Tag Archives: hooked rugs

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.

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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.

 

 

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.

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!”

 

Rights and Action

The third in my women’s issues series addresses voting rights … “Iconic VOTE”
Size (18 x 24) and some design components were established by the two previous pieces.

Selecting the materials, techniques and design elements always seem to evolve from my first concept to the completed work. And this piece definitely changed. I worked it during the upcoming election with a confidence that has been challenged since. The circle would have three smaller circles placed in a pyramid. I VOTED (sticker we got when voting); the Clinton logo in blues; and Charlotte Pritt’s West Virginia Governor race in green. The remaining circle parts would be purple with a white edge for contrast.

I thought I would depict our flag as the background: cutting up the actual blue lawn sign for Hillary and hooking it in the upper left then hand piecing red and white cotton stripes making up the rectangle. The message would be gold, embroidered on the cotton, hooked in the blue section completing the suffragette reference (white, gold and purple). It read at this point: 2016 RIGHT TO VOTE FOR ALL WOMEN. People could read this with emphasis on ALL or WOMEN and leading to different meanings.

Iconic Vote evolving

Iconic Vote evolving

November 9 arrived. I decided to throw out the large logos and change the wording to 2016 RIGHT TO VOTE FOR ANY ONE. In my quest to repurpose items in my work I recalled a patriotic crocheted doily we purchased in Shartlesville, PA years ago. It was just right, leaving an inch for an interesting edge like my other pieces. I painted the backing gold under the white star in center, then white to enhance the reds and blues with the gold again outside.

Ok the USA part was taken care of. Now the women I voted for and the message to VOTE. Using thin and thick lines with different contrast, I wanted to draw people into the piece from afar to find a secondary message.  The red thread for I VOTED, AND YOU? can be read from farther than the white pearl cotton embroidered on the gold saying: “for BEVERLY KEADLE, CHARLOTTE PRITT, HILLARY CLINTON, NATALIE TENNANT“.

Iconic VOTE, Susan L Feller 2016

Iconic VOTE, Susan L Feller 2016

The background is hooked using five different wools in deep blue/purples with the brighter turquoise showing how, as in the other two pieces, the directional hooking creates stripes . I selected a very dark value for my solemn mood, a purple caste as one more acknowledgement of suffragette colors and for he highest contrast with the white wide hooked letters.

I think this is a strong piece with interesting details and look forward to the upcoming years exercising my right to VOTE. The eighteen year old women who vote for the first time in 2020 will be doing so 100 years and 25 Presidential Elections after the first.

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.