Category Archives: Workshops

Old and New Studies

McDonald Sisters work mid 1960’s

What a privilege I have been offered to study and mount one of the McDonald Sister’s rugs.

Linking up, through a referral from the State Museum archivist, with the owner of two pieces has lead to hearing stories of the original purchase in the late 1960’s directly from the sisters, the “home life” of these textiles in their family rooms for years and for the past two decades tucked away in guest bedrooms in their summer cottage always on the floor. Come to find out the family had relatives who knew these ladies and even photos with mutual people. All of this adds more bits to the articles and stories I have gathered in researching how the handwork was done, by whom and why techniques were used now almost fifty years after the makers have passed on.

back stitches

New questions arise by looking at the back of this rug. There is an intricate pattern of stitches outlining the motifs. That makes sense, the layers are all attached, stuffed flowers, leaves and stems embroidered with details BUT the threads on the front are colorful and those showing on the back consistently dark? And why are there tiny light blue x’s in thread detailing many large petaled flowers? Those stitches are not seen on the top at all.

layers and stitching

In one area the backing fabric has worn and we see a layer of burlap, with the same stitches covering it. Did the ladies make this repair? Did the owner? I do not think so since they have recently had some wear on the front professionally repaired by a West Virginia quilter (good work matching fabrics and threads).

The steps I go through to mount this rug so its life can continue on the wall will be documented in the next few posts. In the mean time, to catch up with who Otha and Blanche McDonald were and the textile work they created, I invite you to visit the series of pages under the tab at ArtWools.com/McDonalds  .

Research has been supported by funding through a Tamarack Foundation Fellowship award. Glenville State College research library and the archives at the State Museum in Charleston, WV have supplied me with much of the leads and photographs. Blanche graces the cover of the first issue of Hearth and Fair which has become Goldenseal Magazine.

Emily Hilliard

Recently Emily Hilliard, West Virginia’s Folklorist, visited the studio and I shared my collected knowledge on the McDonalds along with my personal journey with textile crafts. She is the first official folklorist for the state, funded in part through the National Endowment for the Arts and working at the West Virginia Humanities Council.

 

The most recent pieces I have been working on channel the sisters and the revealing techniques they used. Measuring 11 x 14 each, the same design was first hooked to look like the back of a rug.

Three McDonald mimics by Susan L Feller

The second piece is the front. Each upholstery fabric petal is stuffed with polyester filling, stitched to the linen backing and then embellished with a different embroidery stitch to make each flower unique.  I definitely felt the ladies were working alongside and perhaps Otha had some critical comments I brushed off as Blanche may have over the years together.

The third version is a rearranged collage of upholstery fabric, applique’d and embroidered onto a striped sample. The back embroidered with a quote and book title by two environmentalists: Marjory Stoneman Douglas and Rachel Carson. This adds to the series “Pillow Talk” I have been creating over the past year.

My studies throughout have been History and the Arts and this project feeds both of these curiosities. I continue to search for more work by Otha and Blanche McDonald. Perhaps you recognize their style and can lead me to a piece, please send a message.

If you are interested in working on any of these handcrafts, I am teaching Rug Hooking, Applique’ and Embroidery at Augusta Heritage Center July 22-27  and would enjoy meeting you and sharing skills.

Many Hands Dyeing

Terminology on labels include descriptive words which conjure up action. One we use in textiles is “hand-dyed”. Here are the visuals behind that phrase from a session lead by Nancy Parcels with wool fabric. She included several great team building exercises such as dividing us into three groups to sort the light, medium and dark values and then as we eagerly shared in the dye pot bounty.

wools drying from session by Nancy Parcels

Marrying colors in the dye pot create a palette to enhance strong colors as a background and secondary motifs. Sort and dye up a pot for your next project.

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.

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.

Class topics in 2014

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

Alta Vista Golf Course, site of workshop

Alta Vista Golf Course, site of workshop

 

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

Susan L. Feller, Ruckman Mill Farm

Susan L. Feller, Ruckman Mill Farm

 

Retreat into the Mountains 2012

Retreat into the Mountains 2012

  24 great energetic and creative souls came together this year for the 5th RETREAT INTO THE MOUNTAINS at Peterkin Camp and Conference Center, Romney,WV.  We are gathered here on the expansive porch in our colorful array of dress. The new officers of Mountain State Fiber Artists make up the first row. 

Great weather for the weekend including the foliage which was gradually coming out after the extreme heat in March, allowed us to keep our minimal schedule including hiking up to the waterfalls and hemlock grove, driving out by caravan to Ruckman Mill Farm for dinner prepared by Jim on Saturday evening and hours of hooking on the porch and in the lounge space into the wee hours of the night. 

2012 group at the waterfalls, Peterkin

             The theme for this year was to react visually to the phrase: “everybodyneedsfiber” Several participants came with designs in a small format (8 inch or so squares).  One was a combination of different sized printer’s blocks creating a composition of the letters.  This will be a study in value and depth using materials and techniques to enhance the subtle tones of the wood blocks. A jar of Metamucil was another interpretation:  Every BODY needs Fiber.   

         Another was Betsy Warner’s energetic lady happily lying in a field of color, prodded butterflies hovering above and her hair wildly flying in the green field.  The variety of fibers and techniques accented the phrase ” EVERYBODY NEEDS FIBER!”

           

The trip to Ruckman Mill Farm included showcasing the beef cattle raised here in Hampshire County:  Angus, Herefords and even Longhorns. Yes Texas Longhorns are raised here for the lean meat, and seem to enjoy a steady diet of green grasses.

  Visit other blogs for their interpretations of the retreat:Lauren Fuqua from Ohio: www.rugsandpugs.blogspot.com  

Donna Bennett another Ohioian: http://www.CrowsontheLedge.com 

Susan Hoekstra, New Jersey our presenter this year on the topic Color Theory www.Foxview.com and www.Needlefest.com

Canada Tour

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

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

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

Two workshops with openings

Butterfly detail from Conatined Garden Friends

There are a few spaces left in two great workshops this Spring: Contact the directors quickly to get your deposits in– love to see you and spend time working with you.  Check out the Calendar page to see where else we could meet.

May 1- 5 teaching at Laurel Mountains, Ligonier, PA Design a Rug with Folk Art motifs, Learn the History of PA German Frakturs Shirley Engel director contact Shirley for details at shirlet@zoominternet.net see Barb Carroll’s site for more about Laurel Mountains… http://www.woolleyfox.com

May 8-13 teaching at Cedar Lakes Rug Camp, Ripley, WV
Open class:Folk Art to Design whatever you want to concentrate on this year. In its 46th year this camp is a wonderful relaxed experience. Nancy and Fred Blair directors  email thhkrugs@alteco.net  or call 616-895-6378

Australians Spreading Rug Hooking down under

Jo Franco and Judy Stephens are literally worldwide travelers in search of rug hooking tools, contacts and inspiration.  We met in Wales four years ago during the Tri-Ennial of TIGHR (the International Guild of Handhooking Rugmakers).  I went home to the States as President for the next three years and they headed home to Australia having asked: ” What can we do to spread rughooking?”

Fast track to 2009 and these two, along with Miriam Miller and Jacqui Thomson became the next Board for TIGHR at the Louisville, KY Tri-Ennial.  While on the road members of this group visited suppliers, artists and friends in the States, Canadian rugmakers, attended a retreat in the UK, and worked at a project involving sight impaired rug hookers in Gambia.

Jo and Judy teach both Australian techniques in rugmaking incorporating aboriginal basketmaking and proddy popularized by the English immigrants along with, in Jo’s case, being McGown Certified in traditional styles.

Let the River Run, by Judith Stephens 2010

Visit their website ausrugcrafters.com to see more work, and supplies available in Australia for rug hookers.