Step Inside Weaver Sara Hotchkiss’s Waldoboro Studio
Sara Hotchkiss makes colorful, highly textured rugs and wall hangings.
By Jesse Ellison Photographed by Dave Waddell
Sara Hotchkiss’s studio is filled with sunlight and plant clippings, skeins of yarn and strips of cotton fabric arranged by color, and six enormous looms. “People always ask why I have so many looms,” she says, laughing. “I like to have a lot of projects going at once.”
Today, Sara Hotchkiss is working at a loom that’s threaded with blue, green, black, and yellow cotton fibers — the skeleton of a 15-foot by 80-inch runner that she’s weaving for a customer. She estimates it will take a month to finish. “That’s if I work morning, afternoon, and evening, and on Saturdays and Sundays, which I often do.”
Sara Hotchkiss has loved fabric since she was a little girl growing up in Connecticut. Her mother taught her to knit and sew before she was in kindergarten. By third grade, she was making her own clothes. She was 10 when she first set eyes on a loom, and she knew right away that she wanted to be a weaver. She received her first formal instruction in weaving in college and has been steadily creating fabrics in the 50 years since.
Sara Hotchkiss makes rugs, wall hangings, and pillows in a range of patterns, including shapes like stars, hearts, and flowers; geometric motifs; and color striations. Her fabrics are highly textured because she uses cotton strips for the weft, or crosswise threads, drawing them over and under the lengthwise warp. Her works have been shown in galleries and museums throughout New England and in New York’s American Craft Museum.
For years, Sara sold through trade shows, but in 2002, she bought an old farmhouse in Waldoboro, with that big, roomy studio, as well as a showroom stocked with rugs and samples and a display of photographs showing her pieces in homes all over the country. Her large garden inspires her palette — and provides veggies for the lunches she serves students enrolled in her two- and three-day workshops.
Tell Us More Sara Hotchkiss
What do you hope people take away from your workshops?
I just want people to have a good time. I want them to enjoy weaving, and I want them to leave here thinking, “Weaving is really cool. I want to do that again.” Because I think the world needs more weavers.
Because it’s slow. It’s thoughtful. It’s a reasonably low-impact sort of thing. Looms last forever. With the materials, there’s very little waste. And the product is usually useful: a picture on the wall or a rug on the floor, or a pillow.
What brought you to Maine?
My mom was born in Ellsworth. When I was in junior high, we were up here on a vacation, and I was stuffed in the back seat between my brother and sister. We were going down to Deer Isle, across Caterpillar Hill and that sort of promontory that swoops down over the blueberry fields, where you can see the ocean and Camden way in the distance. I said to myself, “When I get old enough to be on my own, I’m going to live in Maine.”
What would you advise young craftspeople?
We’re on this planet, and we have to do what inspires us, but figure out some other line of work that you could do part-time so you have a fallback plan. I hate it that I’m saying that, but I think it’s a good idea. I didn’t starve, but I remember wandering around the grocery store thinking, “Okay, I’ve got $10 left. What’s the best quality of nutrition I can buy?” I think it’s amazing that I have this house now — you know, I’ve kind of made it work!