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Joan Potter Loveless  

Date of birth:

July 8, 1925


1945-46 winter and spring quarters
1946 Summer Work Camp
1946-47 fall semester



Tapestries by 
Joan Potter Loveless 





After high school graduation, Joan PotterLoveless (Joan Couch) worked for a year in San Angelo, Texas where she was reared. Her mother, who had read about Black Mountain in Louis Adamicís My America, suggested to her son that he might find the college interesting. Instead it was Joan who was intrigued and applied.

At Black Mountain she took Josef Albersís art classes and studied weaving with Anni Albers and Trude Guermonprez. She also took writing with M.C. Richards, Moby Dick with Alfred Kazin, and history with Edward Lowinsky. Briefly, Max Dehn, who was convinced she had a gift for mathematics, tutored her in math. At the end of her first year, Loveless returned to Texas to work and remained through the fall quarter. On her return in the winter of 1946, G.I.s had enrolled and there was new energy and vitality in the community. At the end of the spring term, she married Oli Sihvonen, a young painting student who was studying on the G.I. Bill. She continued to take courses and also worked in the college office.

The Sihvonens spent the 1947 spring and summer sessions in Volunton, Connecticut where they managed the family poultry farm while the Sihvonen parents were in Finland. They returned in the fall of 1947 for a year. Joan and her young daughter Kimry, who was born at the college, spent the summer of 1948 with her family in Texas and Oli Sihvonen remained for the summer session.

At the end of the 1948 summer session, Oli Sihvonen drove their Model A Ford to Texas. From there the family moved to Taos where they lived for a year while Oli Sihvonen continued his painting studies on the G.I. Bill. After a year in Taos, they then moved to Mexico City and from there to Washington, D.C. where they met Agnes OíNeill of the Georgetown Day School. She invited the Sihvonens to work at their summer camp in New England. At the end of the summer they were offered teaching positions at the Day School.

Joan Loveless recalled that her kindergarten class was her introduction to early childhood education, a life-long interest. Drawing on Josef Albersís teaching, she created a curriculum for kindergarten children in an effort to help bridge the transition from the preschool natural learning process to the expectations and techniques of formal schooling. The curriculum was based on observation, physical projects using the hands and senses, recording and discussions of observations.

After two years the Sihvonens moved to New York where Joan Loveless taught at Miss Hewittís Classes, a fancy girls school where she continued her experimental curriculum. From New York, where their second daughter was born, they moved to Cape Cod where they lived first in an A-frame house built by Paul Williams, a former Black Mountain student, and then in a barn on the waterís edge which they converted into a house.

In 1956 they returned to Taos where they lived for a year at the Wurlitzer Foundation and then in Des Montes. For ten years they were actively involved in the cultural life of the area. Joan Sihvonen, who had been a "loomless" weaver, began to weave tapestries using homespun wools from the area which she dyed. She recalled that although she drew on her Black Mountain studies, the weavings were more closely related to Navajo weaving and to the light and landscape of the Southwest.

The Sihvonens returned to the East Coast in 1967. They lived first in Remsenburg on Long Island while Oli Sihvonen commuted weekends from his Manhattan studio. In Taos Joan Loveless had met Erik and Joan Erikson who were vacationing there, and when Joan Erikson invited here to teach weaving at the Austin Riggs Center in Stockbridge, Massachusetts, she moved with her children. There she met her second husband David Loveless. They collaborated with Joan Erikson on Activity, Recovery, Growth: The Communal Role of Planned Activities (1975).

In 1989 the Loveless family moved back to Taos. There Joan Loveless continued to work on her book Three Weavers (1992) and wrote a second book The Century Book (1993), a format for "recording the highlights of your familyís history alongside a list of general events in the century."

The Lovelesses presently live in New Mexico.

*Joan Potter Loveless registered at Black Mountain under her maiden name, Joan Couch. During her marriage to Oli Sihvonen, she used the name Joan Sihvonen. She presently uses Joan Potter Loveless as her professional name, "Potter" being her middle name and her motherís maiden name.

Joan Potter Loveless at Black Mountain College. 
Photo courtesy North Carolina State Archives.
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