Category Archives: farm life

Shapes as Symbols

Seeing the long, green, 36″ round gasline pipes stacked on trucks slowly climbing the mountains of our state on a daily basis has raised my tension level. When I feel unable to control or change an event or action I create. Slowly a design nudges my consciousness. The visual concept begins to evolve on paper. With a few adjustments the story I want to tell appears as a cartoon (line drawing). My energy changes from lethargic to accelerated and materials are gathered, or made in the dye pots. Pulling loops and stitching with needle and thread, slowly I talk to myself. When finished I can talk to you.

Pipes for gas line

The natural gas-lines, proposed and begun, crisscross West Virginia as they travel East. There are stockpiles in what were hay fields, in abandoned parking lots, even in newly excavated spaces along highways and back roads. They are not hidden from view. The workers migrate from job to job across state lines and take up the hotel rooms built for tourism and business travelers supporting our long term economy.

It is summer and the rhythms of farming continue too. Large round hay rolls cast their shadows in early morning and late afternoon light. Yellow dried grasses are rolled up revealing the fresh new greens of regrowth. This is a sustaining cycle humans developed which truthfully also is destructive and abusive of the soils and land. But that is another visual story. Today I look at haying season as nostalgic which is calming.

My intent in using traditional rug hooking as a medium is to honor the utilitarian purpose of past generations and present my work to a new audience when shown on the wall as visual art. The two pieces were designed as large floor rugs for these reasons and because big gets attention.

Simplifying the landscape images into shapes let me convey the repeating patterns and tension I felt. Circles of the pipe ends viewed by following those trucks and driving past the stockpiles and the innocent hayrolls lined up in rows are surrounded by dark and light depict the feelings I have driving past each subject.  The companion piece is Lines: logging, haying and pipes. Using the same wool fabrics as in the Circles piece, with additional pieces for value changes, the logging industry is added to our state’s human impact on nature.

The two partners – Circles: pipes and hay rolls and Lines: logging, haying and pipes were completed in 2018. Ready for exhibit.

Traveling in New England

Started the day off feeding the chickens in my work boots and forgot to change into traveling shoes until Jim called out…”Do you want your sandals?” I do drive better in the sandals. The Bobs and Jim will watch the grass grow on the farm as I travel to explore teach and network with fellow fiber enthusiasts.

Day 1 up and off by 6:00 am heading for Lowell, MA to explore the Historical National Park of Textile Mills and the New England Quilt Museum. A nine hour trip according to GPS.  But with wind damage reported in Wilkes-Barre, PA I decided to go east into NJ on I78 until there was a back up around Allentown, PA where I took Rt22 on into NJ and finally I80 to 287N over the Newburgh bridge crossing the Hudson and into CT. There is a lot of money being spent on roadwork through the cities of Danbury and Hartford. AND lots of traffic. No rerouting via GPS so in the end 9 hours became 13.

Booked a room at UMass Lowell Inn and Conference Center from an online search of hotels in the area. I am a graduate of UMass Boston so felt an allegiance to the site. Perfect location for my reason to visit. My room overlooks the Pawtucket canal at the waterfalls. Recommend a textile conference at the Inn …. maybe a future ATHA bi-ennial even? Great for touring the park, mills, and history besides location outside of Boston.

Walked around some as the sun was setting, plan to get up early and explore. Day 2 report on the two museums.

The Middlesex Mills was the largest woolen mill in Lowell, built in 1831, shutdown one hundred years ago in 1918 and demolished in 1956, the UMass Inn is built on the original site. Another brick building. This time with more than females working and living inside. I wrote a paper in college about the young women recruited to work in the mills and the work laws that evolved from their long hours, low wages, and living away from home. The park experience is something multi-generations should experience together. Take the canal boat, visit the mill, dormitory housing, and visitors center and try to put yourself in the shoes of those workers.

Middlesex Mill History



Shapes in Life-Rolls and Pipes

Time to work large, the subject warrants attention and big draws people to look. 

I cut off a piece of linen 60″ x 80″ which leaves a maximum finished size of 54″ x 74″ or two runners 26″ x 74″ (after excess to put on the frame). The size choice will be the first of many design decisions.

The innocent circle shape can be seen along our country roads during haying season as farmers make huge rolls to feed their animals in the winter. The wide open fields are green then turn tan as the grass dries. Rolled, the new grasses grow back and the cycle continues year after year with care from the caretaker of the land-the farmer. I have been inspired by this cycle since youth when the shape was a smaller rectangle but the colors and care the same.

Now there are different objects along many through ways stacked by the thousands waiting to go underground after the trees have been felled, stripped, and piled ready to be sorted for their end use-barbecue brickettes, lumber, paper pulp, firewood. Or they will be connected under the fields scarred by digging, or under the hundreds of waterways that are home to golden trout, endangered hellbenders and many other species besides our nourishment. This manmade project will transport gas extracted from the land more aggressively than in the past. The pipelines going through West Virginia and many other states are not benefiting the residents.  The corporations intimidate our legislature to hold off taxing them so we will be left with roads to repair, lost income to tourism and natural guides yet a wound across our mountains. I have depicted the straight lines for power in Progress into the Mountains. Now comes specifically the pipes and resulting lines.

Coloring comes next, what do I want the viewer to see? Green rings with dark rust centers, tan circles and green background. Will I use the rows alternating the subject? Or twelve inch squares of each pieced like a traditional quilt pattern?

There is a smaller design coming along too using the green plastic straws I save, mixed media is still my favorite studio time.

Do you see shapes, lines or colors daily that could become your visual statement on life?





Traveling to Vermont

What designs could come out of a June week in the capitol city of Vermont with friends?

Plenty of ideas for artwork and many personal memories were gathered while enjoying Montpelier, VT and the Green Mountain Hooked Rug School.  Looking forward to returning in 2017 teaching “Working in Abstract Expressionism”. Registration is open at

A change of season

Here is one day in May where color, shapes and sounds announced new life in West Virginia. The natural cycle continues. As of the end of the month, with the squeaking song in early morning of the Indigo, all of the migratory birds have returned.  We are ready for summer.

My artist eye  looks for shadows, highlights and textures to exaggerate. When you look around what catches your eye and how will you show us the results?

Progress in the Mountains

Progress in the Mountains, Susan L. Feller 2015

Progress in the Mountains, Susan L. Feller 2015

After three years of muddling over this topic I created “Progress in the Mountains“, a seven foot by 27 inch hand hooked runner.

Envision the impact on geography, environment, culture and community the human drive for progress has had on the natural resources of West Virginia (a micro example of the globe).

1. Major interstate highways create jobs for the construction industry, allow quicker access to towns and destinations for tourism and commerce but disturb migration paths, feeding and lodging habitat for fauna and flora.

2. Corporate farming in the form of one breed of cattle, poultry buildings for thousands, and processing plants for each creates excess of waste which needs to be distributed by vehicles to wider destinations or processed into a stable by-product.

3. Lumbering of the forests, many of which were contract planted for the pulp or board feet affects the terrain.  The undergrowth is necessary to keep erosion from happening, contributing to pollutants in the rivers.  Slow traffic from lumber trucks is alleviated with the new highway system.

4. Coal mining strips the tops of mountains to find the veins, moving the waste often into headwaters of small streams which will run into the major river systems.  But the coal is used to create electricity for the metropolitan population’s requirements to communicate, work, entertain.  The power lines to distribute the energy create wide cuts in direct paths economical for the corporations taking years of negotiating with landowners, environmentalists, historians and politicians but eventually “for the good of the majority” being implemented.

5. Wind turbines line the highest ridge lines feeding the energy generated into those power lines again going out of our state to the metropolitan region.  Although a regenerable resource (wind) the effect on birds’ migratory paths is being studied.

I find it interesting to use a traditional hands-on process of pulling one loop at a time, manipulating the fabric into shapes and directions (rug hooking) to depict these issues of the 21st Century.  For months this design was drawn horizontally spreading the seven feet with layers of hills, roads and power lines intersecting the organic shapes.  It did not seem to be the right format. Finally in my daily journal on June 27 I tried a vertical format and could see more layers allowing a longer trail to be able to tell more stories.  The piece evolved easily from there.

Study for Progress in the Mountains

Study for Progress in the Mountains

Working this runner was like reading a great book, each chapter and character held my interest. They built on previous sections with shapes, colors and values evolving along the path, progressing to the top and end.  Imagine walking along, following the flow of road and hills then turning around and coming back down the mountain in your hallway.

Following are subjects taken along the Robert C. Byrd Highway system in Hardy County, WV and the rug in stages of completion.


Patterns found in Nature

We added Speckled Sussex and Golden Polish chicks this spring to the barnyard.  In the order Murray McMurray included an extra chick which has grown into a MALE Hamburg.  So we have TWO roosters for 17 hens.  Trust me that is at least ONE too many and the girls think it is 2 too many.  BUT they both look spectacular, so who ends up in the stew pot?  Stay tuned.

Hamburg Rooster

Hamburg Rooster

Golden Polish Rooster

Golden Polish Rooster

In the mean time, with this variety we learned each breed has an identifiable voice along with feather pattern, and leg colors.  It is a chorus of clucks and chirps when we feed.

See if you can match the legs with feather patterns selecting one from column A and one from B.  Answers below the gallery.

Answer: Feet top to bottom (Dominique, Speckled Sussex, Golden Polish)

Feathers top to bottom (Speckled Sussex, Golden Polish, Dominique)

Retreat into the Mountains 2012

Retreat into the Mountains 2012

  24 great energetic and creative souls came together this year for the 5th RETREAT INTO THE MOUNTAINS at Peterkin Camp and Conference Center, Romney,WV.  We are gathered here on the expansive porch in our colorful array of dress. The new officers of Mountain State Fiber Artists make up the first row. 

Great weather for the weekend including the foliage which was gradually coming out after the extreme heat in March, allowed us to keep our minimal schedule including hiking up to the waterfalls and hemlock grove, driving out by caravan to Ruckman Mill Farm for dinner prepared by Jim on Saturday evening and hours of hooking on the porch and in the lounge space into the wee hours of the night. 

2012 group at the waterfalls, Peterkin

             The theme for this year was to react visually to the phrase: “everybodyneedsfiber” Several participants came with designs in a small format (8 inch or so squares).  One was a combination of different sized printer’s blocks creating a composition of the letters.  This will be a study in value and depth using materials and techniques to enhance the subtle tones of the wood blocks. A jar of Metamucil was another interpretation:  Every BODY needs Fiber.   

         Another was Betsy Warner’s energetic lady happily lying in a field of color, prodded butterflies hovering above and her hair wildly flying in the green field.  The variety of fibers and techniques accented the phrase ” EVERYBODY NEEDS FIBER!”


The trip to Ruckman Mill Farm included showcasing the beef cattle raised here in Hampshire County:  Angus, Herefords and even Longhorns. Yes Texas Longhorns are raised here for the lean meat, and seem to enjoy a steady diet of green grasses.

  Visit other blogs for their interpretations of the retreat:Lauren Fuqua from Ohio:  

Donna Bennett another Ohioian: 

Susan Hoekstra, New Jersey our presenter this year on the topic Color Theory and

The desk has moved into our home

Jim worked for six weeks in the workroom to create this desk. We moved it into the house on Memorial Day, setting it in a place of prominence right inside the front door.  It was supposed to go up in the study facing a wall! No way, Jim’s favorite side is the back.

Desk in house walnut side

Click here to see a slide show with more images of the sides and progress building the desk.

We are live with an updated site!

If you clicked onto this blog through   welcome!  Look around the posts and pages to learn even more about Susan Feller and Jim Lilly at home in the Mountain State of West Virginia.

Logo designed by Michael Anderson, Romney, WV

  We are thrilled to have an official logo honoring the log home Jim built and the era of time we both are reliving… the Arts and Crafts period of the early 1900’s.

Michael Anderson is our graphic designer, web creator, fellow artist, and friend.  I have found him to be easy to discuss concepts with and the magic in cyberspace he has worked should make your visits enjoyable.

Let us know of any problem, difficulty or enjoyable clicks while on the site, so we can improve it.  

At Home by Jim Lilly

Enough of the thank yous,  ENJOY and come back soon.   Susan and Jim