"Wouldn't it be great to have that in your house? Whenever you wanted your umbrella you'd know exactly where it was," says Louise Garcia to a dozen 7- to 11-year-olds who are looking at a fiber wall hanging, one of 60 entries in a "Fiberfull" exhibit at Rock Creek Park's Art Barn.
When the group pauses in front of a work with many strands of handspun wool hanging from it, one kid ventures that "it's a guy with a beard."
"That's good. It's what you see in it," praises Garcia. "But the artist calls it 'Jellyfish.' Maybe you've seen one. Maybe you've even felt one."
Some of the artists themselves are on hand, and Susan Klebanoff explains the technique behind "Twisted Words."
"This is woven out of twisted strips of newspapers. I tried to make it into paragraphs," says Klebanoff.
Another artist, Lynn Reiter Weinberg, says that one of her works, "Diatom II," is a "one-cell plant you can only see under a microscope." Reiter made the green plant life out of wool, chenille, mohair, jute and felt fashioned from raw lamb's wool.
"It must have took an awful long time," says one kid in honest awe.
Garcia asks the kids to stand in front of the work they love most and explain why. Some like "Rolling Dragon" because "you can ride it." Some like the lifesize cotton people "because they're so big and lifelike." One kid prefers "Depth," a multilayered tapestry, because of the way the colors go from light to dark; another likes a colorful screen "because it would fit perfectly with my white walls."
As a first step toward fiber artistry, the kids get to try their fingers at weaving. Klebanoff and Weinberg give each kid a miniloom made of a piece of cardboard notched every quarter-inch. String -- for the warp -- is already strung through each notch and tied in the back. The kids will provide the weft, and the final product will be a small pouch. Every kid gets to pick two colors of yarn, some of it handspun by Klebanoff and Weinberg. At first they use needles to pull the yarn over, then under the warp, but most switch to just plain fingers.
"If you really feel good about what you're doing you can add another color," says Klebanoff. "All you have to do is overlap a little bit."
Soon, kids are working in purple and green, lavender and blue, pink and white. One kid's work develops a lump.
"That's okay. It adds texture," Weinberg reassures.
"Anything you can manipulate to go over and under you can weave," says Klebanoff, and soon kids are going wild on texture. Peacock feathers, lace scraps, raffia and pieces of wood are distributed and woven in. Weinberg cautions the weavers to pack their weft tightly together.
"I know it looks like you didn't get much done, but if you don't pack it down it will fall apart when you take it off the loom," she warns. "Don't worry if you don't get it done. You can take lots of yarn home."
Impatient to see their creations completed, the kids are aghast when Klebanoff tells them she worked on her hanging tapestry 12 hours a day for two weeks.
"Didn't you get bored doing that 12 hours a day?" one asks.
"No, I thought the results would be exciting," says Klebanoff. "I enjoyed seeing it change."
When it's time to go, Klebanoff and Weinberg load the kids up with yarn, feathers and ideas.
"I've been spinning my dog hairs," says Klebanoff.
A little girl's eyes light up. "We gave my dog a bath last night and she shedded all over," she says, mentally weaving dog hairs into her unfinished pouch.