Not all art is meant to be displayed on a wall, sometimes it’s meant to be used as a functioning, everyday product.  

At the Happy Weaver Studio, artist Nancy Evans uses her looms and thread to craft stunning, handwoven tote bags, rugs, and even pet leashes that are meant to be used.  

Producer Brian Sullivan paid a visit to Evans in her “corner office” at the Indian Orchard Mills in his continuing look at the building’s creative community.

Read the full transcript:

Brian Sullivan, Connecting Point: As the world continues to march forward with seemingly endless technological advances, sometimes it’s nice to see that some of the most ancient methods and practices are still the most tried and true. There aren’t too many more ancient than the practice of weaving, whose history is said to date back some 12,000 years.

Nancy Evans may not have been doing it for that long, but a passion and proclivity for working with her hands at a young age has led to a lifetime of spinning threads.

And the element that keeps the fire burning in her pursuit of this textile art form may not seem so surprising, upon finding out that she’s a former math teacher.

Nancy Evans, The Happy Weaver Studio: I like all the arithmetic that’s involved in setting it up. How many yards do you need to make a towel and how many threads are you going to need? And do you have enough yarn? I just…I like the arithmetic.

And then, it’s just fun to see something develop right in front of your eyes and it gets compulsive after a while.

Brian Sullivan: One other development has been the friendship and working relationship between Evans and Joe Casey. The two originally met while Evans was volunteering at the New Leaf Workshop in East Longmeadow, and when that center closed, the two have worked together here at the Indian Orchard Mills for the past several years.

For Casey, it felt like a lot more than just good fortune.

Joseph Casey, The Happy Weaver Studio: I think…I think she’s godly sent. Everything that I’m only goodness happened for — for me here so…godly sent, yep.

Nancy Evans: We come in and we each have our own looms. I have several going at once. Joe likes his Union Special and he always has a rug going.

And we just…we’re doing something to make a rug or make a towel. And whether it’s the actual weaving or setting up tying knots. Just whatever needs to get done.

Brian Sullivan: And by several projects, this means several different looms throughout the room.

This Inca loom was her first purchase back in 1979. That was followed by these floor looms, which are the pieces people tend to associate with weaving.

Then there’s the tablet weaving loom. This intriguing piece requires no footwork, but it does require extreme attention to detail. It also happens to be Evans’ favorite.

Nancy Evans: I don’t really know how I got into it, but it was…you can make very interesting patterns. You can make trees, you can make bunnies, just all kinds of different patterns. And it was just very interesting to me.

And the bands are useful. You can tie up boxes, you can make pet leashes, just a lot of different uses for them.

Brian Sullivan: The last time that we were here, we visited the building farther back from the main road from which many of the tenants can enjoy a view of the Chicopee River passing behind it. However, from the front building, the view of the power canal isn’t too shabby either.

In general, most of the artists can be found next door in the building where the Dane Gallery is located. But Nancy Evans has her weaving operation in this building up on the third floor and a corner office with a view.

From this vantage point, the views cover not only both waterways, but much of this little section of town. But here in the mill buildings, it’s about more than just the views. It’s about the experience of being here.

Nancy Evans: Well, I think for a lot of the artists in the — that have studios here, I’ve heard several people say it’s their happy place. So, they come here and even though they’re working at their art, it’s still a nice, happy place. There’s no telephone. You don’t have to worry about vacuuming. Except for Open Studios, sometimes not even that.