Joan Couch

Photograph included with student application. Courtesy of Western Regional Archives

Joan Couch Potter Loveless Slide Collection, Courtesy of Western Regional Archives


Art/ Design/ Craft




1944 - 1948



Henrico, VA



Taos, NM

Joan is known by many names. She attended the college first as Joan Couch. She married fellow student, Oli Sihvonen and became Joan Sihvonen. She later took her mother's maiden name, as Joan Potter. Then married and took the name Joan Potter Loveless.

Joan was born Joan Couch in Henrico County, Virginia to parents Paul and Gertrude Couch. She became interested in attending Black Mountain College (BMC) after her mother read Louis Adamic's "My America, 1928-1938"(Hamish Hamilton, 1939) that includes a chapter entitled "Black Mountain College: An Experiment in Education." Joan enrolled in classes in the fall of 1944, but her academic tenure at Black Mountain was marked by several breaks in attendance.

At BMC, Loveless took art classes with Josef Albers and studied weaving with Anni Albers and Trude Guermonprez. It was at Black Mountain where she met Oli Sihvonen, an art student taking classes under the G.I. Bill. They married in 1946.

After the 1948 summer session, the Sihvovens and young daughter Kimry moved to Taos, New Mexico where Oli continued studying art. In the following years, the family lived in many locations including Taos, New Mexico; Mexico City; Washington, D.C.; New York City; and Cape Cod. During this time Oli began to gain acclaim for his paintings, while Joan taught kindergarten at prestigious private schools in Washington and New York, using an experimental curriculum.

The family of four (second daughter, Jennifer was born in New York) returned to Taos in 1956, where for a decade Oli and Joan were vibrant members of the artistic and cultural community. Joan began to weave tapestries using locally spun wool which she dyed herself. Although some inspiration for her may have come from her younger days at Black Mountain College, Joan's work was much more influenced by the New Mexico landscape and the weaving of the area's indigenous dwellers, the Navajo.

The Sihvonens divorced sometime before 1975. Joan moved with her three children (son Conor was born in 1965) to teach weaving at the Austen Riggs Center in Stockbridge, Massachusetts. It was in "The Bay State" that she met her second husband designer David Loveless. They were married weeks before Joan turned 50.

The Lovelesses returned to Taos in 1989. It was there that Joan completed her book, "Three Weavers" (University of New Mexico Press, 1992) that focused on her relationship with friends and fellow fiber artists Rachal Brown and Kristina Wilson.


Husband: Fellow BMC student, Oli Sihvonen

Courses Taken

Fall 1944-1945: Drawing with Albers, Chorus with Jalowetz, Melville (Introduction to American Writing) with Kazin, Contemporary Problems with Miller,Culture of the Renaissance with Lowinsky

Winter 1944-1945: Design with Albers, Culture of the Renaissance with Lowinsky, Bible with Lowinsky, Nationalism and Contemporary Problems with Miller,Introductory Writing with Wunsch, Chorus with Jalowetz

Spring 1944-1945: Bible with Lowinsky, Design with Albers, Outline of Western Culture with Lowinsky, Writing with Wunsch, Contemporary Problems with Miller, Chorus with Jalowetz

Winter 1945-1946: Contemporary Society with Levi, Advanced Writing with Richards, Reading Literature with Richards

Spring 1945-1946: Reading Literature with Richards, Advanced Writing with Richards, Chorus with Lowinsky, Work Program

Fall 1946-1947: Plato & Aristotle with Levi, Advanced Weaving withMeyer, Introduction to Music with Schlesinger

Spring 1946-1947: Weaving with Guermonprez, Design with Albers, Math tutorial with Dehn (dropped)

Joan and Oli SihvonenWoven tapestry by Joan Couch Loveless, Taos, NM.
Photograph of author


Heather South

Heather is Lead Archivist of the Western Regional Archives, Department of Cultural Resources, State of North Carolina.

Heather has a BA and MA in history from Winthrop University and is a member of the Academy of Certified Archivists. South has nearly 20 years’ experience in preservation and archives including reference services, conservation services, exhibit design, marketing and grant management. From 2006 until November 2011, she worked as the Preservation Officer for the SC State Archives

The Western Regional Archives (WRA) collects, preserves, and makes available for public use historical and evidential materials relating to western North Carolina. Their collection of Black Mountain College related materials is an invaluable resource for BMC researchers.

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