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City Scene: Hartford Artisans Weaving Center



January 04, 2010

HARTFORD — - Anita Perez uses her hands and a magnifying glass to make sure that the colorful threads are bound together properly. She is at home in a small weaving center on Woodland Street — a place where her vision problems do not matter.

Although she is visually impaired, Perez, of East Hartford, who has a partially absent iris, has been weaving for years.

She started weaving as a student at the former Oak Hill School for the Blind. She then worked on her craft at the Hartford Artisans Center at Oak Hill.

She was crushed when the program was discontinued in September 2008, but learned quickly that she would not need to give up weaving or find a new place to socialize. Just months after the center at Oak Hill closed, a new weaving center opened in Hartford, giving those like Perez a new place to go.

"I was really upset," Perez said, "but life goes on, and we found a place."

Oak Hill closed the Hartford Artisans Center because it needed more space for its programs, said Fran Curran, who now serves as executive director of the new Hartford Artisans Weaving Center. Armed with looms and yarn, but with no place to go, local weavers took a hiatus as volunteers like Curran searched for a new home for a weaving program and learned how to operate a nonprofit organization. The new center opened last January at 40 Woodland St.

The tax-exempt, nonprofit center serves 22 people who have little or no vision or who are over 55. Weaving is a social and creative outlet for them, said Curran. Artisans can also earn some spending money by weaving items for the center to sell, she said.

The center also offers weaving classes to the public, and it sells items, such as handbags and scarves, made by the artisans who work there.

"We're moving forward," Curran said. "We're looking to grow."

To keep the center operating and the weaving materials readily available, the center charges outside students $198 for a nine-week class. Senior citizens and the visually impaired pay $5 monthly dues to weave. Proceeds from sales are split between the center and the artisans. The center also gets grant money to help with operational costs.

The center is thinking of expanding into online sales and might offer summer weaving classes for children, Curran said.

"We kind of like this idea of community," she said.

The center was full last week, and weavers were hard at work.

Some described weaving as therapeutic, saying that they were happy to be using their hands to do something productive. Marquerite Neely, 78, of Hartford, likes the concentration that weaving requires.

Despite poor eyesight, the center's oldest weaver, Pauline Chernick, 98, of West Hartford, manages to see her final product and says she's gotten good at detecting any mistakes by using her hands. For Chernick, knowing that she is producing something is fulfillment enough, and she said she is thrilled to have the chance to weave again on Woodland Street.

•For more information on The Hartford Artisans Weaving Center, call 860-727-5727.

"We're moving forward. We're looking to grow."

Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant. To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at http://www.courant.com/archives.
| Last update: September 25, 2012 |
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