Using locally sourced materials, multimedia artist Connie Ford combines traditional and unusual fibers to weave unique artworks in her Battle Ground studio. Ford seeks to stretch the boundaries of fiber weaving by collaborating with other local artists and combining their artistic mediums.
Ford was inspired to pursue basket weaving while viewing a Native American art exhibit showcased at Elma Elementary, where she was the principal. The beautiful woven baskets on display captivated her, she said, and she began taking weaving classes in Olympia.
After retiring from her career in education, Ford focused on honing her artistic abilities. She has experimented with weaving different fibers and materials, including woods, vines, plant stems and metals. She has also ventured into wool fiber felting.
“I’m just attracted to anything that is fiber,” Ford said.
Fiber weaving is a time-consuming art, Ford said. Preparing the fibers, weaving and finishing the product takes days.
Ford begins her basket weaving using wet fiber strips. The fibers are strongest, and most tolerant to bending, when wet. If the fibers are too dry or damp, they become brittle.
Weaving is a laborious process of bending the fibers across each other, creating interlocking patterns. She coats finished woven baskets with a protective layer of mineral oil. The oil gives the woven fibers a light sheen.
Ford experiments with many unusual materials, including willow, honeysuckle, cedar and dandelion stems. Ford particularly enjoys using wisteria in her baskets.
“I love the look, and it’s just fun to work with,” Ford said.
Ford has collaborated with local lapidary artist Richard Britschgi, based out of La Center, to grow her artistic abilities. Combining fiber weaving and stones has expanded Ford and Britschgi’s artistic horizons.
Ford has been wrapping Britschgi’s polished and cut stones with her woven fibers to create art. The stone and fiber artworks have been popular among buyers, Ford stated.
“I would have never thought of combining lapidary with weaving, but he did,” Ford said.
Ford wraps both polished and unpolished stones with fiber. The polished stones come from Britschgi, each taking five weeks to prepare.
Ford has also combined polished stones with felting. Britschgi recently brought a large piece of petrified wood to Ford’s studio and requested she create a butterfly.
“He asked me for a butterfly. The thing he wasn’t expecting was felted wool,” Ford said.
Members of the local art community, like Britschgi, are an important source of inspiration for Ford. She said she enjoys working with fellow artists to innovate and overcome challenges.
“Our friends really stretch the boundaries for us. There are just so many things to try,” Ford said.
Ford plans to collaborate with more local artists in the future to expand her craft. Ford, Britschgi and local photographer Michael Kay recently partnered on an art piece for a wine label contest for the City of Ridgefield. Ford wove the basket, Britchgi created the stone grapes and bird and then Kay took the project photos.
Ford teaches weaving classes at Battle Ground Art Alliance, a non-profit art organization, as well. She said everyone in the small community of local artists supports each other and shares classes on artistic mediums. The organization has potters, painters, photographers and more. Amateur artists and professionals are welcome, according to the organization’s website. For more information, visit bgartalliance.com.
Ford welcomes interested individuals to visit her art studio, by appointment. She teaches classes and sells her artworks, including baskets, brooms and woven stones. To learn more, go to website intuitdesigns.com.