November 23, 2010

Q&A with master weaver John Beard

Photo by Jaime Valdez.
Let's face it, no matter how many turkey leftovers you have after Thanksgiving, you have to find something else to do besides eat this weekend. One fantastic option is to come down to the Burke for weaving demonstrations with John Beard (Saturday) and Marilyn Romatka (Sunday).

I was curious to know more about John Beard, a retired pharmacist from Tigard, OR who has become an extremely accomplished Ravenstail weaver, and he was kind enough to respond to a short Q&A:

When and how did you first learn to weave?

JOHN BEARD: I took my first class in Ravenstail weaving from Cheryl Samuel, July 1994, just a month after retiring from a 30 year career as a pharmacist at the VA Medical Center in Portland. Cheryl, who is responsible for the revival of Ravenstail Weaving, is a wonderful teacher and I was really hooked after that first class. Before I started doing Ravenstail weaving, however, my mom and dad, Ray and Mary Alice Beard, began teaching me Navajo weaving in 1983.

What is most special or exciting about Ravenstail weaving?

JB: This is not an easy question to answer because, for me, Ravenstail weaving is about more than weaving. I find the process of Ravenstail weaving to be fully engaging and at times it is almost as though I can become one with the weaving and move to an altogether different dimension of reality. Ravenstail weaving also elicits in me a sense of wonderful connectedness with the old weavers. Ravenstail weaving is very slow but I find great joy in the journey of weaving a Ravenstail piece. It is very exciting to finish a robe, to see it worn and used in traditional ways, and to feel the joy it brings those who wear it.

What will you be working on this Saturday?

JB: I will be working on a dance apron that I am weaving to go with the blue bordered Oregon Lattice Band robe that I finished Last December.

John Beard weaves a Ravenstail robe in 2009. Photo by Jaime Valdez.
In 2009, the Portland Tribune published a feature article about John's weaving, which you can read here. If you can't make it to the museum on Saturday, stop by on Sunday when local weaver Marilyn Romatka will be giving a fabulous demonstrations of Inkle loom weaving.

Posted by: Julia Swan, Communications