This spring, Diana Weymar ’91, a textile artist and curator based in Victoria, British Columbia, returned to Princeton. A mother of four, she left the view from her studio desk — a Blue Heron nest, grazing deer, a salty waft settling in, blocks from the ocean — to be the Anne Reeves Artist-in-Residence at the Arts Council of Princeton.
Weymar’s collaborative sewing project, “Interwoven Stories,” seeks to stich the Princeton community together.
“This project asks participants to stitch a page — and some are spending months on it — to then contribute to the community,” Weymar says. This spring, she led sewing workshops and handed out nearly 230 blank “pages” at the Princeton Public Library.
“So often we make something of importance or value to us and then keep or sell it,” she continues. “It’s a risk for some, and second nature to others. Each person has a different reaction to the blank fabric page.”
At the Taplin Gallery at the Arts Council’s Paul Robeson Center for the Arts, Weymar curated “Every Fiber of My Being” (March 5 to April 19), an exhibition of her work and six other textile-based artists: Amy Meissner, Katie Truk, Cassie Jones, Caroline Lathan-Stiefel, Danielle Hogan and Maira Kalman.
Weymar says the “common thread” that held the exhibition together was each artist’s “deep connection to the hand’s ability to transform the common into the extraordinary.”
Her own collection included “The John McPhee Sampler,” a set of hand-embroidered pages threaded with the text — the letter forms — of the work of John McPhee ’53, a Pulitzer Prize-winning master of literary nonfiction who has taught at Princeton since 1974. The excerpt that Weymar’s cotton thread traces is made, somehow, into more than a text, or even the written word. The “Sampler” spells out the words; it also illustrates.
“My experience was deeply rooted in 185 Nassau,” says Weymar, an English major who studied with McPhee while completing a certificate in creative writing. Joyce Carol Oates was her senior thesis advisor. At Princeton, Weymar threaded two passions together: “art in the service of helping,” and storytelling.
McPhee, she recalls, “taught me a lot about compassion for the ‘subject’ of the story.” Weymar says that art, especially community-based projects, requires empathy. In McPhee’s class, she says, she began to imagine how, as an artist, she could make and say something new “about someone else” — with the respect and patience required to sew something together, to make it strong and hold tight.
For young artists, Weymar emphasizes persistence and resilience. “If you have a strong instinct, follow it,” she says. “The concept of ‘first idea, best idea’ is often true. Follow that idea before it becomes laden with doubt.”
While “Every Fiber of My Being” closed on Sunday, after the Communiversity ArtsFest, Weymar’s work on “Interwoven Stories” continues. In November, she will return to Princeton after “reading” the nearly 230 “fabric pages” stitched by residents. The community’s work will be displayed in a new exhibition at five locations in Princeton.