Tag Archives: Susan L. Feller

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.

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.

Facetime: Portraits Exhibit

Another opportunity to combine traditions at the Schwenkfelder Library and Heritage Center, Pennsburg, PA has resulted in Face Time: Portraits in Hooked Rugs and Selections from the Heritage Center Collection. The exhibit is up through March 17, 2018.

Susan Feller brought a variety of hooked work addressing the theme from self-portraits, friends, animals and a full group of church goers. Curator Candace Perry opened the archives and the two selected framed portraits of founders, animals, Halloween masks, frakturs, china phrenology heads and etched glasses all with faces. Come by to learn about traditions, history and leave with a smile on your FACE.

Thank you to the artists who contributed their work:

Hunter”, Judy Carter, Willow Street, PA

An original design, Judy has studied and instructs how-to portray animals using rughooking.  She is the author of Hooking Animals. Visit www.jcrugs.com.

Susan @ 60″, Susan L Feller, Augusta, WV

Self portrait including motifs which tell about my life in West Virginia, our log home, the mountains, trees (a common motif), orange glasses and gray hair. Working in mixed media adds to the autobiographical design. Frame designed by Jim Lilly. Visit ArtWools.com

“Mona and Me”, Rita Hammock, design Laura Pierce/photo Darryl Hammock, Brighton, MI

Mona was a good friend. Created to preserve our friendship, then she became ill. The rug was worked on during the months prior to her passing. Rug hooking is good therapy and creates memories.

“President Washington”, design by Linda Pietz, CA; hooked by Nola Heidbreder, St. Louis, MO

This portrait of George Washington is traditionally hooked with strips of wool fabric cut in  3/8” strips.  He read his Bible for one hour twice a day. Book available with first 44 “Hooking the Presidents”. Visit NolaHooks.com

“Celebrating in North Bay”, Roslyn Logsdon, Laurel, MD

A birthday celebration with my son in Maine. Value, contrast and shapes are important elements in my work. Visit RoslynLogsdon.net

“Coco the Llama”, Liz Marino, South Egremont, MA

My husband and I have had a llama farm since 1984. The portrait of CoCo Llama was a tribute to our herd matriarch. She represented everything we bred for in a well put together llama and also had the soul and temperament that we stove for in our breeding program. Visit LizMarinoRugHooking.com

“Manservant”, June Myles, Redding CT and Elkins, WV

Image is a serving man during the wedding of “the King of the World”. It was adapted from a Persian miniature of the Wedding Procession of Dara Shiloh.

“Homecoming”, Sarah Province, Silver Spring, MD

The congregation of Fairfield Presbyterian Church, near Richmond, VA 1940 Sarah’s family is in this gathering. She is the blonde girl in red jumper at her mother’s knee on the right. The original photo included about 200 people, with artistic license, 75 are depicted here.

The Schwenkfelder is open Tuesday – Sunday and is located at 105 Seminary Street, Pennsburg, PA. Visit Schwenkfelder.com

 

 

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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.

 

 

A town hall with a Senator

On a different topic than artmaking, but relevant to my work since government attention to issues is refocusing and I am reacting to those actions by being informed.

I have not been in Civics class or Social Studies since 1973 but I attended a session today. Senator Joe Manchin was invited by the Hampshire High School DECA and Social Studies department to a town hall format presentation at the school. Since I am not involved with a family member in the school system, I would have missed this opportunity if we did not subscribe to the Senator’s October 24, 2017 newsletter which listed the event as a public affair. After verifying with the news staff at Hampshire Review (our local weekly media outlet) I decided to attend. He was coming barely 20 miles from my home after all.

Pulling onto the grounds of the school there were several students at the “check-in” station, I asked if I needed to verify purpose and was directed to the main office to sign-in. Come to find out the event was in the Auditorium accessed from the back parking area and no sign-in was necessary. The space filled with chatting students (some with breakfast in bags although a sign said no food or drink and I had not brought my coffee in recalling such restrictions in my youth). Some received a listing of the questions the class had agreed would be asked, to act as presenters during the session. The press was represented, Board of Education members, Commissioners, Economic Development Director, state official and school staff along with many fellow public citizens.

audience Hampshire High town hall with Senator Manchin

Just a few minutes after the 9:00 am scheduled start, the US and WV state flags were processed by FFA members, the Pledge of Allegiance said by the audience and the Senator was introduced by a Hampshire High Senior who holds office in a local and state organization.

I am going to say my reasons for attending were to confront the Senator with an issue about rescinding the clean power plan guidelines and listen for comments which I could interpret as not representing the progressive, open United States I picture for 2017 (a defensive attitude). I realized at the end of the hour and half that there is a place in our lives for encouragement, support, acceptance, and assistance not divided by party affiliation, economic or social status and certainly not divided by religious beliefs or media bias. The social internet rabbit hole that sucks so many down with emotional buttons and quick captions is not LIFE. Conversation and compromising to achieve change is better than bickering.

Senator Manchin knew the profile of his audience and spoke with encouragement, challenges and lessons for the juniors and seniors just starting out in the world and hit home to even this “senior”. He related stories from high school days as a football player and visiting Romney four years staying with two families who he continues to keep in touch with. How an injury in college changed the path of a football career and having to knuckle down and study for his degree.

The student’s questions ranged from asking how and why he entered politics…he wanted to help beyond his own community. What does he like and dislike about being a Senator? The responsibility to be part of helping WV, the US and realizing those actions reverberate around the world is an honor; negative – the politics of saying the other side is wrong because they are the “other side”.
What can be done about poverty? Federal government has fought “the war on poverty” since President Johnson, but are we giving money out or training/educating people for the skills needed in jobs today? In the 1930’s President Roosevelt instituted the Rural Electrification Act and everyone got electricity. Now in 2017 Manchin has discussed with the President the need for Rural Connectivity….updating the internet access in our state and many others to equalize the opportunity for broader education, business, communication while staying in our communities.
The opioid epidemic needs to be funded and addressed as an illness, not a felony. More treatment centers, education of medical personnel to not prescribe as easily, and a minimal tax on each pill made paid by pharmaceuticals to fund these avenues should be parts of the program the President has recently announced.

The wall, the 2nd Amendment, health care, medicare, arts funding, environment, LGBTQ acceptance were all topics explained, or at least addressed in a courteous question and answer format.

Senator Manchin’s overall message was a pep talk to the students: You live in a country that allows you to do whatever you want. You just need to decide what that is, figure out how to achieve it with finances, education, opportunity and act. Nothing should be a barrier, inviting students to contact his office for guidance. The students must be educated, clean (of drugs), and prepared to enter the next phase of life. Every child should expect five elements: a person to trust, a support system, a safe place, to develop skills, and then to give back to others. We all can think of how to fill these needs for children/people in our community.

photo session with Senator Manchin

I left energized, actually emotional as I recalled the exciting challenging debates in my Social Studies class those many years ago, and optimistic that the next generation of Hampshire High students will contribute to their community near and far. I hope you meet some of them along the way.

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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.

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.

Spring and nature’s marks

Winter weather has been good for working in the studio. Old techniques from my teens were at the center (literally in the circle hoop). I even got out in the community for a women’s group reading. All of these projects are different avenues for me but necessary in my growth. Cards depicting two of the pieces are in the shop now.

Spring arrived on the calendar, on the air with the sounds of migrating birds returning to establish territories, and on the branches of our trees. I like to follow these changes daily with camera and my eyes developing new designs. The slow stitching I explored through the winter and prep for abstract expressionism workshops have me looking at lines/marks within fields/shapes of color/value.   In the grouping below the snow on fence and maple flowers compositions interest me most. Will see how I interpret them.

Hope your creative juices are flowing too.