Kathy showed off a rug made by a Shawnigan Lake hooker, whose name she couldn't remember. (A reminder to always label your work!) Even to my beginner eyes, this piece shows off a very skilled use of directional hooking, colour and texture.
So what's this rug hooking interest all about for me? It's not like I need more projects. The simple reason is that I have always liked the look of hooked wool. I especially love the Grenfell rugs of Newfoundland, and the story of Jessie Luther, a proto-art therapist from the 1900's who made a reality of Dr. Grenfell's idea of helping the women of the outports become more self-sufficient. Even back in the 1980's, when I was a self-absorbed space cadet, I remember noticing Barbara Klunder's hooked rugs and thinking how marvelous they were. So rugs have always been lurking in the background.
But I never got around to trying it, until a neighbour on Salt Spring Island, Lynn Raymond, gave me a quick lesson one day. I was amazed at how simple it was, but other projects loomed, so it wasn't until another neighbour here on Gabriola, Roberta Bryan, invited me to a beginner's workshop that I actually took up the hook. I was hoping for something that had a different sort of hand movement so that I could take a break from stitching, and although I suspect that if I did enough of it, hooking would lead to more repetitive strain, just in a different part of my hand, it does use more of my palm and takes pressure off my fingers.
Our beginner group has over a dozen members, which seems to have surprised even the "madam" hookers who are guiding us along. This is a craft which was barely on my radar. Unlike Atlantic Canada, the West Coast has no tradition of hooking. It is so simple to do, and can cost so little, I suppose there isn't the same attraction to developing a market that there has been for quilting or knitting. But it is so easy, and versatile, maybe it is the next craft phenomenon.
I picked up the book below from the library. Deanne Fitzpatrick's Inspired Rug Hooking offers much more than the title would indicate.
I think this is a great guide for any textile artist who wants to design their own work. There is nothing here that art school would teach you, no Bauhaus fundamentals of design. Instead, Deanne is like a loving, generous friend, sharing her own approach of drawing upon the world around her for inspiration.
Here's her opening line:
Making rugs is not just a utilitarian practice; it is a personal journey. I believe that in making rugs, or any other kind of art, you are constantly confronted with your powerlessness to be perfect, or to even be what you want to be, and your comfort with this imperfection makes you open and accepting of "less than-ness." You realize that you are a small part of something bigger.She then talks about visiting a nun who is a sculptor working with stone. The nun says, "I rarely get down on my knees to pray, but I pray all the time with my work."
I have read, and I have felt, that when you are creating you can get closer to God or whoever you think made this beautiful place, where every leaf and every tiny creature has a structure that is intricate and complex and beautiful. You come to understand, as a mat-maker especially, that the world is created in patterns, with rhythm and beauty. This understanding comes from making rugs, because their creation is a meditation and through it you come to understand yourself and the world around you.Which is a pretty darn good way of saying why one makes art of any kind, I think. Her chapter titles give an idea of where she draws her inspiration from: Beauty by Design, House and Home, Walking Into the Landscape, Magic and Storytelling, Creativity and Spirit, People and Community, Hooking a Prayer.
I can't recommend this book highly enough, as an excellent read and inspirational guide. It's not a "How-to Hook" book though, apart from a few sidebars with technical advice, but if you want to learn I'm sure there are videos on YouTube, books in your library, or even a rug hooking group in your community.