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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
There have been Marches for …..media coverage under the banner BREAKING NEWS … and social media memes for and against every step leaders make these days. The constant onslaught on established programs is exhausting and many, myself included, have emotional burn out. Yet we can not stand by watching others march, protest, advocate, use their skills to speak out. Instead many have used traditional handcrafts to create visual messages. My reason is by threading a needle and making stitches, or pulling a loop of fabric repetitively I am channeling my thoughts and concerns, slowing down from the angst created by the first alarm and making a lasting visual to be shared in exhibits and online. This action is followed by many and even has a term “craftivism” – Interpretive activism using slow hand crafts. This is not new, think Betsy Ross stitching a flag, Colonial women weaving their cloth in place of purchasing from England, quilts made with symbolic motifs and fashions worn by the Suffragettes. The massive AIDS quilt project is 30 years old and recently the pink hats made and worn on the Women’s March in 2017.
Here are three fiber artists who have chosen issues to spend time with. Polly Webber, retired immigration judge from California created a series of hooked rugs portraying immigrant’s struggles. “Refugee Dilemma,” uses multiple rugs to tell a story about people fleeing from persecution to a safe haven. Indeed, it is a tribute to the thousands of people who seek refuge from their places of origin annually all over the world.
Polly’s website is PollyWebber.com and the scarf, tie along with male and female styled t-shirts are described and available for purchase.
India Tresselt lives in Vermont working with needle and thread on issues of mindfulness, thoughtfulness and peace. Her website is YarnDanceVt.com and she has an active presence online in a variety of social outlets. Parallel to an ongoing resistance project since the US inauguration daily stitching “THIS IS NOT NORMAL” , she purposefully set out to make art weekly about PEACE.
India says she wanted to structure her pieces around a governing theme, and so she decided to stitch 52 small meditations on peace. Peace can be global, local, and personal. She is exploring each of these kinds of peace in the 52 meditations.
I too have found the need to speak out on equality, human impact on the environment and the plight of refugees worldwide. A gallery of my work in this category can be found at ArtWools.com/gallery in Currrent Events and Human Impact.
Working with a needle and thread or hook and strips of fabric hour after hour my mind reflects on the subject, at the end I have a “voice”. The featured artists are only a handful of makers around the world currently creating statements with our fiber arts. Suggested sites to investigate are 25millionStitches.com, Craftist-Collective.com, CulturalCloth.com and the book Rug Money describing the economic empowerment rughooking has made in Guatemala.
The blog post One then Two lead to a feature article in the November/December 2019 issue of Rug Hooking Magazine. Seven pages with images of materials and construction steps for the individual pieces informs the niche audience. Since writing the article several more works are finished.
We left off the post with Forest Floor’s pattern, here is the completed runner in its environment and a detail showing the braided branch and pattern sketching.
In the Trees in our Forest series the article mentions smaller versions using mixed media. Two were completed, each 16 x 12. One, studying the shapes and values, incorporates upholstery fabric samples and paint on the linen. The other uses embroidered stitches defining the leaves on ground and sky with outline stitch for the trees. These will be framed and the full collection exhibited together at the Beckley Art Center , Beckley, WV opening August 7-October 17, 2020. I will be working over the winter months to organize the exhibit.
The Forest Floor did not stay a runner for long. I kept looking at it and feeling the background did not connect throughout. Although light can be spotty in the woods I seemed to have changed style. Before finishing the runner I decided to cut it into parts. Each section stands on its own and the three can be arranged in a variety of ways for exhibit. They had to be mounted on stretcher bars, backs closed and finished with “dust covers” wired and ready to hang for the Beckley Art Center show.