At Weaver’s Bottom Craft Studio, you’ll find a loom, yarns, and textiles, plus cornshuck dolls, elf houses, and stuffed bears. You’ll also find a computer—Mary and Neil Colmer also have a presence in the non-traditional world of digital artwork, through the video gaming world of Minecraft.
The two met years ago at Berea College. “I came here to get my education, and knew nothing about what we do now,” Neil recalled.
A student job in a weaving shop changed the direction of his life. “I just really fell in love with weaving, and it’s been 47 years now,” said Neil. “We make beautiful fabrics of various designs,” he said. They reproduce traditional early American patterns, using different colors than in colonial days.
Mary makes cornshuck dolls; by her count, she’s made 11,000 of them. She makes teddy bears from the leftover weaving yarns. “I could be called a leftover artist,” she said, laughing, “because anything that’s leftover lying around—it’s in danger.”
She enjoys seeing her ideas come to life. “I just like making the world a more beautiful place,” she said.
That world extends online to Minecraft sandbox game. “Minecraft is a cartoon world that’s all in blocks,” she said. “…the blocks became a programmable thing, and the computer people all over the world have added blocks.”
Through her Minecraft avatar Bacon_Mom, Mary creates intricate worlds popular for their incorporation of butterflies, flowers, and quilt-like designs. The Colmers take their weaving and quilt patterns into their Minecraft worlds.
“When I first started playing the game,” Mary said, “I saw an ugly desert in the landscape and I started doing a nine-patch quilt, not realizing that two years later I would cover the whole desert with a nine-patch quilt. And I love seeing the sun go down over the Minecraft landscape with this quilt.”
Neil does weaving patterns along the Minecraft roadsides the couple built.
“It is a fascinating idea that this modern computer world that we have can pick up those older traditions and present them in a new way,” Neil said. “Or even make people aware that they exist. A lot of people don’t even know what weaving is anymore—especially some of the younger kids that watch our game.”
With a following of about 7,000, Mary livestreams to fans all over the world almost daily as she creates her Minecraft landscapes; she has even created a popular annual calendar of some of her most popular Minecraft designs. “I go to Minecraft to recharge my artist batteries,” said Mary. “It makes me remember who I am as an artist, and it helps me encourage other people to follow their dreams and not give up.”
The game has chat rooms, but also a “whisper” feature, and Mary encourages people who are having problems to whisper to her. She has even counseled those considering suicide.
“I’ve been in that deep, dark place before, you know, and it’s so easy to be encouraging and say, you know, you can make it, you can do it,” she said.
The two have interacted with people all over the world, Neil said. “A lot of the first-timers who come to the stream remark that ‘You guys are too old to be playing Minecraft!’” Neil said.
Mary remembered how as a child she never wanted to grow old. “My dad told me that if I made dolls for a living that I would stay young,” she said. “I think maybe he’s right.”