Stephanie weaving
Stephanie T. Hoppe, Handwoven Wool Rugs


After several decades first as an attorney and then as a freelance writer and editor, I was seized with a passion for weaving, particularly the weaving of rugs, for I wanted what I make to be of practical use in daily life as well as beautiful. Beginning in 1997, I studied weaving at Mendocino College and with several master weavers and dyers. I have been exhibiting and selling my rugs and wall hangings since 2001.

I weave on a vertical frame loom with a technology perfected over 1,200 years ago by the ancestors of the Native Peoples of the American Southwest. The process is quite simple—the loom consists of a frame built, in this case, of 1- by 4-inch poplar, several wooden dowels, and cotton clothesline and string, which I use over and over. The weaving is slow and requires close and constant attention. It also yields the physical and spiritual rewards of all contemplative practices, as well as a sense of participating in and perpetuating ancient rhythms of work.

I am also a martial artist, having studied Tai Chi Chuan since 1988 (I now also teach it), and I hold nidan (second-degree black belt) rank in the Japanese martial art Naginata. I find these practices similar to weaving in requiring presence in the moment, attentiveness and focus. Do not sit down at the loom, Navajo weavers warn, when you are out of sorts, for if you fail to bring to the task all your being in harmony with your world, the weaving will suffer. A feel for the correct tension of the weft yarn as I lace it between the warps is not so different from the hold I must have on the thread of time while moving through space in a choreographed form or in counterpoint to a sparring partner.

In place, however, of the fleeting moments of kata practice or a tournament match, recorded only indirectly in the honing of one’s skill (and one’s character), weaving yields in the finished work a more permanent record of the interaction between warp and weft, weaver and material. That work, I believe, will contain, and forever radiate, something of the quality of time and effort that went into its making, and so I remind myself to take care for each pick of weft, each beat of the weaving fork.

My designs arise most directly from the interaction between my materials—the texture and resilience of the yarn, the colors of the dyes—and the techniques and effects of tapestry weaving. This process is informed by my study of ancient and contemporary weaving, particularly of rugs, and by the several fine Navajo rugs I live with, and which I consider teachers and mentors. But I am inspired above all by the light, the colors, and the shapes and patterns of plants, trees, and landscapes through the changing hours of the days and the seasons and the years around my home in Northern California. In turn, the designing and weaving of rugs enriches my understanding and experience of the time and place in which I live.