Weave It to Chance

Boulder Artist Darcie Shively on Color, Creativity and Letting Go of Control

Article by Katherine Owen

Photography by Poppy & Co. by Kelsey Huffer

Originally published in Boulder Lifestyle

From January 2011 to January 2012, Boulder artist Darcie Shively tried 52 new things. She chronicled them in her blog, 52 to Do, in attempt to figure out what she really, actually liked doing.

“I started with some things I knew I liked and let it evolve from there,” she says.

She had just moved to Boulder from Los Angeles and was attempting to unravel the effects of a high-intensity “workaholic” career in advertising.

“It was the beginning of me saying, ‘What do I really like to do?’ It’s interesting when you let yourself follow where things are going to see where you might end up, and how much happier you can feel as a result,” she explains.

So she tried making chocolate. Ice fishing. Reading philosophy. Playing chess. Surfing. Simply doing nothing. Several textile crafts made the list, but weaving didn’t make the final, 52-week cut. When her year of experimentation ended, she signed up for an eight-week weaving class to make a few scarves, which turned into making a few tapestries to “have around the house.”

Ten years and seven looms later, Darcie now makes large weavings at her home in Boulder, exploring big-picture concepts like acceptance, chance, memory and the beauty of imperfection. Her tapestries are in hot demand, with a sometimes months-long waitlist.

Many individuals commission Darcie for one of her “Chance” weavings, which use tarot, astrology and even Magic 8 Ball readings to unpack big life questions and chronicle periods of transition. She uses hand-dyed churro wool from New Mexico and selects colors at random to create vibrant tapestries with a life of their own. To Darcie, it’s about letting go of control and perfection and accepting things for what they are.

“I didn’t know at the time why I was drawn to using chance objects to generate random pattern. Now I see clearly I was rebelling against the grind of work and the role of technology in automating our lives,” she says. “I wanted more serendipity and less ‘what’s trending.’ It helped me pull back from perfection and to learn to live with not having to know everything or control everything all the time.”

For many customers, these commissions mark a major milestone in their lives.

“It's a good reminder that everyone is going through something. Everyone is in a state of transition, trying to figure something out for themselves,” she says. “And in the case of the past two years, just trying to make sense of what’s going on around them. It feels good to be able to do something for them that helps in that regard.”

As of late, nature has taken a larger role in her work, influencing her “Color Memory” weavings in which she distills memory and place into the simple beauty of colors.

“I started doing Color Memories because I fell in love with living in Boulder and beyond and wanted to document it for myself. It has led to me being very observant of color around me in the landscape in a very meditative way,” Darcie says. “My color memory weavings are about looking at things as they are, and really getting in and seeing them as they are. That’s when you can really see beauty in things.”

Up next: inspired by artist Agnes Martin’s chapel-like space in Taos’s Harwood Museum, she is dreaming up how a similar venue for art-minded meditation could look here in Boulder. She envisions a space where people could contemplate some of the very same big ideas she explores in her tapestries–things like life, love and God. As she puts it: “The things that people have tried to figure out across centuries and across cultures that we just don’t necessarily have answers for.” Until then, she’s following where the threads lead her.


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