Functionality, spirituality, creativity

Local fiber artists transform an historic downtown cabin into a working studio

For the past five months, community members Bonita Banks, Lisa Talbott and Kyra Wagner have been transforming an historic downtown cabin into a working studio. Here, they meld their mutual passions for spirituality and creativity.

The Heath cabin, built in 1945 and tucked on a hill in the woods behind the Alaska Wildberry Products building, was the family’s home while they managed their business next door, which they operated until 1975 when it was sold and has since traded hands several times. Today, the Wildberry building houses several organizations and the cabin is now a bustling, creative space and home to Kindred Spirits Weaving Studio. Within the log frame, surrounding the original stone fireplace and with windows on all sides, Banks and Talbott work their looms, practicing one of the oldest crafts in history.

“Weaving is a functional art found in every ancient culture,” Banks said. “Functional as well as a creation of beauty, weavers have played an important role in the family and community, weaving clothing and bedding to provide protection from the elements, and weaving rugs and tapestries for insulating the homes. Weaving as a spiritual practice is not new. Weaving was created as gifts for the divine, as a meditation, as a creator bringing new life to both plant and animal fibers.”

The non-weaver in the trio, Wagner’s own passion is woodworking. Down the road, she plans to add a woodworking studio in the basement and the women want to open the space to the community for classes, workshops and demonstrations.

A friendship was kindled between the three women years ago through the recognition of their individual spiritual practices. Talbott is pastor of Homer United Methodist Church, Banks is a registered nurse at South Peninsula Hospital and Wagner is the Regional Director of Homer Soil and Water Conservation District.

“We are very different women who initially came together to talk about our mutual deep spiritual practices,” Talbott said. “We skipped the level of relationship where we’d share where we went to school and what our hobbies are and it wasn’t until I saw Bonita selling one of her looms online, which I immediately bought, that she and I realized we’re both weavers and that weaving is a part of our spiritual practice.”

Banks has been working with textiles since she was a child. She first learned to sew on her grandmother’s treadle sewing machine, which now lives in her own home.

“Fiber and yarn have been a part of my life for as long as I can remember,” Banks said. “As a kid I did a lot of weaving, making pot holders and looms out of cardboard. My sister studied art in college and when she learned weaving, I was fascinated and then my grandma bought a table loom and I never looked back. Before you even dress the loom, there’s so much math involved and I love that piece of it too. That’s what drew me to nursing — the technical aspect of things. But then I also love creating beautiful things from pieces of strings. As a kid I crocheted doilies and made heirloom doilies as a teenager.”

In her 30s, Banks trained technically, spending a year apprenticing with a master weaver. At one time, she owned a clothing store in California where she designed and sewed clothes. She later owned a furniture upholstery business in Homer. Inspired by the changing colors, light and textures of the seasons, weaving is her mindfulness practice.

“There’s a calmness that comes when you sit behind the loom, your bare feet on treadles, and you see beauty fall out in front of you,” she said. “There’s a rhythm and magic, like dancing. Here, I pay attention to every yarn that goes across my loom. When I weave a baby blanket, I weave love and protection and caring into it — and the same with my shawls. They’re not just pieces of yarn woven together. There’s intention and a part of me in everything I make.”

Talbott began experimenting with fiber arts at a very young age, raised around a family of aunts who were all self-taught artists — painters who learned from watching Bob Ross and quilters who worked in textile factories. When she was four years old, one of her aunts taught her to crochet.

“My first projects were crocheting the lace edges on my mom’s washcloths,” Talbott said. “I invaded her linen closets and no cloth was safe from me.”

Later, as a teacher and while teaching a class on fiber arts, one of her students introduced her to knitting. She began learning from books and videos, and knit cowls and sweaters, which she continues to do today. Her introduction to weaving came on a Christmas morning 20 years ago when her husband gifted her a loom.

“He knew that I love yarn, love being creative and love working with my hands,” she said. “I spent that morning reading the instructions, started weaving and immediately fell in love with it, teaching myself through books and YouTube videos and dragging the loom with me whenever I traveled across the country for work.”

Talbott finds inspiration in colors, textures and the tactile nature of the medium itself.

“In my profession, I’m often on a computer and I find that having different textures under my fingers is grounding and brings me back to my body,” she said. “Whether it’s the smoothness of the wood, the coarseness of the wool or the rhythm of the beater, trestle and shuttle, weaving is a very tactical art form that takes full body concentration of the hands, feet and brain, all engaged in order to do it well.”

Previously, both women had been creating their hand-woven goods solely in their respective homes — Talbott with her business, Raven Fed Designs, and Banks with her business, sit.breathe.weave. It was five years ago when Talbott, eager to work on more complex weaving projects, noticed Banks’ larger loom for sale. Inspired by their deepening friendship and each other’s creativity, they had been talking about having a studio together and began actively looking for a space. When Wagner suggested they look into renting the historic Heath cabin last fall, they fell in love with the space, decided to start a business together and Kindred Spirits Weaving Studio was born.

“We are very different weavers in that the items we make are so different, but what we share is our sense of fun and that weaving feeds our souls,” Talbott said.

In the studio, both of the women have numerous looms on which they weave. Talbott has two floor looms and she might, for example, work on a blanket for anywhere from three weeks to a month. Banks has three floor looms in the studio and she might work on a series of shawls for upwards of 30 hours.

“Our primary focus with this space is that it is our working studio,” Talbott said. “We come here to be creative and to create and produce wearable art and luxury hand goods. There’s something different about having a place that doesn’t have the home life distractions. This is our intentional time and space to weave.”

In the studio nearly every day, Talbott stops by on her way home from work and spends an hour or two at her looms. Banks, who will soon be retiring from nursing, weaves nearly every weekday and six to seven hours a day on weekends. Inspired by the space, Banks and Talbott have been experimenting and melding their weaving into other art forms — Talbott into watercolor paintings, cards and pendants, and Banks into Dorset button earrings.

“We’re grateful to Rhonda Bennon, the current property owner, for supporting our efforts and being a patron of our arts,” Talbott said. “The building was empty for a time and then beautifully renovated. She has been so excited and affirming to have a woman-owned creative business in the cabin, in the spirit of Hazel Heath, the original owner of Wildberry.”

In addition to finding the space, Wagner contributes sweat equity, building shelves for the yarn, helping with the trail that leads from the parking area up through the woods and taking care of the landscaping. With a creative background in woodworking, she plans to at some point set up a woodworking studio in the basement.

“I’m happy to participate in bringing this space to life,” Wagner said. “The beauty for me is watching them weave their items, knowing where they got the materials from and their excitement for it all.”

Eager to introduce the community to Kindred Spirits Weaving Studio, Banks and Talbott plan to participate in First Friday art walks and, down the road, offer instruction in sewing, weaving and upcycling clothing. They are also interested in hosting community weaving projects where they would take their portable looms to locations and events where community members could loom together.

“Weaving can look intimidating, but it’s a pretty straight forward process of just going step by step,” Talbott said. “Classes could be a way to assist people in getting started on their own looms, becoming comfortable with the tools and seeing how this art might fit into their own lives. We hope that this healing, creative space will resonate with other kindred spirits who weave, do yoga or meditate. It’s all about the spirit of friendship and connection.”

Melding their passions for spirituality and creativity, Banks, Talbott and Wagner have transformed this historic downtown cabin situated on the wooded knoll between Wildberry and Cosmic Thai into a working studio. Community members are invited to a studio opening event on Friday, June 21 from 5-8 p.m., where there will be refreshments and tours of their weavings in various stages of completions. There will also be finished products by both artists — Banks’ shawls, kitchen towels, baby blankets, scarves, bags and earrings, and Talbott’s scarves, shawls, wool blankets, wall hangings, table linens, multimedia cards and necklaces.

The studio can be accessed by parking in the semicircular lot off Pioneer Avenue next to the Wildberry Products building and walking up through the woods, parking in the Wildberry lot and walking up the driveway and across the lawn, and parking at the WKFL area and walking the Lee Street trail.

Find Kindred Spirits Weaving Studio on Facebook and on Instagram, @kindredspiritsweavingstudio. Find Talbott and Raven Fed Designs at and on Facebook and Instagram. Find Banks and sit.breathe.weave at and on Facebook and Instagram.

Fiber artist Bonita Banks weaves a shawl at her Toika countermatch loom on Tuesday, June 11, 2024, in the Kindred Spirits Weaving Studio she shares with Lisa Talbott in Homer, Alaska. Photo by Christina Whiting

Fiber artist Bonita Banks weaves a shawl at her Toika countermatch loom on Tuesday, June 11, 2024, in the Kindred Spirits Weaving Studio she shares with Lisa Talbott in Homer, Alaska. Photo by Christina Whiting

Kindred Spirits Lisa Talbott, Kyra Wagner and Bonita Banks pose on Sunday, June 16, 2024 in front of the Kindred Spirits Weaving Studio, a historic cabin in downtown Homer, Alaska, which has been converted into their working studio. Photo by Christina Whiting

Kindred Spirits Lisa Talbott, Kyra Wagner and Bonita Banks pose on Sunday, June 16, 2024 in front of the Kindred Spirits Weaving Studio, a historic cabin in downtown Homer, Alaska, which has been converted into their working studio. Photo by Christina Whiting

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