Ask Madelyn: About Marian Powell

I’ve recently become obsessed not only with shadow weave but also with the woman behind the Powell system. Do you happen to know anything about the life of Marian Powell? Where did she live? Did she leave any textiles behind? All I have been able to find out about her is that her shadow weave book was published in Oregon and that she also wrote a monograph on summer and winter. I am assuming she is deceased but I don’t even know that for a fact.

Any information you have would be greatly appreciated.


Hi Isabelle!

The person who would have known a lot about her is Russell Groff of Robin and Russ. But he is no longer alive. I’m not sure who might have known him well enough to know what he knew about Marian Powell. It is sad that the weaving world is such a special niche that historians and biographers at large have never been much interested in us. I am extremely grateful for Sadye Tune Wilson’s Textile Arts Index, because I can look in it for a list of any articles (between 1950 and 1987) about or by Marian Powell. There are two articles listed by Powell in Handweaver & Craftsman (none about her), one on shadow weave (Summer 1961) and a brief entry about her (Spring 1962) describing a Summer and Winter Study she did with the Des Moines Weavers Guild).

In the shadow-weave article, her bio says that she is from Perry, Iowa, and was president of the Midwest Weavers Conference that met in Kansas City in 1961. She was a member of the Des Moines Weavers Guild. The guild is described as having 500 of her woven samples, I presume in shadow weave.

Both the Midwest Weavers Conference and the Des Moines Weavers Guild are likely to have info about her. And somewhere those 500 samples must exist, which would make a GREAT exhibit at a future Convergence. I’d contact both of those groups.

And to the readers who sent in suggestions for a name for my new puppy (Dimity, Lacey, Twill, Piqué, and more): I ended up naming her Sadye, spelled that way in honor of Sadye Tune Wilson mentioned above. Compiling that Index was a heroic endeavor for which I have been very grateful for decades.


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