NYGH member Donna Ritter has done handwork since childhood, starting with her first cross stitch sampler at age eight, then moving on to crewel embroidery and needlepoint. She started knitting to make inexpensive gifts when she was a young struggling dancer in NYC at age 19. Donna had always wanted to weave, and finally had an opportunity to study weaving in Florence, Italy in the late ‘80s. After a promising beginning, she took a long hiatus to focus on her education and career as a physical therapist after retiring from the professional dance world. She returned to weaving 11 years ago, studying at the Newark Museum Arts Workshop.
Donna has always worked to expand her weaving knowledge moving into other forms and materials beyond fiber, such as reed and bark for basket making, wire for jewelry making, wire weaving on the loom, wet felting, dyeing fiber, and has also dabbled in clay, drawing, painting, and metalwork. She calls herself a "class maven" and the interview underscores how taking classes is wonderful for trying out new crafts. As Donna says, “There’s always some inspiration you take from some class that informs what you’re doing, whether it’s color or a design or form or materials.” You'll find a list of her recommended instructors and schools at the end of this article.
On what inspires her in her work: “I’m really attracted to architectural shapes, which lends itself pretty well to weaving… My father was a builder and I’ve always been interested in architecture as something to look at… And movement - I was a dancer and I’m still attracted to movement in everything I look at…”
Donna does plan her projects, but she also allows space for serendipity. "Things change when you’re actually at the loom. Like when I was weaving my daughters’ tallises, a lot of that was just as I went along, changing colors, adding something shiny, some of it was planned, some of it was not. I like to do that, that’s what’s fun about weaving to me. That’s one of the fun things - it’s like painting with yarn.”
As a former Physical Therapist, Donna shares the importance of core strength, gives some ergonomic pointers, and demonstrates a couple stretches ideal for crafters for us to try!
Donna is a past president of the Westfield Weavers, and offers this on being part of a guild: “It’s a chance to be involved with the community.” She is still a member of the Westfield Weavers Guild, as well as the Jockey Hollow Weavers Guild, our own NYGH, and the Handweavers Guild of America.
After attending her first NYGH meeting, Donna says, “I joined right away. I don’t get into the City to meetings as often as I would like. Zoom has been really nice for that reason. It’s a group full of really talented people, so it’s really fun to see what people are doing, and it gives you ideas about what you might be able to do. The speakers are great and the workshops are fun.”
And she sums up the benefits of being part of a guild very succinctly: “Being part of a guild just provides you with so many more opportunities to learn... The best part about it is the people - being part of a community of like-minded people is really nice.”
Donna lives and works in South Orange, New Jersey and can be found online at www.DonnaCreates.com. Watch the interview (and try out her recommended hand stretches!) here:
Teachers Donna has worked with:
Polly Jacobs Giacchina https://pollyjgfiberart.com
Judy Dominic https://www.judydominic.com
Sandra Kehoe https://www.willowbrookbasketfarm.com
Julie and Jean Francois Asselin https://www.julie-asselin.com
Pam Pawl http://pampawltextiles.com
Anne Kullaf http://kullaf.com
Kaska Firor https://www.designsbykaska.com
Anastasia Azure https://www.anastasiaazure.com
Lois Shapiro (Papermaking) Elizabeth Tokoly https://www.eatmetal.org
Julie Girardi https://www.craftcast.com/teachers/sulie-girardi/
Christine Kreuger Miller https://christinekmiller.com/courses/
Mary Zicafoose https://maryzicafoose.com
Dawn McCarthy https://dawnmccarthydesigns.wordpress.com
Vanina Bujalter https://www.original-women.com/collections/shop-vanina-bujalter
Weaver of inspiration: Isa Vogel Recommended book from Isa Vogel and Pat White: Planned & Unplanned: Creative Handwoven Clothing https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/8842260-planned-unplanned
Loop of the Loom http://loopoftheloom.com
Visual Arts Center of New Jersey https://www.artcenternj.org
Scuola Lorenzo di Medici, Florence Italy (part of the College of Staten Island study abroad program)
Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts https://www.arrowmont.org
Westfield Weavers http://www.westfieldweavers.org
Jockey Hollow Weavers https://www.jockeyhollowweavers.org
New York Guild of Handweavers https://www.nyhandweavers.org
Handweavers Guild of Handweavers https://weavespindye.org