Mary Meigs Atwater
Mary Meigs Atwater, the "Dean of American Handweaving," was a woman of the world. Raised in Iowa, she travelled to Europe, then studied art at the Chicago Art Institute and in Paris, France. Life with engineer husband Max Atwater took her to remote mining camps in Colorado, Oregon, Montana, Arizona, Bolivia, and Mexico. In her biography, Weaving a Life, she relates that on the trip back from Mexico someone asked her young son, Monty, where he lived, and at that moment neither of them knew the answer.
In Basin, Montana, Mary Atwater began weaving as artistic outlet and to provide a business for the women in her community. Inspired by folk schools in the southern U.S., she bought looms, hired an instructor, and used her art training to research patterns and forgotten weaves. She writes of her excitement when her research finally "unlocked the secret of summer-and-winter." The Basin project was the origin of the Shuttle-Craft Guild through which Mary wrote, taught, and published for more than thirty years. She taught weaving as occupational therapy through two World Wars, moved several more times, and traveled to South America, but she wrote, "To me, the good roads are the roads that lead west until they reach Montana." The place where she began her weaving adventure became the place she finally called home.