Featured Member: Jill Martin '76
What you would have found in her Wellesley dorm room. I lived in Severance with a folding floor loom in my room. I’d apprenticed to a professional weaver in high school, learning the weaving process from the ground up. I sold my work as a teenager and through my Wellesley years. I wove a lot of book bags, pillows, and wall hangings. The 70’s were a time of funky macramé plant hangers and pottery mugs, really good for hand weavers.
Why she became an art history major. I am drawn to seeing textiles as a window on to cultures, and inspired by the cross pollination textiles provided throughout history. Wellesley’s art history program was fabulous with many hands on studio art opportunities. I spent all my time in Jewett.
On first showing her work … in Paris! After graduation in ‘76, my then-husband got a job in Paris where we lived for four years. I studied with a Gobelins master tapestry weaver and other weavers. I had a gallery exhibition of my tapestries, an exciting moment for me.
And then continuing her business in D.C. I met yarn manufacturers and vendors in Paris and had a good connection with a company providing yarn to designers at Chanel and Yves St. Laurent. The company closed shortly after I moved to D.C., so I bought much of their remaining stock and shipped it here. I was weaving custom throws for designers in D.C. and New York. I also wove throws for American embassies overseas, exhibited my throws in the DC Design Center showroom, and had my work appear in Traditional Home and House Beautiful magazines. I worked from a home studio, an ideal situation with young children and the ability to set my own hours.
How she became a volunteer-leader at the Textile Museum. I began as a docent, which allowed me to build on my art history background at Wellesley. I then served on an outreach and enrichment-focused committee which I ended up chairing. The Textile Museum partnered with G.W.U. and moved their collection to the university, causing many volunteer opportunities to end but leading to student involvement in the collection.
On reinventing herself as a storeowner. After my divorce I turned to substitute teaching as an outgrowth of the support tutoring I’d done, and then found my way to running a furniture stall in an antique mall. That led me to working in estate sales, and finally to working in the Bethesda furniture and home furnishings consignment store, Gallery St. Elmo. I later purchased the store. My textile background came in handy selling the rugs and upholstered furniture we consigned, and my time selling antiques was also valuable. I knew what I was looking at. I owned the store for six years and was a part of the business for 10.
And then reinventing herself, again. Tastes change: there’s no demand now for older brown furniture, for large dining tables seating ten people, for the china, crystal and furniture I consigned in my store. The appeal of a simpler streamlined life unencumbered by stuff has taken hold, which I applaud. But it led me to close the store. I’m now in a downsizing, professional organizing and relocation business called Orchestrated Moves, where we also work as move managers and coordinators. It’s been a good next step, since I’m still helping clients change their lives and transition to new spaces with less stuff. I’m loving it.
On putting that old sofa to good use. My focus has shifted from a resale marketplace for household goods to finding other uses – saying, “you’re right, it’s a great sofa for someone, still in pretty good shape. There are people who need it and donation can extend its life.” One example is the needs foster children have as they age out of foster care and head to independent living. They need a bureau. They need a bed. At no or little cost. Where is this furniture going to come from? I’m absorbed in working with charity and outreach organizations to match furniture sources with need. Our business recently furnished a home for a local refugee family from donated material that we had pulled together.
What she loves about D.C. I remarried about five years ago. I met my husband swing dancing at Glen Echo. We live in DC, near Van Ness. We enjoy local day trips and we’re big museum-goers, especially enjoying the National Gallery. I’m also involved in the Washington Wellesley Club and served as club president from 1990 to 1992. One thing I love about working with Wellesley women in any capacity is that whatever the project, there is 100 percent follow through. I appreciate that so much about Wellesley. People say they are going to do something and they do it.