Tag Archives: Ruckman Mill Farm

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.

Reflecting and Planning

It has been 5 years since I began the Year Study.  My goals were to explore, evaluate and exhibit the results of daily sketching and creating. I did EXPLORE with materials, techniques and composition lessons resulting in a renewed interest in hand stitching, experimenting with brushes and paints, and seeing more simply.

EVALUATING my use of time is an important element as an artist. How to continue networking in one circle while expanding into others; keeping an ear open and helping in different ways needs to be communicated by actions and in conversations. Scheduling studio time and developing themes for the upcoming exhibits rather than creating inventory has been a process. One that with the distractions of nature here in West Virginia is more enjoyable than a commercial speed on the East Coast as I age. Transferring the Ruckman Mill Farm patterns and products to a new generation at Green Mountains Hooked Rugs opened my schedule to more studio time. Now teaching is focused on design and encouragement, others provide the materials.

The EXHIBIT goal was met at Sauder Village Rug Hooking Week in 2015 when all twelve months and a collection of work were featured. Juried into and invited to show in several fine art exhibits validated the direction and I respect my peers recognition. My resume’ lists these venues with the ultimate, an Award of Excellence and purchase by the State Museum from the 20th Bi-Ennial Juried Exhibition in 2017 for Progress in the Mountains. The opportunity to curate the collection Glimpses Inside Appalachia this fall, shown at Raleigh Playhouse, Beckley, WV brought my work before a new audience and opened other exhibit venues.

My five year goal includes developing the themes I identified from the study and exhibiting each in different markets. A new decade will be on the horizon by then and more goals.

Speaking out about current events , Nature’s Beauty and Human Impact, and a Travel Series  where I am developing each sketch several times. 

Hope to meet you on our journey. Happy creating.

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.









Have you been to San Francisco?

I have and the experience is inspiring. Lines, light, shapes in buildings that remind me of trees, trees with different shapes, wide roads filled with cars and narrow ones surrounded by vineyards and GREEN. It rained and nature is responding with color and profusion.

Water and travel to places means bridges. I have made it across the Golden Gate Bridge and into Wine Country. Hills that are rounded but tall, rolling hills filled with the skeletons of spring vines, a rocky coastline and broiling waves are images I can conjure up from the past few days in Sebastopol and now Walnut Creek outside of San Francisco.

I was 3000 miles from home teaching an eager group mixed media techniques to incorporate into their rughooking designs. We explored the elements and principles of design, experimented with materials and techniques and shared ways we process, design and see. Here are some works in progress. The full class of 15 promised to send photos when completed. The workshop was sponsored by the Wine Country Rug Hookers an ATHA chapter. My compliments to everyone involved in setting up my contract, travel, definitely the evening dinners and enthusiastic participants.

Premiering Year Study at Sauder

Year Study Journals

Year Study Journals

One month to go! The prep work is administrative now – scanning journal pages, photographing, cropping and uploading images and creating labels for the only public exhibit of all 365+ squares.  The YEAR STUDY will be hung as twelve panels (months) at Sauder Village Rug Hooking Week in Archbold, OH August 12-15. On Saturday morning I am conducting a gallery talk, sign up for this or enjoy the visuals while at the show.

The variety of techniques, materials and composition styles are sure to encourage fiber artists. Taking the time to educate myself with these elements has been more important than I first expected.  As an artist there are times when everything clicks and volumes of pieces are the results.  The satisfaction of sales and ease in making similar work just keeps flowing along.

BUT I have observed the spark of the artist does not end up in every one of their pieces. Back in my college days when a roll of photographs was taken there was probably only one or maybe two which were great, artists know when the object has a soul.

Working in uncertainty everyday to create a visual record was helpful to learn how to communicate visually.  Besides improving drawing skills I learned to simplify, enhance shapes, use colors and values to direct the viewer. Using a variety of techniques within one square, I have been able to create interest in a small object.

Several themes are haunting me and the studio has been reorganized, purged of clutter and is ready to be used for creativity. While cutting up the panels and adding the finishing to each square is still ahead, knowing they will be purchased and enjoyed by others makes this step enjoyable along with educational.

Traveling Inspirations

On the road again teaching, lectures and just because the weather is nice and making a point to visit all the state parks in WV. Coopers Rock State Forest was just three miles off the Interstate on my way to Cedar Lakes last week.

Cooper's Rock State Forest WV CCC construction

Cooper’s Rock State Forest WV CCC construction

A breathtaking view of undeveloped forest and valley atop a massive ROCK.  The CCC program instituted by President Roosevelt employed thousands and left structures built with native materials which decades later are treasured.

Cooper's Rock State Park, WV

Cooper’s Rock State Park, WV

Birch Catkin

Birch catkin


The birds were singing, sun shining and wind blowing trees with bright new leaves and catkins. Picked up a book with trails described, will be sure to return in other seasons.


Arrived at Cedar Lakes Conference Center in Ripley for week long rug camp directed by Tomorrow’s Heirlooms. Always enjoy the early morning fog lifting off water surface and structures. How could this view be interpreted using fiber techniques? The reflecting light is what fascinates me.

early morning light

early morning light

Traveled to Charleston and visited the Capitol Market. Plants in all sizes, colors and leaf shapes.  Inspirations everywhere if you pause to see what you are looking at.

Charleston Farmers Market detail

And finished this stop with lunch at Soho which uses Homer Laughlin Fiestaware (WV company) for serving dishes along with local ingredients for fresh salads.

Fiestaware at SoHo

Fiestaware at SoHo

Inspirations collected depict space, scale, color, value, contrast, depth, texture, nature and history. May I encourage you to experience new visuals and sounds and add them to your work.

Retreating in the Mountains 2015

The 8th Retreat into the Mountains weekend is over with resounding “YES let’s do this again” from all.  Coming in over the mountains fog slowed the progress into Peterkin Camp and Conference Center on Friday.  Gathering with friends, settling into our nests, sharing the projects we wanted to spend our time on, and learning a variety of finishing techniques were how Friday was spent.  Of course there was food in the dining hall and in-between, all with a healthy approach. Last person left the workroom at 12:30 Saturday morning….

Keri Sue Brunk lead two yoga sessions on Saturday.  The first before breakfast and the second one introducing the practice just before lunch.  She also loosened up the neck, hands and back muscles while we sat in our seats.

The finishing techniques we covered were triple whipping with cording conducted as a hands-on session by Nancy Parcels. Stumbles, success, and appreciation were the compliments we shared with our samples.  Lori LaBerge showed the layering involved to present her work for gallery sales by stitching the hooked work to gray herringbone, stretched onto art board with clean wrapped corners, cloth covering the back all of which is then inserted into a gold rimmed shadowbox frame. A whipped mitered corner was demonstrated from handout by Germaine James of Canada. Debra Smith showed how a picot crocheted edge enhances a whimsical design.

Collection of pin looms

Collection of pin looms

The Falls

The Falls

We played with pin looms ranging in sizes from 2 inch square to 4″ x 6″ and using a variety of yarns and ribbons.  The March/April/May 2015 issue of Rug Hooking Magazine includes an article about continuous weaving incorporating pieces into hooked art. The annual hike to the glen with waterfall and hemlock grove introduced the property at Peterkin to the new attendees on Saturday afternoon.

Jim, Paul, Andy, Rick and Joe

Jim, Paul, Andy, Rick and Joe

Saturday evening we stayed at Peterkin and all of our senses were exposed to a new experience.  Within Hampshire County there are dozens of musicians who jam weekly playing old-time music. I called Paul Roomsburg and he networked with four others. Jim Morris brought instruments made from common objects telling us the history of music. Joe Hypes and Andy Agnew brought along their Rebel Union CDs and played guitar, fiddle and banjo during the evening.  Rick Pegg played the entire three hours standing up with the bass. To say we had a good time would be far from enough compliments to this group of talent.  By the end wooden spoons were tapping away on body parts, our clapping and stomping added to their strings. We all joined in with a rendition of John Denver’s ‘Country Roads‘ and ‘Amazing Grace‘.

Taking photos, studying

Taking photos, studying

2015 attendees

2015 attendees

Sunday was filled with conversations including critiques; suggestions for equipment, material and other workshops; and several successful completed projects.  We “throw down” works onto the wide porch each year and then get together for a group portrait.  Lunch and packing up came too quickly but the dates are set for 2016 and cyberspace will keep us connected until then.


Finishing up the Study

March 23 I finished the last month in the Year Study.  That is not to mean every single square is completed but I can say there is an end in sight and the twelve panels will be ready for Sauder Village Rug Hooking Week August 11-15 in Archbold, OH.

Visit Year Study – Collection Gallery to see the months and individual squares.  Over time the full project will be uploaded.

August 2014 nine squares

August 2014 nine squares

Lessons learned? Sketch and complete each subject at least within the month.  I jumped around and when busy with teaching stopped working on the pieces until months later.  The creative momentum was lost for a particular design or a techniqueI had suggested did not interest me when it came around to doing that square. So I changed it.

I still procrastinate.  Although deadlines are met, I prioritize the projects and decide whether a commitment is worth pursuing or can be shelved.  This one will be completed because I told many people, it has been accepted as an exhibit, I am happy with the results, the documentation will be useful in future articles, workshops and the direction of my artwork practices.

Color studies

Color studies

Solution:  Independent study with one person as student and advisor means goals or methods can be changed to meet the situation.  Stay positive do not chastise, evolve. I changed some designs from original sketch.  There were days with no sketches which I used to explore a series with pleasure.  I got through by breaking the 365+pieces  down into segments of a each month.

Results: When the project began I thought it would be rewarding to explore new techniques in surface design.  Now 18 months later and counting, that goal was met and I have set another one: to educate. During the year photographs were taken when changes were made to a piece.  I will write a series of articles describing the process, challenges and solutions.  In future posts and the pages on the site under Year Study, mini courses will develop and a dialog with viewers.  I found using social media helpful for encouragement, directed critique and developing an interested audience.

Progress in the Mountains, Susan L. Feller 2014

Progress in the Mountains, Susan L. Feller 2014

There is an urge to work on larger pieces finally.  Abstract, geometric, simplified palettes, and environmental stories are the styles and subjects which will be developed.


To be continued. I am glad to be on this creative journey with you.

Virtual Studio Visit – Susan L. Feller

Transfer design to linen backing

Transfer design to linen backing

As a creative person I would love to stay in the studio and work, but no one sees the results unless they visit. These days a virtual visit can be arranged if some of that creative time is put into developing websites, blogs and social media avenues.

Here are ways you can view, learn about, and purchase some of that artwork:

Ruckman Mill Farm color logo  We are revamping the website www.RuckmanMillFarm.com It is back up now. Hope you check it out regularly to see new and favorite rug hooking patterns, supplies, and my teaching schedule.  Use the coupon FaceShip when checking out to receive free shipping until March 31.  And please send me comments on the navigation and order process, we can improve with input. Here in the hills of West Virginia it is loading SLOWLY……

The site you are on now,  www.ArtWools.com serves as my identity as an artist and also acts as a blog. If you are new to it, I invite you to look on the right sidebar and sign up for automatic posts . Search the pages to view Galleries and biographical details.

We are now on Facebook on two pages Ruckman Mill FarmSusan L. Feller, Artwools , LIKE them for news feeds.

And I have several boards on Pinterest at Susan Feller at Artwools

Hoping to hear from you after “visiting” 24-7.

Progress in the Mountains

Progress in the Mountains, Susan L. Feller 2015

Progress in the Mountains, Susan L. Feller 2015

After three years of muddling over this topic I created “Progress in the Mountains“, a seven foot by 27 inch hand hooked runner.

Envision the impact on geography, environment, culture and community the human drive for progress has had on the natural resources of West Virginia (a micro example of the globe).

1. Major interstate highways create jobs for the construction industry, allow quicker access to towns and destinations for tourism and commerce but disturb migration paths, feeding and lodging habitat for fauna and flora.

2. Corporate farming in the form of one breed of cattle, poultry buildings for thousands, and processing plants for each creates excess of waste which needs to be distributed by vehicles to wider destinations or processed into a stable by-product.

3. Lumbering of the forests, many of which were contract planted for the pulp or board feet affects the terrain.  The undergrowth is necessary to keep erosion from happening, contributing to pollutants in the rivers.  Slow traffic from lumber trucks is alleviated with the new highway system.

4. Coal mining strips the tops of mountains to find the veins, moving the waste often into headwaters of small streams which will run into the major river systems.  But the coal is used to create electricity for the metropolitan population’s requirements to communicate, work, entertain.  The power lines to distribute the energy create wide cuts in direct paths economical for the corporations taking years of negotiating with landowners, environmentalists, historians and politicians but eventually “for the good of the majority” being implemented.

5. Wind turbines line the highest ridge lines feeding the energy generated into those power lines again going out of our state to the metropolitan region.  Although a regenerable resource (wind) the effect on birds’ migratory paths is being studied.

I find it interesting to use a traditional hands-on process of pulling one loop at a time, manipulating the fabric into shapes and directions (rug hooking) to depict these issues of the 21st Century.  For months this design was drawn horizontally spreading the seven feet with layers of hills, roads and power lines intersecting the organic shapes.  It did not seem to be the right format. Finally in my daily journal on June 27 I tried a vertical format and could see more layers allowing a longer trail to be able to tell more stories.  The piece evolved easily from there.

Study for Progress in the Mountains

Study for Progress in the Mountains

Working this runner was like reading a great book, each chapter and character held my interest. They built on previous sections with shapes, colors and values evolving along the path, progressing to the top and end.  Imagine walking along, following the flow of road and hills then turning around and coming back down the mountain in your hallway.

Following are subjects taken along the Robert C. Byrd Highway system in Hardy County, WV and the rug in stages of completion.