President: Helena Valentine
First Vice-President/Communications: Sara Keene Robbins
Second Vice-President/Conference: Margaret Briggs
Treasurer: Marla Campbell
Secretary: Patty Chrisman
Past President: Karen Miller
Helena Valentine, President
The first seed was planted when Helena saw looms in the basement of a playmate’s home. Twenty years later she made a back strap loom in a YWCA class. While working in Philadelphia she heard about the guild and her learning took off. She attended her first MAFA conference in 1987 and still looks forward to the opportunity to learn, laugh and grow with fellow fiberholics.
Helena’s mom taught her to knit as a child. She has added weaving, spinning, dyeing and machine knitting to her list of excuses for acquiring fiber. While living back in New York City, she studied draping and pattern making at FIT. Her current focus is designing handwoven garments with knitted accents.
Helena was a reading specialist and principal in Philadelphia for 30 years. She hopes her skills in teaching, professional development and collaborative leadership will be assets to MAFA. She will work to expand the connections between MAFA and its member guilds.
Helena lives in New Jersey. She is the proud mother of one son and grandmother to two wonderful children. She loves travel, learning and meeting new people. She is a member of the Harmony Weaver’s Guild, the New York Guild of Handweavers, and the Philadelphia Guild of Handweavers.
Sara Keene Robbins, First Vice-President/ Communications
Sara grew up in the Midwest and wishes she had learned how to knit, quilt and crochet from her grandmother and godmother. But proving that it’s never too late to learn something, she took up basket weaving in the 1980’s and apprenticed with a well-known local weaver. She went from weaving traditional baskets to designing and weaving art baskets. Her favorite basket is one that is organic, incorporates natural elements and follows the lines in nature.
One person saw the organic nature of her baskets and suggested she might like Saori weaving, a more free-form style that does not follow a specified pattern. Sara joined Ready to Hand, a Saori studio in Philadelphia, studied the technique and was completely entranced.
When Sara joined the Philadelphia Guild of Handweavers (PGHW), many more opportunities for learning fiber arts opened up. She is now a felter, spinner and quilter (Grandma would be proud!). Sara has served on the Board of Directors for PGHW for four years, as newsletter editor, and is currently the Outreach Coordinator and Education Co-Chair. Sara and her husband play old time music, love cats, and volunteer for a local cat rescue. They now have six cats, three of which are “failed fosters.” Life is good.
Margaret Briggs, Second Vice-President/Conference
Like many of you, Margaret enjoys a wide variety of fiber art and craft activities – knitting, spinning, weaving, beading/jewelry, and now circular sock machine and flat bed knitting – and has the stashes to prove it! Margaret lives in Charlottesville, Virginia with her husband and fiber-friendly kitties. After a career in architecture and construction management, she has for the past 19 years worked with her husband performing business valuations for employee-owned companies.
Fortunately the family business has a flexible schedule, as she loves to travel to workshops and conferences, particularly to the John C. Campbell Folk School in North Carolina for weaving workshops. Margaret shares her love of fiber arts and uses her project manager skills volunteering with various fiber arts groups: she is president and co-founder of the Central Virginia Fiberarts Guild, created by merging three previous guilds into one new dynamic guild; is on the board, maintains the website, and coordinates vendors and crafts demo volunteers for the Fall Fiber Festival of Virginia held in Montpelier Station, Virginia each October; and through August 2019 is a member-at-large on the board and maintains the website of the Circular Sock Knitting Machine Society.
Since Fall 2017, Margaret has served MAFA as Membership Chair, produces the newsletter, and has helped the team with the transition to our new website and online membership forms. She is currently also Volunteer Coordinator and learning the conference ropes on the 2019 MAFA Conference committee.
Marla Campbell, Treasurer
Marla fell in love with crafting as a child but did not begin her fiber exploits until 2005, when she discovered spinning. Her first wheel was a sweet folding DT Lendrum and her little stable of wheels has grown to six with her most recent acquisition of her dream wheel – the Lendrum Saxony. She particularly loves spinning Cormo (or any soft and fluffy fiber) and her yarn sees its way to friends, family, weaving, and even some sales. Weaving came along soon after with a rigid heddle, then a triangle loom, and now an 8-harness floor loom.
She enjoys membership in The Foothills Spinners and Weavers Guild, where she was treasurer for six years, the Albemarle Weaver’s Guild, where she is the current treasurer and the Whirling Whorls spinning group. Throughout her guild years, having the opportunity to participate in demonstrations at fiber festivals, arts and craft days, and school events has shown her that sharing what she knows about the world of fiber is incredibly rewarding, especially when children are involved – they are so enthralled with the process and very enthusiastic about giving it a go!
Her work background includes being a buyer and merchandiser for 14 years and a data analyst and geographic information system mapping analyst for another 12 years.
MAFA’s mission of promoting fiber arts education is important to Marla and she chooses to support that mission by volunteering in this capacity.
Marla is a member of Foothills Spinners and Weavers Guild (Va.) and Central Virginia Fiberarts Guild (Va.).
Patty Chrisman, Secretary
It all began with the discovery of a little spinning wheel in her grandmother’s attic when she was a young girl, and a brief episode at a loom during Camp Fire Girl Camp in the 1970s. The spinning wheel is now in her possession. The location of the bookmark, woven in a small overshot pattern, is a mystery—it was pink and purple.
Patty’s educational background includes a BFA and an MS in Historic Preservation. She left her home state of Oregon as a newlywed and spent several years in Washington, D.C. This was followed by a brief stop in Indiana and a couple years in Brooklyn, N.Y. and finally the charming town of Maplewood, N.J. where she and her husband raised their two sons—now both in their 20s.
Although she learned to spin in her 20s, Patty really began her focus on spinning and the fiber world when her kids were in grade school. Following her recent retirement she was able to fulfill a long time goal of learning to weave. Patty maintains an active interest in all things historic—from buildings to textiles, and is involved with her local historic house museum, where she has been known to demonstrate spinning on her Great Wheel.
Patty believes in the benefits of belonging to a guild (or several) and she is a member of Frances Irwin Handweavers, North Country Spinners, and the Essex County Hand Spinners guilds. She attended her first MAFA Conference in 2017 as a Rep for North Country Spinners, and was so impressed with the organization and the many ways it supports its members, through grants and scholarships, and its efforts in connecting guilds within the larger region.
Karen Miller, Past President
Karen learned to weave in Finland in the 90s….where weaving was almost always a social activity. She was very happy when she finally found her first guild when she got back to Virginia — and she’s been an active guild member ever since. She currently belongs to the Foothills Spinners & Weavers Guild, the Fiber Guild of the Blue Ridge, and the Potomac Fiber Arts Guild. She finds the MAFA conferences incredibly inspiring — Don’t we all? — and is happy to lend her efforts to keeping them going. She remains primarily a weaver — while dabbling in basketry and other fiber arts from time to time.
Prior to retirement, Karen worked in the information technology field — as a teacher of both adults and students K-12, as a systems analyst, and as a project and program manager of software development projects for Federal Government clients. This means she has spent a lot of time “herding cats,” which she has found to be a useful skill in the non-profit world as well. Having served as the Association’s secretary since 2014, Karen hopes to build on recent efforts to improve the processes and documentation of board activities, to bring additional membership benefits to the guilds, and to grow the number of members actively engaged with MAFA both at and outside of the conference.
Karen is a member of Foothills Spinners and Weavers Guild (VA), Fiber Guild of the Blue Ridge (VA), Potomac Fiber Arts Guild (MD).