My roots in Girl Scouting guides choices even in this decade of my life. Using scraps from another maker helps them clear space, lower my expenses and increases a supply of materials but especially helps the earth … limiting landfill growth. We recycled in the 1960’s now it is called up-cycling and the Girl Scout motto includes “Make new friends and keep the old”, I definitely have expanded the artist network with this quest.
Wendy Clark is a fiber artist, weaving her hand-dyed threads/yarns into scarves, shawls and baby wraps through her company Wenweave in the mountains of West Virginia. She collects thrums (warp threads tied off between pieces) for me into garbage sized bags and then we meet up for the exchange. I get her “rats nest“ and we some inspiring conversation. One visit the talking lead to collaborating on a project. Hours after I have organized the threads they are ready to be hooked and embroidered into what I call my Thread Collection. Here are a couple from that series, the full collection will be available at Beckley Art Center during my exhibit April 17- May 23.
In future workshops bundles of these colorful threads will be shared with students and go out in the world of creatives spreading our mutual friendship and love for sharing. I send off the snippets from my work to a spinner who incorporates them into colorful yarn. Zero Waste!
Part 4 of 4: Have the urge to learn more and stay in touch with creatives? Cyberspace is another tool to add to the hook, needle, and fibers in our supply box. We just need to learn how to use it. Meet some admins of social media groups; trusted personalities with podcasts, internet camps, and blogs; and artist pages to learn their stories. Hope this will broaden your journey, see you along the way or here next year on IRHD-Dec 4, 2020.
Social media can be a time suck, emotional roller coaster or introduce you to new friends and a big library. When Lucy Richard in New Brunswick decided to set up The Wooly Mason Jar Rughooking group on Facebook she thought “I chose to put myself in the shoes of a new hooker when I began it. I wanted a safe place to come for advice and words of encouragement and a sense of community.” This group talks about the colourful wools that come out of their dyepots using the Wooly Mason Jar recipes. Martina Lesar saw a need for a group free of advertising, and focusing on Contemporary Rug Hooking. The description begins “This group was formed to encourage and inspire contemporary styles even traditional patterns that have been reworked with a contemporary twist or colour plan.” Her studio in Ontario is open for patterns, wool and supplies in person and on-line. Lori Brechlin of Notforgotten Farm in Virginia administers a private group called The Out of Hand Rug Hookers “our mission here is to share, educate and encourage…please post often about your projects-in-progress and your love for rug hooking & rug punching.” Loretta Scena in New York created a great service with Rug Hooking Camps, Shows, Workshops and Classes. Visit this to find exhibits, and learning opportunities. These are four of the dozens groups you can search out and join.
Working with our hands leaves less time to type on keyboards, or read a book but podcasts and videos are good company in our studios. Gene Shepherd from California knows how to teach with videos. His beginning loop pulling video has given people in Australia, England and North America the confidence to build a stash of fabric and make rugs. The website GeneShepherd.com shows his store of patterns and supplies, workshops, and a subscription Internet Rug Camp where over 75 videos and daily blog posts are archived for members. Deanne Fitzpatrick from her Amherst, Nova Scotia studio has encouraged us to “Create Beauty Everyday”. Subscribe to the podcast of the same name, there will be conversations with interesting fiber artists. She has a way of chatting on videos on YouTube as Deanne Fitzpatrickand blogs as if you are right there pulling loops together. Groups make travel plans to Canada for themed workshops, or some tea, scones and conversation while shopping and online at HookingRugs.com And there is a FB group too – Wild with Wool. Rug Hooking Magazine shares several live stream sessions from their FB page including a series by Lisanne Miller of W. Cushing & Co in Maine. Global Textile Hub in Australia is creating videos, webinars and virtual on-line fiber art exhibits. These productions can be found on Kira Mead’s YouTube channel.
Finally, meet some of my fiber friends. Check their calendars to see work in person. The21Collective is seven artists sharing experiences with each other in retreats and speaking louder together. We are currently on FB and Instagram as The21Collective with a website to be launched in early 2020. The page gives links to each website and our artist statements. Liz Alpert Fay lives in Connecticut exhibiting mixed media work worldwide and sending a newsletter quarterly on LizAlpertFay.com . Michelle Sirois Silver‘s studio is in Vancouver, BC, Canada where she consciously works with recycled materials in consideration of the environment. Her gallery on the website MichelleSiroisSilver.com is filled with energy and variety. You might be lucky to get into a workshop or lecture sometime.
It is almost Dec 5 and I could go on and on suggesting connections for you but let me leave saying if you have been inspired to pull a loop and slow down to repeat, repeat until magic appears I have achieved my goal : TO GET YOU HOOKED ! Stay in touch through ArtWools.com/contact and say hello when we meet in person at a show.
Traveling chronologically, Australia will bring in the day with end of year celebrations in New South Wales and Queensland, three time zones later in Western Australia. Follow these groups in 2020 by signing up on the Australian Rugmakers Guild’s blog. Then Japan and on to Abu Dhabi where Ti Seymour and the UAE Rugmakers are demonstrating punch and hooking at Costa Coffee Al Muneera Island. Håkon Grøn Hensvold, is in Skreia, Norway. His work is included in Rug Hooking Magazine and several books. The UK groups gather in London, the Yorkshires, Penzance and many villages in Great Britain, Scotland and Wales.
Crossing the “pond” all of the Canadian provinces will have events. As we noted in a previous post, Newfoundland and Labrador have a long history of mat making. This is also the host region for TIGHR through 2021. In Nova Scotia and New Brunswick the many rug hooking businesses will be open for drop-ins. Lucy Richard told me she is going to visit Della Ackles Rug Hooking in Amherst for the first time. And looks forward to the colourful creativity at Deanne Fitzpatrick’s Studio on Church Street in Amherst. Richard has created a dyeing system with extensive formulas after a simple set-up called The Wooly Mason Jar. (I will mention another service of Lucy in part 4.) Carol Harvey-Clark, a founding member of TIGHR, has a shop listed as an EcoMuseum in Mahone Bay called Spruce Top Rug Hooking Studio. Christine Little’s Encompassing Designs is also in Mahone Bay, filled with rug patterns, beautiful dyed wools, and supplies. I am going to mention one more shop but you would be best planning a week or more exploring these provinces for rug making beauty. Jan Steele operates River House Rug Hooking Studio in Petite Rivière Bridge (just have to visit to see the village). A community project to experience is in the Eglise Historique de Barachois, New Brunswick where 200 hooked cushions were contributed from across Canada and abroad.
Quebec and Ontario chapters are part of the Ontario Hooking Craft Guild. On the 4th, Beaconsfield Hooking Crafters Guild and Marlintown Wild & Woolly Rug Hookers join together for their annual celebration in Williamstown, ON. Martina Lesar hosts a hook-in for the public in Brampton, ON. And with dozens of chapters around the province of Ontario I am sure there are other meetings. Crossing west through Canada there are many groups, with a concentration in British Columbia around Vancouver and Victoria.
Check out the events and advertisers at RugHookingMagazine.com if you are traveling. Or better yet subscribe to the only magazine dedicated to the range of techniques, styles and regions of the craft/art in 2019.
Tomorrow – December 4 will be the final post of this overview. Introducing readers to some of the networkers and the artists using these techniques in their unique styles.
Part 2: Dec. 4 is celebrated globally to share the friendship, and publicize how contemporary rug makers use traditional tools and methods.
Over decades the economics of communities has benefited from rughooking. In the first half of the 20th Century Dr. Wilfred Grenfell established a cottage industry in Newfoundland and Labrador producing hooked mats using silk stockings donated by socialites along the East Coast of the US. He was a doctor providing health services by boat to the provincial communities and saw the technique of mat making – encouraging designs of polar bears, fishing and local living. Today the mats are treasured, valuable and documented by author Paula Laverty in Silk Stocking Mats. In Cape Breton, during the same time frame, American, Lillian Burke is credited with refining the Cheticamp rug tradition and showcasing it to the world, when she began designing rugs made with wool rather than rags and commissioning Cheticamp women to produce them in the 1920s. Burke, who had first come to Cape Breton while working as a tutor for the grandchildren of Alexander Graham Bell, then sold the rugs to an eager American market. (excerpt from post about contemporary rug maker Yvette Muise) There is a book about Burke and this community: The Story of Lillian Burke, Dr. Edward Langille. Throughout the US cottage industries also supported regions during the depression years.
Today Guatemalans interpret their regional motifs into hooked rug designs sold as the Multicolores Collective, through Cultural Cloth, the Wisconsin coordinator. With Cultural Cloth, fiber artists can take a tour to work alongside the Mayans in their villages designing, sourcing materials and making their own rug. The book Rug Money by Mary Anne Wise and Cheryl Conway-Daly describes the development of the program and rewarding self-esteem benefits. On the African continent in Gambia, since 2007, Rug Aid empowers visually impaired students to make hooked mats which are sold to fund the project organized by Heather Ritchie from the UK.
Many rug hooking groups meet regularly in public spaces inviting people to watch, and join in the work. In Western Australia the Wannaroo Rug Makers meet in the city library every Saturday morning over the past 10 years. There is a community rug on a frame each year. These have been donated to the children’s section of the library, and installed in other government buildings. Rug hooking has been recognized as a category in craft fairs and exhibited in other states. Groups in Queensland, New South Wales, South Australia and even Tasmania share the rugmaking traditions brought to Australia by immigrants from Canada, the US and UK. Wool is not easily available or any of the materials treasured by those countries so the innovative Australians source materials and tools to make unique work.
2019 has been a year of anniversaries in the world of rug making – hooking, punching, prodding, braiding, even felting, the techniques practiced for centuries in homes to warm floors, beds, walls and tabletops. Simple tools, treasured fibers, and time was all that was needed to produce the protection. Yet based on the skills of the makers it became decorative art. As the 20th century aged “store bought” goods replaced ‘home made” and the traditions faded.
On December 4, 1994 eighteen people from several countries formed The International Guild of Handhooking Rugmakers -TIGHR, at the end of their conference in Ruislip, UK. Their mission was declared to spread friendships sharing the variety of rugmaking techniques enjoyed around the world, connecting members via hand typed newsletters and holding a general meeting every three years. Fast forward 25 years, TIGHR has met in 8 different countries and broadcasts news, videos and exhibits via the internet to millions – Happy Anniversaries to these groups and thank you to the many volunteers over the decades promoting the skills and social benefits.
Besides landmark anniversaries other long term groups include the annual conference of Ontario Hook Crafters Guild in different locations around the province for 53 years. The National Guild of Pearl K. McGown Hookrafters continues the teaching program begun in 1951. In Japan several teachers exhibit student work in department store galleries. Sauder Village in Archbold, OH is the mecca annually for a week of workshops, shopping, exhibits and networking during mid August at Rug Hooking Week, the 24th will be August 10-15, 2020.
And a big thank you to Ampry Publishing who continues the legacy of Joan Moshimer’s News and Views from 1972 now, since 1989 Rug Hooking Magazine, celebrating their 30th anniversary this year. The only magazine dedicated to all forms of rug hooking – traditional, folk art, realistic, contemporary for the floors to the walls.
There have been Marches for …..media coverage under the banner BREAKING NEWS … and social media memes for and against every step leaders make these days. The constant onslaught on established programs is exhausting and many, myself included, have emotional burn out. Yet we can not stand by watching others march, protest, advocate, use their skills to speak out. Instead many have used traditional handcrafts to create visual messages. My reason is by threading a needle and making stitches, or pulling a loop of fabric repetitively I am channeling my thoughts and concerns, slowing down from the angst created by the first alarm and making a lasting visual to be shared in exhibits and online. This action is followed by many and even has a term “craftivism” – Interpretive activism using slow hand crafts. This is not new, think Betsy Ross stitching a flag, Colonial women weaving their cloth in place of purchasing from England, quilts made with symbolic motifs and fashions worn by the Suffragettes. The massive AIDS quilt project is 30 years old and recently the pink hats made and worn on the Women’s March in 2017.
Here are three fiber artists who have chosen issues to spend time with. Polly Webber, retired immigration judge from California created a series of hooked rugs portraying immigrant’s struggles. “Refugee Dilemma,” uses multiple rugs to tell a story about people fleeing from persecution to a safe haven. Indeed, it is a tribute to the thousands of people who seek refuge from their places of origin annually all over the world.
Polly’s website is PollyWebber.com and the scarf, tie along with male and female styled t-shirts are described and available for purchase.
India Tresselt lives in Vermont working with needle and thread on issues of mindfulness, thoughtfulness and peace. Her website is YarnDanceVt.com and she has an active presence online in a variety of social outlets. Parallel to an ongoing resistance project since the US inauguration daily stitching “THIS IS NOT NORMAL” , she purposefully set out to make art weekly about PEACE.
India says she wanted to structure her pieces around a governing theme, and so she decided to stitch 52 small meditations on peace. Peace can be global, local, and personal. She is exploring each of these kinds of peace in the 52 meditations.
I too have found the need to speak out on equality, human impact on the environment and the plight of refugees worldwide. A gallery of my work in this category can be found at ArtWools.com/gallery in Currrent Events and Human Impact.
Working with a needle and thread or hook and strips of fabric hour after hour my mind reflects on the subject, at the end I have a “voice”. The featured artists are only a handful of makers around the world currently creating statements with our fiber arts. Suggested sites to investigate are 25millionStitches.com, Craftist-Collective.com, CulturalCloth.com and the book Rug Money describing the economic empowerment rughooking has made in Guatemala.
The blog post One then Two lead to a feature article in the November/December 2019 issue of Rug Hooking Magazine. Seven pages with images of materials and construction steps for the individual pieces informs the niche audience. Since writing the article several more works are finished.
We left off the post with Forest Floor’s pattern, here is the completed runner in its environment and a detail showing the braided branch and pattern sketching.
In the Trees in our Forest series the article mentions smaller versions using mixed media. Two were completed, each 16 x 12. One, studying the shapes and values, incorporates upholstery fabric samples and paint on the linen. The other uses embroidered stitches defining the leaves on ground and sky with outline stitch for the trees. These will be framed and the full collection exhibited together at the Beckley Art Center , Beckley, WV opening April 17- May 22. I will be working over the winter months to organize the exhibit. A workshop is being planned introducing people to the fun of rug hooking and fiber arts.
Remember returning to school and the first writing assignment in English class was “What I did over summer break”? Now in my adult career the academic calendar runs in short sessions and I get to travel. This summer included team teaching Geometrics and Graffiti in Montpelier, VT; representing an international online webinar from Australia while I was in Archbold, OH twelve hours earlier; recording video and audio interviews with fiber artists, and teaching to see while sailing on a windjammer on the Penobscot Bay out of Maine.
Geometrics and Graffiti combined in one hooked piece? Stephanie Allen-Krauss and I developed the class similar to how a hooked pattern would be analyzed: motifs and surface. Graffiti are painted on walls, sidings, pavements all of which have textures and geometric patterns. The graffiti designs were created – personal tags or messages. Students gridded the shapes which would enhance their message, deciding on colors, values and direction of hooking. Each personality came through in their work at Green Mountain Hooked Rugs School in Montpelier, VT.
During the 23rd Annual Rug Hooking Week at Sauder Village, Archbold, OH I was asked to represent the Global Textile Hub, a new online project lead by three Australian rugmakers. During the preview night attendees in Sauder were patched into the live webinar during the Q and A session. For all who missed the event (with global participants) it has been archived along with an advance video of interviews at YouTube Kira Mead. Subscribe to her channel for upcoming projects. Throughout the week we collected answers – why do you hook or work with your hands? how many workshops or events do you attend annually? where do you work?, is this a hobby, social enjoyment, therapy, profession? Share some of these with us below in the comments.
Thanks to Beth Miller and Ellen Marshall of 207 Creatives for the most unique workshop site: the 92 year old J&E Riggin windjammer sailing from Rockland, Maine! Before we boarded students worried about their “drawing” skills, it takes repeating to learn. What “pattern” will we be working on? – their own after they find it, draw and then transfer to linen. Will there be wool for every design? YES but not loads. Through the four day trip the anxiousness dropped away, we learned to look closely to develop lines, shapes and values with colors, textures to portray movement, strength, and overall memories all senses experienced.
Now back in the studio I got back to pulling loops myself. The final rug in Trees Series is evolving. Using my Instagram thread and ArtWools facebook page the process is being documented. Studio time has resulted in work to send out for shows.
Submissions are out for several shows. This Spring four were included in the WV Invitational at Juliet Art Museum in the Clay Center, Charleston, WV. Opening November 17 through Feb 18, 2020 two pieces were accepted in the 2019 WV Juried Biannual, sponsored by the Dept of Arts, Culture and History in Charleston, WV. They are Seneca Rocks #3 and Pussycats Pillow Talk #1
Over the past year my focus in design has been on how to develop the full story. Often, specifically in rug hooking, the motifs receive the attention: selecting colors, values, materials, and even techniques. When they are complete “we” fill in the rest with a quick selection of color and value. Evolving from this patternmaking routine has been conscious, deliberate and rewarding as I devote time and energy beyond a designer to being an artist/craftsperson.
The series ‘Leaves’ used full sized templates of one natural object to draw the audience’s attention. My effort was to create a changing and interesting environment –
Chestnut Leaves in grass
grass with evening shadows;
Virginia Creeper and sky
the blue sky poking out of foliage;
Maple Leaves on quilt
a neutral space harkening to another traditional craft, quilting
Trees in our Woods
Satisfied with this exploration I approached a large piece with the same attention. The viewer will be drawn in because of scale (74 x 36), arrangement with the central motif reaching beyond the edges, and presentation (the fiber work is stretched like a work on canvas and hangs on the wall about 2 feet off the floor). The texture of each tree is laboriously portrayed depicting different species by selecting tweeds, herringbones, overdyed wools of varying widths in cuts moving them into bark and shadow shapes. The distant sky is a crisp early spring blue completing the depth. I decided to hand stitch the wool fabric to the backing rather than distract the calmness with a multitude of hooked loops. The forest floor is the anchoring element and the lessons I learned in the Leaves Series were put to test – with enthusiasm and success.
Color in our Trees
Nature out of the way, the second version of the same design is half the size, colorful, and linear trunks with value changes to reflect bark.
Shadows of the Forest
There are two more versions in the works, each smaller by half. One will be fully embroidered and the other worked in collage and embroidery. To finish my exploration I have sketched out just the floor of the forest. This piece will be a runner for the table or floor, taking the viewer to the actual space it depicts.
What fun to stay with a challenge, develop a design that can be explored and tell the story of our natural beauty – the forest.
I talk about the Girl Scouting and handwork skills learned while growing up, the BA in Art and History with photography as my creative medium but until Lillian Vale gave me a 15 minute lesson on how to pull loops I was not confident to proclaim: I am an artist. That session was on January 1, 1994, and rug hooking has lead to an amazing journey over 25 years.
This frame supported hundreds of projects until 2008 when I upgraded to a floor model. I had to pin the backing taught, pulling the push pins out when I needed to move to another part. The first top wore out and Jim made a second one! I logged every project on the wooden base listing size, start, finish, title and if sold to whom.
the Spinner, Susan Feller
We do not have many places to store items, but the Pig rug is missing and 1994 was before digital photos. It was a large rounded pig line drawing (no “designer’s name). He was in the center of backing with no other details. However the second rug was my own design – the Spinner. A dream of what we would do when getting into our log cabin. The inspiration was Moravian Pottery mosaics. And rug hooking line drawings lead me to studying fraktur motifs, geometrics, nature and finally the confidence to “paint with wool” as an artist.
Flash through the years, 200 rug patterns, dye recipes, a Design in a Box filled with fraktur templates all as Ruckman Mill Farm are now distributed by Green Mountain Hooked Rugs. I served on boards of national and international rug hooking organizations, vended throughout the US and Canada, wrote a book about Design, sold hundreds of rugs, and exhibited in fine art collections. For the past five years, under a new company ArtWools, I have taught design to fiber artists, advocated for the arts in WV and work in my studio. The best of this journey is my confidence to say I AM AN ARTIST and the many friends I have met along the way.