CALCUTTA — Painter/Weaver Betsy Wells has had a lifelong passion for art. She was introduced to art at an early age by her father, who is a designer and artist.
She attended Ohio University (OU) as a fine art major. It was at OU that she discovered her passion for weaving.
“We had to take a certain number of hours of craft. I did ceramics, pottery, photography, jewelry making and weaving and I just fell in love with weaving,” Wells said. “I just fell in love with it and working with the yarns, and I just loved it so much that I took it for two years at OU.”
With an emphasis in weaving, Wells graduated from OU with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in 1969. After graduation, she was accepted to the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) in New York, where she would receive training as a master weaver.
“I don’t know what I was going to do with it, but that’s where I was headed,” she said.
Wells never made it to RIT because the summer after college she met her husband, and the closer it got to leaving, the less she wanted to leave him and go to New York.
So she stayed, got married and started a family. She never became a master weaver.
Although she continued to weave, she took a break from it when her three children were young due to lack of time and space. The room that would eventually become her weaving room served as a nursery at the time.
Her children are now grown with children of their own, so she weaves regularly again.
She has a weaving room set up in her residence with a loom she purchased around 1990 and has been weaving ever since. Her loom is made in Quebec, Canada and is the same brand of loom she used in college.
When asked how common weaving is, Wells said that for a while she thought no one did it, but there are actually a lot of people who do. She also noted that mostly people in rural areas make carpets, rag rugs and similar items.
When asked what types of items she weaves, Wells said that before the last five years, she made whatever someone asked her to do, items such as placemats, scarves or pillows.
After that she started making sofa trunks and according to her, after that, that’s all everyone wanted, so that’s what she’s been doing mainly for the last six to seven years,
“Luckily, there’s always someone who wants one, and that’s great.” Wells said.
Wells noted that he likes to work with cotton fibers and uses mercerized cotton, which creates beautiful colors and retains its color. Throws can be thrown in the washer and dryer and don’t need delicate care with the cotton she uses.
Between the time it takes to choose the colors, set up the loom, do the weaving, and finish the throws with twisted fringe, Wells can have 70 to 90 hours invested in creating one roughly 44-inch by 64-inch throw.
“But I’m slow, I’m very slow,” Wells said. “I don’t care if I’m doing something I like why I want to do it fast, so I just take my time.”
There are days when she doesn’t weave at all, depending on what’s going on in her life and what else she has to do, but there are days when she can spend three to four hours at her loom weaving.
Wells said as much as people wanted one of her woven throws, the deal was they bought the yarn and she would make the throw.
“There’s no way anyone is going to pay for my time, so my buy yarn and I’ll make you a soft throw deal is a win-win as far as I’m concerned.” Wells said. “That’s what keeps me busy with weaving. I just do it for fun and certainly with COVID it was nice to have something to do.”
The yarn for her throws is sold by the ounce and can cost approximately $120 to $130 per throw, which weighs about 3 pounds.
“It’s just for the yarn. It’s not my time, it’s just the yarn,” Wells said. “But I refuse to use anything of lesser quality. I won’t spend that much time on something with a worse yarn.’
Wells is donating the throw he’s currently working on to Lady Slippers for a raffle, likely to be held in the spring.
The Lady Slippers, according to Wells, is a group that promotes art in the community and raises funds for the Ceramics Museum to support the activities they have for the community and children and to pay for renovations and more for the museum if they can. receives no money from the state.
The group works to help the museum continue to operate and support projects in the community and try to spark interest in local art.
One of the reasons Wells agreed to donate her throw to the raffle is so people can see exactly what she does and the work that goes into it.
“You can pick up any catalog and see handwoven this or handwoven that and they’re very cheap and you know there’s probably some poor kid in India making 12 cents a week,” Wells said. “I’d like to think mine is a bit more.”
A raffle for the toss is expected to take place in the spring, and tickets are expected to sell for $10 apiece, with proceeds going to the Ceramics Museum.