Marie Little's Byrdcliffe Home-Studio
According to keeper of Woodstock history, Anita Smith, if you were invited to Marie Little’s cottage and studio, dubbed The Looms, assuming she did not suddenly cancel the invitation “to savor control over another’s actions,” guests “would be uncomfortably conscious of their dusty footsteps on the floor.” Smith continues, “They dared not move from the seat allotted to them because they knew they had been placed there to see the graceful branch of an apple tree against the mountain or perhaps for the vista up the path to a sumac…Her guests might be required to go on their hands and knees to sniff the odor of her evening stock. If she had a trifle to eat she might serve it on a leaf or in a wooden bowl, yet with ceremony, as though it were ambrosia from a chalice.”
Although it burned to the ground in 1950, the Looms was Little’s home and studio built by Ralph Radcliffe Whitehead. Born in 1866, Marie Little was a Virginia native trained at the Pratt Institute who was recruited by Ralph Radcliffe Whitehead to head up the weaving department at Byrdcliffe. Little was indeed a strange and sensitive person, who, according to Smith, was a “poplar like figure” with a “quavering voice” who became more and more reclusive as the years went on. She had formerly studied music in Italy, however, her real passion was the fiber arts. She made yellow, brown, and orange bags, rugs, hangings, cushions, couch covers, and curtains on a old style carpet loom. She was also interested in color study and made her own dyes out of the berries and barks of the local Woodstock environment. At Byrdcliffe Little was the resident weaver who taught furniture design and weaving to some of the art students, Ralph and Jane Whitehead and even Bolton Brown’s wife, Lucy. Byrdcliffe visitor, Annie Thompson, noted, “As we passed her house we’d see quantities of material hanging in chunks on the line. After a while this material became finished products and we'd wander in to see what she had made.”
Unlike Bolton Brown, Hervey White, and others, Marie Little was a long-standing resident and loyal devotee to Whitehead’s Arts and Crafts until roughly 1910 when she moved into the town of Woodstock to spend her remaining years.