Northrop Award changes student Noel Rapley's life

Senior design student sourced her natural materials during walks along Millrace Pond

Story by Sammy DiMinno, CHC Communications  
Photo by Maddie Knight,CHC Communications


Spring of 2020 came like a storm for artist and student, Noel Rapley. Like many others, she was confined in her room and her life as a college student was changed. Luckily, Rapley weaved for hours on end to find peace during a panic induced pandemic.  

Rapley, a senior in the UO School of Art and Design, knew at a young age she loved weaving. She aspired to make her own sustainable cloth, but felt as though it was just a daydream. Now that dream seems like a reality for Rapley.  

Her woven art piece, Winding Path, using wool, cotton, walnut shells, dead nettle, and mint is now displayed in Chapman Hall.  

Rapley is this year’s recipient of the Northrop Award. The Keena Shaw Northrop Dean’s Art Award, established in 2013, is a scholarship and art prize awarded to a student to create a piece of art with fiber or textiles. Each year, the selected student is awarded a scholarship of $1,000, and their art work is displayed in Chapman Hall. Jim Northrop, a 1981 history major who attended the CHC, dedicated this award in honor of his mother, Keena Shaw Northrop (1950, Fine & Applied Arts), who spent time in Chapman, storing some of her projects in the drawers that used to be housed in the 3rd floor library prior to the building renovation.  

Rapley started to create her art piece during February of 2020 and worked on it for the remainder of spring term, when everything in the world took an unexpected turn. To relax and keep herself occupied during quarantine, Rapley started going on daily walks to Millrace Art Studios and collected anything she found along the way including walnut shells, deadnettle, and mint.  

“This walk helped me make sense of a world that has sometimes felt unreal. In this way I think it was natural that I chose the plants I found along this path and at the Millrace to dye the yarns for this weaving with,” Rapley said in her artist statement.  

The process was extensive and lengthy as Rapley first took the raw wool and boiled it in water so it could bind with the dye from the natural materials. Separately, she took her items from her walks, and boiled them to produce the natural dye color. For hours, Rapley then started to weave and the dye absorbed into the wool creating an organic color.  

“This process was time-consuming, but I enjoyed spending my time boiling and steeping yarns because it added a routine to my days that helped in my efforts to find stability,” she said.  

The generous gift from Northrop has helped Rapley make her dream come true. With the money from the award, Rapley was able to purchase two used looms from local artists in Oregon. She hopes to eventually open up a small shop and make work that is sustainably woven, lessening the impact of pollution that goes into the clothing industry.  

“Honestly it was life changing for me because without that award I wouldn’t have been able to afford to start getting a fiber studio together,” she said. 

Rapley's fiber art close up