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Nancy Lyon: A Master Weaver's Rediscovered Work

NEW LONDON, N.H., Aug. 14, 2012 – Colby-Sawyer College will host an exhibition of more than 40 vibrant and intricate weavings by the late master weaver, Nancy Chase Lyon, in a tribute to her life and work.

The exhibition will open at the Marian Graves Mugar Art Gallery in the Sawyer Fine Arts Center on Thursday, Sept. 20, and run through Sunday, Oct. 14. Large fine art weavings, samplers, painted canvases, and high-end woven and constructed clothing will be on display. A Closing Reception and Silent Auction will take place Friday, Oct. 12, from 5:30 until 7:30 p.m. All the pieces will be for sale, as well as some additional non-displayed works. Bids may be made beginning on Sept. 20 through Oct. 12, with proceeds to benefit Ausbon Sargent Land Preservation Trust, a local land conservation organization that Lyon was closely associated with for many years. The winning bids will be announced at the Closing Reception. Admission is free.

Lyon, who passed away on Oct. 25, 2011, at age 64, just weeks after being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, was a gifted and compassionate person who cared for people and animals equally, and treasured art and nature. She wove these passions together to create a rewarding life of community service, generosity, beauty and artistic creativity.

After Nancy's death, Doug Lyon, her husband of 43 years, rediscovered weavings that she had stowed away in her studio 20 years earlier. Ultimately, Doug decided to share their beauty with others and sell the work to benefit an organization whose mission his wife was committed to.

In her artist's statement, Nancy Lyon described weaving as both science and art. “The mechanics require the discipline and logic to learn the skills of warping, thread count, interlacing and pattern. These make up the 'science' of weaving,” she wrote. “And then there is the art – the blending of how to make a fabric with the visceral and visual point of view that lets you create something that feels and looks beautiful. For me, making fabric always includes a pleasure that feels something like laughter – the process of melding texture, color and pattern makes me feel good. There is warmth, a sense of wholeness, and a newly created moment of beauty. When it goes right, working with fiber, yarn or textiles makes me feel like I have just heard good news.”

Before moving to New London in 1989, Lyon lived in Goffstown, N.H., for 17 years, where she owned and operated Nancy Lyon Hand Weaving, which featured handmade clothing and wall hangings that enjoyed a national audience. The company had 11 employees at one time. Lyon was also a member of the New Hampshire League of Craftsmen and served as its president 1976 to 1978.

“Her trademark was her bright use of color,” says Doug Lyon, who recently retired after more than two decades of service to Colby-Sawyer College as its chief financial officer.

Lyon taught workshops in weaving, spinning and natural dyeing and became an expert on Crackle Weave, a black weave pattern that she reinvented and taught in classes all over the country.

About the Artist

Lyon grew up in Durham, N.H., the daughter of Jane and Jeremiah Chase, executive vice president for the University of New Hampshire. She graduated from UNH with a B.A. in philosophy in 1968 and did graduate work in political science. While at UNH, she met Doug, also a philosophy major.

When the Lyons moved to New London, Nancy dissolved her weaving company and focused on canine search-and-rescue work while still exploring her interests in fabric-related crafts such as fabric painting, crocheting and wall hangings.

“There was only room in her life for one project to give 110 percent to,” Doug says, describing the immense passion his wife had for both careers. “Nancy was a renaissance woman…she had a theory that you had to change careers every 20 years to sort of keep fresh.”

Lyon was president of the all-volunteer organization New England K9 Search and Rescue for two decades. Working closely with N.H. Fish and Game and Vermont State Police, she and her canine partners tracked lost people on more than 360 searches, including at Ground Zero in New York City after 9/11. “She had a philosophy of being in the world that incorporated a few rules,” notes her husband. “One of the rules was 'Always do the right thing.' The second rule was 'If you're going to do it, do it at 100 percent.' And the third rule was 'Show people you care.'”

In 1996, Lyon joined the Ausbon Sargent Land Preservation Trust and served on its board of trustees for nine years, including a year as chairman. She also took on many other roles for the organization, designing the bi-annual newsletters, creating the current Ausbon Sargent website, managing the press releases and public relations.

“Nancy did the newsletter, including all the graphics and photography, and designed the web site. Most of her weavings are impressionistic landscapes and she liked nothing better than walking Ausbon Sargent-protected land with the dogs, taking pictures for the newsletter. It seemed appropriate that the weavings might generate funds for the organization,” Doug Lyon explains.

Deb Stanley, executive director of ASLPT, describes Nancy as an incredibly talented and generous artist. “Everything she did for ASLPT was donated,” she says. “Nancy was dedicated, and the way she showed the land through her photography and weavings made her notice things about the land that many people would not normally notice. She had a unique way of capturing the powerful emotion of what it feels like to enjoy the landscape.”

Community members are invited to view the exhibition, which runs from Sept. 20 through Oct. 14. Mugar Art Gallery is open Monday through Friday, from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. and during Alumni Fall Festival, on Saturday, Oct. 13, from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., and on Sunday, Oct. 14, from 9 a.m. to Noon. For more information or to make an appointment to visit the gallery, contact Gallery Director Loretta Barnett at or (603) 526-3668.

-Cynthia Driver '13

Colby-Sawyer College is a comprehensive college that integrates the liberal arts and sciences with professional preparation. Founded in 1837, Colby-Sawyer is located in the scenic Lake Sunapee Region of central New Hampshire.

Colby-Sawyer College, 541 Main Street, New London, N.H. 03257 (603) 526-3000