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'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