Category Archives: rug hooking workshop

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

 

 

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.

2016’s influence

It’s time to look back, review, evaluate and gather inspiration from the people, places and things on my journey of 2016.

With students and friends while gathering for a few days of immersion in our mutual interests…fiber arts on the Puget Sound, retreating in Hampshire County WV and South Carolina, teaching in Maryland and Ohio at Sauder Village and lectures at Schwenkfelder Library, Pennsburg PA inspired me as much as my encouraging their design skills. Working with Alissa Novoselick and Emma Pepper developing an arts conference in WV; participating in an exhibit curated by Roslyn Logsdon in Maryland; promoting the McDonald Sisters of Gilmer County to thousands; and handing off a legacy to Green Mountain Hooked Rugs exposed me to new skills and supportive people.

Big city Seattle, arts filled Asheville, rural Summerville Georgia,  Thomas, WV population 600 and the beauty of nature along trails in Fayetteville, Seneca Rocks, and Harpers Ferry are places remembered in my sketch books and beginning to appear in fibers.

We gather objects to remember places and people especially collecting them from fellow artists. I like to wear jewelry made by artist friends when traveling, it is as much of an ambassador as I am. We often photograph our flowers in the art vases, new artwork hanging on log walls, and even show great food on our trips sharing our experiences with an “extended family”. Thank you to Kate Harward, Ginger Danz, Christine Keller, Norma Acord, Donald Stone, Wendy Clark, Rebecca Wudarski, Mountain Daughter Metalworks, Bruce Wilson and Marilyn Bottjer for your talent we live with daily.

I am planning to explore places, interact with friends and react to artwork daily in 2017, perhaps we will meet up on our journeys and share some experiences.

Portrait transformation

Realism is the quest in my current studies.  I decided to work a self-portrait close to life size using #3 strips (3/32″ wide) for detail.  A group in Harrisonburg, VA brought instructor Donna Hrkman in for three days and I took advantage of her expertise to start the project.   The lesson which stayed with me was to use line of pronounced value to infer shape, attitude, texture, form. Our brain will finish the picture based on its knowledge.

Susan L. Feller 2014

Susan L. Feller 2014

Lesson 1: PREPARE  I sent this photo to Donna who  created a pattern using a grid to enlarge the details.  I also ran the photo through an app for iPad called uSketch and selected a washed out version with strong main lines.

Sketch for self-portrait

Sketch for self-portrait

This image was enlarged to fit a 12 x 16 format and directly sketched  using a lightbox.  I then drew the portrait by eye (ending up with softer features than the direct sketch.) By drawing the pattern myself several times I was prepared to notice nuances and hook the shapes and lines.

Lesson 2: If the subject is close to you, draw the design yourself.  I used Donna’s pattern and my guides trying to replicate what I was seeing not my mind’s interpretation of the subject.  You will see the first image (worked on for two days) needs severe sculpting to become recognizable to my friends as me.

Day 2 Portrait Susan L. Feller, Donna Hrkman pattern

Day 2 Portrait Susan L. Feller, Donna Hrkman pattern

Lesson 3: Color can draw attention and lead the viewer to a conclusion.  Glasses, hair, and background elements are in strong recognizable colors depicting me in 2014. I had brought along the actual drapery fabric from the photo as background but Donna suggested I use symbols to highlight my rughooking journey.

Personality coming through

Personality coming through

I selected two award winning designs My Mountain State and Mountain Treeline. The abstract hooked blue/purple skyline reproduces the first and the appliquéd colored tree shapes infer the latter and my favorite season. One more element that describes me is living in a log home here in West Virginia.  I decided to take the right third behind the face to show that structure. Simple horizontal lines of dark texture and natural linen became the logs.

Lesson 4: Simplify but complete the story. I almost forgot a major element in Ruckman Mill Farm’s pattern line is FRAKTUR designs. What motifs could I insert into this natural setting that would read PA German folk art? Of course! The circle from Baptism Certificate which has my birth date, parents and my name was printed and laminated to become a pin on the shirt.  I signed the piece and added one more symbol all in one.

Symbols tell story Susan L. Feller

Symbols tell story Susan L. Feller

Lesson 5: If it is not right, fix it.  All along you will notice I got closer to a recognizable rendition of Susan Feller except for the LIPS. Donna said the lower lip usually is lighter because it protrudes slightly.  She suggested using one size larger cut for the lower lip and both larger than the #3 cuts for the face.  I looked at the photo and convinced myself the reverse would be true in my case.  Extreme light and dark values were chosen, wide cuts, narrower, slightly up turned, straight across all not quite right.  I pulled out Anne-Marie Littenberg’s book Hooked Rug Portraits by Stackpole Books and read through it.  There was one image similar to mine that used several different values to portray the light on lips.  Posted that version on Facebook and received accolades.  But it was not until I asked Roslyn Logsdon to critique the lips that I heard the answer: AGAIN—“the lower lip needs to be lighter!!!!!!”

Lesson 6: Use the right tools from your tool box.  My life has involved textiles since childhood. Hand sewing, embroidery, dying fabric and using found objects often shows up in the wall art I create.  No reason to restrict this historical portrait to just rughooking. I added my favorite linen shirt, sea glass jewelry, embroidery and appliqué to enhance the hooked features and intend to finish the piece with a tramp art frame. What fun!

 

Class topics in 2014

I just reviewed photos from workshops this year.  Many lessons were taught, dozens of lessons learned, and plans were made for next year ….  all reasons why I teach.  See the calendar for workshop sites in 2015.

Alta Vista Golf Course, site of workshop

Alta Vista Golf Course, site of workshop

 

I flew to Mesa Arizona in January right in-between the coldest spells in West Virginia.  People came down from South Dakota to escape the cold and others ‘wintered’ in sunny Arizona.  The projects were colorful and three days went too quickly.

 

 

The class at Cedar Lakes Rug School was filled with sixteen eager students.  Some had finally signed up with me after a few years of seeing work by other students and others repeated with new projects and goals.  At the end of the week, I complimented them all, referring to this session as a Masters Class.  I was challenged, they contributed and every project was well on its way to being a great piece.  I am teaching here again next year, email Nancy Blair at  thhkrugs@altelco.net   for details.

The topic at Green Mountain Rug Hooking School in Vermont was the Moods of Color.  We did get to hooking designs based on a mood the participants brought  but began the three days with several exercises.  On the blackboard each posted a word under one of six colors.  Before looking farther what would you say about Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue and Purple?

Manistee Rug School in Onekama, MI is coordinated by a guild rather than a business.  Volunteers for every job join together bringing in the new members and adapting each year to the needs of all.  This was a repeat for me, the first time was in 2011.  I made a point to dine with a different instructor each evening, making new friends and delving deeper into old friendships.  The class included beginners, pattern designers, experimenters, folk painters and abstract artists.  Diverse and challenging, their projects evolved well over the week.

Sauder Village Rug Week is in Archbold, OH is in its 18th year.  Ruckman Mill Farm vended again right next to Dorr Mill Store in the Exhibit Hall where we enjoyed the Celebration rugs and special collection of Esther and Judy Knipe.  The workshop I taught covered a wide variety of ways for Finishing Hooked Rugs, (title of new book by experts in each technique… including a chapter on finishing work for gallery exhibits by me).  We used the exhibit to explore finishes, talked about the appropriate new technique for students work and using a small sample “learned” three techniques.  Response from the students was to offer this again.  Look for class schedules at SauderVillage.org in early November.  I will be teaching several different classes all week.

Susan L. Feller, Ruckman Mill Farm

Susan L. Feller, Ruckman Mill Farm

 

Summer Bouquet in Wool

This design is finally finished in my eyes.  Thanks to several critique sessions this summer.

Summer Bouquet

Summer Bouquet

 The composition came together easily, an odd number of large motifs, connected with organic (curved) lines to a small vase placed within the outside border to anchor the design.  I used templates from ‘Design in a Box-Frakturs’ and the quirky principles of balance the PA German Fraktur artists had in their repetoire.

Then came bringing the lines to life.  I photographed each of the changes and will highlight some lessons.  Click on the first image and then you can see all in larger format by using the arrows.  During one workshop where I used the images as a lesson plan, a student commented in awe at the multitude of changes I had made.  To me that is what makes a project part of my process in learning.  Kits and following directions are for a goal… completed item.  Working on a design to achieve your knowledge of GOOD is growth.

Summer Vacation and Study in Ontario

Square Bales in Ontario

 Ready for a vacation and yet don’t want to travel too far?  Think learning about rughooking would be fun too?  Canada is a great destination for many New Englanders and those in Northern NY.  Loyalist College in Belleville, Ontario is a great setting for both of these goals.  The Summer Arts Program includes three different sessions with rug hooking artists, of course I would recommend July 16-20 with me! See the full catalog here Summer Arts 2012 Loyalist College, Belleville, ON  Registration begins April 13.

Canada Tour

Feeling abit like the Royal Couple, (Will and Kate), I have been in Canada since June 24th, hosted by Susan Sutherland in the Kitchener/Waterloo area to conduct a fraktur design workshop within the Mennonite region of the design source.  The following hostess was Anne Boissinot who lives near the McMichael Collection in Kleinburg.  We toured this museum complex for a full day, exchanging our artistic views.  What a great way to learn– visit a museum with a friend with similar interests.

I stopped briefly at Rittermere-Hurst-Field to lunch with Jeanne Field, Andrea Shepphard and the family/workers.  Will be back for the Circle of Friends on July 9th in Aurora.  See www.Letshookrugs.com for information.

Now in Belleville for the two weeks, enjoyed Canada Day by touring Prince Edward County.  Art exhibits, farmers markets, and a beautiful day all recorded in my mind or on camera.  Took shots of the sun moving across a mowed field highlighting bands at a time.  The square bales were stacked in pyramids to be picked up later.  Shapes, light and values were on my mind since this is the theme for the Loyalist College class beginning July 11th.  www.Loyalistfocus.com see Susan Feller for details, opening in class still.