Position: Master Weaver
Working Since: 1998
Off Hours: Playing guitar, spending time with family, watching movies, and playing with three-year-old son Bodhi
Quote: “Light Sabers are way better than Tasers.”
One of the coolest coworkers I’ve ever worked with is Brahms Mount’s master weaver John Smith (the dreaded John Smith!). John oversees our four antique shuttle looms, and with three going at once, there is a lot to look after. Being one of only a handful in the country capable of operating a shuttle loom, he is pretty relaxed about it, and enjoys it thoroughly. “I love the meditative quality of weaving,” he said. When more than one loom is running, the complex rhythms stimulate his musical mind. He is also proud to support his family in a job with minimal environmental impact. When I asked why he originally applied for a job at the mill, he answered “hunger and rent.” Hmm. A lot can change in twelve years.
After a warp is created (more on that when I showcase Arthur), John will set up the loom for the appropriate pattern and gear. Each yarn has to be threaded through the correct heddle (a very long needle with the eye in the middle), and threaded again through the reed (the small teeth that guide the warp). With over a thousand yarns in each warp, attention to detail is key. John will make any adjustments needed before launching the shuttle loom.
Antiquated machinery may produce an incredible product, but there are a number of challenges to maintaining the looms. Some spare parts are stored for replacement. For other troubleshooting, John actually “loves finding creative solutions to parts that no longer exist.” With no manual, and no expert on 1940’s shuttle looms found in the phonebook, John will study a part until he understands its unique function…in other words, he learns as he goes.
Besides the looms, John has to be well accustomed to the fibers themselves. Unlike modern versions, shuttle looms provide a finished edge to the fabric, which must be consistent or the blanket will be compromised. The same goes for yarn quality. Any flaw could ruin an entire roll of fabric. A lot is dependent on John’s abilities. Lucky for us and our customers, John is a top-notch weaver and loves his job.