Stephen F. Austin State University

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Exhibition features beautiful spinning tools

November 12, 2014 - Robbie Goodrich
The exhibition "To Spin A Yarn, Distaffs: Folk Art and Material Culture," now showing at The Cole Art Center, will be discussed in a gallery talk at 5 p.m. Friday, Nov. 21, followed by a reception. A spinning demonstration will be at 3 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 22.
NACOGDOCHES, Texas - The exhibition "To Spin A Yarn, Distaffs: Folk Art and Material Culture" is showing through Jan. 10 in Reavley Gallery in The Cole Art Center @ The Old Opera House in downtown Nacogdoches.

According to the guest curator, Michael T. Ricker, the exhibition features spinning tools, which represent one aspect of the weaving tradition common to virtually all cultures.

Ricker will discuss the exhibition in a gallery talk at 5 p.m. Friday, Nov. 21, followed by a reception. Historian Sarida Steed-Bradley will give a spinning demonstration at 3 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 22.

The exhibition contains more than 60 19th- and 20th-century distaffs, originating from Russia and European countries from Scandinavia to the Balkans. Ricker describes them as "beautiful, but inherently simple, tools used for spinning fiber." He provides an expanded discussion of distaffs in his book by the same title, "To Spin A Yarn, Distaffs: Folk Art and Material Culture," published by SFA Press.

"SFA Press published the beautiful full-color book last year, and so we brought the exhibition to the Cole Art Center," said John Handley, director of SFA art galleries.

In his book, Ricker writes, "In certain cultures, distaffs evolved over centuries from plain sticks to surprisingly ornate sculptures. They eventually became important cultural objects, with almost ritualistic significance." He adds, "Despite their importance and wide proliferation, distaffs are rarely found today. Many did not survive years of hard use. Others were relegated to attics and barns, deteriorating both physically and within communal memory. Today, distaffs remain cultural touchstones and marvelous examples of the rural craftsman's talent and creativity."

The exhibition is sponsored in part by the SFA Friends of the Visual Arts and Nacogdoches Junior Forum. Admission is free.

The Cole Art Center is located at 329 E. Main St. For information about this exhibition and others at The Cole Art Center, call (936) 468-1131.