Opening on July 12, in Harrisonburg, VA this exhibit will feature seven international artists. Meet the makers this month on the post below.
Months in the Planning on SusanFeller.com
Opening on July 12, in Harrisonburg, VA this exhibit will feature seven international artists. Meet the makers this month on the post below.
Months in the Planning on SusanFeller.com
exerpt from full plenary presentation March 18, 2022 at the 45th Appalachian Studies Association conference, WVU in Morgantown, WV. Theme of the event was Making, Creating, and Encoding: Crafting Possibilities in Appalachia. Delivered by Convenor and panelist Susan Feller, fiber artist, craftivist,
“Our thanks to Natalie Sypolt for the topic, Emily Hilliard who suggested the panelists, and Beth Nardella lining up the tech. The panelists besides myself are Dr. Dolores Johnson, fiber artist and advocate from Huntington; WV, Shaun Slifer, JustSeeds.org, author, printmaker; and Kay Ferguson from ARTivisim Virginia talking about the Water Quilts community activist project.
Craftivisim was coined in the 21st Century.* It combines craft – using one’s hands and simple tools to create useful objects, usually done at home ALONE and activism – policy or action of vigorous campaigning to bring about political or social change. This relies on MANY TOGETHER.
Today we will present examples where artists working in their studios and at home contribute to change in the societal issues of the time. (Included in this posting)
How a craft brings makers together in a community adding independent work to become a louder voice.
And how an organization can be formed around an issue encouraging arts and activists from the start. (panelists described the theme’s work in their community, cooperative and organization. Reports from each panelist was submitted separately to be archived at Appalachian Studies Association, 2022 Conference).
It is important to find a project within an organization for people willing to create messages using domestic crafts. Many are unable to publicly resist but eager to contribute. They become part of the broader grass roots network necessary for an issue to take hold. Remember the simple knitted rectangle sewn up the sides into a pink hat just five years ago. They were contributed by thousands who watched from home during the Women’s Marches.
Carving, drawing, stitching, pulling loops EMPOWERS the maker. One line or stitch becomes two, over time thousands and a visual message for researchers decades later.
I represent those makers. My practice is solitary combining the slow traditional handicrafts of rug hooking, embroidery and applique’ to depict human interaction with nature and document my observations on social issues. The tools I use are simple. Needle, threads, hook and strips of fabric. I am drawn to sewing and rug hooking because of the comforting feel of fabric and seeing each loop or stitch adding to my message. Repetition becomes meditative, even cathartic. I approach a design with an idea, an image I photographed or sketched, phrases, the subject or even the view as I travel West Virginia.
2020 Journal took two months to complete. The process was and is therapeutic. Spending time with issues and thinking through color, techniques and materials begins to separate me from my thoughts and emotions. I know my work will be seen by others today and decades later inspiring awareness and conversations.
How human impact affects the natural beauty of Appalachia is a thread throughout my work. There are series about the pipelines cutting straight through forests and fields trying to cross waterways. The protests every step of the way are holding the companies back hopefully blocking this extraction of a limited resource being exported again out of state.
Mountaintop removal has blasted the peaks of over 500 mountains in West Virginia alone to extract what is left of the coal in our state. The process destroys habitats, poisons and reroutes waters, pollutes the air and produces sludge ponds filled with heavy metals all while people live, work and go to school in the valleys. Please consider where the energy is coming from in your daily life.
Iconic triptych spans a century of women’s rights leading to 2016 issue of voting rights for all. The neutral coloring representing 1920 and the ratification of the 19th Amendment adds to the history. By 1973 and the ERA passing from Congress for the states to ratify (still not 50 years later) I used my own Girl Scout badges and a rainbow of colors to portray my youthful outlook on the future. The VOTE palette proudly signals the USA. Names of women I voted for are embroidered around the red, white and blue crocheted doily.
I began a series titled Pussycat Pillow Talk with hooked images on the front and embroidered messages on the reverse. Themes have been #metoo movement, persistence, gender equality, climate change, Love, and whatever other social issue can be summed up in a few words. The collection is growing.
By taking hooked rugs off the floor and presenting them as art my work has been accepted in exhibitions and become ambassadors for traditional handicrafts speaking about society in the 21st century. Developing a strong social media presence brings awareness, uniting others.
I can join in the worldwide protests from the solitude of my studio in rural West Virginia.”
I serve on the board of Tamarack Foundation for the ARTS whose mission is to empower artists with business skills and marketing opportunities. We believe their art and economic contributions will help grow the local communities. The organization and several artists exhibited during the conference.
Domenica Zara Queen believes plastic is the 21st Century’s heritage fabric embracing the waste product in her traditional handicraft collection of rugs, mats, plates and vessels.
Robby Moore lives in Beckley, WV and is “inspired by the abstraction of shape, ephemera, tradition and mores; especially those steeped in Appalachia. He tries to express, through his figures, the sadness and confidence that comes from deep thoughtfulness.”
Suzan Ann Morgan is from Buckhannon, WV. She says “my artworks are the result of the examination of my own, often tentative, beliefs. During their creation I am afforded the time to reflect upon my beliefs, note their contradictions, and make manifest their essence. In the end, each piece presents one facet of my truth extending a hand to the viewer hoping to find common ground and a starting place for future conversations.”
We are makers working in our studios but responding to life as we observe it, fitting the definition of CRAFTIVISM.
delivered by Susan L Feller.
*further research Crafting Dissent, Handicraft as protest from the American Revolution to the Pussyhats, edited by Hinda Mandell, publisher Rowman & Littlefield.
I constantly write quotes and important dates on scraps of paper because I like history. In 2020 they piled up and haunted me. All the noise coming through radio, media outlets and rattling around my head had to be organized, edited and preserved through art = my personal story. Via zoom I talked with many other textile artists who had spent their hours pulling loops and stitching work that would last beyond these days. They were my inspiration and helped in finding my own voice.
How would I start? By July 2020 I was removed enough from the well planned life of Jan/Feb and the abrupt change when covid-19 entered my world to start composing. What size linen should I cut off the bolt? I decided on the full width and ended up with a runner 54 x 24. I could dedicate 9″ to each of the six months. One decision made. Here are the rest which evolved as I worked.
The first panel came together over the months of July and August. I hooked away listening to the Conventions, jotting down more quotes as the loops filled in the spaces. I thought the second composition would continue right away but found I had to put it aside until March of 2021. With distance it flowed easily, after a few adjustments the second six months panel was completed in just 28 days. I did not compare them except for the checklist of designing. The border uses the same rainbow fabric from Dorr Mill and two rows of black fabric (although slightly different) ties them together along with the monthly change in values and visual pattern. These must be seen to appreciate the multiple stories and techniques. Their first exhibit was an invitational “Social Studies” at Beckley Art Center, Beckley, WV May 14 – June 19, 2021. Here are some detail images.
The Journal is published online in an article by Emily Hilliard, WV Humanities Council ‘West Virginians’ Creative Responses to COVID-19: A Digital Exhibit’ and in the Fall issue of Goldenseal Magazine.
It was selected for the WV Juried Biennial Exhibition Nov. 2021-Feb 2022 by the WV Dept. Culture, Art and History, Culture Center, Charleston, WV
The gallery Lost River Trading Post is in Wardensville, WV. Visitors to West Virginia from the east enter the town having traveled along the paved highways and country roads following paths over the mountains which were carved out by native cultures centuries before our cars. It is a town that reflects its past heritage and is filled with small commerce for today’s lifestyles. Our paintings and fiber drawings depict the mountain layers evoking the surrounding natural beauty in the exhibit NEAR AND FAR. Visit until January 4, 2021 to see and select some of the artwork for your own home.
Abbie Chessler and Susan Feller’s work in this exhibit is a bringing together of expressions of far mountain vistas and the intimacy of the forest when it surrounds you. Susan and Abbie look to the natural world around them for inspiration. This emotional connection to the forest and mountains is reflected in their use of color and form. It is the thread that makes their work seem as if it belongs together.
Abbie describes her process “I continue to be inspired to paint the far mountain views. The light, the sky, the colors are always changing. My creative process is very much a meditative practice. I stop to breathe and remain in the present moment as I am working. Each painting emerges as I layer the colors, looking out of my studio window for inspiration.
I hope my calm mind is transmitted to the viewer and that my paintings provide an invitation to appreciate and protect our earth”. Visit abbiechessler.com or @archessler on Instagram
Susan states “The message in all my work is to consider human impact on nature. Are the trees, coal and even hay, resources for us to exhaust or materials to carefully harvest? Makers for generations used traditional hand work skills (embroidery, applique’ and rug hooking) to create utilitarian objects. They left their unique voice in the designs and often spoke of their social environment. I am carrying on that legacy, hoping others will join me on this journey”. Visit ArtWools.com to explore, react and connect
These two images show just how similar our design sense is – it boils down to seeing shapes and lines.
Handcraft skills through the centuries have been an essential part of domestic living. Fibers harvested, spun, woven and made into warm clothing eventually became scraps for the hook or needle to re-connect into decorative household goods. Who were the makers and their stories? So many unknown by name but personable in designs.
Today with the digital age, creatives share process images under their profiles, showing the spaces they work, materials collected, and especially tools and techniques. Researchers 50 years from now will thank us all for including these details. (Believe me from past experience trying to learn about the McDonald sisters and their work practices.). Search contemporary rug hooking, fiber arts, hooked art.
Over the past several months I have “met” many contemporaries via a network of fiber organizations and professionals. On this International Rug Hooking Day, December 4, here are a few.
Karen D. Miller Studio from Ottawa, ON Canada . Karen is an author, fibre artist, instructor and mother – click for the collection Motherhood. She is coordinating a series of fibre artists lecturing In the Studio you can find these events on her website KarenDMiller.com . Past visits have introduced us to Larry Weyand from Newfoundland, Nadine Flagel from Vancouver, BC, Patti Mullins Colen from London, ON among many others. Coming up next is Tracy Jamar, NYC on Jan 13, 2021.
I have curated some of these into a collection of hooked art from a series of zoom conversations with creatives who responded to socio political events for a future post. The book Crafting Dissent is a chronicle of historical essays describing craft used in protest. It mentions most of these calls have been picked up by younger makers which lead me to the research of rug hookers responding. In our 50’s and above, with time but not necessarily mobility to actively protest, we instead use loop pulling to process our anger, document events and leave visual statements for generations to come.
I met three generations who processed Black Lives Matter – Sharon Townsend, Suzanne Cantrell and Maggie Crabb.
Liz Marino has completed several from her fingerprint created as a portrait, suffrage anniversary, BLM and Covid.
Men and women pulled loops in simple geometrics selecting reds to depict the virus, or multi colors haphazardly chosen from the scraps just to be making something during the long hours of lockdown. Our conversations connected us because of the art.
Social media groups are the networking support for established makers and those coming to our crafts because of extra time. Rug Hooking Magazine uses their facebook page for informative events. In lieu of the annual Rug Hooking week at Sauder Village where finalists in Celebrations are exhibited, two webinars provided a gallery talk I lead with judges and personal interviews of many winners conducted by Gene Shephard. These can be viewed by clicking each highlighted link.
We all look toward 2021 and beyond for the opportunities to once again see fiber art in person throughout the world in local communities and museum venues. Normal is a frame of mind and the lessons learned from slowing down this year have been poured into our hooked, punched, prodded and sculpted fiber art. We will continue to virtually share the 19th C crafts using our new 21st C tech skills .
See you in a zoom meeting, at a virtual opening, chatting in a common social group or across a room at the next show. Until then stay safe, healthy and especially CREATING.
Challenging self is part of living. As the restrictions to travel developed in 2020 I took some time to evaluate my dreams. Hiking the full 2,190 miles of the Appalachian Trail topped the list. Time to observe nature, leave external voices behind, reflect and connect with self were elements the journey would offer. But for me I admitted thru hiking would not happen. In 2020, the pandemic closed the system to many others who hoped to set out. I made my own trail.
I had wanted to connect the traditional random woven rag rugs we had from family members with rug hooking in a design and found a long narrow map of the Appalachian Trail which fit this concept. Two runners of linen each 59″ x 19″ were marked with the trail blazes, major river paths, and geographical sections. I pulled wools from inventory and sorted them into seasonal colored piles to become strips ready for the hook and finally 107,616 loops.
Over the next two months I hooked away in the studio, daily posting progress shots on my Instagram page ArtWools, Susan L Feller. The encouragement from followers included stories of their own experiences with the trail. Some lived close by. As I got to that spot I thought about them, even inserting a favorite color. As the seasons changed from cool colorful spring into warmer summer I switched piles of wool intermingling the colors as I imagined would be happening in the higher elevations and warmer valleys.
The typical 6 month journey on foot may have not been physically experienced but I have a visual personal reminder. The two rugs look complete individually and can join together seamlessly. They even look interesting side by side which has lead me to think of a seasonal rug perhaps 36 x 60. In the exhibit ‘Journeys’ at Beckley Art Center, the label reads commission work would be entertained. The New River would be an interesting subject exploring one season for each panel (smaller than the runners though). Endless ideas and still lots of time in the studio.
Installed as part of exhibit at Lost River Trading Post in Wardensville, the two together step up the wall as I had envisioned. Or they can be enjoyed walking along a hallway.
The runners were displayed at Sauder Village during the 25th Rug Hooking Week in August. The Wisconsin Museum of Quilt and Fiber Arts have selected them as part of the first exhibit solely featuring rug hooking “Hooked by Design” Dec 9 – February 20, 2022. A catalog will accompany this show.
A photo came on my screen and I thought…that would be interesting to interpret with my techniques. I reached out to West Virginia potter and Tamarack Foundation For the Arts Fellow Hannah Lenhart for permission. Her response was “I was flattered and very excited! The original image happened because I was sanding and washing pots and setting them out to dry. I found all the “butts” super pretty so I arranged them for a photo. It’s cool knowing that someone else found the image as interesting as I did.” (Hannah and I have both received fellowship grants from TFA, she in 2018 as an Emerging Artist and I as a Master in 2013).
One of her vases became the “pattern” for 4″ circular shapes on graph paper to space them in ordered randomness. When I drew out with pencil, sharpened the lines with magic marker it was ready to use the lightbox and transfer to linen backing as a 24 x 20 design. THEN bags of wools came out, organized in color families with patterns and solids abounding to cut into strips. The variety of black and white squiggles and lines Hannah incorporates in her work were fun to interpret with high contrasting tweeds, plaids and checks. To get the color playing with black I used a technique called “beading” where two high contrasting strips of wool travel along, each contributing a loop in an alternating fashion.
I looked back at the image only once for a reminder on how the bottoms (butts) were decorated. Each has the signature HL and often a pattern of lines with the coloring of the mug evident. How was I going to make my circles unique? Of course my upholstery samples pile served up a wonderful variety to be cut and applique’d. Most were embroidered using Wendy Clark’s thrums to attach the piece with abstract lines enhancing the fabric’s design.
Isolation and time to “visit” the internet has lead to many advertisements being deleted but one came along just at the right time from Renaissance Ribbons. I found a ribbon with squares that could be used as a border and ordered it right away. After stitching the finished work to black cotton and folding the edge as a plain border the ribbon was added and definitely pulled the piece together.
When I sent this photo to Hannah she replied “Audible gasp! (haha). I’m a lover of color and pattern and I love how you played around so much with both! Also there is so much detail. This piece must have taken so many hours! A labor of love, much like ceramics. “ It has been fun knowing I was creating work imagined by someone else yet ending up with a unique signature piece. Here are our monograms in the rug.
The last step will be to see this with some of Hannah’s mugs set on top. When we can get together again that image will happen. It has been interesting collaborating by internet, glad we each have also met in person. Check out Hannah’sClayCreations.com and enjoy a cup of joy with us.
If you are interested in collaborating consider GlobalTextileHub.com and their next exhibition Collaborate/Re-Imagine Call for Entry, one artist needs to work with fibers the other any media…. commitment due Sept 30 and work submitted online by April of 2021. Virtual exhibit premiers in August 2021. See the prospectus here
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 Fitzpatrick and 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 soon. 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.
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.
International Rug Hooking Day exposes us all to the wide range of textures we create pulling, prodding, punching and braiding. Check out the facebook event Rug Hooking Magazine has created and look at the posts under discussion.
Part 1 leading up to Dec 4: the organizations
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.
Thankfully regions continued making and began to meet sharing the skills, educating young and exhibiting. Celebrating 40 years in 2019 is ATHA, the Association of Traditional Hooking Artists with membership at-large or in chapters, a general meeting bi-annually hosted by a region in North America, and regular newsletters. The youngest group is the Australian Rugmakers Guild, celebrating their 10th anniversary . Out of necessity they have used the internet since the beginning to network groups, exhibits and conferences across the South Pacific. . The Rug Hooking Guild of Nova Scotia also formed 40 years ago in 1979 to educate and preserve the craft and has branches in all parts of the Maritimes. 25 years ago the Rug Hooking Guild of Newfoundland and Labrador officially formed. The organization has funded and conducted an on-going rug registry totaling more than 1000 mats and their stories.
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.