Couple Weaves a Graceful Retirement
Thursday, April 12, 2018
by Kevin Cummings, Messenger Staff Writer
The two best friends sip turmeric and ginger tea as they offer an extended lesson on weaving and aging with grace.
Will and Glyn Melnyk, married 32 years and both retired Episcopal priests, recently opened a studio in their Monteagle home to display and sell the handwoven creations of their hobby-turned-business, Ephods and Pomegranates.
The new studio also houses their two looms, where they weave together three or four days a week.
“Weaving is contemplative, creative and quiet. It’s also fairly decent aerobic exercise, because you use both hands and both feet,” Glyn said.
Glyn bought her first loom from the niece of folk music legend Pete Seeger in 1999 in Woodstock, N.Y. Glyn was a natural, so Seeger’s niece, who believed in re-incarnation, thought she must have been a weaver at some point in a past life. What Glyn recalls is weaving pine needles together as a kid.
The name of the Melnyk’s business comes from an Ephod, a garment or breastplate that the Old Testament says some priests wore in ancient Jewish culture, and the pomegranate, a prominent symbol of Israel. The Melnyks are co-founders of People of the Mountain, a local Jewish group.
Will and Glyn also both graduated from Sewanee’s School of Theology, Will in 1981 and Glyn in 1992, and together there are eight Episcopal priests in their family.
In addition to sharing their clergy careers, they also share a number of other interests, including being students of string instruments, with Will playing the violin and Glyn playing the cello.
“We’re each other’s best friends, so if one of us does something, the other knows about it,” Glyn said.
They are both writers and poets as well, and Glyn is a food blogger. She said they are thoroughly enjoying their interests during retirement, which started about four years ago after they moved to Monteagle after both serving as rectors in the Philadelphia area.
Their weaving studio is adorned with unique prayer shawls, altar cloths, scarves, table runners and other items that they have created as the business expanded during retirement. But weaving is an art for them and they try to avoid production weaving, preferring unique pieces for people.
This year they will display their work at Wildflowers and Wine at the Monteagle Inn, from 5:30 to 7 p.m., Saturday, April 14, as part of Trails and Trilliums.
Will, who is Jewish, has a Judaica line of wovens. He said Judaism is as varied as Christianity, but there are some Orthodox Jewish pieces that have highly detailed requirements, including specific fibers and knots.
The prayer shawls or stoles at Ephods, no matter the tradition and culture, are popular items.
“The idea with that kind of garment is to create a personal prayer space,” Will said. “You may not have your own little chapel to go in but you can sit down in front of the fireplace and put your prayer stole on and it puts you in the mood for meditation and prayer.”
Spirituality and contemplation is something the Melnyk’s incorporate into the weaving and patterns, often using Fibonacci sequences. Will has also woven music into prayer shawls. By assigning colors to notes and using varying widths to indicate lengths of notes, he has incorporated musical scores into the garments, including Mozart’s Piano Sonata No. 11 and a Bach piece as a present for his violin teacher.
Glyn also does overshot weaving, which is essentially weaving two patterns at once. She said the process is very labor intensive and depending on the fiber, can be extremely delicate. Will is learning how to overshot weave and it brings out his philosophical side.
“It’s kind of like life, there are fundamental foundations and then there are all kinds of embellishments,” he said. “Another way of looking at it is there are ways that people are all the same, but then there are fantastic variations.”
In October, the Melnyks will take their spiritual weaving lessons on the road to Mississippi for the Liturgical Arts Conference. Their class is called “Weaving the Soul’s Warp and Weft,” with warp being lengthwise and weft being crosswise.
“The metaphor of weaving is not just one for construction of life, but construction of one’s spiritual path and philosophy of life,” Glyn said.
Ephods and Pomegranates offers local classes in weaving and would like to expand what they do for the community. Glyn said she wants to start teaching weaving to grade school students and the Melnyks also would like to help recent graduates of the School of Theology by selling vestment items at or below cost.
Amidst a lesson on sleigh hooks, sequencing and threading the heddles—and the challenge of big feet to treadling, the Melnyks say weaving can be broken down into simple steps, but requires coordination and plenty of focus.
“The only thing you can’t fix in weaving is if you cut it too short,” Glyn said. “You can’t put the threads back together again, but virtually everything else can be repaired.”
Ephods and Pomegranates can be found on Amazon and Etsy. The studio is open to the public, but the Melnyks ask that customers call ahead at (610) 357-6813. For more information, visit ephodsandpomegranates.com.