Tag Archives: hooked rugs

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?

 

 

 

 

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.

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.

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.

 

 

Educating about Craft

The responsibility of craftspeople is to pass on their skills. Educating is a goal of all rug hooking organizations. During the ATHA Bi-Ennial in Cleveland, OH a panel addressed opportunities for individual members and groups to EDUCATE. Representing the internationals I collected the following stories.

The Australian Rugmakers Guild connects their vast membership using cyberspace, local groups and conferences in different parts of the country. Click on the name of the guild and sign up for their posts. Bec Andersen conducted another community art project. This time with adults for a community center. Three panels were designed and punched then installed.

Yarrabilba Community Centre in 2017. The images of the panels were conceptualised by a group of children using stories of Yarrabilba past and present as inspiration.

Norma Hatchett worked with seniors, the blind and children, her projects are described and photographs in the Oct/Nov/Dec 2013 Newsletter of the Guild on pages 9 and 10 and featured in an article by Josephine Franco in Sept/Oct 2012 Rug Hooking Magazine

Cherished Memories, Childhood Dreams, 10′ x 4′, yarn hooked on hessian with a speed needle.  Designed by Norma Hatchett and created by residents at an Australian hostel for patients with dementia.

Sue Girak is currently coordinating a project to bring awareness of waste products to students. She and her partner are surveying participants through the process, documenting their reactions to materials selected (plastic grocery bags, t-shirts, recycled fabric), methods used to hooked/prod/punch these, personal feelings of waste. A public display of several 6 foot tall fiber footprints will culminate their research. Although this is based in Perth, West Australia our conversation opened an invitation for a US or Canadian group to participate. If seriously interested contact Sue for a survey and parameters (her email is in the attached description)  Walking Together with Pride, Perth, Australia. The Wanneroo Rugmakers have joined in and are using plastic bags and prodding them into two larger than life footprints.

Brightly coloured “toenails” on the right footprint have been hooked using department store coloured plastic bags. The skin is being hooked with plastic bread wrappers. The red/gold prodded flower decorates the strap of the thong sandal

Jo Franco, Editor of Australian Rugmakers Guild wrote about several of these projects in the J/J/A 2016 issue of Rug Hooking Magazine which focused on Education.

In Japan several individuals train generations in the fine techniques of rughooking. Noriko Manago is adept with three-dimensional creatures and children’s designs. She is often seen working with children and their mothers in her Instagram presence at @togemuse

Canadians have the history of working in our crafts with their grandmothers, mothers and siblings and pass this on to the next generation. Val Galvin of British Columbia can be found on Facebook at Renditions in Rags Hooked and Braided Rugs and is profiled on TIGHR.net as one of our Collector’s Cards.

In QuebecKathleen Menzies, is an art teacher. She incorporated a variety of learning elements into a semester long project. The students portraits were translated into values and digitalized for latch-hooking using a program called leftsource.com.  The students evaluated their experience, with one lesson being “do not procrastinate, you might run out of materials along with time.” Here are some more lessons What have we learned by working on this project

Latch Hooked Portraits

The Beaconsfield Rug Hooking Guild is in Montreal area. They coordinated with the Sherwood Elementary School a project to learn rughooking which was inspired by reading the ATHA article Gene Shepherd wrote on educating youth. Every age group reaped rewards from the intergenerational lessons. Check out the album of pictures at Children Rug Hooking .

What I learned from gathering these stories is that a few can inspire many. Working within a school system, creating lesson plans, coordinating funding, and the thrill of communicating with people outside of our comfort network is a more valuable reward than just seeing a completed project. The International Guild of Handhooking Rugmakers invites members for the cyberspace linking and a triennial general meeting in the host country.

Share your craft with people you do not know, someone will pass it on to others a few years down the road.

 

 

 

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.

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

 

 

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.