On Emlenton’s Kerr Avenue, behind a pristine white picket fence there exists an Aladdin’s cave –Allegheny River Textile ARTS Studio – a glowing trove of fantastically colored and handwoven treasure from the studio of Foxburg textile artist Sigrid Sample Piroch. Entering the historic Piroch family’s 1900’s frame building one is transported to a world of fabric textures, patterns, swatches, threads, yarns, works in progress, finished products and everywhere color, color, color. Every available space within Sigrid Piroch’s beautifully restored traditional cottage plays host to a variety of indispensable items – many looms, various spinning and preparatory machines, stacks of reference materials, weaving accouterments, posters advertising her many shows throughout the world and her books. This bounty is superimposed against a background of Sigrid’s treasured collections of skeins of exotic yarns, her mother’s artwork, family photographs, her custom-made couture clothing and accessories, colorful swatches of every imaginable type of yarn, thread and filament plus examples of technically advanced and intricate hand-weaving from throughout the world.
At the age of nine, while her father was conductor of the Portland Symphony
Orchestra, Sigrid’s world became entwined with pattern and color. One day she was taken along by her father to an orchestration session at Agate Beach where Ernest Bloch, a world-renown composer, lived. Although she was just a young child, Bloch took time to walk along the beach with Sigrid and point out to her the vast array of colors and patterns in the agates found there. By dipping them gently in the incoming tide, he showed her the increased intensity of the colors and how each rock has a different and intricate pattern. He also confided that, when in need of new musical ideas, he used the colors and textures of these stones for inspiration. “Every night for many years,” says Sigrid, “I dreamed of patterns and colors which, now, many years later, I recognize as a turning point in my life that determined my identity both as a person and as a hand weaver. At a critical moment during formative years when an adult takes time to instruct a child, even for a moment, it can be like the stars lining up all at once. It can change your life forever.”
It would be impossible in this short profile to adequately chronicle the many accomplishments, achievements, awards and honors that the Artist Sigrid Piroch has attained. All one can do is to touch lightly on some of her current activities. On one of her several looms is a bright and beautiful work in progress entitled “Commemoration of 9-11″ done in a shuttle technique called ‘double corduroy’. This method was introduced in England in the 1970’s by Peter Collingwood with whom Sigrid studied. Working in her studio are several apprentices. On the day of my visit Judy Hanninen of Utica and David Bell of Knox were busy with a variety of tasks. Both Hanninen and Bell cannot believe their good fortune in having found a role-model and teacher of Piroch’s caliber. They are both accomplished textile artists in their own right and view their association with Sigrid as a privileged learning process. Autographed copies of Piroch’s current book The Magic of Handweaving are available for sale at Foxburg’s Red Brick Gallery as well as various textiles loomed by her.
It is exciting to know that here among us, working and teaching is one of the world’s most accomplished textile artists. For more information visit Sigrid Piroch’s website at www.artsstudio.org