For Jessica Pinsky, the birth of Praxis Fiber Workshop came as a way to continue teaching fiber studies at the Cleveland Institute of Art and to provide the entire community with the opportunity to participate in the fiber arts.
Pinsky, a native of Akron who grew up in Temple Israel in Bath Township, graduated from Firestone High School in Akron, studied studio art at New York University in New York, and holds a master’s degree in fine arts in painting from Boston University.
After a five-month stay in Jerusalem as part of a Hadassah program, she moved with her parents to Akron and started looking for a job.
Pinsky has found a teaching position at the Cleveland Institute of Art, where she is a full-time lecturer. Pinsky started in the Department of Fibrous Materials Studies in 2011. Two years later, she said she learned that the institute intended to downsize the department and eliminate the weaving program. .
âI had just moved to Cleveland for work, and I felt like you can’t just take this thing apart,â she told the Cleveland Jewish News on Oct. 28.
In 2012, she proposed to open Praxis Fiber Workshop as a teaching space for the students of the institute – as well as for students from the community at large – and as a place to host its looms. Now a full-time lecturer in the institute’s sculpture department, Pinsky continues to teach at Praxis.
âI kind of continued to teach my same classes, but they were under the umbrella of sculpture instead of fiber,â she said. âAnd the way my predecessor set it up, the department was really talking about fiber as a material and that’s also the subject of this sculptural practice. So it fits very well. And I love it, and I still love to teach.
Praxis Fiber Workshop is housed in a former furniture store at 15301 Waterloo Road in the Waterloo Arts District in the Collinwood neighborhood of Cleveland. Today, it has one full-time employee and five part-time employees, not counting Pinsky. The storefront has a 2,000 square foot gallery in the front and a 5,000 square foot space in the back filled with looms.
âIt has original hardwood floors,â Pinsky said. “It looks nice.”
Pinsky said she didn’t expect to start a nonprofit – and she didn’t expect to become a fiber artist.
âI had always sewed a lot in my spare time and knitted and crocheted,â Pinsky said. âI spent my days painting in the studio, then I would come home, sew and knit to de-stress. And at one point I was like, “Why am I not doing what makes me so happy as my primary form of creation?” “”
In addition, she cited an ancestral link with textiles.
âMy grandparents who emigrated from Poland to this country, they were tailors,â she said. âSo, I had the impression that it was more linked in an ancestral and symbolic way for my practice. And so I started weaving right after high school.
Praxis Fiber Workshop, in concert with Cleveland Seed Bank, planted indigo gardens in two locations, each with around 4,000 plants. Indigo is used to make a traditionally fermented tincture.
In 2018, she opened her first garden at the corner of Avenue de Corse and 156th Street East.
In 2019, she opened her second garden on a vacant lot at 17900 St. Clair Avenue, at the corner of Larchmont. This parcel belongs to the Hospice de la RÃ©serve de l’Ouest.
On November 5, at the Praxis Fiber Workshop, the One Year, One Outfit show, in which local artists worked alone or in groups to create wearable three-piece outfits from locally sourced materials, right down to dyes.
âIt fits very well into our mission, which for me is to educate under the full umbrella of everything to do with textiles,â Pinsky said. “And so what that means to me is everything from seed to the most sophisticated technological equipment.”