Fern's School of Craft
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Par Athena Raypold

Teaching traditional fibre crafts

A photographer and a fibre artist, Jessica Fern Facette (who goes by Fern, after her grandmother) is a creator at heart. Whether she's making Lady Craft portraits of friends and clients, capturing tangible moments of love at weddings or designing and creating textiles, Fern is forever creating and crafting. And because Fern's curiosity and experimentation with traditional fibre crafts like weaving, rug hooking, macramé and rug braiding is relentless and comprehensive – not to mention a big part of her everyday life – she started Fern’s School of Craft so she could teach others the basics, enabling them to confidently make their own crafts at home.

The workshops are in what Fern dubs the “Sky Office,” the penthouse studio downtown that she uses for her photography business. Tucked away in the back is an intimate, brightly-lit room adorned with Fern’s crafting supplies and projects. A maximum of eight participants cozy up to the table for an intensive course on each practice’s fundamentals, history and techniques. Fern says she started the school with the goal of guiding "people into doing the best that they're capable of so that they come out making beautiful, high-quality things.”

Because giving students an in-depth lesson is important to Fern, her classes are designed to match the craft’s complexity. Punch needle rug hooking classes are four hours, traditional rug hooking classes are five hours, tapestry weaving classes (on portable looms) are five and a half hours and weaving classes (on floor looms) are eight hours. The extended class times ensure that every student leaves with an education, a project and a respect and love for traditional fibre crafts. Plus, Fern isn’t just a teacher, she’s a host – she has a knack for making students feel like they're not in her studio, but in her home.

There's this kind of quietness that happens in the class when everybody's just into what they're doing and making something that's really awesome – it’s my favourite part. - Jessica Fern Facette, owner
Fern's School of Crafts is owned by Jessica Fern Facette, who seeks to introduce Edmontonians to the art forms of traditional fibre crafts.
Jessica Fern Facette opened Fern's School of Craft with a goal to teach others the basics of traditional fibre crafts. Photo courtesy of Fern's School of Crafts

Hooked on textiles

Fern’s fascination with  textile crafting began when she was just a girl. She remembers being maybe eight-years-old with a finger-weaving toy. “I'm not one of those people that has a lot of solid, vivid memories from my childhood, but I remember that toy and I loved it. I remember just being able to sit there and do this elastic, loop finger weaving activity for hours," she says. "I liked how relaxing it was – the fuzzy, warm feeling I got from concentrating on that one, hypnotizing thing. I would do it for hours.”

From there, Fern made heaps of macramé friendship bracelets from Gimp and eventually took crocheting and knitting classes. “I made ugly blankets, ugly sweaters that didn’t fit very well, scarves. I got into knitting toques for a solid two years," she says. "I remember sitting on the beach in Thailand once, just knitting away because I was so hooked I couldn't stop. I was a pretty good knitter at one point and didn’t have to use patterns." Fern even knit her father a toque once that read "#1 Old Man." After taking a weaving class with a friend, Fern had found a meditative, immersive and fascinating process that challenged her creatively and offered a new form of self-expression. “I got my very first loom through the Bargain Finder," she says. "My dad knew that I had taken a class and was getting into weaving and he went looking through Bargain Finder and he found one for me."

Once she had her own loom, Fern began voraciously studying weaving. She undertook her own independent study, received hands-on training in Hualhuas, Peru and attended courses at the Edmonton Weavers Guild. Fern also received training through the master weaving program at Olds College. Today, whether she's creating beautiful, complex weavings or making her own designs, Fern’s work takes traditional patterns and techniques and adds a modern twist. Her weavings have been displayed at the Enterprise Square gallery at the University of Alberta and used on the runway at Toronto Fashion week. Fern is also a regular vendor at Edmonton’s Royal Bison craft fair.

Fern's School of Craft has a full workshop, complete with looms for the aspiring fibre craft artist
Located in what owner Jessica Fern Facette likes to call the "Sky Office," Fern's School of Craft is the perfect spot for aspiring artists to get acquainted with traditional fibre crafts. Photo courtesy of Fern's School of Craft
Fern's School of Craft gives participants the chance to work start to finish on a variety of art projects.
Fern's School of Craft gives participants the chance to undertake art projects from start to finish, thanks to its lengthy and informative classes. Photo courtesy of Fern's School of Craft

A natural teacher and community builder

Before she started Fern’s School of Craft, Fern hosted and taught at craft nights where she’d invite friends over to knit or quilt. When she started selling her work at The Royal Bison, people asked if she taught classes. Between the two, Fern started to recognize the local demand for accessible fibre crafting classes and her natural penchant for teaching. So, she went for it.

But just because Fern’s the teacher doesn’t mean she isn’t also a student. “Trying to teach something forces you to think about it in a different way. When people ask questions, it shows you the gaps in the process that you've left out," she says. "And the more that you teach, the more you learn about teaching, about what you’re teaching and about approaching a thing that you know so much about and from the perspective of somebody that doesn't know anything."

A true artist, Fern strives to create a community and to revel in both her process and that of her students. “There's this kind of quietness that happens in the class when everybody's just into what they're doing and making something that's really awesome – it’s my favourite part," she says. "When they're doing it and they don't need me anymore, because they're getting it and they're into a project. I imagine they're feeling the same things that I feel and that I love about making stuff – that relaxation and meditation and excitement of building something and seeing it slowly form.”

[Header image courtesy of Fern's School of Craft]

Fern's School of Craft encourages students to experiment with their supplies to create something new
High-quality supplies help to make projects come alive for the students learning at Fern's School of Craft. Photo courtesy of Fern's School of Craft
Fern's School of Craft offers traditional fibre craft lessons at its workspace in Edmonton, Alberta
Fern's School of Craft offers a variety of classes, including weaving, rug hooking and rug braiding. Photo courtesy of Fern's School of Craft
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