Category Archives: hooked rug workshop

Teaching is Inspiring

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.

Graffiti and Geometrics student work in progress

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.

Webinar launch and Textile artist video at Sauder Village

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 For all who missed the event (with global participants) it has been archived along with an advance video of interviews at YouTube Kira Mead.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.

Janine Broscious at her traveling RV home, one of the interviews.

I have launched on a year long project storytelling, documenting our process, researching history and networking with contemporaries. More to come on this as my learning curve gets easier to climb. In the mean time here are some people I have talked with this summer. Janine Broscious, Capri Boyle-Jones, Liz Marino, Sandra Brown, Anne Cox, Michelle Wise, and all the unique students.

Students working designs drawn while on the windjammer

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

Entries accepted in 2019 WV Juried Exhibition

Reflecting and Planning

It has been 5 years since I began the Year Study.  My goals were to explore, evaluate and exhibit the results of daily sketching and creating. I did EXPLORE with materials, techniques and composition lessons resulting in a renewed interest in hand stitching, experimenting with brushes and paints, and seeing more simply.

EVALUATING my use of time is an important element as an artist. How to continue networking in one circle while expanding into others; keeping an ear open and helping in different ways needs to be communicated by actions and in conversations. Scheduling studio time and developing themes for the upcoming exhibits rather than creating inventory has been a process. One that with the distractions of nature here in West Virginia is more enjoyable than a commercial speed on the East Coast as I age. Transferring the Ruckman Mill Farm patterns and products to a new generation at Green Mountains Hooked Rugs opened my schedule to more studio time. Now teaching is focused on design and encouragement, others provide the materials.

The EXHIBIT goal was met at Sauder Village Rug Hooking Week in 2015 when all twelve months and a collection of work were featured. Juried into and invited to show in several fine art exhibits validated the direction and I respect my peers recognition. My resume’ lists these venues with the ultimate, an Award of Excellence and purchase by the State Museum from the 20th Bi-Ennial Juried Exhibition in 2017 for Progress in the Mountains. The opportunity to curate the collection Glimpses Inside Appalachia this fall, shown at Raleigh Playhouse, Beckley, WV brought my work before a new audience and opened other exhibit venues.

My five year goal includes developing the themes I identified from the study and exhibiting each in different markets. A new decade will be on the horizon by then and more goals.

Speaking out about current events , Nature’s Beauty and Human Impact, and a Travel Series  where I am developing each sketch several times. 

Hope to meet you on our journey. Happy creating.

A morning in Lowell then on the road

Reasons to visit Lowell, MA : 1. Interested in history of industrial revolution and manufacturing impact on communities, economies.  2. Explore the roots of unions and establishment of child labor laws, realistic work hours. 3. The seeds of suffragette movement, and women’s rights. 4. Textile heritage portrayed through one of the first urban National Parks featuring the architecture, lifestyle, and today the craft at New England Quilt Museum, along with the mills in the park. 5. Today’s lively arts and cultural heritage celebrated in festivals, concerts and shops. #LikeLowell   likelowell.com/ 

Climate Change how we can help

 

The signage at the Visitors Center included a display about Climate Change.

 

 

 

The New England Quilt Museum on Shattuck Street near the Visitors Center for the park has a gift shop on the first floor and rotating exhibits on the second along with a reference library. The shows currently include collaborative work from the beginnings of Art Quilts (the early 1970’s). A collection worked by two close friends Molly Upton and Susan Hoffman which are stunning in their simplicity yet rhythmic combination of materials and shapes. Quilted Canvas II

The second exhibit Migrant Quilts of the Southern Arizona Borderlands is a series of quilts using materials found, names of lost people, and chronicling the deaths by years. (a panel for each year)

I only had a morning to spend in the city but look forward to returning with some textile friends to share the emotional experiences I had, discuss the many topics of mutual interest, and support this community.

On the road again heading north, with NO more major cities there was minimal traffic. Montpelier is my home for the upcoming week. The state capital for Vermont, with two major streets : State and Main. You can definitely “park your car” and walk around visiting shops, eating farm to table, Vietnamese, Thai, Chinese, Italian, Skinny Pancakes, at the New England Culinary School, pizza, gelato, 802 Coffee, or steak at the Capitol Plaza Hotel.

I am here for the Green Mountain Rug Hooking School (in its 37th year). There are two four day sessions lead by instructors from the US and Canada. Check out this year’s schedule and consider attending in 2019. The listing of classes will be online after this session ends.

My students in Contemporary Celtic Design explored the making of their patterns to be able to colorplan the knots, twists and turns. It is challenging and rewarding to see the lines become shapes.

The next post will drop in on more classes and aspects of the school.

 

Old and New Studies

McDonald Sisters work mid 1960’s

What a privilege I have been offered to study and mount one of the McDonald Sister’s rugs.

Linking up, through a referral from the State Museum archivist, with the owner of two pieces has lead to hearing stories of the original purchase in the late 1960’s directly from the sisters, the “home life” of these textiles in their family rooms for years and for the past two decades tucked away in guest bedrooms in their summer cottage always on the floor. Come to find out the family had relatives who knew these ladies and even photos with mutual people. All of this adds more bits to the articles and stories I have gathered in researching how the handwork was done, by whom and why techniques were used now almost fifty years after the makers have passed on.

back stitches

New questions arise by looking at the back of this rug. There is an intricate pattern of stitches outlining the motifs. That makes sense, the layers are all attached, stuffed flowers, leaves and stems embroidered with details BUT the threads on the front are colorful and those showing on the back consistently dark? And why are there tiny light blue x’s in thread detailing many large petaled flowers? Those stitches are not seen on the top at all.

layers and stitching

In one area the backing fabric has worn and we see a layer of burlap, with the same stitches covering it. Did the ladies make this repair? Did the owner? I do not think so since they have recently had some wear on the front professionally repaired by a West Virginia quilter (good work matching fabrics and threads).

The steps I go through to mount this rug so its life can continue on the wall will be documented in the next few posts. In the mean time, to catch up with who Otha and Blanche McDonald were and the textile work they created, I invite you to visit the series of pages under the tab at ArtWools.com/McDonalds  .

Research has been supported by funding through a Tamarack Foundation Fellowship award. Glenville State College research library and the archives at the State Museum in Charleston, WV have supplied me with much of the leads and photographs. Blanche graces the cover of the first issue of Hearth and Fair which has become Goldenseal Magazine.

Emily Hilliard

Recently Emily Hilliard, West Virginia’s Folklorist, visited the studio and I shared my collected knowledge on the McDonalds along with my personal journey with textile crafts. She is the first official folklorist for the state, funded in part through the National Endowment for the Arts and working at the West Virginia Humanities Council.

 

The most recent pieces I have been working on channel the sisters and the revealing techniques they used. Measuring 11 x 14 each, the same design was first hooked to look like the back of a rug.

Three McDonald mimics by Susan L Feller

The second piece is the front. Each upholstery fabric petal is stuffed with polyester filling, stitched to the linen backing and then embellished with a different embroidery stitch to make each flower unique.  I definitely felt the ladies were working alongside and perhaps Otha had some critical comments I brushed off as Blanche may have over the years together.

The third version is a rearranged collage of upholstery fabric, applique’d and embroidered onto a striped sample. The back embroidered with a quote and book title by two environmentalists: Marjory Stoneman Douglas and Rachel Carson. This adds to the series “Pillow Talk” I have been creating over the past year.

My studies throughout have been History and the Arts and this project feeds both of these curiosities. I continue to search for more work by Otha and Blanche McDonald. Perhaps you recognize their style and can lead me to a piece, please send a message.

If you are interested in working on any of these handcrafts, I am teaching Rug Hooking, Applique’ and Embroidery at Augusta Heritage Center July 22-27  and would enjoy meeting you and sharing skills.

Abstract Expression workshop

Broadway Restaurant, Grace Hartigan at Nelson-Atkins Museum, Kansas City MO

Last days of planning for Green Mountain Hooked Rugs School in Montpelier, VT took me to several museums, the most recent was Nelson-Atkins Art Museum in Kansas City, MO. Seeing work in person incorporates all your senses and emotions. To walk into a gallery and witness the curator’s selections enhanced by painted walls, lighting and spacing opens understanding and questions I want to ask of the artists. Their work speaks for them, to me and others. Conversations with fellow museum goers has expanded my appreciation and docents or labels add to the education.

Abstract Expressionists’ elements, interpreted in slow motion (the textile techniques of handwork), will be explored by students willingly reacting to music, verse, street scenes, and their own “homework” sketches. I experienced their unease while working through “Nesting Frenzy”. Illustrated are sketch #1 and mixed media versions #2 and #3. These are works in progress. Expect a final report to be published in the near future. It was an uncomfortable but rewarding experience.

catalog

Artists to explore include those in the traveling exhibit Women of Abstract Expressionism.

Grace Hartigan, Lee Krasner, Elaine de Kooning, Joan Mitchell, Perle Fine, Helen Frankenthaler, Mark Rothko, Jackson Pollock, Willem de Kooning, to begin the listing reacted to each others work, critiquing, responding to and were driven to express the environment (social and natural) around them at the time.

We continue to use our skills to exhale today’s bombardment of outside and internal influences. Our art speaks.

 

Retreating and Sharing

Redbuds welcome visitors along RT50

Mid April is a bridge time between seasons; in nature and creativity. Redbuds and woodland flowers along with hardwood trees begin to clutter up the stark winter lines and palette in the woods in West Virginia. We focus on each new color enjoying how they jump out then merge into the greenery of spring/summer. The winter studio opens up to porches and traveling.

friends

I look forward to the reunion of friends during an annual retreat. We share and recharge our creativity with critiques and lessons. The 2017 session included walks along trails; singing; yoga in our seats; moving to music; reviewing finished work and critiquing work in progress; tips to finish, embellish, dye and explore new artists; watching TED talks and video panel discussions; and sharing opinions on world issues as we celebrated 10 years.

Here is a peek into our weekend showing different styles of working and results. Visit the postings of Lori LaBerge and Karen Larsen for more insights and the previous post here Many Hands Dyeing.

At the end of a day our workspaces cast personalities as much as meeting us in person.

And our work shows the variety of interests in the group and among individuals. This was a needed refueling of friendships, skills and passions. Get out and explore with your friends.

Beth Zerweck-Tembo’s originals

Brenda Reed’s work dog design by Lennie Feenan, taught by Judy Carter and pineapples by Searsport Rugs

Debra Smith’s two toned Old Tattered Flag coverlet, and scene by Neysa Russo

Elaine Montambeau’s fine cut work top Jane Halliwell Green design, bottom, crewel, right scrolls House of Price

top Bea Brock design, bottom Keri Sue Brunk original, right Elizabeth Black

Lori LaBerge’s hooked art

Myra Davis’ work designs by Deanne Fitzpatrick, top and bottom designs by Bev Conway

Resist rugs by Karen Larsen

Shirley Hairston’s designs in foreground of the throw down on porch

 

 

Many Hands Dyeing

Terminology on labels include descriptive words which conjure up action. One we use in textiles is “hand-dyed”. Here are the visuals behind that phrase from a session lead by Nancy Parcels with wool fabric. She included several great team building exercises such as dividing us into three groups to sort the light, medium and dark values and then as we eagerly shared in the dye pot bounty.

wools drying from session by Nancy Parcels

Marrying colors in the dye pot create a palette to enhance strong colors as a background and secondary motifs. Sort and dye up a pot for your next project.

Have you been to San Francisco?

I have and the experience is inspiring. Lines, light, shapes in buildings that remind me of trees, trees with different shapes, wide roads filled with cars and narrow ones surrounded by vineyards and GREEN. It rained and nature is responding with color and profusion.

Water and travel to places means bridges. I have made it across the Golden Gate Bridge and into Wine Country. Hills that are rounded but tall, rolling hills filled with the skeletons of spring vines, a rocky coastline and broiling waves are images I can conjure up from the past few days in Sebastopol and now Walnut Creek outside of San Francisco.

I was 3000 miles from home teaching an eager group mixed media techniques to incorporate into their rughooking designs. We explored the elements and principles of design, experimented with materials and techniques and shared ways we process, design and see. Here are some works in progress. The full class of 15 promised to send photos when completed. The workshop was sponsored by the Wine Country Rug Hookers an ATHA chapter. My compliments to everyone involved in setting up my contract, travel, definitely the evening dinners and enthusiastic participants.

Inspiration explored 50 years later

Blanche McDonald, Letter Gap, WV circa 1965 with mixed media footstool

Blanche McDonald, Letter Gap, WV circa 1965 with mixed media footstool

In a five year research project gathering personal background about Otha and Blanche McDonald from Letter Gap, WV I have been inspired by their textile work. Incorporating collage, embroidery, trapunto and stitching the ladies work embodies traditions, make-do, and balanced composition = art.  This post will describe my approach to making a footstool as they did in the 1960’s.

seven cans for the base of footstool

seven cans for the base of footstool

Materials needed: seven same sized empty cans (I used one pound coffee cans)
batting used in quilting
fabric to wrap the circumference of cans assembled into circle
embroidery threads your choice of colors
variety of heavy weight fabrics or upholstery fabric sample
fabric strips to hook (usually wool but your choice)
foundation backing open weave for hooking and stitching
needles, hook, scissors
mat board cut the shape of circle (two pieces)

Tape the cans together, six around one in center. Trace this shape on paper and use as template for pattern. Draw onto backing and gather your fabrics, threads, tools. This is the time to play. The McDonald Sisters’ compositions all conjure up gardens and nature. They collaged scraps of velvet, brocades and drapery fabric common in the 1960’s in central West Virginia and any rural community in the United States. The shapes were defined with yarns unevenly anchoring the edges of each petal or stem. Some other materials used to embellish were unraveled copper threads from a Brillo pad which have tarnished over the years but still have a twinkle hint of metal.

top of footstool in private collection

top of footstool in private collection

I do not want to replicate their designs for a couple of reasons. One the copyright has not expired, the ladies passed away in 1975 and 1976. Two as an artist I prefer to react and respond. Using a supply of discontinued samples of upholstery fabric acquired from Dillon’s Furniture in Romney (eliminating their dumping them into the landfill), cutting up and rearranging the pieces into a pleasing composition then filling in the spaces with hooked wool fabric and stuffing some of the fabric shapes this footstool cover evolved.

 

Piecing three colors of wool to wrap the cans, I attached the top and put on a bottom of corduroy with mat board buffering the cans and fabric. The sides were embroidered with simple flowers.  I stuffed the two main flowers on the top but stitched the stems with embroidery threads anchoring them lower than the hooked loops.

This footstool will be part of an exhibit at Sauder Village August 17-20 focusing on Otha and Blanche McDonald’s life and their exposure to economic opportunities thanks to President Johnson signing the Economic Opportunity Act in 1964. They and many craftspeople have been honored in exhibits, purchase awards, and sales for the past fifty years.

Susan L Feller with mixed media hassock

Susan L Feller with mixed media hassock

Fifty years later another footstool and craftsman outside of her log home… me.

 

 

 

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 GreenMountainHookedRugs.com