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Category Archives: Contemporary rugmakers

Last Call for a Great Rug Exhibit

By | Contemporary rugmakers, Creativity, Rug Community | 6 Comments

This weekend I finally got to go to the hooked rug exhibit at the Pompanoosuc Mills showroom in East Thetford, VT, and I sure was glad I did not miss it. If you want to see it, the end date is coming up fast – the show will be up through Mon., November 27th. The showroom is open all days except Thanksgiving, even Sunday (11-5).

The wonderful rug shown above is River Dream, by Ed O’Keeffe. Just so you can see the great color and amazing detail, here is a close-up:

I was surprised at how large an exhibit it was. Just one stunning rug after another, and with a great variety of styles. Here is Jennifer Davey’s Guardian:

Kris McDermet had her (braided and hooked) rug Women of Hope on display:

And I especially liked Kathi Barbour’s pictorial, Megan, Emily and Matthew on the Gile Brook Trail:

Kathi Barbour’s beautiful rug Valley of Mexico was there, too, and I apologize for not getting a close-up of the delicate detail in her work, but it is a magnificent rug:

Sue Gault had two of these charming 3-D cats, called Brothers, to add a whimsical note to the show:

…and Judith Kushner had First Rug – Joey on display:

Could that have really been Judith’s first rug? Yikes! As someone who tried to hook my long-haired cat many times, I am impressed, whether it was her first rug or her hundredth!

And Liz Guth had this stunning hooked composition, Long Island City, on display:

I had to stop and just look at this rug for a long time, just trying to understand its quiet yet vibrant look. And let’s end with one more from Liz Guth, this one called Untitled 1:

Here is a close-up of the detail in the layer-on-layer borders:

So congratulations to Pompanoosuc Mills for opening their furniture showroom to such a wonderful and large exhibit. And congratulations to all the rughookers represented in the show – many more than I have shown here – and to the organizers, too. It is a terrific display of rughooking talent.

So if you want to go for a ride, pre- or post-turkey, head up to East Thetford, VT. It’s a pretty ride, and you will be well rewarded in sheer talent. Hours and directions can be found online at www.pompy.com.

All rugs shown are copyrighted and so protected, and used here with the very kind permission of their makers.

Amsterdam style!

By | Contemporary rugmakers, Food for thought, History of Art | 2 Comments

I thought you blog readers would get a kick out of this…about 12 rughooking friends got together for the weekend at a great B&B, as we have a few times before. So as we usually do, we stopped at one point to take a group photo. Came out pretty good, and at least everyone’s eyes were open.

Then someone (who clearly read my recent blog entries) suggested we take one more photo, but “Amsterdam style” – meaning only one or two people looking directly at the camera/viewer, and the rest looking at each other, or at least not looking directly out. So we took one more picture – as in the style of the Dutch “golden age” group portraits from the mid-1600s. Here is the group photo, Amsterdam style:

I got an enormous kick out of this. First, that someone thought of it after reading my last blog entry (well done, Lynda!) and second, that it came out as such an interesting group photo – just a little bit different!

So if you are having family get-togethers for Thanksgiving and start taking photos of the group, maybe give this a try and let me know how it goes!

“What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.” – Ecclesiastes 1:9

A balance of two passions

By | Composition, Contemporary rugmakers, Creativity | 3 Comments

Last week our White Mountain Woolen Magic guild speaker was Kris McDermet, of Dummerston, VT. I told our members ahead of time that if they had ever seen one of her rugs, they would remember it.

Kris has blended braiding and hooking, to take both to a new level. Above, you can see her rug Leaves of Grace, based on a Shaker Tree of Life design. Notice how, even in the rug’s center, the “fruits” of the tree are small braided pieces:

And the outer border features hooked and braided leaves with empty space between them:

Kris works on smaller sections of her rugs, and then pieces them together into the larger whole. Here is another of her rugs, called Passion:

In this beautiful work, Kris even encorporated some wet-felting, to do the hearts in her design:

Kris finished each piece of hooking separately, using wool rug padding and a back lining to bring each hooked area up to the same level as the thicker braided areas. Here is a close-up of one hooked piece, almost finished, with the hooked layer, the linen backing, rug padding and finally the red lining, ready to turn in and finish the stitching on:

And here is a hooked piece, all padded and lined, and about to have a line of braiding added:

Kris explained that, as much as she tries to get a precise fit between the hooked and braided pieces, sometimes, it does not come out right, and she has to figure out a way to “make it work” – her sharing these moments with us made her process much more accessible to the rest of us!

Here is a close-up of another of Kris’s rugs (too large for me to photograph well) that was based on a contemplative labrynth:

And this piece is called Peaceful and Quiet Offerings, with the design
based on the idea of a string of lanterns around a koi pond with the birds and bugs surrounding the pond:

Kris says that when one of her designs really works, neither the braiding nor the hooking is more important than the other. There is a balance.

Many thanks to Kris for sharing the story of her rugs with our group, and allowing me to show them to you here. Her website is online at www.krismcdermetrugs.com, where you can find her schedule of classes, too. Kris’s book “Combining Rughooking and Braiding” is available from Shiffer Books online here, and has a lot of detailed instructions for anyone wanting to know more of her techniques!

Old rug, new rug

By | Color, Contemporary rugmakers, Making rugs | 4 Comments

This is the first proddy rug I ever made. I was living in the northwest of England, and saw a notice for a one-day class in making rag rugs in the parish newsletter, signed up, went, and had a wonderful time, and met some very nice women in the nearby market town of Kirkby Lonsdale in the process.

I’ve never liked the design very much – concentric circles are just not that interesting, but have always been fond of it anyhow, and it has laid in front of our stove for years. It’s a bit grimy and flattened from so many feet finding cushion and comfort from standing on it for hours and hours while cooking.

But this summer, I (finally!) got a new kitchen counter, and as I approach the end of my “Flag on the Porch” rug, I have decided to make a new proddy to go in front of our stove. Here is a close-up of our new counter:

It is so beautiful! Especially since I’ve lived with a black, 1970s leather-look (ie, uneven and hard to clean) counter for many years! It’s called Blue Sahara, by Silestone, by the way…

So this morning, after a very stressful week (5 hr. trip to the ER with my husband, doing credit freezes and changing passwords, nuclear war seeming imminent, minor but upsetting dog fight, and so on) I finally had enough creative juices running in my veins to go into my wool room and started pulling wool for my next project:

Making a proddy rug takes a lot of wool. How much? Way more than you anticipate. For me, this is good – my wool is overflowing it’s shelves. I still want to look through again to add more rust-colored wool. And maybe a piece or two of gray.

I am planning to make a “confetti” rug – where all the colors are mixed together somewhat randomly, like in this proddy I made for my bathroom:

English rugmakers also call confetti rugs “mizzy-mazzy” rugs – don’t even bother to ask me why, but it is a great name, isn’t it? The secret of having enough wool in different colors for a confetti rug is to use a lot of different blues, for example, so that as you run out of one blue plaid or solid, you can just add another one in. Some people cut a lot of wool and divide up each color into four piles or bags, so that most of the colors are evenly distributed for each quarter of the rug.

And proddy means a lot of cutting. I will start now, first cutting long 1″-wide strips, and then taking two or three long strips and cutting them into small 2 1/2″ or 3″ pieces. A good task while watching a movie or four… I can usually cut two or three thicknesses of wool at once into long strips, which helps. At least for proddy, your cutting does not have to be all that precise. If one long strip is slightly wider at one point, and thinner at another, it really does not matter, it will still be fine.

And during stressful days, “It will still be fine” sounds like just the kind of feeling I need.

Out at sea…

By | Contemporary rugmakers, Creativity, Design | 5 Comments

It’s one thing to go to a great rug camp, but when you are six miles out to sea on a small island, the problem is that every direction you look in, there is a rug design just waiting to happen. This is a photo of early morning, just after sunrise, on the Isles of Shoals, where I spent four days at Pam Bartlett’s Star Island Rug Retreat. And yes, though I got a lot of hooking done, this time I did take photos of at least some of the projects people were working on to show you.

Last year, Pam set aside the project she had brought to spontaneously make this rug during the retreat:

And she challenged us to come back to Star with a rug reflecting our memories of the island. Three people brought beautiful pieces. First, Cathy Dupuis, of Holderness, NH, made this small piece, capturing the rowboats that anchor in the harbor:

Donna Rousseau, of Wells, Maine, finished her challenge rug this week on the island. She decided to call it Cornerstone:

And Dayle Young Wheeler, of Rutland, VT, brought back her wonderful view of the chapel steeple, with the words that capture the essence of a retreat on Star Island – just beautiful:

And while we were there, two rugs were completed. Biffie Gallant, of Randolph, VT, finished this lovely rug that she had been working on for more than a year. The pattern is Chinese Roundel, by Jane McGown Flynn:

And Bonnie Roycewicz, of Fort Ann, NY, finished this charming rug during our time on Star. The pattern is Love Birds, by Cushing, and adapted by Bonnie as a wedding gift:

And in our four days, I got a lot done on my rug, based on the photo I’ve shown you of my porch with our flag flying:

Each day, Pam spent a few moments talking with us about being creative, being in the moment, being mindful, and noticing the beauty of your surroundings. And of course, this, we can each do wherever we are.

Pam Bartlett does such a wonderful job organizing this retreat, as well as running a great rug shop, The Woolen Pear, in Loudon, NH, online at www.redhorserugs.com. It’s not that easy, when every single thing has to be anticipated and transported out to the island on the ferry. Thank you, Pam.

All photos of these rugs are shown here with the permission of their makers, and many thanks to each of them. And thank you, Star Island. More info on day trips, retreats, and conferences on Star, and the fascinating history of the island, can be found at www.starisland.org.

Breaking boundaries

By | Art, Contemporary rugmakers, Creativity | 3 Comments

Alexandra Kahayoglou’s family runs a carpet factory in Buenos Aires. She takes scraps of leftover thread from the factory, and uses a hand-tufting process to create wool rugs that are inspired by nature’s surfaces – moss, water, grass, trees, meadows. Some, like the one shown above, break the boundary between wall and floor, between inside and outside.

And sometimes, she breaks the definition between furniture and rug:

Part tapestry and part rug, Kehayoglou has managed to take the leftovers of more standard carpetmaking, and go in her own direction.

Many of her creations remind me of looking down, from an airplane, to see the colors and forms of the earth-bound landscape:

To me, Kahayoglou’s work displays real creativity. Using cast-off material, useless for the purpose it had served, she sees something, and puts it together in a new way. In doing so, she gives us a new perspective of viewing what is all around us. She sees her rugs (“her grasslands”) as a statement of concern for our fragile environment, “like I’m flying the flag for mother earth”.

I have few details about the tufting method she uses – she calls it weaving or hand-tufting, using a “weaving gun” – but I love her work and her creativity. Here is a photo of her in the process of making a rug:

She writes, “I like pieces that can be used, that lie between design and art.” She’s had numerous shows, and coverage in international fashion and interior design magazines, and has her own website at alexkeha.com. May your own rugs fly the flag of your own creative spirit!

A Labor of Love

By | Contemporary rugmakers, Creativity, Design | 3 Comments

Gayle Burton, of West Point, Utah, has been working on and off on this rug for over five years, and now it is done. It is her family story rug, and is pretty large – 48″ x 60″. She wrote that it was a labor of love, and it felt great to have finally finished it.

I have become more and more drawn to personal storytelling rugs in general lately. Yes, we can all enjoy making florals, or holiday rugs with Santas and pumpkins and Easter bunnies, and enjoy them for years to come. But taking your own memories and family stories, and making a rug design around them, as Gayle has, really puts your own experience and spirit into a rug. Let’s look a little closer at how Gayle did it.

She wrote, “Hubby and I moved into our home in Clinton, Utah, as honeymooners, and raised three children and a dog there, over the course of 37 years.

Lesson #1: Don’t stress about hooking people into your rug! It doesn’t have to be a fine-shaded, perfect-rendition portrait of them. If you could draw people when you were in the third grade, you can draw (and hook) them now. Gayle’s are charming, and all the family (the focus of her family rug) is right there and up front.

The Union Pacific Railroad runs right behind the house – the diesel trains aren’t very picturesque, so I hooked an old-fashioned steam engine instead“:

Lesson #2: Adapt as you see fit. “Artistic License” is a wonderful thing, and you own it! You can adapt reality to a symbolic level, to fit your taste and style, and everyone will know exactly what you are representing!

Gayle did the same thing with her little airplane. She writes, “We live near Hill Air Force Base, and F-16 fighter jets fly overhead often.” So she added a simple little red airplane to her design. Who cares that F-16s aren’t red?

“We are LDS (Mormons) so I hooked in the Salt Lake Temple as a symbol of our religion – there are flowers to depict the beautiful gardens that are to be seen in every season at Temple Square. The blue represents the Great Salt Lake.

Again, Gayle did not try to portray the gardens in their entirety, she just put in a few flowers to represent the gardens. Perfect!

Lesson #3: Get started by making a list (and asking family members to add to it) of significant places and features that define your story – both large and small.

Gayle’s list included the very large – the Temple and Great Salt Lake – to a quilt hanging outside, the flag, and what grew in her garden:

She writes, “Our home is surrounded by wonderful shade trees that provided great climbing opportunities for the children and their friends as they grew. We also grow a garden each summer, so I hooked corn and pumpkins to represent that.

Finally, she included the family name and date banner across the bottom, and then two borders on the upper part of the rug, which really give a finished look to the rug (I love the little dabs of hit or miss!) and she added, “The borders were fun to hook, and used up a lot of my worms, too!”

Lesson #4: Just begin. Maybe it took Gayle more than five years to finish this lovely rug, but she has it now, and I am sure it will always be treasured. If your kids had a pet hedgehog, google “drawings of hedgehogs” and then just try drawing one. Gayle drew all of her motifs freehand, and rughooking’s folk art style allows for each idea, place, person, animal or object to be pictured as a motif, not a perfect line drawing. If you need to, draw your hedgehog on newsprint a bunch of times until you get one you like, and then cut that one out and trace it onto your backing. But just begin.

After living in Clinton for 37 years, three months ago Gayle and her family moved to a neighboring town in Utah, and, as she puts it, “We’re starting new stories here now!”

Thanks so much, Gayle, for sharing the story of your wonderful story rug with us! It is a terrific rug, and your labor of love comes through.

This is Gayle’s original work, it’s copyrighted, and used here with her kind permission. Please ask her before you copy, pin or share it on the web. Gayle wrote much of the process of making her rug on her own blog, online at themiddlesister.blogspot.com.

A Hooker’s Will

By | Contemporary rugmakers | 4 Comments

A while back, my friend Jeni mentioned how much she worried about what would happen to her rugs after she was gone. Since then, I have mentioned this to several rughookers, and every one of them shared Jeni’s concern. The thought of them ending up in a yard sale, in an auction for a pitifully low price, or even tossed away brings sadness and grief.

I am lucky to have a niece who understands my rugs and values the work I put into them. She will be my “rug trustee”, and once family and friends have been given the ones they want, I have told her to donate the others – to our town library, volunteer fire department, church, local conservation group – to raffle or sell off as they wish. At least someone who likes them will bid on or buy them, and for a good cause. That’s the best I could come up with!

But how about the stash? Of course you have heard the good old joke, “Don’t ever let my husband sell my wool for what I told him it cost…”?

A while back, I came across The Hooker’s Will. It was not signed so I really don’t know who wrote it, but I copied it, added names, signed it, and it is now in with other important papers. Here it is:

Hooker’s Will
Being of sound mind and body (a statement that does not bear close scrutiny), I, —————, do hereby record my last stash will and testament. Knowing that ——————, my (husband, sister, daughter, son) has no appreciation, or for that matter knowledge of my extensive wool collection, which by the way is deposited in various places throughout my home for safekeeping (look beyond my wool room, check backs of closets, under the beds, etc.), I make this will.

Knowing that the likely scenario of the relative mentioned above might be to just call the local goodwill store (should I precede him/her to that great hooking shop in the sky) to pick up and dispose of the aforementioned collection, I therefore do will this collection and all other collections of tools, frames, cutters, worms, scissors, sharpies, red dot, linen, patterns, works in process, etc. to my dear fellow wool preservationist ——————-.

It is my wish that she, upon hearing of my death and obtaining clear proof that I did not manage (although goodness knows I tried) to take it with me, will come to my home, before said goodwill store searches it out. That she should rescue said collection and stack it in my hooking studio. After she has done that, she should purchase refreshments for all my friends not yet departed, which friends are also her friends, and every last one of them should be in that room, and they should hold a wake and say lots of lovely, lively and kind things about me until they run out, and then they shall divide my wonderful collection amongst themselves in a highly congenial manner.

Be forewarned – I shall be hovering over that very spot until this is done. Said appointed friend shall then leave this spot and close the door, leaving the car, house, stocks, bonds and other worldly nonsense to those who don’t understand or know any better. This is my wish on the matter.
Signed:
Dated:

The spectacular rug pictured at the top will go on sale by Jeffrey S. Evans & Associates of Mt. Crawford, VA on June 17, 2017, 9:30am. It’s Lot 1230, described as: AMERICAN FOLK ART PICTORIAL HOOKED RUG, stylized depiction of a long-tailed brown dog set against a striated ground. Professionally mounted for display. Dimensions: 30 1/2″ x 34 1/2″. Late 19th/early 20th century. Estimated price $200-300. Online at www.jeffreysevans.com

A fine rug, and blessed wool

By | Contemporary rugmakers, Creativity, Making rugs | 6 Comments

At rug camp there was a great display of over 100 rugs, and this one really made me gasp. It is Reflection, by Mary Hays, of Bass Harbor, Maine. Happily, the part of the exhibit with Mary’s lovely rug was hanging in my classroom, so I got to look at it throughout the week at Sebago Lake Rug Camp. There were so many beautiful and creative pieces, but I just could not stop looking at this one. Such a natural landscape… and though I heard many viewers comment on how well Mary caught the trees and mountains reflected again in the water (certainly true!), I just kept looking at the way Mary caught the rocks that gradually disappear as the water gets deeper! What a great effect in wool!

And late in the week, during the show and tell “throwdown”, I found one rug that again made me gasp in appreciation – this time because in the bottom corner of the border of this just-begun landscape, someone had added a small, beautifully rendered hand, hooking. Yes, it was Mary’s current project. I just fell in love with the creativity in adding in that small hooking hand:

Happily, I found Mary and had a chance to talk a bit with her, express my admiration for her rugs. I was also surprised, on her new project, at how sketchy her initial drawing is – she said she just wants a rough outline, and does the rest as she hooks. Here is the whole rug, showing her “outline”:

When I complimented her on the sky in her new project, she said she finds skies easy to do, because in nature, there are so many infinite variations on the sky and clouds, that nothing really will look wrong!

One other thing. Three women, by chance, sit next to each other in their class. All had projects well underway. One of them, a different Mary, decides that she has hooked the vase in her rug in the wrong color. It needs to be lighter – but she does not have the right wool. She looked at all the wool for sale (and there was a lot of beautiful wool for sale) and couldn’t find anything just right. Then the woman sitting next to her, Kathy, glances over, reaches into her wool bag, and pulls out a piece of wool, just the right shade of maroon, with just the right small dots of color. “Try this”, she says, “I don’t need it, I just stuck it in my bag for no particular reason.”

And Kathy’s wool worked perfectly for Mary’s vase. So then Mary has a big pile of the wool that had not worked – the wool she just pulled out from her rug and replaced. And the woman on the other side of her, Diane, looks at the pile of rejected wool, and looks again. She asked Mary if she could use it, and Mary said “Of course!”. And Mary’s pulled-out wool turned out to be the perfect wool for the dragonfly that Diane was working on. I call this a case of blessed wool.

Many thanks to Mary Hays for permission to show her work here. Both rugs pictured are her own creative work, so are protected by copyright. Please do not copy, paste, pin or pass them on, as a courtesy to her. Many thanks to Gail Walden, for running a wonderful rug camp, and to my teacher, Loretta Scena, for her talented guidance! And a quick hello to blog reader Priscilla McGarry, who actually searched me out just to tell me she likes this blog – how nice it was to talk to her!

Breaking boundaries

By | Art, Contemporary rugmakers, Museums | No Comments


The other day I told you a little about the Textile Museum of Canada, and oddly, enough, through a completely separate search, this morning I ended up on the website of the Textile Museum of Sweden. It’s located in the town of Borås. I found a photo of this work, shown above, online, and just had to track down it’s creator.

The creator of this piece is Faig Ahmed, and the museum’s new exhibit for the summer highlights the work of Ahmed, who is a rugmaker and sculptor from Azerbaijan, in the South Caucasus. Bordered by Russia, Armenia, Turkey and Iran, it is a region where hand-crafted carpets have been made for centuries.

The catalog from the museum show gives more information about this wonderful work:

Entitled Virgin, by Faig Ahmed. This is a hand-woven carpet with a traditional pattern that gradually transforms into a thick red mass. The work continues on a series of signature textile works by Ahmed and reveals unspoken local narratives on male-female gender relations hidden inside the crafts and artisanal practices. More specifically the work draws from the early practice of unmarried girls producing one exquisite textile as part of the treasure she brings into the marriage. In other words suggesting the transition from a girl to a woman.”

I’m not sure I can get the full gist of the cultural symbolism, but the work itself dazzles me. Talk about breaking borders of a traditional craft!

Here is another work of Ahmed’s that is also in the show, and also dazzling:

“”He doesn’t answer questions, he poses them”, says Medeia Ekner, curator at the Textile Museum of Sweden, of the artist, who is known mostly for his unique way of transforming traditional Azerbaijani rugs into contemporary sculptural shapes. His method of deconstructing conventional patterns and symbols and reshaping them into original compositions often results in new, dramatic expressions.”

Yikes! And here I was thinking “breaking barriers” meant something like using extra-bright colors in a primitive design!

The museum’s web page about this exhibit is here.

Images copyrighted ( copyright enforced), and used courtesy of Faig Ahmed Studio. The artist’s own website, featuring other works, can be found here.

Enjoy the day, everyone, and be brave.