August 13-18, 2018
Kris McDermet and Christine Manges had the privilege of curating the exhibit, “Contemporary Braided Art Rugs,” as the featured exhibit at Sauder Village’s Rug Hooking Week. There were other parts to the exhibit as well: the Chair Pad Pageant, which was a lot of fun, and Antique Braided Rugs. There also were two silk braided tapestries by Jessie C. Kinsley from the Oneida Community Museum, and that was a real delight.
Twenty-five rug artists showed their work in contemporary braiding:
Mary Bird Anne Morton Caldwell Hilary Farquhar Val Galvin Cheryl Hanline
Delsie Hoyt Marjorie Kauffman Jenn Kiarsis
Joyce Krueger Sandra Kub Pam Landry
Karen Levendusky Deb Lynch Sandy Luckury
Bobbi Mahler Kris McDermet Christine Manges
Kim Miczek Dottie Pepe Rose Robertson-Smith
Pam Rowan Dianne Tobias Peggyann Watts
Cathy Winship Nancy Young
The Process: Kris McDermet had a long relationship with the Sauder Village Rug Hooking Week in Archbold, Ohio: she had taught classes there, exhibited rugs there, and knew the woman who is in charge of everything at Sauder: Kathy Wright. To braiders, who may be unfamiliar with Sauder Village, I can only say that this is a HUGE event, the largest rug hooking convention every year, and many fiber fanatics come through just to see the show. Every year there is a Featured Exhibit, and in 2017, Kris arranged for the two of us to have a meeting and pitch Rug Braiding as the exhibit.
I loaded up the van with as many interesting rugs as I could quickly gather — borrowing a few things from people in the VF Guild — and went out there. It’s about a 4 hour drive from Pittsburgh to Archbold, Ohio, and I loaded up with popcorn and diet coke and headed out.
Kris, as one of the teachers in 2017, had a room in the hotel that is part of Sauder, so we set up for our presentation to Kathy Wright by draping braided rugs over every surface of the entire room: beds and tables and floors. Some rugs were a mix of braiding and hooking; some were braided-only. We told Kathy that we thought braiding would make an excellent exhibit, and she agreed!
Before leaving Archbold, Kris and I sat down at a diner and made a list of braiders whose work we were familiar with and whose creativity we had been impressed by. Knowing that we had some space limitations, we limited it to 27 people (one declined, and one broke her elbow) and it was very, very hard to pare it down to that number. Then we wrote and asked each of those braiders to make a rug of their very best and most creative work.
The details: getting everyone to title and register their rug online… getting all of the rugs delivered to either one of us or to Sauder… collection runs in New England and Pennsylvania… storing rugs and not getting them lost or dog-haired… talking Dianne Tobias into running a vendor booth that would have rug braiding supplies at the show… pulling together classes that would include rug braiding and still appeal to rug hookers….
Then, finally, we arrived at Sauder Village a few days before the exhibit opened. We unloaded all the rugs and checked in every rug and chair pad, which took an entire evening. Each rug had a number, a write-up from the maker, and a claim check so that we could collect it at the end of the show.
Many of the rugs and chair pads had been dropped off or shipped to Sauder, so we hadn’t gotten to see them before. As we unpacked each rug from its brown paper or box, it was like Christmas! We were so impressed with the creativity! I just can’t tell you how much fun that was, seeing all of the rugs for the first time.
Kris and I spent two entire days arranging and rearranging the rugs into an attractive and coherent display. It was much harder than I anticipated! The space constraints made us have to fit the rugs together like puzzle pieces, and getting the colors to flow attractively was difficult. I think we took down more rugs than we put up, somehow.
We finally opened the show and it was absolutely wonderful. Kris and I were so proud of all of the exhibitors — everyone had made beautiful pieces for the display.
We gave a “Gallery Talk” that evening, and it was great that several of the makers were able to be there and speak about their pieces and what went into making them.
Throughout the exhibit, Kris and I took turns greeting viewers, and explaining about how the exhibit came to be, and answering questions about the pieces. We had several rug braiding demonstrators who answered questions about braiding and showed how to braid — Marjorie Kauffman, Deb Weinhold, and Anne Morton Caldwell, most notably. Delsie Hoyt was in the Dorr Mill vendor booth and she directed a lot of folks to the exhibit too.
Dianne Tobias did a yeoman job managing the vending booth with rug braiding. She had contacted several rug braiders and had beautiful braid-top pincushions, braided corn, and braided stars for sale. She also found an opportunity to sell a lot of her hand-dyed velvet to rug hookers.
The photo shows only one side of the booth — it was a pretty big space!
Overall, it was a tremendous opportunity for rug braiders to show the textile world how beautiful rug braiding can be as an art form. In talking to people as they viewed the exhibit, I can’t tell you how many times I heard some variation on the phrase, “I never knew braided rugs could look like this!” I think this exhibit has shown that rug braiding has entered the realm of “art.”
Here’s a look at each of the pieces featured in the exhibit. I plan on making another page for the Chair Pad Pageant, the Antique Braided Rugs, and Jessie Kinsley’s rugs. I’ll show you some overviews of the exhibit, and then I’ll work from left to right in the overall display as I talk about each of the rugs.
Kris has this to say about the two coordinating pieces. Having Seen the Moon: “I have been fascinated with the different moons of the year. The title is from a quote by Mary Anne Radmacher. Silk, velvet, sparkle wool, and sparkle fabric make the moons and stars shine. The sky is wet felted using a variety of silk, wool, and sparkle.” And about the Stars: “Having Seen the Stars” is a companion piece to Having Seen the Moon to celebrate our universe!
Val Galvin made this piece, “Underwater Wilderness.” She has this to say: “I am an Island girl with two passions, the Ocean and Fiber Art. In this piece I hope I have reflected both.”
Here is a close-up of Val’s work:
It is a hooked design with braids intermingling in the hooking, as well as some proddy work for the seaweed leaves and anemone centers. Braids represent the sea anemones, the waving seaweed stems, and the blue border. Just look at the vibrant mix of colors for this underwater odyssey.
The next piece was made by Joyce Krueger and is titled, “Double Take.” Here’s what she has to say about this piece of many fabrics and many techniques:
“My first love is hooking, but I have found that braiding is coming in second. Other techniques using wool have been introduced to us recently. In this piece I have braided a section and endeavored to show another technique using the same color-way. My color plan came from the velvet rectangle in the middle. The piece has rug hooking that looks like braiding, standing wool, quillies, shirred strips and plaiting the wool.”
Here is a close-up of Joyce’s piece, showing only some of the techniques that she admixed and framed with braids!
Kim says, “This design is about the wonderful dreams of the potential held close to your heart and the immediate dreams of getting some sleep!”
Now I can almost hear some of you saying, Are all of the rugs in this braided rug exhibit about rug braiding combined with rug hooking? First, no, they are not. Second, the two rugmaking techniques are beautiful together anyway. Third, this exhibit was initially displayed at a show for rug hookers. As we all know, you have to have an interest in textiles and in “making” before you can fully appreciate both the work and the artistry that goes into our rugs. If you show an exquisite rug to someone who collects American Landscape paintings, they may not have sufficient knowledge of our art form to be able to appreciate our work. This show was meant to be a groundbreaking introduction that would show fiber-interested people the beauty of braided rugs. It makes sense to have at least some of the rugs incorporate techniques that already intrigue the viewers, who went to the show to see Rug Hooking Art. So these “transitional” rugs were important for the show.
Back to Kim’s rug: the braided border of diamonds is absolutely perfect for her hooked center. The diamonds coordinate with the hooked lattice in the center, and the colors add to the dreamy nighttime quality of the picture. It shows what an exquisite border braids can make for a hooked piece.
Dottie says, “Cousin Diane asked if I would make her a rug in maroon. I didn’t have that color wool in my possession so this is made from acquired wool (bought from or given by other braiders). It has been over a year in construction due to a death in the family. Diane is not aware this is being braided as she probably thinks I forgot the request. Will be a surprise!”
Dottie Pepe’s rug is a continuous spiral braid that switches to butted rows to make the rickrack and arrowhead borders. The photo doesn’t quite capture the vibrancy of the Pepto-Bismol Pink and the deep teal colors, taking this rug from a traditional shape into a contemporary color range. She also used a couple of those interesting ombre fabrics that Dorr Mill carries.
Sandy says of this piece: “I love owls and decided to add a twist to the traditional Celtic Tree of Life by inserting one, hence the name, “The Wise Old Tree.” The tree is made from 3-, 4-, and 9-strand braids of dip-dyed wool with a border of a 6-strand braid. The owl is hooked with velvet and the background is hooked wool.”
I think this piece is just amazing! Taking a 9-strand and having it split into smaller braided branches and roots… and then having the strands separate to make Celtic knotwork designs…. and 3-D wired and sewn leaves… and a velvet braided rosette… and a hooked owl and moon… wow! The beautiful 6-strand braided border finishes it off perfectly.
I apologize to Sandy for cutting off the top of her piece in the photo. Isn’t this lovely? This piece shows a tree changing as it goes through the four season. The hooking is lovely and textural, but to me the real beauty of this piece is the lacy and snowflake-like braiding that unites the hooked images. Sandy used braided picot edges, and back-and-forth picots, and 3-strand braids.
Marjorie Kauffman is an innovative braider whose geometrics are marvelous. At the center is a 6-pointed star made by the careful placement of dark and light strands. She transitions from a hexagon shape to a leggy snowflake by adding twisted-strand spokes to the straight sides. Outlining braids of high contrast make the snowflake almost luminous. Little stars fill in the sides, and the shape now returns to a hexagon — but with a different orientation from the original. The curves in the outer walls keep the border interesting. A truly masterful design.
Bobbi says, “The Tic Tac Toe rug is a fun braiding project that provides a game of tic tac toe to anyone wanting to play it. It is made up of nine braided squares with a large border. The X and O pieces are also braided. The idea came from a braiding challenge addressing “Just for Kids,” and is original as far as I know.”
The more you look at Bobbi’s playful piece, the more you realize the amount of thought and design that went into this rug. The nine braided squares are all-butted, and the points come together perfectly at the green intersections. The square center is surrounded by a first multistrand braid, a zigzag border, and a second multistrand braid. If you look carefully, you can see that the first MS braid coordinates the colors inside each tic tac toe block perfectly, even though the blocks are composed of a single fabric and the multistrand is made of 7 different fabrics. The zigzag braid makes an interesting flattening maneuver at each of the corners. And the outer multistrand border of 9 strands manages a slow turning at the corners to soften the overall shape.
Dianne says, “My goal was to create an Asian fan using braids and hooked elements. All hooked fabric is hand-dyed.”
This piece generated a lot of interest from the rug hooking viewers, because even in rug hooking, this is an unusual and vibrant piece. The braided parts are the black ribs, the green border at the bottom of the fan blades, and the pivot circle at the base. Look at the sweet red Chinese knot that she attached.
The hooking — see close-up, below — shows the wide and drapey gold velvet loops of the background. The sweeping iris design on the fan is made of mixed velvet and silk loops. A very striking work.
Deb’s comments about this piece: “This rug started out as a continuous braid for a hot plate, and I liked the colors so well, that I decided to make it into a rug. Lots of different techniques: continuous braid, butted braid, arrow patterns, and multistrands. I love bright happy colors, so this one has some of my favorite colors in it. Pam Rowan from Lebanon, Maine is my teacher, and she is such a talented person!!!”
I saw this rug in its early stages at a braid in, back in February of 2018. Even then I was wowed by Deb’s color choices. Who puts turquoise, chartreuse, royal blue, and black together? And yet they’re perfect! It’s interesting to see the solid black bands defining the outer borders: necessary calm rows to separate the complex multistrands. When one sees antique rugs from the early 1900’s, it is common to see black borders defining different color-zones in a banded round or oval rug. But this radiant rug takes that antique method and turns it on its head with these colors. The two outer multistrand borders, one of 5 strands and one of 7, make the perfect edging.
Mary says, “I have always been drawn to circles and I wanted to step out of my creative box and create an interesting and unusual mix of colors and circles with the end result being a one of a kind contemporary eye catching useful braided rug.”
What a completely novel take on a braided rug! Here are 9-loop centers, some surrounded by 18-loop centers, some further by 27- and 36-loop centers, and united by felting to fill in the little spaces. In the close-up below, there are multiple colors of felting filling in little triangles between the braided circles. Braids of deepest navy surround and unite the colorful circles. The title is perfect — can’t you just see these colorful braided bits as the stained glass chips of color in a kaleidoscope?
Anne says, “I have combined my love for braiding with my love for quilting. I have incorporated some hand-dyed wool that I have been saving for a special project such as this.”
I love this piece. The reference to quilting, which not everyone will get, is to the traditional quilted hexagon arrangement called, “Grandmother’s Flower Garden,” (google it: they’re beautiful). While I’ve seen other braided hexagon arrangements, this spiraling rainbow in hand-dyed, mottled hues is most definitely not a traditional braided design! The central honey bee is hooked using colors from the honeycomb, then surrounded with 6 and then 12 more hexagons that mix the rainbow in a carefully planned pattern.
Cathy says, “Every spring, I find myself thinking of my dad who looked forward to harvesting wild edibles. It was only natural that visions of fiddleheads would merge with my love of braiding. The small button, from my mother’s button tin, is added in memory of her. She was blind yet learned to braid rugs.”
Isn’t this an amazing piece? Cathy combines 2- and 3-braid spirals to create the fiddlehead ferns. The three central ferns end at the bottom of their stems, and the outermost two ferns make a bridge into each other. The stems of the ferns are separated visually by slender twisted strands in the background color. To fill in the spaces between the fiddleheads, Cathy made successive braided rows working from the outside of the irregular triangular shapes into their centers. And did I mention that Cathy never dyed anything before she dyed the mixed greens for the ferns?
Peggy says, “100% wool. Varied braiding techniques — butting, continual braiding, patterns, picot edging, swirls.”
It just amazes me how modestly braiders describe their work. This sweet braided triptych is a confection of color and pattern. The perfection of Peggyann’s braiding is on display here. The central 3-braid spiral ends two of its colors in the periphery, while the 3rd braid continues its course to loop around the two adjacent butted circles. The corners between circles — always a tricky place — are perfectly filled in. And the picot edge braid that surrounds the triplet, turns into a straight braid for brief sections on either side of the corners, so that the picots won’t butt into each other. A perfect piece.