations. Her great-grandfather was a medical missionary who traveled in the Congo in Africa and India. Her grandmother was a medical missionary surgeon and would help to create leprosy villages and hospitals across India where Lizz’s father was later born. Throughout their travels Lizz’s relatives acquired trunks full of beautiful handwoven and dyed Indian textiles, saris, tablecloths, napkins, and other goods that Lizz played with growing up. ``I loved the textures and the colors and played with them all the time. My dad would let me wear them as capes and make forts out of them. He didn’t keep them locked away in a trunk.” Lizz has always loved textiles but it wasn’t until she sat down at a loom in her first weaving class in college and passed a few shuttles back and forth that it really clicked. She switched majors and though weaving was her primary focus she dabbled in other textile arts. Lizz also worked for a fabric designer and workshop owner while earning her degree. During her seven year tenure there she learned how to quilt and became a self-taught natural dyer. She says the variability of the dyes makes the process more interesting than using artificial chemical dyes, “When you buy a jar of dye it’s the same color. When you make it, it’s never the same.” She has been working in textiles for over a decade. The recurring focus across her media is texture and color. Lizz is an avid hiker and she is inspired by the lichen, moss, and short pine found in alpine zones. Her textiles use the citron green, limey yellows, and golden colors and the textures found in the plants at these high elevations. The same colors occur in other parts of Maine as well like the island coastlines of Casco Bay, “The natural colors here are amazing.” Lizz visited Maine before she lived here and had a friend who worked for MCA. She interviewed with the former executive director while on vacation and three months later she and her partner rented a moving truck and relocated to Portland. Lizz started with MCA at their gallery in Portland when it opened in 2018. Lizz loves to work with plants that she forages locally, including goldenrod for producing a golden yellow, staghorn sumac for a peachy pink, and Queen Anne’s Lace which for chartreuse dye. She also uses vegetables from her refrigerator, like avocado stones (pink) and onion skins (ranges from yellow to orange). Occasionally, her brother-in-law who’s a forager will bring her mushrooms called ‘Dyer’s polypore’ that she uses to make rusty red oranges, “It’s like cooking; you’re making dye soup.” Lizz uses alum, a natural food-safe mordent which bonds the dye to the fiber. Lizz uses her dyed fibers to create homewares, such as wallhangings, woven zipper bags in different shapes and sizes, and handwoven hand towels. Lizz starts with a cone of yarn, dyes it, and transforms it into a piece of cloth through weaving, “There’s something magical knowing you made every piece from start to finish, and I love that they are equally as beautiful as they are functional. They’re more sustainable than what you buy in a store.” She loves to make things she can use herself and that other people can use and bring them joy.

She weaves on a loom in her apartment and loves the interaction of different fibers, which is how she achieves texture. Another way she creates texture is by shaping the fiber, such as wrapping it around a pencil to make a bunch of ‘squiggles’. Unless it’s for a specific commission, Lizz doesn’t follow a pattern. Instead, she turns off her brain and lets her influences come out through her hands and the rhythm of her feet, “Weaving is that way. It is methodical and meditative. It’s tedious and organized.” She is inspired by the designs found in saris, an Indian garment consisting of yards of embroidered fabric elaborately wrapped and draped around the body, pleated and tucked. Though she is formally trained and has years of experience, Lizz could never recreate these patterns due to their level of intricacy and because they are passed down from generation to generation. In addition to being missionaries, Lizz’s family owned a camera shop in Philly in the 40s and had access to what are now vintage movie cameras. Recently, they digitized old reels of Indian villages with women weaving and throwing pottery on big wooden slabs, “It’s a reminder of how this tradition is deeply rooted in my family, this history of craft.” Find Lizz at the four guild shows she directs for SMC throughout the year. Her goods can be found at Maine Craft Portland, the Center for Maine Craft in West Gardiner, and Venn + Maker in Yarmouth. Email her at Lizz@mainecrafts.org and stop by her online shop at thewildtextile.com.

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