Facilitator Leah Medin will mark 10 years at Gateway Arts this spring. Leah oversees a sunny, warm studio space at the far end of the Gateway Arts studios, populated by artists’ desks, floor looms, and a colorful array of fabrics, yarns, and other neatly organized supplies. A variety of works in progress, from embroideries and handwoven tapestries to clothing items, sculptures, and drawings, adorn walls, hang on racks, and fill bins.
As a facilitator, Leah supports each artist in their own artistic practice. While she is there to oversee the space and offer whatever support is needed, the creative decision-making ultimately lies with each artist. Leah was initially drawn to Gateway Arts because she enjoys working with people and has a deep appreciation for the unique skills and perspective each artist brings to the studio. She loves being in an active, cooperative studio environment and relishes in the moments of surprise when an exciting new artwork comes together in an unexpected way.
Leah was one of seven studio facilitators to take part in the redesign of the Gateway Arts studios for reopening during COVID and, while that process came with its challenges, she’s observed the positive impact some of those changes have had. The space is more open now and each artist has their own workspace for the day and their own bin of supplies, allowing for the artists to exercise more independence. Prior to COVID, Leah worked with artists mainly on weavings and other fiber works. While that is still a major component of what happens in her studio, Leah has embraced working with a wider variety of materials, including jewelry and various 2D media.
Leah spends each day supporting eight artists in her studio through their daily routine, setting up new projects, preparing finished items for the store, completing clinical work, and dealing with whatever other tasks or challenges come up throughout the day. When an artist works on one of the floor looms, Leah works directly with the artist to determine what kind of weaving they want they want to make. The artists design their own warp (the threads wound onto the loom) by arranging various threads around pieces of cardboard. Leah then works out the size and scale, based on the desired finished product. The chosen threads are then wound onto a warping mill and arranged directly onto the loom. Dressing the loom is a process of threading each individual thread meticulously through the loom. The set-up takes a few hours, but Leah finds the process rewarding. The artists are then able to weave the weft threads – neatly wound on a bobbin – back and forth through the warp, choosing their own colors and working at their own pace.
Several works from Leah’s studio are currently on display in the exhibitions Riotous Threads, at Fuller Craft Museum, and Minds Aglow, in the Gateway Arts Gallery, the latter of which she co-curated. These two exciting exhibitions showcase the expansive potential of fiber-based mediums.