Category Archives: West Virginia Artists

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.

Fine artists who hooked Rugs

Rughooking has been chosen as a medium by female fine artists for decades. In honor of Women’s History Month here are some examples.

Black Pig, Marguerite Zorach 1944 hooked rug

Marguerite Zorach (1887-1968) born and educated in California, lived in Maine, New York City married to artist William and mother to Dahlov Ipcar an artist in her own right. Marguerite explored the same subject in different mediums as Blanche using the time consuming techniques of embroidery and rughooking purposefully to promote women’s handcraft to an audience of art viewers. Her designs were not authorized as patterns, yet have been copied from illustrations in books about antique hooked rugs.

In the catalog accompanying exhibit at the Farnsworth Art Museum, Rockland 2017, Marguerite Zorach- An Art-Filled Life, Cynthia Fowler suggests “for Zorach, a committed modernist with an appreciation for abstraction as evidenced in her paintings, embroidery freed her to experiment with detail in ways that would not have been acceptable in her paintings.”

Sunflowers hooked rug, Blanche Lazzell design

West Virginian Blanche Lazzell (1878-1956), active in printmaking, painting and decorative arts developed some of the first abstract work in American art in the teens of the 1900’s. She said of her work in textile and pottery it “helps us to do the next thing better”. A woodblock would be interpreted as a painting and again by hooking a rug, each time the design revealed something different to the artist. She contributed five designs to Ralph Pearson’s project “Contemporary American Artists’ Hand-Hooked Rugs” along with fourteen other modernist artists in 1927.

As concluded in Blanche Lazzell: The Life and Work on an American Modernist “By choosing to experiment in, exhibit, and sell her decorative arts alongside her paintings and prints, Lazzell stands as a precursor to the artists of the last half of the twentieth century and the beginning of the 21st who use ceramics and textiles as the primary medium of their fine art, such as Judy Chicago, Faith Ringgold, and Miriam Schapiro.”

 

Red Tree, Emily Carr by Sunny Runnells

 Emily Carr (1871-1945) from British Columbia, a Canadian national treasure, as author, painter and during a period when extra income was needed, rughooker. An independent spirit she explored and documented the First Nations villages along the coast above Vancouver. Her talent was acknowledged late in life, when invited to participate in major exhibits in Ontario alongside the Group of Seven’s work. The hooked designs incorporate the native designs rather than interpreting her painterly natural subjects. Today several paintings are licensed as patterns and hooked renditions convey her brush strokes.  Visit the Carr House, her family home in Victoria.

 

 

Louisa Calder at work

Louisa Calder (1905-1996) interpreted her husband Alexander’s artwork in hooked rugs using yarn and a latch hook as depicted in ‘Calder’s Universe’ a catalog accompanying the retrospective in 1976 at the Whitney Museum in New York City. Calder worked on or authorized several textile projects and many of his work was also hooked without permission by the public (disregarding or prior to copyright laws).  See this link for a listing of textiles.not all created equal.

To these and my fellow contemporary artists who “paint with fibers” may our audience appreciate the process and experience the tactile rewards from our art

 

Remembering a Maker

Blanche McDonald c 1965

Blanche McDonald lived a long life within the hollows of Gilmer County, WV. She died December 29, 1976 having been born the third daughter of John and Minnie E. (Furr) McDonald on September 7, 1895. With her oldest sister, Otha, the two lived in their maternal family home three miles from Letter Gap, raising and putting up the meat and produce necessary to live while making quilts, rugs and footstools with needle, thread and recycled clothing.

 

1968 purchase award McDonald Sisters rug

She and Otha are said to have used the traditional crafts taught by their Scottish mother of layering, stuffing, and embellishing with yarns and threads common fabrics creating floral designs in balanced compositions.  (See the gallery of rugs) The materials used, to a critic of handwork, would discredit the quality yet their skill in using the elements of design and consistent style brought juried awards as their work was promoted farther than the central West Virginia market. Recipients of a purchase award for a 3 x 5 tapestry selected by Juror of Crafts, Paul Smith, director of the Museum of Contemporary Crafts, NYC for the Appalachian Corridors Exhibition in 1968, the piece is archived in the State Museum, Charleston. A second larger rug was purchased by the Div of History and Culture in 1970 and hangs in public display in the museum.

Blanche McDonald with quilt

Blanche graced the cover of the first issue of ‘Hearth and Fair’ which evolved into Goldenseal Magazine. The quilt with giant appliquéd sycamore leaves was included at the Pasadena Art Museum in 1972 in the exhibit ‘Islands in the Land’ curated by Eudora M. Moore. 

The sisters exhibited at the annual Arts and Crafts Festival of West Virginia in Glenville selling footstools made with several cans as the insert and topped by fabric arranged in a medley of flowers.

 

Susan L Feller with mixed media hassock

I channel them as I work with scraps, needle and threads, identifying more closely to Blanche with her spunky look over the stern Otha. Hope you too will visit with the “girls” on the pages under McDonalds on this website and at the State Museum in the Culture Center, Charleston, WV.

Facetime: Portraits Exhibit

Another opportunity to combine traditions at the Schwenkfelder Library and Heritage Center, Pennsburg, PA has resulted in Face Time: Portraits in Hooked Rugs and Selections from the Heritage Center Collection. The exhibit is up through March 17, 2018.

Susan Feller brought a variety of hooked work addressing the theme from self-portraits, friends, animals and a full group of church goers. Curator Candace Perry opened the archives and the two selected framed portraits of founders, animals, Halloween masks, frakturs, china phrenology heads and etched glasses all with faces. Come by to learn about traditions, history and leave with a smile on your FACE.

Thank you to the artists who contributed their work:

Hunter”, Judy Carter, Willow Street, PA

An original design, Judy has studied and instructs how-to portray animals using rughooking.  She is the author of Hooking Animals. Visit www.jcrugs.com.

Susan @ 60″, Susan L Feller, Augusta, WV

Self portrait including motifs which tell about my life in West Virginia, our log home, the mountains, trees (a common motif), orange glasses and gray hair. Working in mixed media adds to the autobiographical design. Frame designed by Jim Lilly. Visit ArtWools.com

“Mona and Me”, Rita Hammock, design Laura Pierce/photo Darryl Hammock, Brighton, MI

Mona was a good friend. Created to preserve our friendship, then she became ill. The rug was worked on during the months prior to her passing. Rug hooking is good therapy and creates memories.

“President Washington”, design by Linda Pietz, CA; hooked by Nola Heidbreder, St. Louis, MO

This portrait of George Washington is traditionally hooked with strips of wool fabric cut in  3/8” strips.  He read his Bible for one hour twice a day. Book available with first 44 “Hooking the Presidents”. Visit NolaHooks.com

“Celebrating in North Bay”, Roslyn Logsdon, Laurel, MD

A birthday celebration with my son in Maine. Value, contrast and shapes are important elements in my work. Visit RoslynLogsdon.net

“Coco the Llama”, Liz Marino, South Egremont, MA

My husband and I have had a llama farm since 1984. The portrait of CoCo Llama was a tribute to our herd matriarch. She represented everything we bred for in a well put together llama and also had the soul and temperament that we stove for in our breeding program. Visit LizMarinoRugHooking.com

“Manservant”, June Myles, Redding CT and Elkins, WV

Image is a serving man during the wedding of “the King of the World”. It was adapted from a Persian miniature of the Wedding Procession of Dara Shiloh.

“Homecoming”, Sarah Province, Silver Spring, MD

The congregation of Fairfield Presbyterian Church, near Richmond, VA 1940 Sarah’s family is in this gathering. She is the blonde girl in red jumper at her mother’s knee on the right. The original photo included about 200 people, with artistic license, 75 are depicted here.

The Schwenkfelder is open Tuesday – Sunday and is located at 105 Seminary Street, Pennsburg, PA. Visit Schwenkfelder.com

 

 

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Recognition and Education

Rughooking is a technique easily learned, leading to opportunities to master the materials, various techniques and design elements with practice – one loop at a time. With the method comes a connection to generations of people who enhanced their surroundings creating utilitarian rugs from material once part of a garment or blanket. Each of these aspects drew me in and comforted me as I developed confidence as an artist.

1968 purchase award McDonald Sisters rug

 

At least half a dozen years ago I saw a large tapestry on permanent display in the Legacy of Craftsmanship Room at the State Museum, Charleston, WV with a label describing the techniques as embroidery, appliqué and hooking. How exciting to know the same technique I was immersing my time and skills in had been recognized by the state of West Virginia arts commission. At the Appalachian Corridor Exhibition of 1968 (first of three bi-ennials under that name) a purchase award to Blanche and Otha McDonald for their rug was issued along with several other media.

These first art pieces entered the collection housed at the State Museum and are now joined, over the past 40 years, by a couple of hundred contemporary art pieces thanks to the Bi-Ennial Juried Exhibition conducted by the Commission on the Arts, Division of Culture and History.

On Sunday, November 12, 2017 ten more works were awarded purchase recognition. I am thrilled to announce there is another hooked piece in the permanent collection: Progress in the Mountains, Susan L Feller, Augusta, WV.

The exhibit is on public display through February 11 at the Art Museum of WVU, One Fine Arts Drive, Morgantown, WV. The award winners will next be displayed at the State Museum gallery and then become part of the archives.

Just think 50 years from now someone will research the collection to find and study my hooked runner for materials, techniques of dyeing and hooking, and respond to my design just as I did the rug from 1968. One difference is I have documented my process, written articles, continue to record and publish the tools and materials I use and contribute these to the archives at the Museum. The McDonald Sisters work does not have these answers compiled as conveniently for research. A lesson I learned to rectify because of my frustration after seeing that rug and label on display and asking who were these ladies? Why did they mimic rughooking with their needle, thread and fabric strips? What inspired their designs and development of product?

It seems I can now say I too am part of the generations of rughooking craft makers. And that makes me happy pulling new loops.

A day reflecting and forecasting

Using this time of the year to review my artwork is misleading yet revealing. The full exploration is omitted. That is the body of work recording experiments, progress and preferences in techniques, materials and design. Yet the time capsule approach unconsciously exposes a compass-nature is my muse.

2013 I received a Fellowship from the Tamarack Foundation for the Arts to complete research on Blanche and Oltha McDonald, fiber craftsmen from Gilmer County WV. I also began a Year Study of daily designs exploring my collection of art/craft tools.

The Year Study came to a close 11-4-14 with a collection of 365+ works and several larger rugs. My work has not ended though, every piece I think about a lesson learned from the daily exercises.

11-3 to 11-4 2014

Progress in the Mountains, Susan L. Feller 2015

 

 

The natural beauty of West Virginia is valued by a variety of economies. It supports tourism, agriculture, transportation, energy and logging along with generations of living with and on the fruits and animals of the land. Progress in the Mountains was created to celebrate and acknowledge the real Wild and Wonderful of the Appalachians in 2015.

 

 

 

 

Along came 2016 and in the fall a big change.  My artwork began a period of talking. Craft is a therapy with tools of slow stitching, loop pulling and gratification of controlling the end results.

The therapy and a personal effort to become involved with my local community, sharing and listening to multi-generations, seems to have worked this year. I am back to reveling in telling the stories of our natural surroundings. The Leaf Series encapsulates the techniques, materials and design style of my life studies.

Another year is ahead.

 

 

Exhibiting near home

Jennifer Lockwood and Susan after hanging show

There is an arts community evolving at The River House in Capon Bridge, Hampshire County, WV. Monthly art exhibits feature one artist or a theme, September it is me! Meet and greet Friday Sept 1 4:30-5:30 followed by an open mic night. Fiber art is on display Thursday-Sundays through Sept 24 which is Capon Bridge’s Founder’s Day celebration also. Food, classes in art, music, craft, food, general living skills are conducted by members of the community. Come visit, we are one county into WV just west of Winchester, VA and 2 1/2 hours from Washington, DC on RT50W.

Track lights and a hanging system on white walls creates a gallery display for cafe goers and entertainment audiences as they listen/participate in staged shows.

I actually hung two shows, focusing on one theme for each display wall. What will catch the eye of visitors first I titled    “Observing while traveling through…”

mixed textile pieces depicting nature

The natural wonder of West Virginia is affected by humans exploring, encroaching and expecting the resources to make them happy. Voices both vocally and visually are used to bring awareness to the fragile environment. The latter method to communicate is my preference, believing the image of even a tourist’s visit captured using traditional crafts will encourage awareness and protection for the future.I encourage you to view my art for the moment of beauty I captured and shared with you.

The opposite wall presents the Iconic Series created over fifteen years.

Liberty, ERA, Voting by Susan L Feller

The pieces chronicle three generations of women. My grandmother came of age in the 1920’s working and supporting herself prior to marriage. That marital relationship from the stories I heard and witnessed was one of equal responsibilities as entrepreneurs. Iconic Liberty and women’s right to vote in 1920 symbolizes her powerful self-esteem.
My mother again worked before marrying going back to work when we were in grammar school because she had administrative skills to share. Volunteering as a Girl Scout leader her encouragement and example kept me involved through high school. The early 1970’s environmental awareness and the quest for establishment of the Equal Rights Amendment are represented by Iconic ERA. (A line from each yellow badge set to the center forms the PEACE symbol.)
I was raised to question, research and vote for candidates and principles I believe will benefit the community, country and global elements. Iconic Rights captures the 2016 election with an important message: “I voted…and You?”
The circle in each design is an ancient symbol for life. I used it because our lives are part of a continuum. We all have contributed.

There are four small pillows with hooked fronts and embroidered backs bringing attention to contemporary issues: Gender, Climate, Rights, and Persisting. Generations of artists used traditional crafts to communicate: reflecting, documenting events, opinions and the spoken word.

Perhaps it is my comfort with age, a realization that my voice is heard, or a confidence that others can be encouraged to think; whatever drives me the making of this body of work is cathartic.

It will be interesting to talk with visitors Friday and through the month sharing techniques, approaches to subject and issues raised by these visual objects. Except for the Iconic Series the works are for sale. There are also several images made into notecards. Can’t visit in person shop online at my store.

Mountaineers talk about Passion-Rughooking

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

Discussing Marion Sachs’ interpretation of David Galchutt’s art

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

 

hooked with wool fabric or yarn juried work. Celebrations 27

June on right during talk

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

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

Made by Men theme at Rug Hooking Week

The coordinator of Rug Hooking Week at Sauder Village, Archbold, OH is Kathy Wright and her name describes the results every year. 2017 brings attention to the minority gender in the domestic traditional craft of rugmaking — MEN. Exhibits of hooked work by contemporary artists and historical gentlemen alongside of those who manufactured the tools and supplies, the collectors, tradesmen, promoters and restorers will be on display through Saturday August 19.

There are individual displays for each of the men  along with the full collection of over 600 pieces. A story behind each and every item, and I have met many of them in person this week. It has only just begun.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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