Category Archives: travel

Teaching is Inspiring

Remember returning to school and the first writing assignment in English class was “What I did over summer break”? Now in my adult career the academic calendar runs in short sessions and I get to travel. This summer included team teaching Geometrics and Graffiti in Montpelier, VT; representing an international online webinar from Australia while I was in Archbold, OH twelve hours earlier; recording video and audio interviews with fiber artists, and teaching to see while sailing on a windjammer on the Penobscot Bay out of Maine.

Graffiti and Geometrics student work in progress

Geometrics and Graffiti combined in one hooked piece? Stephanie Allen-Krauss and I developed the class similar to how a hooked pattern would be analyzed: motifs and surface. Graffiti are painted on walls, sidings, pavements all of which have textures and geometric patterns. The graffiti designs were created – personal tags or messages. Students gridded the shapes which would enhance their message, deciding on colors, values and direction of hooking. Each personality came through in their work at Green Mountain Hooked Rugs School in Montpelier, VT.

Webinar launch and Textile artist video at Sauder Village

During the 23rd Annual Rug Hooking Week at Sauder Village, Archbold, OH I was asked to represent the Global Textile Hub, a new online project lead by three Australian rugmakers. During the preview night attendees in Sauder were patched into the live webinar during the Q and A session. For all who missed the event (with global participants) it has been archived along with an advance video of interviews at YouTube Kira Mead. Subscribe to her channel for upcoming projects. Throughout the week we collected answers – why do you hook or work with your hands? how many workshops or events do you attend annually? where do you work?, is this a hobby, social enjoyment, therapy, profession? Share some of these with us below in the comments.

Janine Broscious at her traveling RV home, one of the interviews.

I have launched on a year long project storytelling, documenting our process, researching history and networking with contemporaries. More to come on this as my learning curve gets easier to climb. In the mean time here are some people I have talked with this summer. Janine Broscious, Capri Boyle-Jones, Liz Marino, Sandra Brown, Anne Cox, Michelle Wise, and all the unique students.

Students working designs drawn while on the windjammer

Thanks to Beth Miller and Ellen Marshall of 207 Creatives for the most unique workshop site: the 92 year old J&E Riggin windjammer sailing from Rockland, Maine! Before we boarded students worried about their “drawing” skills, it takes repeating to learn. What “pattern” will we be working on? – their own after they find it, draw and then transfer to linen. Will there be wool for every design? YES but not loads. Through the four day trip the anxiousness dropped away, we learned to look closely to develop lines, shapes and values with colors, textures to portray movement, strength, and overall memories all senses experienced.

Now back in the studio I got back to pulling loops myself. The final rug in Trees Series is evolving. Using my Instagram thread and ArtWools facebook page the process is being documented. Studio time has resulted in work to send out for shows.

Submissions are out for several shows. This Spring four were included in the WV Invitational at Juliet Art Museum in the Clay Center, Charleston, WV. Opening November 17 through Feb 18, 2020 two pieces were accepted in the 2019 WV Juried Biannual, sponsored by the Dept of Arts, Culture and History in Charleston, WV. They are Seneca Rocks #3 and Pussycats Pillow Talk #1

Entries accepted in 2019 WV Juried Exhibition

Shapes as Symbols

Seeing the long, green, 36″ round gasline pipes stacked on trucks slowly climbing the mountains of our state on a daily basis has raised my tension level. When I feel unable to control or change an event or action I create. Slowly a design nudges my consciousness. The visual concept begins to evolve on paper. With a few adjustments the story I want to tell appears as a cartoon (line drawing). My energy changes from lethargic to accelerated and materials are gathered, or made in the dye pots. Pulling loops and stitching with needle and thread, slowly I talk to myself. When finished I can talk to you.

Pipes for gas line

The natural gas-lines, proposed and begun, crisscross West Virginia as they travel East. There are stockpiles in what were hay fields, in abandoned parking lots, even in newly excavated spaces along highways and back roads. They are not hidden from view. The workers migrate from job to job across state lines and take up the hotel rooms built for tourism and business travelers supporting our long term economy.

It is summer and the rhythms of farming continue too. Large round hay rolls cast their shadows in early morning and late afternoon light. Yellow dried grasses are rolled up revealing the fresh new greens of regrowth. This is a sustaining cycle humans developed which truthfully also is destructive and abusive of the soils and land. But that is another visual story. Today I look at haying season as nostalgic which is calming.

My intent in using traditional rug hooking as a medium is to honor the utilitarian purpose of past generations and present my work to a new audience when shown on the wall as visual art. The two pieces were designed as large floor rugs for these reasons and because big gets attention.

Simplifying the landscape images into shapes let me convey the repeating patterns and tension I felt. Circles of the pipe ends viewed by following those trucks and driving past the stockpiles and the innocent hayrolls lined up in rows are surrounded by dark and light depict the feelings I have driving past each subject.  The companion piece is Lines: logging, haying and pipes. Using the same wool fabrics as in the Circles piece, with additional pieces for value changes, the logging industry is added to our state’s human impact on nature.

The two partners – Circles: pipes and hay rolls and Lines: logging, haying and pipes were completed in 2018. Ready for exhibit.

A morning in Lowell then on the road

Reasons to visit Lowell, MA : 1. Interested in history of industrial revolution and manufacturing impact on communities, economies.  2. Explore the roots of unions and establishment of child labor laws, realistic work hours. 3. The seeds of suffragette movement, and women’s rights. 4. Textile heritage portrayed through one of the first urban National Parks featuring the architecture, lifestyle, and today the craft at New England Quilt Museum, along with the mills in the park. 5. Today’s lively arts and cultural heritage celebrated in festivals, concerts and shops. #LikeLowell   likelowell.com/ 

Climate Change how we can help

 

The signage at the Visitors Center included a display about Climate Change.

 

 

 

The New England Quilt Museum on Shattuck Street near the Visitors Center for the park has a gift shop on the first floor and rotating exhibits on the second along with a reference library. The shows currently include collaborative work from the beginnings of Art Quilts (the early 1970’s). A collection worked by two close friends Molly Upton and Susan Hoffman which are stunning in their simplicity yet rhythmic combination of materials and shapes. Quilted Canvas II

The second exhibit Migrant Quilts of the Southern Arizona Borderlands is a series of quilts using materials found, names of lost people, and chronicling the deaths by years. (a panel for each year)

I only had a morning to spend in the city but look forward to returning with some textile friends to share the emotional experiences I had, discuss the many topics of mutual interest, and support this community.

On the road again heading north, with NO more major cities there was minimal traffic. Montpelier is my home for the upcoming week. The state capital for Vermont, with two major streets : State and Main. You can definitely “park your car” and walk around visiting shops, eating farm to table, Vietnamese, Thai, Chinese, Italian, Skinny Pancakes, at the New England Culinary School, pizza, gelato, 802 Coffee, or steak at the Capitol Plaza Hotel.

I am here for the Green Mountain Rug Hooking School (in its 37th year). There are two four day sessions lead by instructors from the US and Canada. Check out this year’s schedule and consider attending in 2019. The listing of classes will be online after this session ends.

My students in Contemporary Celtic Design explored the making of their patterns to be able to colorplan the knots, twists and turns. It is challenging and rewarding to see the lines become shapes.

The next post will drop in on more classes and aspects of the school.

 

Traveling in New England

Started the day off feeding the chickens in my work boots and forgot to change into traveling shoes until Jim called out…”Do you want your sandals?” I do drive better in the sandals. The Bobs and Jim will watch the grass grow on the farm as I travel to explore teach and network with fellow fiber enthusiasts.

Day 1 up and off by 6:00 am heading for Lowell, MA to explore the Historical National Park of Textile Mills and the New England Quilt Museum. A nine hour trip according to GPS.  But with wind damage reported in Wilkes-Barre, PA I decided to go east into NJ on I78 until there was a back up around Allentown, PA where I took Rt22 on into NJ and finally I80 to 287N over the Newburgh bridge crossing the Hudson and into CT. There is a lot of money being spent on roadwork through the cities of Danbury and Hartford. AND lots of traffic. No rerouting via GPS so in the end 9 hours became 13.

Booked a room at UMass Lowell Inn and Conference Center from an online search of hotels in the area. I am a graduate of UMass Boston so felt an allegiance to the site. Perfect location for my reason to visit. My room overlooks the Pawtucket canal at the waterfalls. Recommend a textile conference at the Inn …. maybe a future ATHA bi-ennial even? Great for touring the park, mills, and history besides location outside of Boston.

Walked around some as the sun was setting, plan to get up early and explore. Day 2 report on the two museums.

The Middlesex Mills was the largest woolen mill in Lowell, built in 1831, shutdown one hundred years ago in 1918 and demolished in 1956, the UMass Inn is built on the original site. Another brick building. This time with more than females working and living inside. I wrote a paper in college about the young women recruited to work in the mills and the work laws that evolved from their long hours, low wages, and living away from home. The park experience is something multi-generations should experience together. Take the canal boat, visit the mill, dormitory housing, and visitors center and try to put yourself in the shoes of those workers.

Middlesex Mill History

 

 

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.

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!”

 

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.

Traveling to Vermont

What designs could come out of a June week in the capitol city of Vermont with friends?

Plenty of ideas for artwork and many personal memories were gathered while enjoying Montpelier, VT and the Green Mountain Hooked Rug School.  Looking forward to returning in 2017 teaching “Working in Abstract Expressionism”. Registration is open at GreenMountainHookedRugs.com

Travel Sketches-Seattle

Beginning a new series based on my travels. The challenge is to simplify the experience.

I decided a journal approach will help develop style and studies for larger art. Less pressure to “nail it” the first time and as you will see, the exercise leads to my goal… concise yet informative designs. Techniques and materials are not clarified yet, although my new supply of cotton fabric and threads will be tapped into.

Thanks go to the students in my design class at Puget Sound Rug School, who energized my own creativity. The first sketch is a result of one of the exercises. List a topic, describe it in words and motifs.

Initial Sketch

Initial Sketch

Over the past week I have developed three separate designs inspired by the trip to Seattle. The City View has seen 6 versions so far.  Next steps to decide size, techniques, materials and begin with my favorite tools-my hands. Slowly I will communicate.

 

Exploring Seattle

Two days ahead of Puget Sound Rug School I have immersed myself in Seattle visually and physically. Who knew you could “hike” five miles in a city?  Camera in pocket and rain gear on here are some inspiring compositions.

Okan Arts Japanese cottons

Okan Arts Japanese cottons

First stop was a fiber mecca for me. Patricia Belyea has amassed an amazing collection of Japanese yukata cottons available for  US quilting and fiber artists from her shop in Seattle or online at OkanArts.com.  I selected bold patterns and intimate repeats of lines to be combined into my art.

Pikes Market produce

Pikes Market produce

Vendors carrying produce, flowers, artisan products, and baked goods entice the tourists at Pikes Market down along the waterfront. The blast of color and natural shapes caught my attention.

The city is filled with contrasting shapes, lines of different strengths, and shots of color in the structures, everyone vying  for attention.

Coffee Beans

Coffee Beans

And then there was the sensual allure of roasting coffee at THE Starbucks Reserve Roastery and Tasting Room.   Notice the gentle curves of the copper tubes and the warm color of the roasted beans awaiting the personal selection.

All of my senses were heightened. I am sure to end up with some visual artwork from these hours spent in the Emerald City.  Traveling from the West Virginia mountains to a metropolitan area increases the awareness of structure.