Claire Hassett is an old soul.
She lives in a 200-year-old home with original wood beam ceilings, works partially out of a 19th-century, two-story barn and is just as happy to open a window and listen to birds chirping as she is to throw on a podcast.
But where her true appreciation for history and tradition shines is her artistry.
Hassett, a weaver, owns Barn Door Arts, a brand through which she sells pottery and woven kitchen and tea towels. For the last year and a half, she’s focused primarily on her weaving and mastered using traditional looms to create linen and cotton towels with a connection to the craftsmanship of yesteryear.
“It does remind me of the Colonial era,” she said on a recent morning in her living room. “I love playing with the different colors I can combine and I like being able to coordinate it with existing décor. It’s so customizable and I can make it whatever I like.”
The pottery she sells is hers too, though her focus is largely weaving these days.
Now retired, Hassett picked up weaving at the insistence of a neighbor who loved the hobby. Her mother owned a craft store and she’s always had her hand in something, she said, but she never thought weaving is where her passion would lie.
The towels Hassett makes are a long way from what is sold in big-box stores. It takes a whole day for Hassett to simply dress her loom, a process of stretching spools of thread from her living room to her kitchen, before it’s ready to use. She works on two looms, one in her backyard barn and one in her living room.
Once the loom is ready, the act of weaving is a physical one that requires two hands, one foot and a painstaking attention to detail. From afar, it looks like it would be easy to slip into a mindless pattern of throwing the boat shuttle, stepping on the treadles and repeating the process over and over again.
And while Hassett said it is rhythmic, it doesn’t afford the luxury of letting the mind wander. She may turn on music or a podcast, but she can never truly focus on something else.
“It’s meditative but also requires strict attention,” she explained. “The edges need to be even, missing a thread is a very obvious mistake and the warp and weft need to be even.”
She’s made tablecloths, tea towels, table runners and more, but her most popular item is everyday kitchen towels, which can take two hours to make. Her patterns are pretty and relatively simple, and many are inspired by things Hassett sees and loves.
One towel, for example, is inspired by her sister’s home in the Smoky Mountains: greens and blues represent a stream near the house. Her sons – including Marshfield’s Levitate owner Dan Hassett – love to surf, and she has towels with sandy tan, turquoise blue for the ocean and white to represent crashing waves.
“I pay attention to the interactions of the colors, the textures. There is a lot of thought that goes into them, and they are truly made with love,” she said.
Hassett sells her work at Artisans In the Square in Hingham and Local Pottery in Norwell and has had several conversations with shoppers who can’t believe anyone uses a loom anymore. The towels cost between $35 and $50. Hassett says some people use them as everyday items and to others they are decorative, one-of-a-kind pieces.
“People are shocked. When I first went in, people thought I was embroidering existing towels and I had to say, ‘No, no. It started with a spool of thread,'” she said. “They’re amazed that it is made from scratch.”
Pottery and woven items from Barn Door Arts are also available on Etsy.
Photos in this post were taken by the wonderfully talented Greg Derr. They were originally published in The Patriot Ledger.