Text by Hannah Jones
Nantucket Looms has almost always been a part of Bess Clarke’s life, and for anyone else who loves the charming seaside town of Nantucket, Massachusetts, it’s probably been a staple in theirs as well.
Now more than half a century old, the shop was originally opened by Bill Euler and Andy Oates, a local businessman and a master weaver, respectively. After 25 years, Bill and Andy handed the company over to their longtime employee—and Bess’s mother—Liz Winship, and in 2013, the shop became Bess’s, along with partners Stephanie Hall and Rebecca Peraner.
From day one, quality craftsmanship and a focus on art was top priority for Bill and Andy. Since they opened the shop, the process of making their famed textiles has never changed. Each blanket is made by one weaver from start to finish, all in the shop. Nantucket Looms uses natural fibers—a choice of cotton, alpaca, linen, mohair, cashmere, or silk—sourced from around the world.
In addition to their own products, the shop also carries a variety of other artists’ works, from painters and potters to basket weavers and wood carvers. “Both Bill and Andy were art collectors,” Bess says. “They felt like doing this was a way of nurturing the artists and their friends in the community by selling their work.” Nantucket Looms is the starting point for many artists, with a unique process of recruiting. Every day from 9 to 10 a.m., artists are welcome to come by and show their work to the staff for the possibility of being sold on consignment. “It’s kind of like an interview,” Bess says.
It would be easy to say that Bess has a special place in her heart for the shop since she grew up in it, but it wouldn’t be a fair statement. Anyone who has a blanket or throw made by the weavers has a fond memory. “We have people send in blankets that are so tattered and worn to be repaired,” Bess says—a sure sign they’ve been well-loved and will continue to make an impact for generations, which is exactly what Bill and Andy intended.