Marrie Berkelaar learned the art of weaving in the mid 1970's at Holland College in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island. Later she continued her studies at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design in Halifax, getting her Fine Arts Degrees in 1983.
Since 1984, Marrie has been weaving commercially in the historic town of Lunenburg under the label of Double Whale Textiles. Her tiny studio/showroom, on 19 Duke Street, is in the basement level of one of the town's old commercial buildings which had once been a men's wear store. The setting is casual. Friends drop in to chat; tourists watch the artist at work; customers either buy off the rack or spend time to decide on something made especially for them.
Although Marrie is a commercial weaver, she is not a production weaver as she weaves short runs of fabric not more than eleven yards in length and only two throws or three scarves at a time. This gives her work a great deal of variety with many one of a kind items and lends itself to taking custom orders. The main products of Double Whale are coats and jackets, hats and scarves, shawls, capes, rugs and throws, and the odd man's jacket or pullover if there is time or inspiration.
Marrie weaves mainly 100% wool but on occasion will use other natural fibres. She likes to source her materials as locally as possible and most of her wool comes from Briggs and Little Woollen Mills in New Brunswick and MacAusland's Woollen Mills in Prince Edward Island. Her garments are very labour intensive as she not only hand weaves the fabric, but also crochets the edges and puts the pieces together by hand. Marrie creates her patterns, making them fit the fabric as efficiently as possible. Not wanting to waste any fabric, she makes hats from the smaller leftover pieces and she weaves the rugs in order to use up the smallest of scraps. Marrie made the first rainbow blanket in order to use up small dye lots of yarn left over from her larger projects but they are so popular that she now has to use more yarn than the left overs. The blankets have 27 colours of yarn in them, requiring constant changing of colours. Fabric for colourful hats are also woven with scraps of yarn using the honey comb weave which also requires a lot of colour changes. Using up the waste material may not be overly time efficient, but the results are unique.
Marrie is considered by many to be an artist, although she doesn't consider herself as such. “I just like to make things. I love the challenge of fitting a two dimensional piece of fabric onto a three dimensional body; the challenge of making something out of a left over scrap of fabric; of making scarves from bits of yarn, of making the odd colours work somehow.”