in St. Albans and Isle la Motte, the Elizabeth Fisk Looms began to
turn out a wide variety of products. They produced bedspreads, table
cloths, wall hangings, pictures to be framed, work bags, pillows,
and numerous other items such as napkins, runners, between cloths,
and curtains. Betty Attwood described the work in the Summer 1968
issue of Handweaver and Craftsman:
cloths, tablecloths, bedspreads, wall hangings and smaller pieces
came from the Fisk looms. Many of them were of museum quality. One
long beautifully executed cloth now belongs to the Fleming Museum
at the University of Vermont. Patterns were always original and
would be made to order for specific color preferences. Designs were
often taken from nature and were perhaps from outside the door of
the stone cottage where the weavers worked. Among some of the more
interesting pieces produced by the Fisk looms are the Vermont coat
of Arms which was presented to the General Federation of Women’s
Clubs in Washington. The effect in this hanging is like that of
an old tapestry... an extremely detailed one of calla lilies testifies
to the quality of the weavers technical ability.
As the work continued, the word of these unique weavings began to
spread far and wide. Among the customers was the wife of the Director
of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Orders came in from England, and
the Elizabeth Fisk Looms were invited to show their work abroad, but
never accepted. The Chicago Art Institute bestowed an award, as did
the national Federation of Women’s Clubs. They were invited
twice by the Women’s Educational and Industrial Union to join
them during their “Craftsmen at Work” exhibitions, and
they exhibited at the convention in Boston in 1930.
The work of the Elizabeth Fisk Looms was also much noted in the press.
The Burlington Free Press noted,
production and use was a long-standing tradition and necessity of
early American culture. However, by about 1820, large quantities
of machine-woven cotton became readily and economically available
throughout much of the country.
By 1870, linen production as an occupation was virtually non-existent.
This is perhaps one of the many reasons Elizabeth Fisk Looms and
their handsome products were so popular. By the early 20th century,
they were unique.
Isle Star wrote, Mrs Fisk was, “the only woman in the world
so far as known to do such unique work.” The Vermonter devoted
a cover story to Fisk Looms in their May 1930 issue, declaring, “It
is safe to say that this work is unique.” Other stories appeared
in Vermont Life and other periodicals. The Ladies Home Journal wrote,
in the big attic chamber, with its dormer windows looking down all
summer on rows and rows of hollyhocks, old-fashioned looms are busy
weaving household linens of a kind never before seen, a kind that
only the vision of an artist could conceive.
came in from customers and critics alike, the word that kept coming
up to describe the work was “unique.” The technique that
Elizabeth Fisk devised for producing tapestry woven linens for household
use, resulted in a product that looked almost identical from the front
or the back. When this is considered along with her sense of design,
work in dye chemistry, and ability to inspire, organize and train
teams of weavers it is clear that Elizabeth Fisk made a significant
contribution to the arts.
The Elizabeth Fisk Looms represent a high point in the history of
weaving. Perhaps the article in the Ladies Home Journal from November
of 1923 puts it best,
weavers, watching their craft develop into the realm of an art,
it has all been a labor of love. Vermont, indeed, has reason to
feel proud of these women who are producing work of such exquisite
character as that which is known to the world as linen from The
Elizabeth Fisk Looms.