I spent part of the day today with my talented buddies in my rug hooking group. One of the members, Cheryl L, is a Rug Rescuer. Cheryl is the first Rug Rescuer I have ever met, but I know there are more out there.
Above you can see Cheryl’s latest rug. It was originally designed by the remarkable Pearl McGown, who basically revived and kept traditional rug hooking alive from the 1930s thru 1980s. [But therein lies a tale for another day...if you want to read some history on the fascinating Pearl--a creative dynamo with a “my way or the highway” style--please go to the very active McGown Guild page here.]
The rug above was partly hooked and then abandoned by its original maker, probably some time in the 1960s. Fifty years ago. There is no way to trace its history now. It sat unfinished for decades. Then it made its way to Cheryl, the Rug Rescuer.
Cheryl has a passion for finding long-neglected, partly completed rug gems, and making it her business to finish them. Since I’ve known her, she has found, repaired, and finished many rugs that were abandoned by their original owners.
When I say “abandoned,” I’m usually referring to rugs whose owners grew too old to keep working on them and who had to set them aside. I’m guessing old age and/or illness was a factor in most of these abandoned beauties, and Cheryl has rescued them time and time again. I particularly like this rug.
She was able to find the name of the rug--Nasturtiums. You can see a photo of the more traditional colors of this rug here. Scroll down just a little—it’s under the photo of the birdcage. When Cheryl was given this abandoned rug, it had been partially hooked in the dramatic colors in the larger photograph at the top of this post. A little of the original wool, though not much, came with the rug, and she was able to carefully go through her own wools and find enough similar-themed pieces to get it finished. As I recall, the rug was only very lightly hooked before it had been abandoned, and she did about 75% of the hooking herself, keeping to the colors the original anonymous artist had used and blending in her own colors when there was no indication of what the original artist wanted. I absolutely love her result.
Her current project is also a rescue rug. This one arrived with large holes in the burlap backing (a not uncommon occurrence with burlap after years of neglect and bad storage). In this photo you can see the back of the rug where Cheryl has patched the holes:
And here is the front of the rug. The colors are lovely, and the finished piece is going to be beautiful. She has just begun to restore it.
I love that dark background! This is an old traditional pattern called Three Rose Scroll.
This rug has special meaning for Cheryl, because she knows the original artist, Millie, who is now in her 90's and unable to finish the rug. Cheryl greatly admires her, and you can see one of the reasons when you view the dramatic coloring Millie used in this work. I know that Cheryl will make this into another masterpiece, and I can't wait to hear Millie's reaction when she sees if completed.
There is so much creativity involved in Cheryl's process: first in "adopting" these abandoned pieces and in the vision and energy it takes to see them completed. Then in deciding how to approach repairs, in finding and dyeing wool to match, or in the case of the Nasturtium rug, deciding how Cheryl's own color sense can be blended in with the original colors in large portions of the rug where the original maker gave no indication of how she would color it.
McGown-style rugs are not as popular as they once were. The current rug hooking fad is for wide-cut and primitive designs. But I love these old traditional flower rugs, so reminiscent of our brief summer gardens here in New England and so lush (Pearl McGown was a local girl, living in the Worcester area). They were designed and created with love and pride, and even though I don't have the patience to hook one myself, I can admire those who do. I particularly admire Cheryl for her passion to rescue these old, abandoned, lovely summer dreams. Without her care, attention, and creativity, most of these stunning but unfinished works would have been thrown out and never been seen. I love the blend of her work with that of the original makers, a truly creative endeavor.
I always love reading what Fred Mandell has to say on his blog about art, life, and leadership. Today he posted a classic entry with some outstanding quotes on the curse of perfectionism.
Fred is a terrific example of someone who figured out how to do what he loves in life, which these days is painting and speaking about the close connection between the arts and creativity in the workplace. Before becoming a full-time painter, he had a long and successful career as an executive with American Express Financial Services. He is also teaching courses on leadership at MIT's Sloan School, using the arts. I toured his studio two years ago and enjoyed every moment.
His topic today is relevant to us all. Perfectionism does have its place on occasion (certain medical procedures come to mind as a quick example, and perhaps it's useful during an IRS audit) but 98% of the time it's a curse. It prevents us from doing what we need to do and learning from our experiences. Check out Fred's short post, with quotes, here.
Many years ago now I stumbled across the website of the Motawi Tile Works and fell in love with their work. They make art treasures with tile. At that time (late 1990's I think?) I had been asked by a friend to make her a traditionally hooked top for a pillow. I wrote to the Motawi Tile Works and asked for their permission to use their design "Ladybell." Graciously, they granted it. I went off to rug camp in Connecticut and with help from Nancy Miller, my teacher at that camp, produced this pillow top. My friend loved it.
In my experience, artists will often give permission to use their designs, when asked. Not every time perhaps, but more often than not. It makes me sad when people use photos without permission, or copy designs without permission and without attribution. I'm grateful that the Motawi folks gave me permission to recreate this design in wool. I'm also grateful to great teachers, like Nancy Miller, who walked me through the process of translating this design from a hard ceramic surface to a soft woolen pillow top.
In the past, like many people, I've sometimes been anxious about wanting keep "my" things close--"my" information, "my" designs--and hope I've learned about generosity from the many artists and teachers who've shared their work and their knowledge and skills with me. When we respectfully check in with others to ask their permission and they grant it, I think we are all enriched. Designs can then be passed on, to be altered and augmented by new artists. Knowledge can then be passed on, to be updated and renewed or recreated by the students who receive it. It's how we all grow. In no way am I saying we can't be original; only that, to be original, we need the help of others.
"I invent nothing. I rediscover." (Auguste Rodin)
This piece (another one I did while at Tangle University) was done using a stencil. We were all given different stencils to play with, and I lucked out when I opened mine and saw it was a nautilus shape...many other participants were eyeing it with lust in their hearts. As this design is a favorite of mine, I felt very fortunate.
One of the many reasons I love the symbol of the nautilus shell can be found in Oliver Wendell Holmes' well-known poem "The Chambered Nautilus," which most of us read in school:
"He left the past year’s dwelling for the new,
Stole with soft step its shining archway through,
Built up its idle door,
Stretched in his last-found home, and knew the old no more..."
The way this poem encompasses the idea that we must grow, and then let go and enter an entirely "new chamber," grow more, let go again...a lesson I very much need to learn. Especially because of the pattern it creates--which can only be seen in retrospect, and which is so lovely. May it be so for all of us, in each of our lives.
None of the printing I did at Tangle U turned out well and I had to augment all the prints with Gelly Roll pens, as I recall. The teaching was great--the fault in poor printing was all mine. I do like this tangle, though. It has a lacy, calming, feminine feel that appeals to me. I remember feeling peaceful as I was working on it, despite the fact that it didn't start out well. Somehow it came together once I stuck with it.
Another valuable lesson from working with Zentangle.
Here's another tile I did at Tangle U. Pretty sure I did this one in Sandy Steen Bartholemew's class, in which we made prints. My print didn't come out well so I went ahead and embellished it, going over it with white Gelly Roll and a bit of colored pencil work. I ended up liking this, even though it never looked even remotely like what I had first imagined.
Isn't that so often true of what we do? We see one thing in our heads, but can't make it come out on paper (or in writing, or in the textile, or whatever our medium is) the way we are envisioning it...so we end up disliking whatever-it-is because we are disappointed that the real image doesn't match the mental image. I know this has happened to me a million times.
What's odd, though, is how when we let go of that disappointment, perhaps even putting the actual real image away for a few days, it suddenly looks quite interesting. Maybe, even, it looks good. Maybe, even, we end up liking it. Or even end up being proud of it.
I've often thought about this in life, noticing how often my expectations lead me to be disappointed in something I've done...only to realize later that it actually worked out very well. It seems the only way to move ahead, to get better at something, is to bumble along and simply let go of expectations, just accepting what comes and moving along to the next task.
Practice, practice, practice. "Progress, not perfection"--isn't that how the saying goes? We're bound to come up with things we love--even if we have to learn to love them in retrospect.
It's taken me a couple of weeks to recover from attending the 2014 Tangle University in Portland Maine. Wow...talk about non-stop activity! Wonderful. Teachers were drawn from a who's who of CZT's (Certified Zentangle® Teachers). The image I've used today is the tangle I did in the workshop led by the fabulous Marie Browning. In her workshop, we embossed a black tile with tangles using a regular black ballpoint pen as an embossing tool, then we used Tombow Irojiten colored pencils to color the entire tile, watching while the lines of the tangles "popped" into visibility on the tile. What fun!
Here is the parade of talented teaching talent, with a link to each of their websites; you'll want to have a look because each one is unique and creative:
Teachers and a link to each one's website:
The entire event was put together by the impressive, organized, talented, and very kind Elaine Huffman, Suzanne McNeil, Sandy Steen Bartholomew, Margaret Bremner, Beckah Kruhula, Patricia Carney, Molly Hollibaugh, Cris Letourneau, Sadelle Wiltshire, Marie Browning, Julia Reed, Leslie Crumpler from Sakura of America...more about that in another post, and Genevieve Crabe.
Here were the names of the scheduled workshops:
Peek-a-boo Tangles *** Tangle on Steriods *** A Tangled History *** Creating on the Wild Side - Mixed Media Tangling *** Zentangle Meditation *** Glowing Zentangle Prints *** Technology Roundtable *** Sacred Geometry *** How to Teach Shading *** A Pen for Every Project *** Fabulous Tombow Technique
If you think this schedule looks busy, you are so right! We all needed days to recover.
A bit of a scribble done between yesterday and today: a freestyle mandala colored with Derwent Studio colored pencils. The colors used are actually quite a bit brighter than what shows here.
I was watching a fabulous YouTube video on How to Grow a Mandala (even the music was exquisite) and couldn't resist trying one. Such a peaceful video, and helpful.
This is only about 2", as that's all the time I had last night. I colored it this morning while procrastinating on other tasks. (An excellent way to avoid work)
What I enjoyed about this is that I never knew what was coming next. It builds as a kind of lovely surprise. And the same goes for the coloring process. Am enjoying working with mandalas, and they are giving me rug design ideas.
Got back from Maine and found this terrific post by the wonderful Karen Kahle of Primitive Spirit Rugs, on her approach to color. I thought it was wonderfully thought-provoking and hope you enjoy reading it as I did.
Reminds me of a workshop I took with her years ago. She is an excellent and well-prepared teacher. The workshop was based on kits she had made, and this was my finished product (below, a very yellow-y picture). Interestingly, I didn't think I'd like it while I was working on it, but in the end I've really enjoyed using it and looking at it over the past several years. I often find this is true...while in the "making" stage I'm not enamored, but when it's done, I suddenly love it. Whether I'm drawing or knitting or beading or rug hooking...is this true for you also?
I'm a textile artist (traditional rug hooking, punch needle rug hooking, and other textile arts), long-time meditator and coach, focused on learning about the interplay of art, creativity, and mindfulness every day.
NEXT INTRO TO ZENTANGLE CLASS:
No immediate group classes scheduled (I'm always open to hearing about a good venue in the Cambridge-Somerville area). I am always happy to teach 1-1 and/or in a small group in your home.
Come and amaze yourself!
SITES TO WATCH:
Insight Meditation Society
Oxford Rug Hooking School
Zentangle: The Official Site
Green Mountain Rug Hooking
Massachusetts Tarot Society
Skillful Meditation Project