Ardenwoods resident Sally Farmer has always loved weaving, but with a busy, decades-long career in forensic psychology, she didn’t have much time for creative pursuits.
“Weaving and graduate school do not mix,” she explained with a laugh. Since retiring in 2019, however, Sally’s taken up the craft again — creating vibrant, functional pieces with playful patterns on a brand new loom. And, at Ardenwoods, she’s in good company among many talented resident weavers. “I love having a bunch of friends who are around my age with similar interests,” she continued. “It’s just such a great community.”
Growing up in Alabama, Sally dreamed of adventure, and academia was her ticket to ride. After graduating from high school, she moved to North Carolina to study at Duke University, settling on psychology after originally planning for pre-med. “I really did not enjoy chemistry, which was not a good sign for the medical field,” she said.
While at Duke, she enrolled in a crafting basics course, which included an introduction to weaving. Sally had never used a loom before, but she was familiar with other textile arts, learning to knit as a child by watching her grandmother. This complex art form immediately grabbed her attention — and after completing her undergraduate studies, she furthered her knowledge in woven arts at both Haywood Community College and Penland School of Craft.
Sally put a pause on her interest in the arts, however, when she enrolled in a master’s degree program at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Later, she moved to Atlanta and earned a doctorate of psychology from Georgia State University.
“I think most people are drawn to psychology because they want to cure someone they care about, and then they discover it’s really not that simple,” Sally explained. “But I found I really liked working with people, and I wanted to help in any way I could.”
After working in a private psychotherapy practice in Atlanta for years (while simultaneously raising a son), Sally said she knew it was time for a change.
“I had been doing the same thing, working as a psychotherapist for many years,” she said. “And I was getting a little tired. I wanted to branch out. I met a couple of psychiatrists who were working in forensic psychiatry, and I thought it was an interesting field, so I educated myself, applied for a job and got it.”
So, in the early 2000s, Sally relocated her life from the humid Southeast to the high desert of Reno, Nevada, where she took on a new career as a forensic psychologist. Forensic psychology, she said, “essentially combines psychology and law. You have to analyze and determine the psychology behind crimes — and whether people who are accused of crimes are fit to stand trial.”
Now retired, Sally said she does occasionally miss the intellectual stimulation of her work — ”it was a new field, so I had a lot to learn, and I enjoy learning new things,” she said — but she does enjoy the slower-paced routine of retirement. “Not having to set an alarm is great,” she continued. “I am not a morning person.”
Sally had been familiar with the Asheville area for most of her life, partly due to her proximity while living in Durham, Chapel Hill and Atlanta, but also due in part to her love of the great outdoors.
“When I was younger, I used to do a lot of kayaking on rivers in the area,” she explained. “I kayaked in Georgia, in South Carolina on the Chattooga, Tennessee on the Ocoee, North Carolina on the Nantahala.”
So when looking for a place to retire, Asheville seemed like a natural fit. “I realized in Reno that I was an East Coast person — not a West Coast person,” she said, adding that she wanted to be closer to her son, who still lives in Atlanta. “Asheville has such a big crafting community. It just seemed perfect.”
After living in the area alone for a few years (and with some encouragement from her doctor), Sally moved to Ardenwoods, both for its vibrant community and to relieve herself from much of the stress of maintaining a home. “Ardenwoods is really a lovely location, and it’s really close-knit, so you get to know everyone and have a sense of community,” she said. “I’ve made some really good friends here. It’s just a wonderful place to be.”
Though Sally owned and trained Australian Shepherds for years, she’s found she’s more of a cat person in retirement, sharing her Ardenwoods apartment with a “wonderful little cat,” Sir Robert Manx — or Robbie, for short.
Nowadays, Sally enjoys reading, spending time with fellow residents, taking exercise classes offered by the community and attending Craft and Chat get-togethers. She was even in last month’s holiday program, line-dancing along to the Ardenwoods Singers’ silly rendition of “The Twelve Days of Christmas.” She’s especially thankful, however, for the opportunity to pick up weaving again.
“I mainly make functional pieces — things like hand towels and placements,” she said. “But I’d love to get more into clothing. I just bought a new loom, so I’m still getting to know it. But eventually I’d love to start making more jackets. They’re so much fun!”