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I have been a fiber artist for most of my life. My work has been rich in texture with exciting color, has strong eye appeal and often a message of environmental stewardship. When I discovered natural dyes I read everything I could find about the cultures, history, geography and politics that surround textiles and natural dyes. I also discovered that I could locally forage for dye materials in the prairies, ditches, woodlands, by the streams and in some of my friend’s gardens. I was seeing Natures Gentle Colors in a whole new way.  I would ask my mentor for recipes and processes. He finally told me to use my eyes and head. That has served me well. I can now collaborate with the materials having mastered techniques. However, I still have green stains on my knees. 

The Arts and Culture Commission gratefully selects Judy as its 2024 Northfield Living Treasure. In making this award the Commission asserts without reservation that, because of Judy Saye Willis, Northfield is a better place, that the community is richer for her presence and contributions, and that we are both fortunate and grateful to have her in our midst. This annual award honors those individuals who have, over a long period of time, made significant contributions to Northfield in, through, or on behalf of arts and culture, so as to enhance the reputation of the city and the quality of life of its residents and visitors. 

I was a fiscal year 2021 recipient of a Creative Support for Individuals grant from the Minnesota State Arts Board. This activity is made possible by the voters of Minnesota through a grant from the Minnesota State Arts Board, thanks to a legislative appropriation from the arts and cultural heritage fund.

Previous Work

link to jewelry page

I strived to make one-of-a-kind jewelry with strong eye appeal that speaks to the individual wearer.

Many of my textiles are done with Shibori resist. This body of work included scarves, art to wear, home décor and art cloth.

Book Art
My unique handcrafted books are made with Coptic or Ethiopian bindings and wooden covers.

KSMQ OFF 90 interview with Judy and her husband, Tom—Cloth and Clay

©KSMQ Public Television Published on Apr 24, 2017