SIX YEARS IN THE MAKING.
A NATIONAL HISTORIC FIRST.
The dream began in 1999. The mission: to honor and celebrate the history of Clark County, Washington through the beauty and narrative of a hand-stitched tapestry. The result is the Fort Vancouver Tapestry, measuring 108 feet long and 28 inches high.
It is believed to be the only textile narrative of this scope ever created in the United States.
On August 12, 2005, the Fort Vancouver Tapestry was unveiled to the public with a reception and ceremony at the Clark College's Penguin Student Union.
Guest speakers included Sherry Mowatt, co-founder of the Fort Vancouver Tapestry project; Arlene Johnson, director of the Vancouver/Clark County Lewis and Clark Bicentennial Commemoration Committee (seen in the photo on the right); Vancouver Mayor Royce Pollard; and Clark College president Dr. R. Wayne Branch.
Clark College was home to the tapestry through summer 2006, in conjunction with the Lewis and Clark Bicentennial Commemoration. A booklet containing an overview of the tapestry and the individual panels is now available on this website.
|Vancouver Mayor Royce Pollard (left) and Clark College President Dr. R. Wayne Branch admired the Fort Vancouver Tapestry following its grand unveiling at the college.|
The tapestry is scheduled to be on display in the Columbia Room of the Washington State Capitol in Olympia during the 2007 legislative session. It will be in display in several regional locations and an invitation has been extended for the tapestry to travel to Joyo, Japan, which is Vancouver’s sister city.
|Above left: Jennie Rose Mowatt (left) congratulated her mother, Sherry, co-founder of the Fort Vancouver Tapestry project. Above right: Stitcher Feli Paul congratulated Eleanor Van de Water, co-founder of the Fort Vancouver Tapestry project. Van de Water died in December 2005.|
As the tapestry unveiling approached, Sherry Mowatt noted, "The tapestry has a resonance that is truly inspiring to everyone who sees it. It has matured over the years into a document rich with history and intertwined with the lives of the many who have stitched themselves, their loved ones and neighbors into the fabric. The breathtaking scope and ambition that went into the making of the tapestry is now made manifest -- so graceful and timeless -- it already it seems a part of the ages. The Fort Vancouver Tapestry will stand alone for many generations as our best effort brought forward for all. It is a monumental achievement. It is community art at its very finest."
During the unveiling ceremony, Clark College President Dr. R. Wayne Branch (seen congratulating Beverly Twing and other tapestry stitchers in the photo on the left) said, “The Fort Vancouver Tapestry project is a remarkable accomplishment, celebrating our heritage and the richness of our history. It was created through the vision, dedication and passion of its talented staff and volunteers. We are very proud that Clark College is the first home for the completed tapestry. Its presence on our campus confirms our leadership role in arts and culture in our community, and we look forward to welcoming the community to our campus to enjoy this wonderful piece of history and art.”
Information about the tapestry is also available on the Internet at www.fortvancouvertapestry.org.
About the Fort Vancouver Tapestry
|Eleanor Van de Water (seated left) and Sherry Mowatt (standing at the podium) were the co-founders of the Fort Vancouver Tapestry project. They were joined by some of the talented stitchers who brought the tapestry to life.|
The Fort Vancouver Tapestry project was co-founded by the late Eleanor Van de Water and Sherry Mowatt. Van de Water, who died in December 2005, served as director from 1999-2002. She was a nationally recognized fiber artists and a lifelong resident of Clark County, Washington. Eleanor Van de Water’s primary emphasis was the design and production of commissioned artwork. Her unique textile pieces are currently exhibited in churches and private homes in Canada, Wales, Russia and the United States.
Sherry Mowatt is artistic and managing director of the Fort Vancouver Tapestry Project. A resident of Vancouver for the past 27 year, Mowatt brings multi-media expertise in architectural design, creating custom household furnishings, period costumes, commissioned sewing and ceramics. Her tenure at the Grant House Folk Art Center at the Vancouver National Historic Reserve was pivotal in developing and enhancing the center’s reputation as a showcase for Northwest artists.
The Fort Vancouver Tapestry project is supported primarily by volunteers. The project is guided by a Board of Directors and a staff of two.
After meeting with Van de Water and Mowatt, an eight-member selection committee suggested the subjects for each of the 70 panels. The committee included long-term residents of Southwest Washington and local historians.
Over 55 volunteer stitchers have donated time to the tapestry project. Each stitcher contributes an average of 8-14 hours per week. It takes approximately one hour to complete a three-inch square. The stitchers hare donated an estimated 16,000 hours during each year of the project.
The tapestry is composed of Portuguese wool and Belgian linen. Mowatt notes that “The Bayeux Tapestry, telling the events leading up to and including the Battle of Hastings in 1066, was completed in 1067 and is made of similar materials. It remains fresh-looking today.”
The tapestry includes 111 colored yarns and eight additional custom “flesh tone” yarns. Some have been blended to produce additional tones. Organizers say they have used 33,440 yards – approximately 19 miles – of yarn to create the Fort Vancouver Tapestry.
Plans are underway for a Fort Vancouver Tapestry Oral History project, providing transcribed narrative details of each of the 70 panels in book form. The goal is to continue the tradition of the tapestry mission to honor and celebrate the region.