Tag Archives: fine craft

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One then two now a Series

Over the past year my focus in design has been on how to develop the full story. Often, specifically in rug hooking, the motifs receive the attention: selecting colors, values, materials, and even techniques. When they are complete “we” fill in the rest with a quick selection of color and value. Evolving from this patternmaking routine has been conscious, deliberate and rewarding as I devote time and energy beyond a designer to being an artist/craftsperson.

The series ‘Leaves’ used full sized templates of one natural object to draw the audience’s attention. My effort was to create a changing and interesting environment –

Chestnut Leaves in grass

 

grass with evening shadows;

 

 

 

Virginia Creeper and sky

 

the blue sky poking out of foliage;

 

 

 

Maple Leaves on quilt

 

a neutral space harkening to another traditional craft, quilting

 

 

 

Trees in our Woods

Satisfied with this exploration I approached a large piece with the same attention. The viewer will be drawn in because of scale (74 x 36), arrangement with the central motif reaching beyond the edges, and presentation (the fiber work is stretched like a work on canvas and hangs on the wall about 2 feet off the floor). The texture of each tree is laboriously portrayed depicting different species by selecting tweeds, herringbones, overdyed wools of varying widths in cuts moving them into bark and shadow shapes. The distant sky is a crisp early spring blue completing the depth. I decided to hand stitch the wool fabric to the backing rather than distract the calmness with a multitude of hooked loops. The forest floor is the anchoring element and the lessons I learned in the Leaves Series were put to test – with enthusiasm and success.

 

 

Color in our Trees

 

Nature out of the way, the second version of the same design is half the size, colorful, and linear trunks with value changes to reflect bark.

 

 

 

Shadows of the Forest

There are two more versions in the works, each smaller by half. One will be fully embroidered and the other worked in collage and embroidery. To finish my exploration I have sketched out just the floor of the forest.  This piece will be a runner for the table or floor, taking the viewer to the actual space it depicts.

 

What fun to stay with a challenge, develop a design that can be explored and tell the story of our natural beauty – the forest.

 

25 Years Creating

I talk about the Girl Scouting and handwork skills learned while growing up, the BA in Art and History with photography as my creative medium but until Lillian Vale gave me a 15 minute lesson on how to pull loops I was not confident to proclaim: I am an artist. That session was on January 1, 1994, and rug hooking has lead to an amazing journey over 25 years.

First frame

This frame supported hundreds of projects until 2008 when I upgraded to a floor model. I had to pin the backing taught, pulling the push pins out when I needed to move to another part. The first top wore out and Jim made a second one!  I logged every project on the wooden base listing size, start, finish, title and if sold to whom.

 

 

the Spinner, Susan Feller

We do not have many places to store items, but the Pig rug is missing and 1994 was before digital photos. It was a large rounded pig line drawing (no “designer’s name). He was in the center of backing with no other details. However the second rug was my own design – the Spinner. A dream of what we would do when getting into our log cabin. The inspiration was Moravian Pottery mosaics. And rug hooking line drawings lead me to studying fraktur motifs, geometrics, nature and finally the confidence to “paint with wool” as an artist.

Flash through the years, 200 rug patterns, dye recipes, a Design in a Box filled with fraktur templates all as Ruckman Mill Farm are now distributed by Green Mountain Hooked Rugs. I served on boards of national and international rug hooking organizations, vended throughout the US and Canada, wrote a book about Design, sold hundreds of rugs, and exhibited in fine art collections. For the past five years, under a new company ArtWools, I have taught design to fiber artists, advocated for the arts in WV and work in my studio. The best of this journey is my confidence to say I AM AN ARTIST and the many friends I have met along the way.

Working at home

Looking forward to the next years creating.

Shapes in Life-Rolls and Pipes

Time to work large, the subject warrants attention and big draws people to look. 

I cut off a piece of linen 60″ x 80″ which leaves a maximum finished size of 54″ x 74″ or two runners 26″ x 74″ (after excess to put on the frame). The size choice will be the first of many design decisions.

The innocent circle shape can be seen along our country roads during haying season as farmers make huge rolls to feed their animals in the winter. The wide open fields are green then turn tan as the grass dries. Rolled, the new grasses grow back and the cycle continues year after year with care from the caretaker of the land-the farmer. I have been inspired by this cycle since youth when the shape was a smaller rectangle but the colors and care the same.

Now there are different objects along many through ways stacked by the thousands waiting to go underground after the trees have been felled, stripped, and piled ready to be sorted for their end use-barbecue brickettes, lumber, paper pulp, firewood. Or they will be connected under the fields scarred by digging, or under the hundreds of waterways that are home to golden trout, endangered hellbenders and many other species besides our nourishment. This manmade project will transport gas extracted from the land more aggressively than in the past. The pipelines going through West Virginia and many other states are not benefiting the residents.  The corporations intimidate our legislature to hold off taxing them so we will be left with roads to repair, lost income to tourism and natural guides yet a wound across our mountains. I have depicted the straight lines for power in Progress into the Mountains. Now comes specifically the pipes and resulting lines.

Coloring comes next, what do I want the viewer to see? Green rings with dark rust centers, tan circles and green background. Will I use the rows alternating the subject? Or twelve inch squares of each pieced like a traditional quilt pattern?

There is a smaller design coming along too using the green plastic straws I save, mixed media is still my favorite studio time.

Do you see shapes, lines or colors daily that could become your visual statement on life?

 

 

 

 

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.

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.

A personal history

I knew when Iconic Liberty was finished in 2006 there would be more to the story. It represented the 19th Amendment to the US Constitution granting women the right to vote. It also represents my grandmother coming of age and later working alongside my grandfather in their business as I grew up. An example of equality I treasure.

Iconic Liberty by Susan L. Feller

Iconic Liberty by Susan L. Feller

Finally tonight three more chapters came together in words and images.

Icon 2 To continue the strong women examples in my family, and the history of female influence in US evolution I will use  “Rosie the Riveter”  in the circle with the words on right and a black and white scheme.  Changed the words from ‘as’ to ‘and’.

My mother worked in our family business.

Icon 3 I came of age in the 1970’s, one of the first to vote at 18 in the presidential election. The Equal Rights Amendment was finally passed by Congress in 1972 and sent to be ratified by the states …. after ten years it failed to receive enough support. I recently realized it has failed, not just languished waiting for a few more states to ratify, FAILED. The third piece will be in green and white with the words above the circle with logo.

On Nov 7 I completed the Iconic ERA. The years of earning Girl Scout badges (1963-1973) add period coloring and an edge around my previously created hand hooked mat. If you connect the gold badges with lines to the middle the PEACE sign is created.  The stripes reflect the tie-dye craze of 70’s yet in subdued tones. I extended the swirls with Kaffe Fasset Stripes cotton. The letters are felted wool, attached with pearl cotton stitches.

Note the orientation changed from my design along with wording. I decided to mirror the first composition and broadened the message from just ‘women’ to WE ALL.  The embroidered message is more subtle than the emblem because it supports the message.

Iconic ERA, by Susan L Feller

Iconic ERA, by Susan L Feller

Icon 4 My upbringing has lead me to ignore public gender bias to pursue work, skills, leadership with personal preparation and persistence. In 2016 I cast my ballot (voting early is open in WV) for several women based on my understanding of their credentials. This work will be colored Red, White and Blue. Inside the circle the logos for Hillary Clinton (President of United States of America) and Charlotte Pritt (Governor for West Virginia) will be alongside the “I Voted” sticker with American Flag.

Update of design 4: the logos are scrapped for red,white,blue crocheted round doily. I painted white behind except for very center and outer rim which are gold. On that ring in white will be embroidered “I voted for Beverly and Charlotte and Hillary and Natalie” with “and you?” at the bottom of circle. Words on paper will be hooked in white and changed to “2016 Right to Vote for any one” with purple background. As of 11/23/16.

 

 

Inspiration explored 50 years later

Blanche McDonald, Letter Gap, WV circa 1965 with mixed media footstool

Blanche McDonald, Letter Gap, WV circa 1965 with mixed media footstool

In a five year research project gathering personal background about Otha and Blanche McDonald from Letter Gap, WV I have been inspired by their textile work. Incorporating collage, embroidery, trapunto and stitching the ladies work embodies traditions, make-do, and balanced composition = art.  This post will describe my approach to making a footstool as they did in the 1960’s.

seven cans for the base of footstool

seven cans for the base of footstool

Materials needed: seven same sized empty cans (I used one pound coffee cans)
batting used in quilting
fabric to wrap the circumference of cans assembled into circle
embroidery threads your choice of colors
variety of heavy weight fabrics or upholstery fabric sample
fabric strips to hook (usually wool but your choice)
foundation backing open weave for hooking and stitching
needles, hook, scissors
mat board cut the shape of circle (two pieces)

Tape the cans together, six around one in center. Trace this shape on paper and use as template for pattern. Draw onto backing and gather your fabrics, threads, tools. This is the time to play. The McDonald Sisters’ compositions all conjure up gardens and nature. They collaged scraps of velvet, brocades and drapery fabric common in the 1960’s in central West Virginia and any rural community in the United States. The shapes were defined with yarns unevenly anchoring the edges of each petal or stem. Some other materials used to embellish were unraveled copper threads from a Brillo pad which have tarnished over the years but still have a twinkle hint of metal.

top of footstool in private collection

top of footstool in private collection

I do not want to replicate their designs for a couple of reasons. One the copyright has not expired, the ladies passed away in 1975 and 1976. Two as an artist I prefer to react and respond. Using a supply of discontinued samples of upholstery fabric acquired from Dillon’s Furniture in Romney (eliminating their dumping them into the landfill), cutting up and rearranging the pieces into a pleasing composition then filling in the spaces with hooked wool fabric and stuffing some of the fabric shapes this footstool cover evolved.

 

Piecing three colors of wool to wrap the cans, I attached the top and put on a bottom of corduroy with mat board buffering the cans and fabric. The sides were embroidered with simple flowers.  I stuffed the two main flowers on the top but stitched the stems with embroidery threads anchoring them lower than the hooked loops.

This footstool will be part of an exhibit at Sauder Village August 17-20 focusing on Otha and Blanche McDonald’s life and their exposure to economic opportunities thanks to President Johnson signing the Economic Opportunity Act in 1964. They and many craftspeople have been honored in exhibits, purchase awards, and sales for the past fifty years.

Susan L Feller with mixed media hassock

Susan L Feller with mixed media hassock

Fifty years later another footstool and craftsman outside of her log home… me.

 

 

 

Review of exhibit: Hooked Images

Roslyn Logsdon curator of Hooked Images

Roslyn Logsdon curator of Hooked Images

Recently Roslyn Logsdon coordinated an exhibit of contemporary fiber art by Carol Koerner, Marilyn Bottjer, Roslyn, Susan L. Feller, John Flournoy, and Sarah Province in a gallery at Columbia Art Center, Maryland. The exhibit statement’s overview indicates four of the artists work in fine traditional cuts and two introduce wider wool strips with a variety of fiber techniques. Read the full statement here: Hooked Images Curator’s Statement

Artist’s work was presented in a collage format allowing the viewer to study their personal style, techniques and use of materials then visit the next. With all six in the same space it was also easy to evaluate the full collection.  Each contributed an artist statement and the titles told stories. Enjoy this virtual tour.

Susan L Feller collection

Susan L Feller collection

Susan L Feller Artist Statement 

Carol Koerner collection

Carol Koerner collection

Carol Koerner Artist Statement

John Flournoy collection

John Flournoy collection

John Flournoy Artist Statement

Sarah Province collection

Sarah Province collection

Sarah Province Artist Statement

Marilyn Bottjer collection

Marilyn Bottjer collection

Marilyn Bottjer Artist Statement

Roslyn Logsdon collection

Roslyn Logsdon collection

Roslyn Logsdon Artist Statement

Columbia Art Center serves the community with art classes for young and old. The exposure of contemporary art hanging for six weeks in their galleries encourages innovation in emerging artists. Reach out to regional galleries, museums and art centers with proposals for exhibits of hooked images and educate the public.

 

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.

 

What am I learning?

Sketches and small studies reveal patterns, address color nuances and encourage decisions.
What will be explored again, how large, using what materials, techniques, how many times?