One might say it was fate that turned a young girl’s hardship into a life-long passion.
When Gudrun Weisinger was three years old, she suffered a serious ear infection that left her with major hearing loss. As a consequence, she found it difficult to keep up with her classmates in public school. When she was 15, her father decided to enroll her in a trade school so she could at least learn a skill that could earn her a living.
In 1959 Weisinger enrolled in a three-year program at the Webschule Sindelfingen (Weaving School) in Stuttgart, Germany, where she excelled. She had found her calling.
By 1964 she had obtained a master’s certificate and was working on intricate tapestries for a Catholic convent, as well as doing weaving and design work for a number of studios.
In 1966 she came to Canada to visit a brother and met Alfred Weisinger, who she married in 1969. The couple settled in Vancouver.
Weisinger recalls walking along a street in Victoria and spotting a shop that specialized in fine quality hand-weaving.
“We went in and I started talking to the owner, a Mrs. Murray,” says Gudrun. “Before long she was telling me about a flying shuttle loom that she had for sale down in her cellar, a hand-made Scottish loom from the early 1800s. When I saw it, it was love at first sight.”
The Weisingers took the loom to their home in Vancouver, where Alfred recalls how he had to cart it up the back stairs to their third-floor suite in an old house.
“I remember I had to carry it, piece by piece, up three flights of stairs – the stairs were on the outside at the back of the house,” he says, noting that when he put the loom together, he discovered some work was in order. “The worm-gear was badly worn and I had to make a new one out of steel. I turned it on a lathe. Some of the wood had to be replaced, too. I finally got it set up and working, but it took two years, on and off, to completely restore it. It’s been working just fine ever since.”
Gudrun continues to use her loom to weave intricate fabric pieces that are as much works of art as they are utilitarian.
Over the years, Gudrun has won many awards for her work, not to mention widespread respect as a creative and innovative weaver. She is a member of three prestigious weaving guilds, and is in great demand as a teacher and weaving workshop facilitator.
Looking back, she says it’s been a lot of hard work and a lot of hours, but she’s enjoyed every single opening of the shed and throw of the shuttle.