Story and Photos by Alice Gerard
Senior Contributing Writer
When Lenore Tetkowski was a college student in New Jersey, she discovered weaving, a craft that she has loved for a lifetime.
“In the freshman year of the art education program,” Tetkowski said. “I took a little of every art medium, and I loved everything. The first year introduced fabric arts, including batiking and tie-dying and a few weeks of learning how to weave. This was the first glimmer of what was to come. The teacher had a whole room of small metal prepared looms already threaded with this white butcher cord. I loved the idea of interlocking threads. I fell in love with fibers. I was the only one who loved it. The other students all hated it. The instructor presented it in a dull way. But I ate a bag lunch and worked on my project alone in the room.”
An art teacher at Grand Island High School, Tetkowski explained, “I am really self-taught. I bought the first loom with money budgeted for the classroom. I taught myself, and I taught my students. I wanted to teach love and appreciation for fiber and for interweaving threads. I taught the basics, unlike my first teacher.
On July 9, a retrospective of Tetkowski’s work, along with the work of other members of the Weavers’ Guild of Buffalo, titled “Lenore and More,” opened at the Unity Church Gallery, 1243 Delaware Ave.
Tetkowski, who celebrated her 100th birthday on May 26, said she was very moved by the response to the opening: “I was very happy and very emotionally touched. I still think about it in the morning when I wake up, and I tell myself, ‘You now are over 100 years old.’ And I guess I have to learn how to act like I am 100. I’m still working on it. I don’t know anybody to learn from.
“I was particularly amazed that so many dear, longtime friends from long ago showed up, and I was really surprised that, one after the other, they came up to me and said beautiful words to me about the show and how long we’ve been friends. It would be one wonderful surprise after another to see some of these people who heard about it through the publicity, I suppose. They came. It was just amazing. I even found out that some of the people came because of a Siena, Italy, connection. Even though I don’t personally know all of them because it went on for a span of more than 55 years, they were deeply moved and, somehow, they heard about it. They showed up at the party. And then, of course, wonderful neighbors, too. A lot of weavers and a lot of Leaguers (members of the League of Women Voters). All my tai chi people. It was astonishing.”
When asked if there was anyone she would like to thank, Tetkowski said, “I want to thank 100 people. I can’t do it this way, but I can at least mention that I certainly appreciate what everybody did for me to make me feel so special. And I can say that the actual exhibit made my life more valid. You see, the Guild has a show every two years. That is always exciting and wonderful. This time, when it was going to be about now, it was really Mary Jo La Clair’s idea. She said, ‘Why don’t we focus on Lenore this time? It’s her birthday year of 100, and we could have a special event.’ So, of course, a very special thanks to everyone on the committee that worked hard and came here to collect all kinds of artwork, some of which I borrowed, having sold or given away (the pieces) for the show. The Guild took care of all of the work of hanging and putting up the display.”
Tetkowski said she still loves to weave after many years: “It doesn’t feel boring ever. The colors and the textures are so fascinating to feel going through my hands.”
The exhibit will continue at the Unity Church until the end of August, Tetkowski said.
“If anyone wants to go in that period of time, they are being asked to telephone the Unity Church ahead of time to be sure it’s open,” she noted.
The number for the Unity Church is 716-882-0391. People can also send an email to [email protected].
Next time: More about Lenore Tetkowski’s life, career, and travels.
The Golden Age Center celebrates Lenore Tetkowski’s 100th birthday on July 24.