When I went to my last local rug hooking meeting, I only expected to work on my rug and have fun.
I had NO IDEA what would be waiting for all of us who attended.
We were treated to an incredible show of rugs from Turkey, China, and Iran by one of the members, Elizabeth Vierling. Dr. Vierling is a Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, but she is also a rug maker and clearly has a passion for textiles. I took a million photographs...unfortunately my memory of her very informative commentary on the origins and purposes of each piece is fading fast, but here are some of the photos. Enjoy!
I believe this first piece was from Turkey. It is very large and I think Elizabeth uses it as a rug in her home. It is embroidered, using a couching stitch I think (see detail in last photo). Probably circa mid 20th-century.
The color work is just sensational. After ogling the piece (above) for a good long while, we all decided we are not using enough orange in our own designs.
Apologies in advance to Elizabeth for how much I have already forgotten of what she said about each textile. Her commentary on where she located each one, where and how each was created, and what each may have been used for, was fascinating. But in the week since I saw these works, all of her commentary has started to slide right out of my head. Darn!
If memory serves me--which likely it doesn't--below are two clothing panels embroidered by the Miao people of China (one of China's long-suppressed minority groups, now finally beginning to emerge and be recognized for their rich history and cultural treasures).
And if that weren't enough, there was more, and more still...click on each thumbnail to progress through the items, or just hit "Play."
One of the most dramatic textiles was the one below. I loved these tiny aliens. The work is so beautiful, and the colors vibrant. Each thumbnail has a different view (or you can just hit "Play").
Elizabeth travels for academic conferences, and is occasionally able to extend the travel time in order to take in more of the culture of the countries she is in. This is why she has been able to explore and research textiles on some of her trips.
Aren't we fortunate--those of us who were there to see this show? With thanks to Elizabeth for letting me photograph and post the photos, for her lively talk and especially for lugging all the heavy, bulky textiles to the meeting. All of her hard work resulted in a fabulous experience for the rest of us.
I have indeed been absent from writing for a long while.
It's nothing bad, nor have I abandoned my blog. Instead, life has been overly-full with good things, including two major projects. I'll write about one of them today.
I just returned from a less-than-24 hour trip to Cornwall, VT, where I stayed overnight at the Oxford Rug Hooking School and completed the requirements to become a Certified Teacher Punch Needle Rug Hooking. (!! Hurrah !!)
And as if that weren't wonderful enough, just look at the weather and views I had while I was there (even though I hardly had time to be outside).
There was earthy eye candy everywhere.
Here are some samples, a photo journey for your enjoyment:
Amy Oxford's school is a bit of heaven on earth, one of my favorite places to go and well worth the four-hour drive for me. (Although TWO four-hour drives in 24 hours just about did me in.)
And then there is Amy herself, one of the kindest and most generous people I know. A fabulous artist, teacher and businesswoman. And there is also Heidi the dye wizard, working her magic on both creative and administrative aspects of the school--and just as nice. (Heidi also can repair absolutely anything.)
It is sheer pleasure to be in residence there.
I am ready to collapse for the evening and try to take in the fact that I'm now certified...a fact which just makes me think, "But I have so much more to learn!"
My one regret is that I couldn't stay longer. Anyone who has been to the school and is reading this will know exactly what I mean.
As for the other project I'm involved in: that one is bigger, longer-term, and more disruptive, and may prevent me from writing much for a while.
It's all good. But it's also all-consuming.
To quote the old Beatles' move, Help: "I can say no more."
I have been busy today, despite excessive heat and humidity. Although it hardly seems possible that I actually needed to dye more gold yarn for my current rug (after all the excess I had at the finish of the last one), I did.
But dyeing during the heat of August is not my idea of fun. So what to do?
I woke at 5 a.m. and it was only 70 degrees outside, so I zipped into the kitchen and dyed four skeins before the heat could build. Hopefully this will be enough to finish the rug. After hanging the skeins to dry, I spent a few hours punching also and am coming close to finishing everything but the borders. on the rug Well, perhaps that's pushing it just a little bit...but I'm definitely making good progress and I think the above statement will be true after one more day of work.
Once I wound the yarn, I amused myself by making a yarn-cake mandala on my iPhone. Love these fun iPhone apps...
It's too early to show my rug design, but a took a photo of a small part of the rug and ran it through another iPhone app to make a spiral.
Wow, these apps are powerful...I love this and only wish my rug could look like this! Quite amazing. (Indeed, my rug looks nothing like this at all.)
And a happy Fourth of July to all in the USA. I am lazing about and having a quiet one; I'm also tidying up some of the many tasks on my to-do list. Everyone has left town. It's extremely quiet, and one telltale sign that it's a holiday weekend is the lack of traffic and a plethora of parking spots everywhere.
One of the tidying-up things was that I ran out of background yarn for an 8" sampler I was making (on the left above). So close...and yet so far. So, I dyed up a skein of yarn to match yesterday morning, and this morning I finished the punching:
I've gotten two other big tasks off my to-do list today, and made a good start on a third. This is one reason I love long lazy holiday weekends. Although I define them as "lazy" because I don't go out and do events, I usually get a tremendous amount done at home with minimum effort. I don't feel that I've been pushing at all, and yet I've accomplished a lot.
Long live holiday weekends. Especially summer holiday weekends when the weather is just perfect.
"Deep summer is when laziness finds respectability."
This is the last installment in the series on my experience at the week-long certification workshop at the Oxford Rug Hooking School in Cornwall Vermont last week.
I'll start with some pictures again--these are from Chris H, with his permission. They are photos he took on a brief walk he took up the dirt road just to the side of Amy's property. (I did not take a walk all week--unusual--and I lived to regret it, but that's another story. Note to self: Always take at least one walk a day...)
It really was that beautiful there, and it was that way all week. Sunny, warm but not too hot, low humidity, Kind of staggeringly beautiful.
Amy is a genius as an instructor. She had the entire week so well-planned...we introduced ourselves, talked about what makes a good instructor, and set goals. And then we set about meeting our goals for the week. Amy modeled the type of teacher we all hope to be. She was completely organized, but not rigid. She was great at time management, without making us feel we were on a "regimen." She told us what we'd be learning for each day--and then we actually learned it. And she had great handouts, clear and useful. The kind of handouts we can use with our own students.
At one point, the wonderful Diane Burgess came in for an entire morning to teach traditional rug hooking to those of us who had never tried our hands at that. Diane specializes in teaching traditional hooking to newbies.
Amy even managed to squeeze in a thorough lesson on photographing rugs, something I think we all needed to learn. (She's not mad here--the sun was so extraordinarily bright that she is squinting)
Every day she gave us tip after tip, provided lots of time to punch and to teach, taught new techniques, and then ended with a hilarious graduation ceremony. I managed to photograph most of us at graduation, but unfortunately couldn't photograph myself and because Kathleen came right after me, I couldn't get her photo either.
Here are the graduation pictures. Note the kazoo in Amy's mouth as we go through the process!
Since we didn't have caps and gowns, we pitched balls of novelty yarn in the air to finalize the celebration. And speaking of yarns:
Chris dyed up these colors before coming to the workshop and they caused a sensation. I think all of us used some of his yarns in our work last week, and I also think all of us took home one of the colors. Here are the colors he gifted us with.
I got to go home with the blue one, and just today used more of it to finish one of my homework assignments. Chris raises sheep at his home, and spins; he also has the fleece commercially spun into rug yarn, but the hand-dyed yarns he dyed that are pictured above were, I think, from KnitPicks; they weren't from his own sheep. Thanks, Chris, for letting us all take one of these home.
After graduation Amy gave us each a tiny charm, as well as our diplomas. I loved the charm and am already using it on my keychain.
When I left on Saturday, I left with inspiration, with a good-sized manual for techniques, with the work I'd completed during the week, with plenty of resources, with plenty of homework ahead of me to complete the certification, and with the confidence that I could continue to improve and to pass on this technique as needed.
I forgot to mention that part of the homework is to complete a rug of our own design within the next four months. We had all sketched out our designs in advance, and one of my very favorite parts of the workshop was when we shared them with each other. I think we were all stunned by the level of creativity shown. I was impressed and inspired by what I saw and can't wait to see the completed rugs.
Because we had worked so hard, had bonded, and had so much fun, we were all pretty emotional as we were leaving. I saw tears (and had a few myself) and although we were all eager to get home after such a long time away, there was substantial foot-dragging as we said goodbye.
My thanks to Amy, our incredible teacher, and to the school manager (and dyer extraordinaire) Heidi, who kept everything organized and running smoothly while we were there.
Final thoughts on all the inspirational, dear, creative people I met last week:
"When I find myself fading, I close my eyes and realize my friends are my energy." (Anonymous)
Thanks to all of you for making this such a wonderful experience.
Last Friday I traveled up to Vermont with my studio-buddy, K, for a workshop on dyeing rug yarn. This was a long-scheduled trip. We headed off to our beloved Oxford Rug Hooking School and spent a weekend dyeing with Heidi Whipple, Manager and Master Dyer of the School, and one other student, the funny and wonderful Julie.
Friday night we simply settled in. I took a long walk in the fields behind the school, listening to the Redwing Blackbirds and Canada Geese in the high wind and slanting light of early evening. I felt so grateful to be able to be in such a gorgeous place. When you stay at the school, they think of everything and take great care of you.
Saturday we began our work. Here's a small portion of the dyeing room:
We spent all day Saturday on three techniques. The big challenge for me was the 8 value dyeing. Although I doubt I will use this much, or need it (but ya never know, eh?), I still wanted to learn it. Here were my results:
I admit to being chuffed. But it was a LOT of work. Very glad I know I can do this, "just in case."
And here is part of the method of creating what you see above. Double, double, toil and trouble...
Heidi and I both decided to try a recipe that appeared to be full of typos. Even though we had doubts, we thought we would try it "as written"; it involved applying the same color in the same amount three times. This doesn't sound like it would produce anything other than one color, right? That's gotta be an error.
See the little slideshow below for results.
Safe to say we weren't expecting that.
Sunday we went to work early and continued through lunch. We could have continued all day but with a 4+ hour drive home facing us, and all we had already learned, we were out of brain cells.
Results from the weekend:
Left-to-right: 1) The experiment with the odd recipe that turned out surprisingly well. 2) A "flat color" experiment in which I tried to achieve a mid-range value of a particular shade, and succeeded. It turned out the exact shade...to my surprise. 3 & 4) Two recipes using slightly different amounts of the same colors. Love both these results. 5) Underneath the four skeins is an antique punch needle from Denmark.
These goodies and the 8 skeins of green are what I brought home.
I am so grateful to Heidi for her teaching. And we were lucky that on Saturday Amy O stopped by briefly, along with Miss Lily, her long-haired dachshund. Any time I get to spend with Amy is always a gift.
After a very, very, VERY long ride home, I'm taking today to regroup. I can't say enough about what a magical place Amy and Heidi have created. It gives new meaning to the word "haven." If I lived any closer, I would probably be trying to move in.
Gratitude is my operative word as I think back on the weekend.
Woke up early today and by 9.30 a.m. had dyed one final skein of the background and was on my way to the studio. I'm now about 3" x 36" away from finishing. However, I may not get to work on the last bit for another week or two. I have other commitments (all of them wonderful) that will take up my time until then.
Not only am I blessed with many friends, but all my friends are gifted in some way.
And certainly they are gifts to me.
Today we had another small meeting of the Wooly Bullies (my rug hooking group) at K's house. We had several members who couldn't come and they were much missed, but we had a great time as usual. Here are the pictures to prove it.
This is Cynthia's current rug-in-progress. The last time I saw this rug was about 5-7 years ago; Cynthia thinks she began it about 15 years ago and then put it aside to work on her very large Kokopelli Rug, which is now finished. I highlighted that rug in my last blog post on the Bullies. Because she had put it away to work on Kokopelli, Cynthia hadn't seen this floral rug herself for a few years--now she has fallen in love with it again and is thrilled to be so close to finishing. She did all the dyeing for this rug. The background is a wonderful onion skin dye. (This made me want to delve back into onion skin dyeing myself--I so love her background)
In the "How-adorable-is-this?" category, the winner today was Maria's small bunny-board, above. This is probably less than 12" long from head to toe.
I mean, seriously, people--doesn't this have "THINK SPRING!" written all over it? Here is the back of the piece, in case you have never seen a rug-on-a-board before (really, a "ruglet-on-a-board").
Cheryl just completed binding her Parrot Tulip chairpad, another Pearl McGown design. She was working on this in February when we last met, and you can see the progress she has made since then. I love these colors!
Kathleen is nearly finished with the interior of her fabulous fish rug, titled "The Last Cod." You can see the small unhooked area at the very top. She will then have to decide what to do for a border and was taking suggestions today. (The Wooly Bullies are never bashful about giving suggestions!) This is an amazing rug, very large and complex. And a sobering theme. Designed by Kathleen, with most of the wool hand-dyed by her--a few pieces were dyed by Michele Micarelli as well. I have watermarked this picture because it's Kathleen's original work, all of it, and I don't want to take any chances (she has given me permission to post it).
And last but by no means least, Maria was working on finishing the background for her stunning apple tree rug. Whose pattern is this, I wonder? Another McGown? Someone else?
I am working on my red & black scrappy rug and did not take a photo of it. But you can see it here in recent previous blog posts, as well as the punched rug I am working on (see a photo of that in progress in yesterday's post).
Kathleen made a delicious soup, Cheryl brought cupcakes, and I brought two types of cheese (one was a really unusual honey-lavender goat cheese) and crackers from the local gourmet cheese place, so we certainly didn't starve as we worked.
We worried about, and missed, members who couldn't come today and hope all is well. I spent quite some time just listening quietly and thinking about how fond I am of all the women in this group, and how lucky I am to have you in my life. You each inspire me in different ways.
As the saying goes, "Good friends are like stars; you don't always see them, but you know they are there."
Thank you for being there. All of you.
In all the time I've been making rugs and using gripper frames, I don't think I've ever done what I did today. I was moving the punch-hooked rug on the large frame and for the first time ever I cut both hands and bled all over the rug. As I said, jeez!
Fortunately, it only showed on the border, which will be entirely cut away as I begin binding.
Best of all, I have no pictures of this event, You won't be seeing it.
Despite that, I did accomplish one thing I've been meaning to do for a very long time:
...I created a Rube Goldberg solution to the problem of having to sit down the entire time while I work on the rug. [There really was a real Rube.] How's that (above) for making Rube proud of me?
Before I tucked it up, it looked like this...which gives you an idea of the size of this rug (some of the rug is hanging down in back of the frame and can't be seen):
I used these clamps from the Wool & Dye Works in Florence MA to neaten it all up:
By the time I left, it looked like this:
Yes, much neater. And since the frame is sitting on top of two plastic boxes, it's the perfect height for standing while punching. I can also easily lift it off the boxes and make it the perfect height for sitting and punching. My intention is to alternate sitting and standing, about a half an hour each, every time I work on the rug. Last week I sat down and punched for about 5 hours straight, and when I finally got up to go home I realized that was a very bad idea. Waaaaaay too much sitting.
I am pleased with this solution; I tried it out today and enjoyed myself.
And here is my new dye cabinet. It was cheap cheap cheap (and looks it, I know) and hardly elegant ($30 at Michael's with a coupon) but it rolls and it will do the trick. Plus the gaudy colored plastic drawers mean I can sort the dyes by color, making them easier to locate quickly. You can see the sorted jars sitting just inside.
When I was unable to go to the studio over the weekend, I made a bunch of additional Knitted Knockers. I love knitting for that cause. The picture below shows them un-stuffed. To see what they actually look like when ready to be used by mastectomy survivors, see my last post on this topic.
After sending off my last batch of Knitted Knockers, I got a postcard with a thank-you message.
Such a wonderful organization.
I only wish they hadn't bought into the entire "pink ribbon" thing, but unfortunately, most of the public doesn't know the disturbing history of the pink ribbon--not to mention the insult to Charlotte Haley and her inspiring, original project.
In case I didn't make it clear above, my hands are fine--no lingering injuries from those powerful gripper strips (or at least only minor ones that will have healed by tomorrow). A good reminder to be more careful when punching near the border of the rug.
Last week I worked on the red and black scrappy rug, which I am traditionally hooking with wool strips.
This week it's back to the punched rug for a bit, using yarn that I dyed by hand.
Back and forth. Get stuck on one, work on the other. Get tired of that one, work on the first again.
I was stuck on this Moon Runner rug, gave it about ten days off, and now, after much pulling-out and re-punching, here it is today:
I'm very much in experimental mode here. I ripped out all three clouds and re-punched them yesterday and today...I know that before I make any decisions about whether this is working or not, I need to fill in a lot more. Right underneath this is another moon, and another small cloud--I will see how it looks after I get those two motifs punched, along with much more background.
By the time I get all that done (and that won't even be half the rug!) I think I'll be able to tell what's working and what isn't. That's the working theory, anyway!
Trial and error...trial and error...
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 open to hearing about a good venue in Western Massachusetts. 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