Starting 2021 with zoom groups was very different from a full calendar in 2020 of traveling. To focus on creative growth I began the 100 day drawing challenge on January 30. I hope this doesn’t have to be another Year Study. With colored pencils, markers a new journal (which ended up being two) and views outside my windows I decided to document nature. Networking with “friends” via social media each day kept me on track ending on May 10. Along the journey the sketches began to take form as fiber art – paints came out, embroidery threads and the rug hooking materials too. Thanks to that network, when Jamie Miller from Taylor Books Annex Gallery asked, I was ready with a proposal.
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.
Use stark neutrals as background fabric to indicate mood of the month. Cold and harsh first 6 months = blacks and natural. The second half became warm tans and browns as events heated up. Besides, my dwindling inventory of fabric didn’t have enough black/whites left.
In lockdown I would use what I had, including at one point cutting up an old pair of black jogging pants.
There would be pictures to attract people from a distance and words to communicate two ways. The images would form an active path zig-zagging through the months. Different techniques were needed to get detail : embroidery, applique’, along with horizontal hooking for the background which helped form the letters.
The covid symbol would float throughout until eradicated. Becoming a major element in many months, and more routinely designed as the year progressed.
Quotes would be credited. For variety colors of symbolic logos, political parties, historic events (suffrage purple, gold, green, white) were interspersed with the neutral high contrast lettering.
Include my own personal story along with global events. After all this is my historical record. I didn’t want to memorialize the negative feelings I had and spent time editing the pile of quotes by President Trump to just one in March. Rug hooking is therapeutic and the time spent on this project should help me process and heal.
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 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 “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.comor @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 system was closed due to the pandemic 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.
Just off a live talk In the Studio through Karen D Miller Studio where the topic of exhibiting fiber art was discussed. This post provides links for your own research and success.
Build a body of work by practicing, experimenting, critiquing and doing. Join arts organizations, regional museums, subscribe to trade media, and network with peers. FiberArtNow.net , Handweavers Guild WeaveSpinDye.org , RugHookingMagazine.com , SurfaceDesign.org . Participate in events, conferences, social media pages and groups created by fiber artists.
We select shows, events for a variety of reasons. The theme might interest you especially if it addresses the focus of your work. Who is the juror? Read their bio and the venue’s mission statement to identify the audience. How do you select what to submit? Excellent photos according to the specifics requested, the best work and, if multiple entries, be consistent in style the jurors and organization will recognize your work in the future. Location of the show might influence entry. Can you hand deliver a large piece? Is shipping an added expense? Will the work be insured on site? What is the sales commission? Is there a catalog in print and online? What are the events planned – reception, gallery talks, workshops, online exhibit, social media promotion?
Preparing work for public view and sale is different than showing to your local guild. Will the utilitarian rug be hung? What does the space require – sleeve and rod, wired to hang, professionally framed with closed back and wired to hang. Pricing should be researched and consistent. Your retail pricing must consider gallery commissions rather than adding the percentage when the piece is entered. Label the work including title, your name and contact, materials and techniques. A brief statement telling your story would be helpful for agents and the person who purchases your work. I include “Working with fibers connects me with the spirits from past generations of artisans. Due to the slow process of my craft, there is time to dwell on the natural subjects and materials I have selected. Now living in West Virginia, I have come full circle-back to the farm and rural lifestyle of my youth. I hope you think about your impact on the beauty conveyed in my art.”
Writing an Artist Statement is as important as making the work. There are several versions requested: short, a paragraph or two introducing the collection or work’s basic ideas and describing how they are addressed in the particular piece. In a larger version (under one page) your voice talks with the audience, how they should view the work, how it relates to overall direction, artists who influence you, the importance of a technique or material. This link gives more specifics and includes samples. Read other artist’s statements and juror’s reviews.
The entry and my statement for Iconic ERA:
STITCH, 2017 at Claypool-Young Art Gallery, Morehead State College, KY
Working with my hands, identifying the materials through touch, sight and sound centers me. Growing up in rural America in 1960-70’s make-do skills were daily lessons. Sewing, crochet, knitting and crafts were taught by my grandmother and mother. Girl Scouting broadened the life learning knowledge developing me into a caring individual. Iconic ERA is autobiographical. A psychedelic hooked mat is the base for the 1970’s iconic ERA logo. I circled this with my own Girl Scout badges placing the gold edged ones so if connected in the center they would create a PEACE sign. The striped fabric honors acceptance of all people. I used thin lettering of embroidery for the message “We all can vote for equality” to offset the powerful design. This is one in a series of three exploring equality. The others can be seen at ArtWools.com/Gallery
Did you get accepted or rejected? If the latter how do you react? I often enter knowing my work will at least be viewed by some new critics. If it is rejected I will attend if possible, buy the catalog or view the selections online evaluating the results and learning. Observations from people I interviewed for this talk mentioned more fiber art being entered in art shows than a decade ago. That is good for the field and should raise our efforts to continue innovations, developing style, materials and entering professional images. If the positive is yes how will you promote this opportunity? Update your website/resume with image of the work, links to the venue, local and professional media announcements, attend the opening, talk with artists and audience and follow up with those conversations. Follow the deadlines to deliver work, labeling and packing for shipment, include return shipping payment.
What type of shows are there? How do you find them? Besides actively searching listings for shows on CaFE – CallForEntry.org, FiberArtNow.net/Submissions, GlobalTextileHub.com/ , RugHookingMagazine’s Celebrations and being juried there are other opportunities. Invitational – a curator will work with a venue or develop a theme for traveling shows and invite a group of participants who fill the overall theme. It may be all fiber, or statewide artists, work fitting a theme or the space. This is where networking is important. I have been a resident of West Virginia for two decades, entering annual and bi-annual art shows, participating in arts organizations and received invite to a major exhibit just two years ago. The solo show at Beckley Art Center is a result of my showing with a WV Public Broadcasting program and having a unique technique. Online social media and print opportunities are also avenues to get exposure. Many publications have active media platforms including weekend take overs of their accounts. Check out Fiber Art Now
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
My roots in Girl Scouting guides choices even in this decade of my life. Using scraps from another maker helps them clear space, lowers my expenses and increases a supply of materials but especially helps the earth … limiting landfill growth. We recycled in the 1960’s now it is called up-cycling and the Girl Scout motto includes “Make new friends and keep the old”, I definitely have expanded the artist network with this quest.
Wendy Clark is a fiber artist, weaving her hand-dyed threads/yarns into scarves, shawls and baby wraps through her company Wenweave in the mountains of West Virginia. She collects thrums (warp threads tied off between pieces) for me into garbage sized bags and then we meet up for the exchange. I get her “rats nest“ and we some inspiring conversation. One visit the talking lead to collaborating on a project. Hours after I have organized the threads they are ready to be hooked and embroidered into what I call my Thread Collection. Here are a couple from that series, the full collection will be available at Beckley Art Center during my exhibit August 7-October 17, 2020.
In future workshops bundles of these colorful threads will be shared with students and go out in the world of creatives spreading our mutual friendship and love for sharing. I send off the snippets from my work to a spinner who incorporates them into colorful yarn. Zero Waste!
Part 4 of 4: Have the urge to learn more and stay in touch with creatives? Cyberspace is another tool to add to the hook, needle, and fibers in our supply box. We just need to learn how to use it. Meet some admins of social media groups; trusted personalities with podcasts, internet camps, and blogs; and artist pages to learn their stories. Hope this will broaden your journey, see you along the way or here next year on IRHD-Dec 4, 2020.
Social media can be a time suck, emotional roller coaster or introduce you to new friends and a big library. When Lucy Richard in New Brunswick decided to set up The Wooly Mason Jar Rughooking group on Facebook she thought “I chose to put myself in the shoes of a new hooker when I began it. I wanted a safe place to come for advice and words of encouragement and a sense of community.” This group talks about the colourful wools that come out of their dyepots using the Wooly Mason Jar recipes. Martina Lesar saw a need for a group free of advertising, and focusing on Contemporary Rug Hooking. The description begins “This group was formed to encourage and inspire contemporary styles even traditional patterns that have been reworked with a contemporary twist or colour plan.” Her studio in Ontario is open for patterns, wool and supplies in person and on-line. Lori Brechlin of Notforgotten Farm in Virginia administers a private group called The Out of Hand Rug Hookers “our mission here is to share, educate and encourage…please post often about your projects-in-progress and your love for rug hooking & rug punching.” Loretta Scena in New York created a great service with Rug Hooking Camps, Shows, Workshops and Classes. Visit this to find exhibits, and learning opportunities. These are four of the dozens groups you can search out and join.
Working with our hands leaves less time to type on keyboards, or read a book but podcasts and videos are good company in our studios. Gene Shepherd from California knows how to teach with videos. His beginning loop pulling video has given people in Australia, England and North America the confidence to build a stash of fabric and make rugs. The website GeneShepherd.com shows his store of patterns and supplies, workshops, and a subscription Internet Rug Camp where over 75 videos and daily blog posts are archived for members. Deanne Fitzpatrick from her Amherst, Nova Scotia studio has encouraged us to “Create Beauty Everyday”. Subscribe to the podcast of the same name, there will be conversations with interesting fiber artists. She has a way of chatting on videos on YouTube as Deanne Fitzpatrickand blogs as if you are right there pulling loops together. Groups make travel plans to Canada for themed workshops, or some tea, scones and conversation while shopping and online at HookingRugs.com And there is a FB group too – Wild with Wool. Rug Hooking Magazine shares several live stream sessions from their FB page including a series by Lisanne Miller of W. Cushing & Co in Maine. Global Textile Hub in Australia is creating videos, webinars and virtual on-line fiber art exhibits. These productions can be found on Kira Mead’s YouTube channel.
Finally, meet some of my fiber friends. Check their calendars to see work in person. The21Collective is seven artists sharing experiences with each other in retreats and speaking louder together. We are currently on FB and Instagram as The21Collective with a website to be launched 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.
Traveling chronologically, Australia will bring in the day with end of year celebrations in New South Wales and Queensland, three time zones later in Western Australia. Follow these groups in 2020 by signing up on the Australian Rugmakers Guild’s blog. Then Japan and on to Abu Dhabi where Ti Seymour and the UAE Rugmakers are demonstrating punch and hooking at Costa Coffee Al Muneera Island. Håkon Grøn Hensvold, is in Skreia, Norway. His work is included in Rug Hooking Magazine and several books. The UK groups gather in London, the Yorkshires, Penzance and many villages in Great Britain, Scotland and Wales.
Crossing the “pond” all of the Canadian provinces will have events. As we noted in a previous post, Newfoundland and Labrador have a long history of mat making. This is also the host region for TIGHR through 2021. In Nova Scotia and New Brunswick the many rug hooking businesses will be open for drop-ins. Lucy Richard told me she is going to visit Della Ackles Rug Hooking in Amherst for the first time. And looks forward to the colourful creativity at Deanne Fitzpatrick’s Studio on Church Street in Amherst. Richard has created a dyeing system with extensive formulas after a simple set-up called The Wooly Mason Jar. (I will mention another service of Lucy in part 4.) Carol Harvey-Clark, a founding member of TIGHR, has a shop listed as an EcoMuseum in Mahone Bay called Spruce Top Rug Hooking Studio. Christine Little’s Encompassing Designs is also in Mahone Bay, filled with rug patterns, beautiful dyed wools, and supplies. I am going to mention one more shop but you would be best planning a week or more exploring these provinces for rug making beauty. Jan Steele operates River House Rug Hooking Studio in Petite Rivière Bridge (just have to visit to see the village). A community project to experience is in the Eglise Historique de Barachois, New Brunswick where 200 hooked cushions were contributed from across Canada and abroad.
Quebec and Ontario chapters are part of the Ontario Hooking Craft Guild. On the 4th, Beaconsfield Hooking Crafters Guild and Marlintown Wild & Woolly Rug Hookers join together for their annual celebration in Williamstown, ON. Martina Lesar hosts a hook-in for the public in Brampton, ON. And with dozens of chapters around the province of Ontario I am sure there are other meetings. Crossing west through Canada there are many groups, with a concentration in British Columbia around Vancouver and Victoria.
Check out the events and advertisers at RugHookingMagazine.com if you are traveling. Or better yet subscribe to the only magazine dedicated to the range of techniques, styles and regions of the craft/art in 2019.
Tomorrow – December 4 will be the final post of this overview. Introducing readers to some of the networkers and the artists using these techniques in their unique styles.