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The Art of Making Art: Annie Zirin

The Art of Making Art: Annie Zirin

Zirin uses two types of looms in her Evanston home studio. First, there are floor types used for pattern weaving like one that you might see at a heritage site such as Colonial Williamsburg, VA.

Annie Zirin, Evanston textile artist and weaver. Credit: Jean Cunningham

These weave linearly and tend to be used to make more functional items with colorful horizontal and vertical stripes. Pattern weaving looms can be as large as a piano for the more complicated designs.  Zirin’s oldest loom was manufactured in the 1940s. 

Annie Zirin is a weaver and artist who creates functional items including table runners and scarfs, and decorative wall items. Her art background is in painting, but she was drawn to textiles, and today, she creates colorful, highly textured works using the ancient art of weaving.

The second type of loom is used for weaving tapestries and can produce incredible detail. Tapestry looms vary dramatically in size and can be floor standing or sit on a table. Finished tapestries do not have to be linear and are not created in purely horizontal lines. Like pattern weaving, tapestries have a base of vertical threads called the warp, but the design can be in blocks of colors and shades that build atop each other and not linearly. 

Just some of the colorful threads that used by Annie Zirin, textile artist and weaver Credit: Jean Cunningham

In Zirin’s studio, there is a wall of yarn which is, as she says, “my paint box.” The yarns are sorted by color, size and weight, and texture. She also has a bin of miscellaneous yarn of unknown fiber. She purchases some of the yarn, but much is donated to her from students. Occasionally she spins strands of stable fiber together to make her own yarn. 

Zirin uses only all natural materials in her work including wool, cotton, some expensive silks and others. Yarn for weaving tapestries is distinct from knitting yarn since it cannot be stretched. 

With her studio located in her home, she more easily carves out time around her family responsibilities and teaching schedule. She stays up late often working on her very time-consuming art pieces. For a recent example, she spent eight months finishing a tapestry commission since some days she was only able to complete a few inches over a few available hours.

Physically, weaving is much like playing a piano, where one sits on a bench and moves both hands and both feet. Zirin says, “I like how it involves all of me.”