What is it about hand-hooked rugs that feels so warm and luxurious to me, and always has? Since childhood I've felt this way about hand-made rugs of any kind: woven, hooked, punched, tufted, even knitted or crocheted. They've always been attractive to me. I've tried all of the above techniques, but hooked & punched rugs are my favorite. So comforting when you sink your toes into them. Even when you aren't standing on one, they are just so lovely to look at.
Another plus is that the rhythm of rug hooking is completely mesmerizing and meditative. Whenever I'm working on a rug, I'm in the Zone. There's only one motion or technique to hooking (and punched rugs as well), only one thing to learn. Then it's just repeat, repeat, repeat.
Which is very similar to tangling...just one line at a time...repeat, repeat, repeat. Add in a bit of focus, and you have a highly meditative art form underway.
From the Our Tangled Lives Journal Project: This week's prompt was about tangling and journaling on the subject of whatever form of art we truly love to do, not necessarily tangling...so I produced this page:
Yes, I know...the Shel Silverstein ditty is a bit over the top, but as a relatively conflict-avoidant person (who am I kidding? HIGHLY conflict-avoidant), I'm more on the Silverstein side of the spectrum than the let's-fight-this-out side. And anyway, do you know how hard it is to come up with quotes about hooked rugs???
For the journal page, I started off transferring a photo of a rug I finished a couple of years ago. (Have I mentioned I love making rugs? Oh, I have? LOL) The pattern was actually adapted from a display of German Silver Urns in a museum, and the urn that it was adapted from was dated 1910. Hence the title on the right side of the rug, "1910 Silver Rug."
Susan Feller of Ruckman Mill Farm, a wonderful artist, rug designer, fraktur specialist, and blogger, had the sense to copy it down while viewing the display of silver on her visit to a museum, and she eventually designed the rug from her sketch. When I bought the pattern, no one had hooked it yet.
I made the transfer of my photo using Sheer Heaven, a transfer medium that I know a lot of tanglers are familiar with (and oh yes indeedy, it is expensive!). I also transferred the poem by Silverstein the same way. This is my first experience using Sheer Heaven, and it was ridiculously easy. I'm looking forward to investigating its uses more.
After transferring the images, I used some of the rug pattern to make a colored tangle on the journal page, and then I finished off with the tangle to its left, which I spotted on the net last night but I haven't been able to trace down a title or creator.
My printer, though, is running out of colored ink, so to be fair, I don't think what I printed onto the transfer sheet was particularly well-colored.
Is this rug pattern not a perfect example of the types of patterns we use in our tangles? By a 1910 German metal artist who never heard of the term, which just speaks to the fact that tangles themselves have all been used for centuries--it's the process of Zentangle® that we teach; the patterns can be found everywhere.
Another rug group meeting today. KK was kind enough to pick me up, since I could not move my car without risk of losing my space. But by the time she got here my street was blocked by a police car, and 2 front-end loaders were busy clearing tons of the five-foot compressed-into-ice snowbanks—what a welcome sight! I met her at the corner and we drove off to pick up Cheryl the Rug Rescuer at her house. Lo and behold, there was another police car at the head of her street—snowbank removal going on there, too! She met us at the corner…you get the idea. Off we went to the meeting at E’s house, where I can truly say a good time was had by all.
I only took a few pictures today. E’s wonderful living room was its usual gorgeous, comfortable, colorful self; E is making progress on her Italian village rug. Here it is:
…and she recently bought a larger-than-previously-available potholder weaving kit from Halcyon Yarn in Maine and has been producing potholders that are lusciously thick and actually usable, compared to the ones kids used to make:
These would be highly convenient in anyone's kitchen.
Our rug rescuer, Cheryl, had finished this tiny adorable fragment:
The above mini-rug is about 8”x8”. So pretty in person. Kind of oversized coaster size, and just wonderful. And below is how the latest rescue rug is coming along:
That one is going to be very beautiful.
CG was working on the Kokopelli rug and I took 2 photos of it but wasn’t happy with the exposures, so I decided to trash them and instead take one later on…and promptly forgot. I did not get photos of our other 2 members’ rugs, and I did not take a photo of what I was working on because it’s not at an interesting stage yet.
Great food, as usual: good coffee and tea, but E’s soup was—as always—the talk of the day. Rich, delicious, thick with goodies, and so filling. There was a gingery cake and two types of great cookies. We rolled out of there as usual, with full stomachs. Thank you E for a wonderful day! (I’ve avoided recounting the conversation, which was hilarious but primarily medical and not for public discussion!)
To my delight, when I got home I was thrilled to see that the city had literally doubled the number of parking spaces on my street by working on the snowbanks all day; until the next snowstorm (in 2 days) I could even use my car. However, I don't dare in case there's another snow emergency...will have to wait a few more days. This has truly been a ghastly weather month, the worst one I can ever remember.
Normally I like snow, but this month has tested everyone's spirit.
“A lot of people like snow. I find it to be an unnecessary freezing of water.” (Carl Reiner)
Thanks to good friends and the creative muse who help me make it through.
Last night’s class at the Arlington ArtLounge was a riot. There were 11 attendees and I think 10 of them had never been to the ArtLounge before, and only about 2-3 of them had any experience with Zentangle®. So it was a class full of virgins—what fun to introduce people to both the ArtLounge, which is fast becoming one of my favorite places, and then to Zentangle.
Because I still cannot use my car, I packed up all my supplies and lugged everything on two buses to get there. Before going in I stopped into Firefly Moon across the street, one of the best gift shops on the planet, to visit my talented friends who own and run the shop. As usual, they had a gorgeous display. If I wasn’t in a rush to get to the ArtLounge, I’m sure my credit card would have somehow mysteriously leapt out of my pocket.
Got to the ArtLounge, set up, and despite the very cold night, we were on our way into Zentangle Basics by about 7.05.
And here’s a photo of the resulting mosaic (meaning, when we finish the first tile and have all the students put their tiles together, they form a mosaic):
Not bad for a bunch of people who would tell you “I can’t draw!” huh? They did a terrific job. Lots of camera-phone snapping was going on:
These photos are mostly from the ArtLounge website, since I was too busy teaching to take pictures (my one contribution is the second photo of the overall mosaic, which I never fail to capture when I teach).
I think the students amazed themselves. This makes me so happy.
And a heartfelt thank you to Sheryl, who was kind enough to drive me right to my front door afterwards. I was in bed within 15 minutes of turning the key in my lock.
Lots of counting and packing going on as I prep to teach a beginning Zentangle® class tomorrow night. Always fun to teach in a new venue.
This time, however, I'm severely limited in what I can bring since I cannot take my car--too risky to move it and lose my parking. If I lose the space, it could be April before I can get close to my house again (too much snow on the streets here; no one on my street has moved a car in over 3 weeks because of the parking issue). Sad, but there you have it.
So I'm lugging everything I need on the bus. That's ok for a beginning class, and I'm lucky that was the plan.
In the bag you can just see some kits that new students get, and a notebook with my own work in it. Under that are extra supplies and some other goodies for the students. I'm looking forward to doing this and hope I can post some fun pictures afterwards.
On the lower left of the picture you can just see the edge of one of my favorite rugs, which I finished a couple of years ago.
A few of the tangles I may teach tomorrow. Just about all packed up now and hope I can schlep all of it safely.
As Susan Cain says, "Everyone shines, given the right lighting." Yup, and that's my goal for tomorrow.
And one more quote from Bob Brendle:
Art/ got its start/ as a thumbprint in the mud."
This tile is the product of another journal prompt from a journal project I'm participating in; the topic is "complementarity"--specifically, complementary colors on the color wheel.
(Complementary colors are any two colors that are opposite each other on the color wheel, like red and green, or yellow and violet, or blue and orange)
But the prompt goes beyond that and asks us to think about the effect of practicing our less-preferred or less-explored tasks or skills in life.
I'm drawn most to the cool colors on the color wheel. But for months now I've been experimenting with incorporating more of the hot ones into my color work. Putting this piece on a red background is unheard of for me, and it has oranges and yellows worked into the coloring. I like the effect. I notice that the more I use these colors, the more comfortable with them I become, and the more I like using them.
Looking beyond art to life, I can see it's the same with my preferences in tasks and skills. Perhaps I will eventually learn to cook, a definite less-preferred skill. A friend has offered to teach me to make soup, which must be the easiest thing to make on the face of the earth. But somehow I never learned to make soup, or to cook in general. I'm going to take her up on her offer of making soup. Where might that lead me, I wonder?
Meditation is another learned life skill and definitely "less explored" or "less preferred" in Western culture. And then, this past year, mindfulness meditation went viral in the media and has become something of a fad. This is always dangerous, as it can encourage a backlash based on misunderstandings and wrong assumptions. Every time I sit in meditation, I learn something new, whether it's a "bad" or a "good" session; they are all instructive. So even when I am having a "don't wanna do it" meditation day, I usually do, and I'm always glad I did.
Finally, I like the quote above from Coco Chanel. Sometimes all I need to do is get out of my own way and do nothing...I used to avoid "hot" colors in my work, but as I "do nothing to prevent [the presence of hot colors] from growing," I'm finding that I am, indeed, being entirely charmed by them. Similarly, my tolerance of varied mind states in meditation has grown and developed. Hey, I might even learn to make soup, and soup certainly reflects a blend of complementary things with a delicious outcome.
A quote from Marc Chagall on the topic: "All colors are the friends of their neighbors and the lovers of their opposites."
So back to the idea of the color wheel: It seems it could teach us a lot about life.
Thinking about this strange phenomenon this evening, and its lovely name, a "murmuration." So apt.
Researched it a bit. We always wonder how they swerve and turn as one. An example of Group Mind? Thought transfer? It turns out that science suggests that when birds form great flocks, it is the slight adjustments made by individual birds that cue the entire flock to adjust and follow. These happen so quickly that it looks like some kind of unified mind.
(And I think it still is, in the way that waves upon the ocean are individual, but have impact upon how the ocean looks on the surface)
It got me thinking about all of us and our behavior...how our individual actions can cause waves far beyond ourselves, to the point where the original cause isn't even obvious, only its effect.
And then of course I thought of this poem:
"I want to
Something to ponder for the art of life.
Status of our transit system as of today:
That's what comes of decades of underfunding and poor choices.
Oops, let's get off that incipient rant... Heavy snow and subzero temperatures have done it in. And the above map only applies when it is actually running, which it hasn't been, often, in the last 2 weeks.
No outside walking at all today after yesterday's snow. More snow tomorrow.
I got my rug label done and hope to send the rug off later this week, in between storms, with fingers crossed. Then I rewarded myself with some audio instructions for Tripoli:
Snow for sale! Come and get it. EIGHT FEET now on the ground, according to officials. And we have trouble finding places to put one foot. I don't think I'll be able to move my car for at least another month--if I do, I will lose my parking space for certain.
Make. It. Stop.
Exploring Judy Chicago's work...which resulted in the above experiment, based on her "Pasadena Lifesavers" pieces from the late 1960s. What an artist; I'd always loved her Dinner Party installation, but until today I had no idea of the entirety of what she has done, of her courage over the years in doing her art, or the many other themes, media, and areas she has explored and worked in.
In fact, I realized today that I really know very little about her work. I'm a bigger fan than ever now, and will be continuing to research it.
Managed a long walk today, a one-day break from unremitting snow. Most people have cleared sidewalks, but not so at curbs. At one point I needed help getting over a three-foot snow buildup at the end of a sidewalk, and who should materialize but a nice young man who offered his hand gallantly. All I needed was a light hand to balance on and then getting across the barrier was easy, but without him, I couldn't have done it. Thank you, anonymous sir.
The sun on the snow was lovely. The five- to six-foot compressed snow buildup was beautiful but I cannot say I thought it was lovely.
More snow tomorrow.
I'm participating in an art journal project, so yesterday I created the following page. This prompt was about the Inner Critic and how it affects artists. This was my first page on the topic, focusing on the bad sides of the Inner Critic. For most of us it's much more likely to manifest as an inner voice whose main purpose is to trash whatever we do. This gargoyle from La Cathedral Notre-Dame d'Amiens pretty much sums up how I see the Inner Critic when it misbehaves:
After the walk today I felt slightly less Cabin-Feverish and was able to focus on the good aspects of the Inner Critic. I do believe constructive criticism has its place. Here was what sprang to mind for one aspect of this, the Elegance of Limits.
And here are the two pages together:
Late last night I managed a bit more Zentangle. Here is Kate Lamontagne's "Kurtinz."
And this is how I felt at various points on my walk today...
And here is why:
A highly sedentary day because walking outdoors with about seven feet of snow on the ground is tricky and I cannot move my car. Don't get me started on this winter and the snow.
So have been trying a few new tangles, and enjoying them. From late last night:
Totally enjoyed working with this one, my first try at it. Would make a great border and/or way to decorate a Hollibaugh cross-bar.
That one announces itself--I did both of them in the spaces in an old calendar and then had fun with colored pencils.
I'm also trying to catch up with the Facebook Group of tanglers that gives weekly journal prompts. A couple of weeks ago, when I was on retreat, the prompt-of-the-week (which I never read until today) "prompted" this journal entry from me:
She (above) is a bit on the too-cute side, but that's ok. I'd say more about what the prompt was, but it's just too complicated to go into here, lol.
Here are both pages from my open journal (the previous page is indeed prompt #3, which I blogged about a few weeks back):
It is fun to work with these structured prompts and see where they take me. I need to get back to creating. For the past few days I've been doing some volunteer work that makes it impossible to do much else, so it was good to finish that up today and get back into art.
And now if you'll excuse me, we have TWO more snowstorms on the way. Possibly three. Sigh. I wonder if I'll ever see my car again?
Over six feet of snow (68") now, all in the last 17 days. We are all going crazy here in the city, with nowhere to put it, ice dams on roofs, etc.
I've been coping by working on projects and ignoring the weather (a luxury--lucky me).
Here is the same embroidered prototype in which I'm "rehearsing" for my next rug which I started showing yesterday--this is a picture of today's progress. It's coming along. However, I may not have much time to work on it for the next couple of weeks as I have another project that will take precedence over everything until very late in February.
And last Sunday, I finished the Malabrigo Alpaca and Wool hand-dyed yarn "couch throw" that I've been knitting for a while. Just in time for the extremely icy weather about to roll in. And it's STILL snowing outside. And more storms coming. The MBTA is shut down and not running at all tomorrow.
The purple textile behind it is a fabulous hand-knitted shawl my best friend made for me, and underneath it is a punched chair pad I designed and made several years ago.
Can I just take one moment to say how much I loved reading THIS POST today? I think we all need to hear this, whether we consider ourselves artists or not. I know I needed to hear it, and my Inner Critic ("the monkey" as he calls it) did too. I love Danny Gregory!
Snow showers today. We're in between mammoth snowstorms, a short window of peace in this incredible weather system we're caught in. Over 50" here in the last 12 days, and nowhere to put it. City streets overwhelmed. Between Sunday night and Tuesday, we could get another 18". I have never seen a winter like this.
So why am I calling us a lucky bunch of artists? Because just for today, we all took a chance because of the break between storms, and 7 of us were lucky enough to meet at Ann's fabulous farmhouse in CT...and the roads were clear enough for us to get there.
We've done this before and feel lucky every time to travel to Ann's. Her home is in a heavily rural part of the state and the views are exquisite. It snowed lightly the entire day while we worked in comfort in front of her living room woodstove. We were warm, safe, creative, and very happy. In short, we really were lucky. Thank you, Ann, for making this possible and for your incredible hospitality.
We spent the morning and part of the afternoon working on our rug projects. The rest of the time? We ate. But that part comes later. First, the rugs.
On May 30th, I posted about Cheryl the Rug Rescuer. You can see the start of the project below in that post. Cheryl has had a personal challenge (!! understatement of the year alert !!) come up that slowed her down, but now as you can see she's nearly done with her old friend's wonderful rug. Here's the proof:
How lovely is that? And how wonderful that after all these years, this rug is getting finished. Because Cheryl's friend is now too old to get it done--but Cheryl will.
Elizabeth was working on her own design of an Italian City. She's punching this rug with wool strips. Since it's going to be a wall hanging, she's decided to use what is traditionally considered to be the back of the rug as the front:
And here below is the technical front of the rug, which she will use as the back:
I like both sides. How about you?
Next up, two rugs from Ann herself. First, here is the rug-in-progress she stored away before the holidays (she had 11 guests in her home for a week over that period!)...only to discover that, because she put the wool for it away so conscientiously before her guests arrived and she was tidying up, she cannot find it. Of course it will turn up eventually. Here is the partially completed rug that's currently missing its wool:
I am loving those colors she's using. But since she couldn't find the wool, she traced out a new pattern to work on today (both patterns are for chair seats, I believe). Here's the new pattern, a geometric with circles:
I really like the possibilities she has with this pattern.
And to continue, here is Maria's chicken rug that she's now working to finish. It makes me smile:
Everything about that piece is wonderfully comical. Love those ridiculous yellow feet.
Kathleen was chugging away on the fish rug (tentatively titled "The Last Cod"):
<Oops, I hit "publish" by mistake...apologies to anyone who gets multiple prompts on this post>
I really like the way this is shaping up; the fish are magnificent and the water is coming along.
Cheryl (The Rug Rescuer) has been gifted with two more old rugs to finish. The first is a tiny pillow top, already mostly completed when it came to her:
I can't remember if this one came with wool to finish it or not, but it will make a sweet little spot pillow. Wonder who designed it? And of course, I wonder who did the hooking that got it to this stage?
She also was gifted with one large rug that is really cute. I don't think this one came with any wool to finish it, alas. The burlap in both the rug below and the small one above looked to be in good shape, thank goodness.
We are all wondering whose design this is! There is something familiar about it, but we cannot place it. Here are two views of it. First, the whole rug and second a closeup of the left-hand figure. Pretty cute.
Another rug that makes me smile, with lots of possibilities depending on what Cheryl decides to do with it.
As for me, I was working on a mini-version of my next rug using punchneedle embroidery. Unfortunately I cannot get thread in colors that actually match the wool I'll be using for the actual rug. I don't like the thread colors in this embroidery...so why am I doing it? To test the colors (I've given up on that) but also to get to know the pattern by "hooking" it in miniature, and in that way, it's helping me greatly. So cover your eyes at the awful flat colors and shades, and just take in the pattern. Trust me, the real wool colors are beautiful in a deep way that these available threads are not:
And just for a bit of context, here is the embroidery as of yesterday, when I began punching (On Wednesday I transferred the pattern and selected threads; yesterday I started to punch):
To wrap up this very long post: After we worked on our projects for about three hours we sat down to our usual food fest: Stir-fried veggies a la Elizabeth (she also brought some lovely Champlain Chocolate for snacking), a Petsi Chicken Pot Pie, a raved-about red cabbage kielbasa-inspired dish from Kathleen, home made coleslaw (was this your dish, Ann?) and Ann's homemade pickles, and for desserts we had Ann's ever-fabulous gingerbread with whipped cream (mmmmm), a chocolate chip cake from Maria which I'm saving some of to taste tonight, and a fruit-nut treat from Lenore.
We all had to leave a bit early and after the food fest we were forced to roll ourselves across her dining room to the kitchen, then roll across her mud room and garage to our cars outside. OMG, we were stuffed. Outdoors it had snowed about an inch while we worked and it was even more beautiful than when we first arrived.
As usual, I had a wonderful time working, studying the pieces the others are working on, and being creatively stimulated by the rugs, the conversation, by Ann's generosity, and of course by the lovely location, so tranquil and stunning in all the snow.
Please note that I love getting comments, so don't hesitate to leave one! Thanks.
What's this...what am I feeling the need to cover up?
Actually, this is a small 3"x3" punchneedle embroidery piece I made about five or seven years ago. Why? Because it's stitched to the middle of a larger piece of heavy wool, with which I cover up my punchneedle embroidery gripper frame when I am not using it so that I can handle the frame without scraping my hands and skin on the zillion sharp grippers.
As anyone who's used one of these frames knows, the grippers really hurt when they come in contact with you. And they act a bit like a more lethal form of velcro, catching on anything they touch--so best to keep them completely covered when the frame isn't in use.
I'm about to begin working on another rug, a pattern called "Micmac" which I bought probably 20 years ago and have always wanted to hook. I am not sure who makes this pattern but I think it might be from Charco and designed by Jane McGown Flynn. I've had it so long that I'm no longer certain.
I think this may be one of the last patterns I own; there is one more very ornate oriental rug pattern I've been putting off for years, and after that I plan to do only rugs I design myself.
Before I begin actual hooking, I wanted to do a tiny version of the piece using punchneedle embroidery. This afternoon I took a blown-up picture of the pattern and did some preliminary color ways on it (you only see one here) and then transferred the pattern to weaver's cloth and put it onto my gripper frame. Now all I have to do is collect the threads and I can begin punching this piece as a prototype to see if I like the colors. It's a great way to test out color ways and a lot less expensive than trying it out on the actual rug with wool. I'm looking forward to beginning this prototype!
Here you can see the paper and underneath it the transfer. If you look really hard, you might just make out some of those sharp little gripper strips sticking through the frame waiting to scrape your skin, which is why they work so well to hold the fabric drum-tight for the punching.
...at the Insight Meditation Society, at a seven-day retreat. The statue above is in the foyer, and greets you as you enter. Here were the teachers for this retreat:
You are seeing Guiding Teacher Christina Feldman (second from right), Guiding Teacher John Peacock (second from left), and Guiding Teacher Chris Cullen (far right), along with assistance from Yuka Nakamura from Switzerland.
Although I've been to several retreats at IMS, this was by far the one with the most profound effect for me. Each teacher was so gifted and brought something unique to the days as they passed by. A truly gifted crew.
While I was there, between two and three FEET of snow fell just a few miles away (Barre, where we were, had only about 12-18" which is not an unusual amount for them). IMS handled it all perfectly and we were warm and safe and able to focus on being mindful.
I'm left with deep gratitude for this experience.
I'm a textile artist (traditional rug hooking, punch needle rug hooking, and other textile arts), a long-time meditator, a certified meditation teacher and coach, and focused on learning about the interplay of art, creativity, and mindfulness every day.
SITES TO WATCH:
Insight Meditation Society
Oxford Rug Hooking School
Zentangle: The Official Site
Green Mountain Rug Hooking
Massachusetts Tarot Society