A weaver’s journey to inner peace at the loom

by Laurel Thompson  |  photos courtesy Sarah Neubert

When Sarah Neubert bought her first loom six years ago, she had no intention of becoming a full-time weaver. She was just looking for a creative outlet that allowed her to work with her hands.

Approaching the loom with spontaneity, Neubert married her lifelong love of fiber with her innate artistic sensibility to create a distinct, one-of-a-kind style. Her following grew so quickly that, in just a few years, Neubert parlayed an impromptu fling with fiber art into a full-blown career as an artist, teacher and weaving evangelist.

“I’ve never been a super-technical weaver,” says Neubert, who now lives in Fort Collins. “If I had learned the proper way to do it, I might not have found my way and developed my own artistic voice.”

Self-taught and intuitive, Neubert has never followed a pattern – in her weaving, or in her life. The Colorado native grew up all over the state, returning to Fort Collins four separate times. When she was a child, her family moved to Austria, where her father started a church and introduced Neubert to the art, music and culture of Central Europe. She spent much of her childhood drawing and painting, then got introduced to yarn at age 11 when she picked up her first crochet hook. Before she knew it, she’d become obsessed with the feeling of the fibers running through her fingers.

Knitting also came easily to her, and not a day went by that she wasn’t experimenting with different colors and textures of yarn. The intense concentration and manual precision of this work brought Neubert a sense of inner calm, a feeling of oneness with the world.

Then she sustained a shoulder injury that kept her from doing the repetitive motions that brought her peace. She had to take a break from knitting. Anxiety crept in.

Unable to do what she loved, Neubert turned to photography. After all, it was still a form of art. She opened a photography studio called Photo de Novo, which she operated from 2006 to 2010 in the Avery Building in Fort Collins. The business was successful, but she longed for the comfort she’d experienced in those quiet moments alone, making soft creations with her hands.

“If I had learned the proper way to do it, I might not have found my way and developed my own artistic voice.”

That yearning reached a tipping point when, six years after her injury, Neubert stumbled onto a blog about weaving. Intrigued, she dug out her knitting supplies and dusted off some old skeins of yarn. She then found a starter loom and began experimenting.

Her first pieces were far from perfect, but Neubert didn’t care. She instantly fell in love with weaving’s rhythm and tactility, which took her back to the serenity she’d found, then lost, with knitting. The sense of contemplation brought Neubert all the inspiration she would need.

“The things that I make are really quiet,” she says. “They’re a reflection of the way I structure my life. It’s all about creating a space for me to live that feels good and generates peace and calm within myself.”

Visually, Neubert draws on the neutral palette of Colorado, weaving with whatever colors and textures she feels called to in the moment. As a child, she used to despise winter’s dead grasses and longed to live somewhere lush and green. Now, those same umber blades find their way into her weaving.

“I tend to focus on the textures of different fibers rather than the specific shapes or forms,” she says. “My pieces tend to be heavily textural, organic and meditative, rather than colorful and busy. I also weave almost exclusively with recycled fibers; a lot of my stuff comes from estate sales and Craigslist. My inspiration comes from the Earth, so I want to do my part in protecting it. You can weave with anything that bends, so people will just give me stuff and I’m like, ‘Yeah, I’ll weave with that!’”

It wasn’t until two years after she started to weave that Neubert felt ready to share her pieces with the world. She explained that, as an artist, there’s a hump you have to get over, where your skill level finally matches your ideal aesthetic. Once she cleared that hurdle, she opened an Etsy shop and started selling wall hangings, jewelry and rugs.

But it wasn’t until Neubert started sharing photos of her work on Instagram that her career really took off. Before she knew it, people were reaching out to her for commissioned works, and a Denver boutique called Slo Curio asked to display her work. Neubert knew it was a fit when Slo Curio’s owner said her pieces looked like they were growing out of the wall. That’s exactly what Neubert was going for.

Additional doors of opportunity have opened in the last few years, allowing Neubert to weave full-time. She’s busy with lots of commissions, and she teaches beginner classes on the side. She also shares her love of fiber on her website at www.sarahneubert.com and at The Weaving Kind, an online community that strives to connect weavers with resources, inspiration and each other.

“I love teaching because I can see people get into that meditative space that I got into when I started,” Neubert says. “In almost every one of my classes, we’ll be a half-hour or so in and someone will let out a sigh of contentment. It’s really cool to see people get into that uninhibited flow state.”

Noting that weaving takes a moment to learn but a lifetime to master, Neubert advises artists to take their time. “Find your voice before you put your work out there,” she says. “If you find what you have to communicate and you can stay true to it, that’s what is going to give longevity to an art career. That, and maintaining your integrity by only saying yes to things that feel right.”

“Don’t ever doubt yourself or feel narcissistic for doing what you love,” Neubert adds. “Art is a worthy thing to pursue. It’s what separates us from other species on the planet, and it’s part of what makes life as a human worth living.”