Creating Artful Community with Marin Sewing Lab

Written and Photographed by Koa Kalish

Pia Andersson has a rich background of over 20 years in design and product development, gaining expertise with garments and accessories as well as in commercial manufacturing of textile products. A Swedish native, she has always been involved with making textiles, but it was upon retiring that she began teaching people how to make their own garments — and helping people find their style. Her approach and focus are not only in the personal but in the communal. “I like to create artful communities. That is my motivation. I am inspired by the creativity that comes out of the gathering of participants in the class – and the community it creates. And then – the art that comes out of that space.”

She calls her classes Sewing Labs and she currently teaches them weekly in Mill Valley at the O’Hanlan Center for the Arts (pictured in this article) and Once Around; in Fairfax at Rainbow Fabrics; at the Sonoma Community Center in the Fiber Arts Department; and in Santa Rosa at Cast Away + Folk. She teaches children, teens, and adults — to people who want to be makers, people who want to work with a cloth that is good quality, and who want to enjoy the process of making.

“A lot of people come to me because they can’t find anything in the stores they like, or it’s too expensive, or the cloth is of poor quality and falls apart. They come also because they understand handcraft as a form of meditation that has a sense of creativity. When you work with handcrafts you oftentimes develop a surge of energy of that creativity, and happiness; fulfillment. A meditative quality, really. It brings in the surge of energy, the qi of creativity, which is a sensation of feeling happy.”

It’s true — the energy in her classroom is bright, energetic, bubbling with creativity and camaraderie. It feels light and spacious, and yet at the same time quite focused. Pia aims to create the space for people to feel safe in, where they can express themselves — a sentiment that is clearly felt within the class.

Garment construction and embroidery are Pia’s fortes. A newer garment construction project is being birthed using Community Supported Cloth (CSC), a new Climate Beneficial Wool cloth supply chain lofted by Fibershed. Using this regionally produced cloth, Pia plans to teach the garment construction in collaboration with the women of The Moon, an eco-printing company in Oakland who dye the cloth in a myriad of beautiful earth tones. These special workshops are offered later this month (July 2017). Pia notes that “the public engagement with the CSC is a great way to get people in general connected by introducing something that is so tactile/hands-on. There is a ripeness in the community for locally produced cloth.”

Every year Pia takes a month to go back to Sweden, where she derives her artistic inspiration. She plans on leading textile trips to Sweden within the next year, a phenomenon akin to Fibershed is burgeoning there. “We have a linen flax producer and factories we’ve been restoring into full production.”

Pia plays an essential role in the chain of Fibershed — teaching people how to make, design, and sew their own clothing, connecting people with fiber and their own creative energy. “I’m in the middle of the community, not on a farm, and I’m happy to be part of another step in the right direction — part of this movement as an educator.”

Learn more and browse class offerings at