When Father Thomas More Sikora, O.S.B., came to Saint Vincent Archabbey in 1988, one of the things he learned during his novitiate year was how to weave. Little did he know that weaving would play a role in the fabic of his monastic life. Now doing custom hand weaving from his Gristmill-based Artisans’ Workshop, Father Thomas More produces work on consignment, has exhibited his work, and worked with college students interested in learning the skill.
Novicemaster Father Sebastian Samay, O.S.B., entered Saint Vincent Archabbey with a background in the skill of weaving. Father Sebastian taught Father Thomas More throughout his novitiate. Father Thomas More later had the opportunity to pass on this skill to other monks in the community, including Father Philip Kanfush, O.S.B., and Brother Mark Floreanini, O.S.B. As the Gristmill renovations were being completed in 2001, Father Thomas More noted, there was a large empty space on the second floor. That space was a perfect fit for the various looms and other equipment needed to do weaving on a larger scale, and the variety of products Father Thomas More creates. Items ranging from placemats to scarves to rugs to tapestries keep him busy.
“There are seven looms in the workshop,” Father Thomas More said, “and I usually keep four going at a time.”
He and Brother Mark make frequent trips to Smicksburg and farms in Indiana County to purchase wool and yarns of various fibers for use in their work. He has also worked with students in Brother Mark’s studio arts class, teaching them about his craft.
The art of weaving has been mentioned in the Bible, and the Hebrews practiced it in the wilderness (Exodus 26:1, 8; 28:4, 39). But Father Thomas More has adapted the art to the twenty-first century, using computer software to design patterns, and to show customers color variations in those patterns.
“When I first learned, we used paper and pencil to create designs,” he said, “but with the computer we are able to manipulate the design more quickly.”
His Artisans’ Workshop has grown as customers have come to know his work through the Gristmill General Store, and several businesses now carry his work on consignment. For additional information on his hand-woven works, please contact Father Thomas More at 724-532-6772 or [email protected]
By Kim Metzgar