Meagan Smith at her floor loom in her studio. Photo / Amanda Koehn

Age: 29 • Lives: Edgewater neighborhood of Cleveland • Creates: Asiatown neighborhood of Cleveland • Learned: MFA in textiles from Kent State University and BFA in painting & drawing from The University of Akron

By Amanda Koehn

Meagan Smith has spent the better part of the last few years learning about the infinite possibilities of digital weaving. Her mission to make brightly colored, often wavy and complex patterned weaves took her to Norway this year.

Back from three summer residencies in Norway, where digital weaving was founded, she’s working on new weaving projects that explore themes like fragmentation.   

Smith, who has a background in painting, drawing and ceramics, is drawn to bold colors, specifically shades like “puke green” and “electric yellow” – “colors that just make you vibrate inside,” she says. A former collegiate swimmer, she also draws inspiration from movements bodies make in the water, like splashes, ripples and reflections.  

She notes one large digital weaving can take from 60 to 80 hours, while smaller ones can take 15 to 20 hours.

“It can be overwhelming knowing how many possibilities there are,” she says of the practice, showing many vibrant pieces in her new Cleveland Asiatown art studio, which includes a floor loom and computer to build digital projects. “It’s like a beautifully painful thing.”

“Stretching Across 2” (2022). Hand woven on TC2 loom, painted warp, cotton and synthetic threads, 15.25 x 13.5 inches. Photo courtesy of the artist.

Digital looms are costly and can be difficult to access, she explains – some models cost around $60,000. The weavings are developed in Photoshop, where pixels correspond to threads on a loom. Artists tell the computer how to create the piece by controlling the threads, Smith says. Once drafted, they send the design to the digital loom to make the weaving.

“You can combine different complex patterns together that you can’t do on the floor loom,” Smith says, showing an example of a hydrangea silhouette she made with beads embellishing it. She also sometimes paints on threads to create “surprise” elements, she says.

A Houston native, Smith lived in Atlanta and Denver growing up. She moved to Ohio after being recruited for swimming by the University of Akron.

After two-and-a-half years though, she stopped swimming for the school and shifted her focus to art – two practices that are more similar than one might think. Both swimming and art making are based around “structure and rhythm and technique, and some of the same even bodily movements,” Smith says. 

“Chroma” (2019). Hand woven on TC2 loom, painted warp and cotton, 20 x 13.5 inches. Photo courtesy of the artist.

After completing her bachelor’s degree in painting and drawing in 2015, she worked “loosely as an art therapist,” she says, adding she didn’t know what exactly she wanted to do after college. She also took ceramics classes at Cuyahoga Community College, and continued to make work.  

“I started cutting up my paintings and then sewing them back together,” she says. “I was really just fascinated by lines and instead of making a stroke with a paintbrush, I wanted to do that with threads. So, I started sewing into my pieces, and it just activated the lines a lot more.”

She took a weaving workshop at Praxis Fiber Workshop in Cleveland’s Waterloo Arts District and visited the “NEO Geo” exhibit at the Akron Art Museum, where she first saw digital weaving work by Janice Lessman-Moss, a textiles professor at Kent State University. Smith applied to Kent to work with Lessman-Moss – her now-mentor who retired from Kent recently – and graduated with her master’s degree in 2021. As a student, she traveled to Japan to study patterns in nature for a month. 

After working at Praxis Fiber Workshop for a year, Smith went to Norway this summer for three months for three digital weaving residencies. There, she got to explore the medium in a more in-depth way, she says.

“That was something I wanted to do for the past two-and-a-half years,” she says, adding she had applied for a Fulbright scholarship to study in Norway previously, but didn’t make it to the final round. “Going there and starting anew, continuing this body of work and trying to continue to find access to this tool has been a challenge, but also a success.”

Back in Cleveland, she doesn’t have a digital loom but in 2023 she’ll be raising funds to buy one.

Weavings by Meagan Smith in her studio. Photo / Amanda Koehn

This past February, Smith showed her work at KINK Contemporary in Cleveland – her first solo show after graduate school. Smith also teaches foundation classes as an adjunct professor at the Cleveland Institute of Art. 

Currently, she has work on view at Valley Art Center in Chagrin Falls and in the CIA 2022 Faculty Exhibition, as well as in a major European textile exhibition, Young Textile Art Triennial, in Lodz, Poland. Next year, she’ll have a show at Capacity Contemporary Exchange in Louisville, Ky. 

While her MFA thesis drew from her history in swimming, Smith is now interested in exploring glitches in the flow – “creating balance in something that seems like it’s broken or twisting and kind of moving,” she says.    

Specifically, she’s intrigued by what comes when a given structure is broken.

“Lately, I’ve been interested in the fragmentation of it and how that distorts and warps and becomes something inverted, or entirely new,” she says. “… I’m always finding myself trying to balance this distorted, kind of fragmented, broken, beautiful thing.”   

“Meagan is a lovely, caring individual who exudes a quality of dynamic energy and generous spirit that makes her a welcome addition to the creative community in Northeast Ohio. Her weavings harness this energy in engaging choreographies of color and pattern.”

Janice Lessman-Moss, emeritus professor of textiles, Kent State University

On view

•  Valley Art Center’s 51st annual juried art exhibition includes work by Meagan Smith, on view through Dec. 14 at 155 Bell St., in Chagrin Falls. For more information, visit

• The Cleveland Institute of Art 2022 Faculty Exhibition includes work by Smith, on view through Dec. 22 in Reinberger Gallery at 11610 Euclid Ave. For more information, visit

• Summa Health’s Behavioral Health Pavilion at 45 Arch St. in Akron will open Jan. 14, 2023, where Smith’s work is part of its permanent collection and a show celebrating the opening through April 4.