Weaving through Nature
by Karen E. Farley
(photo also by Karen)
Davie Kean spent twenty-one years connected to nature through encounters with wildlife and the beauty of Brown County. Her role as a naturalist in Brown County State Park promoted connections between the environment and the community, and helped others to explore nature. She conducted research, designed artistic displays, and created the interpretive gardens located in the park’s nature center.
Her passion for nature and art comes from a creative family heritage—both parents are successful writers and her grandfather was an amateur naturalist. They encouraged her interest in art and inspired Davie and her four sisters to create and appreciate the natural beauty of the land. “My mom always had a craft project going on,” Davie says. “And my dad designed custom homes.” She continues to encourage her own daughters in nature and art.
About four years ago Davie picked up a book on needleweaving at the local library, Beads and Threads—A new Technique for Fiber Jewelry by Diane Fitzgerald and Helen Banes. Both her father and older sister were weavers and the idea of weaving on a smaller scale intrigued her. The authors’ work inspired her and she decided to give it a try. Following the book’s techniques she created a piece of her own design.
Beaded needleweaving, like tapestry, produces interesting intricate patterns. “The work can be really tedious, but it allows freedom in the design,” she explains. Davie creates each piece of jewelry from sketches. Needleweaving is ideal for making handcrafted necklaces, but the versatile technique is also used to create framed art, wall hangings, and sculptural pieces. The needlework can also be placed in shadowboxes for display.
The weaving process is fairly simple but requires patience. Davie uses a needleweaving foam core board. Bank pins and graph paper serve as a loom for her designs. The pieces are created without any additional equipment—a beading needle and thread is all that is needed.
Last spring, she participated in the Brown County Art Alliance Artful Dining Gala with her family. She designed small needleweaved sculptures for the annual fundraising event. Nashville artist Dixie Ferrer noticed the unique necklace she wore that evening. In June, Davie placed her jewelry on consignment at the Ferrer Gallery on Main Street. Her original pieces are currently on sale at the gallery.
Davie is a member of the Art Alliance and Brown County Artisans. She gives workshops on needleweaving. Students design and create their own jewelry from fiber and beads. They learn color theory and pattern design. “I enjoy sharing the techniques and passing on what I have learned,” she says. In November, she offered a holiday ornament mini-workshop. Each participant learned the basics of needleweaving and took home a project to finish.
She recently joined Stitchin Fingers, an online community for anyone interested in textiles and fiber art. The group shares photos, stories, and helpful ideas. It also has a monthly swap of 2 ½ x 3 ½ Artist Trading Cards, or ATCs. The trading cards are similar to baseball trading cards and are handmade miniature works of art. Artists build a miniature art collection for a minimal shipping fee to the exchange recipient. Davie’s recent contribution to the swap was a depiction of T.C.Steele’s painting Selma in the Garden. The only rules of the card swap are that the creations must be original work signed by the artists and not offered for sale. Her daughter held card swaps years ago at the Brown County Public library. She hopes to start up the swap there again someday.
For Davie Kean, nature provides a starting point. Fiber and beads offer creativity that allows her to capture natural and commercial materials. Her passion to recreate objects transforms her ideas into artful reminders of the good in nature and human nature. “There is so much out there to observe—we just all do it differently,” she says.
When Davie is not busy weaving she is an active member in Friends of Brown County State Park, Friends of T.C. Steele, and the Brown County Historical Society. She remains in touch with nature and the community for inspiration and a new perspective on the world. “Joining area organizations helped me learn from, and share with others—both artists and art supporters.”
She continues to give advice to those waiting to try something new. “Don’t wait until retirement to start something, do it now!” she adds. Future plans include a retail shop on her website and mini-tapestry weaving added to her designs. Last spring, she took a class from pastel artist Corinne Hull, and plans to continue her painting classes.
Davie can be reached at
or visit her website at