Category Archives: hooked rugs

Mountaineers talk about Passion-Rughooking

Susan Feller and June Myles presented gallery talks at Sauder Village Rug Hooking Week. As West Virginians each appreciate the heritage involved in rughooking and have been featured in WV Living Magazine with their work.

Discussing Marion Sachs’ interpretation of David Galchutt’s art

The topic of Susan’s talk was pointing out the elements and principles of design in the winning entries for Celebrations 27, published by Rug Hooking Magazine. She has been included in three Celebration of Hand-Hooked Rugs issues and a judge, her work has been juried into several contemporary Hooked Art collections. Author of Design Basics for Rug Hookers, Stackpole Books 2011, her advice has helped many create their own “Great rug.” Involved in promoting the traditions carried on by artistic contemporaries, Susan teaches and lectures worldwide, and is a member of TIGHR, McGown and Surface Design.

 

hooked with wool fabric or yarn juried work. Celebrations 27

June on right during talk

June has been hooking since 1988. She is a graduate of Hollins University in Virginia with a degree in physics, and spent her junior year abroad at the Sorbonne in Paris. She has maintained her interest in science as well as art, serving for three decades as a docent at the American Museum of Natural History. She is the artist and author of the Men Only book and hooked rug collection. The stories June shared about how she selected a newspaper clipping saved for decades, or woodblock from children’s book as subject were encouraging to the audience as resources. She described the variety of materials and techniques used to finish the edges from old chestnut frame by a friendly carpenter to the right beads accenting an Afghanistan fellow.

Attendees said participating in the gallery talks at Sauder Village adds to the learning process for the full exhibit. We encourage you all to take advantage of a docent lead discussion on your next museum visit.

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

 

 

Finishing work 17 years later

I learned an artistic textile technique, rughooking, in 1994 and stepped into the pattern making (line drawings) by interpreting traditional folk motifs on frakturs. In other words using someone else’s visual design (centuries old and out of copyright infringement) and composing with an expected balance. I mastered skills, materials and tools and became proficient in the craft.

Adam and Eve, Susan L Feller 2000

Adam and Eve, Susan L Feller 2000

By 1999 I wanted to grow into my own style and enrolled in a workshop “Balancing Act” lead by Rae Harrell at Green Mountain Rug Hooking Guild in Shelburne, VT. With an open mind and no planning lines were directly drawn on the foundation material, my colors selected from a comfort pile and friends contributions, and I began to hook breaking “rules” I did not even know I had adhered to when I saw others using different widths of strips in one piece! The result was Adam and Eve, completed in 2000 and juried by Mary Sheppard Burton into an exhibit Hooked Art in the 21st Century at the Textile Center, Minneapolis, MN.

I have continued this journey making patterns and more regularly creating artwork depicting the natural wonder around me in West Virginia, and communicating social and economic issues. All the while a panel hung in the studio labeled “work in progress-Adam and Eve weave”.

base, woven wool from Adam and Eve, Susan L Feller 2000-2016

base, woven wool from Adam and Eve, Susan L Feller 2000-2016

I had pinned onto muslin strips of the fabrics used to hook Adam and Eve with intentions to stabilize them either subtly or with embroidery stitches and attach to the hooked piece creating a large pillow (22 x 24).  A year of exploring past and new skills (Year Study), five years researching textile craftsmen from West Virginia (McDonalds), a source for discontinued upholstery samples and a conscious pull back to slow stitching with thrums from weaver Wendy Clark I finally felt it was the right time.

I enjoy composing, selecting materials and techniques each step interacting with the others until work can begin. There is a point of frustration when an idea can not be accomplished with existing materials or skills ….. the hunt for those takes away from the creative process but is essential if the work is going to be great instead of just good. I always have too many ingredients and need to simplify too.

upholstery samples, motifs from Design in a Box-Frakturs, Susan L Feller

upholstery samples, motifs from Design in a Box-Frakturs, Susan L Feller

The two figures came out of my Design in a Box-Frakturs. Until the organic leaf with blue color upholstery was added, my design was ok but too equal in values, shapes and colors. I decided the figures did not need to have facial details for us to know who they were. By us looking at their backs and the plants layered over the bodies the title made sense. They are going into the garden where the serpent rises up on the hooked side.

The tools needed were simple: embroidery needle, threads, sharp scissors, and a few embroidery stitches from my past (satin, long and short, and back stitching) with my studio frame by Townsend Industries and Bob the supervising cat. By stretching the piece on a 14″ square frame I often used the left hand as precisely as my dominant right one. I involved people in the process using Instagram and Facebook postings (the images show my left hand holding tools often staged for the shot).

Construction problems needed to be solved: selecting and installing a zipper (pillow form needs to be pulled out for transporting shell to workshops), anchoring edge with layers of wool and muslin and eliminating bulk for pillow, hand stitching two together when one was slightly larger than the other (measured but design grew, wool is a flexible material) but it all came together on January 16, 2017.

Into the Garden, Adam and Eve

Into the Garden, Adam and Eve

The proverbial question asked of a craftsman “How long did it take you?” can be answered this time with “Seventeen years!”

 

Rights and Action

The third in my women’s issues series addresses voting rights … “Iconic VOTE”
Size (18 x 24) and some design components were established by the two previous pieces.

Selecting the materials, techniques and design elements always seem to evolve from my first concept to the completed work. And this piece definitely changed. I worked it during the upcoming election with a confidence that has been challenged since. The circle would have three smaller circles placed in a pyramid. I VOTED (sticker we got when voting); the Clinton logo in blues; and Charlotte Pritt’s West Virginia Governor race in green. The remaining circle parts would be purple with a white edge for contrast.

I thought I would depict our flag as the background: cutting up the actual blue lawn sign for Hillary and hooking it in the upper left then hand piecing red and white cotton stripes making up the rectangle. The message would be gold, embroidered on the cotton, hooked in the blue section completing the suffragette reference (white, gold and purple). It read at this point: 2016 RIGHT TO VOTE FOR ALL WOMEN. People could read this with emphasis on ALL or WOMEN and leading to different meanings.

Iconic Vote evolving

Iconic Vote evolving

November 9 arrived. I decided to throw out the large logos and change the wording to 2016 RIGHT TO VOTE FOR ANY ONE. In my quest to repurpose items in my work I recalled a patriotic crocheted doily we purchased in Shartlesville, PA years ago. It was just right, leaving an inch for an interesting edge like my other pieces. I painted the backing gold under the white star in center, then white to enhance the reds and blues with the gold again outside.

Ok the USA part was taken care of. Now the women I voted for and the message to VOTE. Using thin and thick lines with different contrast, I wanted to draw people into the piece from afar to find a secondary message.  The red thread for I VOTED, AND YOU? can be read from farther than the white pearl cotton embroidered on the gold saying: “for BEVERLY KEADLE, CHARLOTTE PRITT, HILLARY CLINTON, NATALIE TENNANT“.

Iconic VOTE, Susan L Feller 2016

Iconic VOTE, Susan L Feller 2016

The background is hooked using five different wools in deep blue/purples with the brighter turquoise showing how, as in the other two pieces, the directional hooking creates stripes . I selected a very dark value for my solemn mood, a purple caste as one more acknowledgement of suffragette colors and for he highest contrast with the white wide hooked letters.

I think this is a strong piece with interesting details and look forward to the upcoming years exercising my right to VOTE. The eighteen year old women who vote for the first time in 2020 will be doing so 100 years and 25 Presidential Elections after the first.

A personal history

I knew when Iconic Liberty was finished in 2006 there would be more to the story. It represented the 19th Amendment to the US Constitution granting women the right to vote. It also represents my grandmother coming of age and later working alongside my grandfather in their business as I grew up. An example of equality I treasure.

Iconic Liberty by Susan L. Feller

Iconic Liberty by Susan L. Feller

Finally tonight three more chapters came together in words and images.

Icon 2 To continue the strong women examples in my family, and the history of female influence in US evolution I will use  “Rosie the Riveter”  in the circle with the words on right and a black and white scheme.  Changed the words from ‘as’ to ‘and’.

My mother worked in our family business.

Icon 3 I came of age in the 1970’s, one of the first to vote at 18 in the presidential election. The Equal Rights Amendment was finally passed by Congress in 1972 and sent to be ratified by the states …. after ten years it failed to receive enough support. I recently realized it has failed, not just languished waiting for a few more states to ratify, FAILED. The third piece will be in green and white with the words above the circle with logo.

On Nov 7 I completed the Iconic ERA. The years of earning Girl Scout badges (1963-1973) add period coloring and an edge around my previously created hand hooked mat. If you connect the gold badges with lines to the middle the PEACE sign is created.  The stripes reflect the tie-dye craze of 70’s yet in subdued tones. I extended the swirls with Kaffe Fasset Stripes cotton. The letters are felted wool, attached with pearl cotton stitches.

Note the orientation changed from my design along with wording. I decided to mirror the first composition and broadened the message from just ‘women’ to WE ALL.  The embroidered message is more subtle than the emblem because it supports the message.

Iconic ERA, by Susan L Feller

Iconic ERA, by Susan L Feller

Icon 4 My upbringing has lead me to ignore public gender bias to pursue work, skills, leadership with personal preparation and persistence. In 2016 I cast my ballot (voting early is open in WV) for several women based on my understanding of their credentials. This work will be colored Red, White and Blue. Inside the circle the logos for Hillary Clinton (President of United States of America) and Charlotte Pritt (Governor for West Virginia) will be alongside the “I Voted” sticker with American Flag.

Update of design 4: the logos are scrapped for red,white,blue crocheted round doily. I painted white behind except for very center and outer rim which are gold. On that ring in white will be embroidered “I voted for Beverly and Charlotte and Hillary and Natalie” with “and you?” at the bottom of circle. Words on paper will be hooked in white and changed to “2016 Right to Vote for any one” with purple background. As of 11/23/16.

 

 

My muse …. nature

I gather nature – preserving the pieces for a while longer.
I use nature as the skeleton for my work.
I am nature and my actions reflect its energy.

I noticed when the green leaves are behind the mahogany ones we can see them better.

These leaves were not pressed and I decided to give my piece dimension stuffing two leaves and using yarns to define the veins.

finished with inspiration

finished with inspiration

After working the design I painted the linen. Best lesson here is paint surface FIRST then develop the motifs.

The year study lead me to reconsider how to approach each work. In rughooking the details are completed first, working out to background. But as noted in this square the surface needed to be painted before building up the leaves. I just have to remember to consider how before doing.

A Leaf Falls

One day in high school English class Mrs. Bowen assigned us an EE Cummings poem. Minutes went by as I stared at the letters and then….. I read it!

Decades later I honored this experience with “A Leaf Falls”.

Welcome to my favorite season.

 

The design evolved from a sketch of migrating birds gathering seeds outside of our home one October day. The Carolina Wren’s tiny body with tail sticking up and beak down looked like a leaf. Gathering yellows and muted gold wools, I organically filled in defined shapes keeping three openings for my leaves. Two leaf shapes are stuffed and stitched onto the linen backing. Their veins and stems are copper wire anchored by  gold threads. The third is partially stuffed but its edge flutters because of a layer of iron-on interfacing with wire inserted between two pieces of wool and bent to shape.

I sent off a card with the image and poem as a thank you note to Mrs. Bowen and received a lovely note back. It felt nice to have been able to send my appreciation after all these years.

The finish makes the piece

Attending the 20th Annual Rug Hooking Week at Sauder Village I studied the 700+ works looking for different, effective finishing techniques.

The border of a rug design, fringe on an oriental pattern, embroidered fabric edge on a primitive composition all enhanced the time-consuming handwork rughooking entails. Here are some highlights. I realize my focus was on the details and not capturing the completed image for comparison……all the better for inspiration I hope.

The purpose of a “frame” is to enhance the subject and introduce it to the environment. These techniques completed each design, emphasizing the style (steam punk), drawing attention to the subject (bulky natural linen fringe on colonial design), providing interest (the rippled tail of eagle by Meetinghouse Hill Design).

Learn to select the right finishing technique and your work will rise beyond completed. See Finishing Hooked Rugs for step-by-step lessons from experts and select the right technique so your work will be more than just done.

by Rug Hooking Magazine

by Rug Hooking Magazine

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.

 

 

 

Stymied with process

I have a good design, pile of materials in a variety of values, and know the techniques I want to use why is this process not enjoyable?

Sketch of Seneca Rocks #2 Susan L Feller

Sketch of Seneca Rocks #2 Susan L Feller

I think the last two ingredients are lacking something….but what?

Check out my decision process so far:  layering fabric, working trees in different values embroidered, hooked and appliquéd, embroidery of leaves and then the rocks.

Decided I need to set this aside and work on another project while researching skills and shopping for supplies.