Jessica Pinsky has a vision for weaving together the North Collinwood community, one that doesn’t just begin or end on a loom.
Pinsky – executive director at Praxis Fiber Workshop and all around textile aficionado – actually got her start as a painter while at New York University (BFA 2006) and Boston University (MFA 2009). Admittedly she eventually began cutting up her paintings and weaving them into new works of art, but a painter nonetheless.
What emerged while Pinsky was doing this deconstructing and recreating with her paintings was a recognition of the complex beauty that was inherent in a discipline passed down to her through generations of women in her family: fiber arts.
It’s not as though she ignored this genealogical pastime, but like many things in life, she came back full circle to the beautiful, pragmatic medium that surrounded her as a child.
That love of fiber arts – weaving, sewing, folding, spinning, twisting, wrapping, coiling, cutting, dyeing – led Pinsky to buying and dragging out a disassembled loom from an artist’s basement in Massachusetts and bringing it back to life during her post-graduate life in New England.
Fiber was her medium of choice once more.
World travel over the next few years enhanced Pinsky’s understanding of the importance of fiber arts in cultures spanning the globe. Eventually, finding herself in Israel, she thought she was settled.
But a family issue brought her back to the United States and her hometown of Akron, Ohio. As chance would have it, a job offer came in from the Cleveland Institute of Art(CIA) in 2011 and led her one step closer to North Collinwood.
At the CIA, Pinsky was a technical specialist in the fiber department, caring for the looms and other equipment day in and day out. When the future of the equipment she had nurtured like a mother was endangered in 2013 due to department restructuring, she saw her opportunity.
With the help of Northeast Shores Development Corporation, Pinsky channeled her passion for fiber arts, plus a truckload of looms and plenty of creative energy, into what is now Praxis Fiber Workshop in the Waterloo Arts District. Creating the space took time along with some blood, sweat and tears, but as of June 5, 2015 the workspace is open and ready for members.
In collaboration with the CIA, Praxis offers professional course instruction, equipment and expertise to area fiber artists plus community members new to the medium. It’s the shared work environment, however, that Pinsky believes sets Praxis apart.
Many fiber artists have workspace in their homes. Whether they knit, sew, dye or weave with a loom, most of the equipment is not a large investment for these home-based artists. While Praxis does offer substantial physical infrastructure to support fiber artists, it’s the collaborative environment that sets the studio apart.
This vital asset – creative support – is one that Pinsky says elevates Waterloo as an arts neighborhood (and one factor that helped in her decision to make North Collinwood her personal home and that of Praxis). The collaboration that exists in Waterloo doesn’t just support businesses in a purely economic sense – it supports creativity that artists need to survive. This network of artists exists across disciplines and businesses, as well as within individual shared workspaces like Praxis, Articleand Brick Ceramic + Design Studio, which model themselves on cooperation and shared creative energy.
Praxis also exists to engage with the North Collinwood community and continue traditions of arts based education, says Pinsky. She dreams of creating residency programs for artists across the country and abroad to come to North Collinwood and study, so that community building extends beyond the neighborhood’s borders.
These are long term goals, though. Right now Pinsky is dedicated to engaging North Collinwood residents in fiber arts classes, recruiting members to join the Praxis workshop space and connecting with the growing arts community in the neighborhood.
For more information about Jessica Pinsky, check out her bio on Praxis’ website or stop by the workshop some time to discuss your textile vision. She’s always happy to talk.