Thursday, February 14, 2008

How do people chose the fabrics, colors, designs, and themes? - EG, why I paused my 50s rug, and why I'll be back at it

First, a little fun- Hilde inspecting the 50s rug and the new material for it... which she then proceeded to scrunch up into a nest... for the story and a picture without the dog blocking the way, see below

Hilde inspecting the new rug mat'l for the 50s rug

Each artisan has his or her own favorite way to make these rugs. Some use bands of similar colors, some bands of contrasting colors, some get very involved and create patterns or designs such as swirls [see my "Berger park rug" for one of my only and definitely my best example of this], others are more free form. REGARDLESS of the artistic plan behind the rugs, most rug makers I know like each rug to have a theme of some sort- baby clothes, clothes from a particular era or person, etc.

This makes sense since most rug makers... what ever other reasons they do the craft... share these two common motivations:
  1. To use (recycle if you will) clothes or other items which are no longer suitable for their original purpose.
  2. To create something which represents a person, era, theme, etc.
As I get the chance to post more of the videos of my mother telling the stories behind her rugs, you'll notice that these two themes always play a role in hers. One rug she showed us has the graduation gowns of several of her grandchildren, another the coats her mother wore, and so forth.

I like to refer to these rugs as "memory rugs" and they are one of the most popular kind people make. My "magnum opus" anniversary rug is of course just such a rug.

Some people even like to take clothes which remind them of a BAD time in their life- say, the clothes given to them [or left behind] by a lover or spouse who later hurt them- and make something GOOD of it. They like the idea of getting pleasure out of something which had been painful.

From this you can see why my mother and I (and doubtless others) refer to this craft as our "therapy." Besides the innate psychological benefit of the artistic endeavor and the benefit of "doing something with your hands" there is something incredibly satisfying about converting "trash" to treasure. This is about as close to making a silk purse from a sow's ear as you can get!

(On "art therapy" I should note that it is indeed often used with people suffering severe psychological or medical problems. Indeed, it is a key element of the holistic approach of the Diamond Headache Clinic.)

Regarding my general artistic approach

I've made so many rugs over the 30+ years I've been at this that I've tried most all the various approaches, but my favorite one is the free form abstract one you see in my Anniversary Rug and my 50s rug. I used to try to plan my rugs out from the center to the final stitch, but I found that added too much stress, and I do this to relieve stress, not create it.

Credit where its due- Tess helped me develop the particularly abstract technique I usually employ now, and I love to get her input on my rugs in progress. Tess has exquisite taste, plus, she actually knows the names of the colors I'm using, *grin*

Astounding as it may be to those who know me from other spheres of life, I don't really have the vocabulary to describe what's going on in my mind when I put these colors together. I use contrast and congruence of color and tone extensively, but someone trained in art could explain why- say- the colors I chose for the 50s rug work so well. I also like to incorporate repeating patterns or themes in an almost fugue like way, but again, it would take someone more versed in music to properly express it.

What it comes down to... to get a bit metaphysical on you... is I try to "feel" the Dao [or "Tao" - basically "inner way"] of the rug, and as I add a new color, I assess whether it is of the rug's Dao or not.

The pictures below show this in process. I'd somewhat stalled out on the 50s rug because the balance of things... the contrast and congruence... was starting to show signs of running out as I ran out of some of my earlier colors. Then today, I rescued several items which- as you can see in these pictures- will work very well indeed. So I'll cut them up and keep going. The coat rug is a nice concept- and I hope someone will like it such that I can either give it to a friend or sell it- but this 50s rug is a thing a beauty, and with a sick wife, my struggles in one of my classes, the horrible stories on the news of IEDs and gunmen run amok in the local suburbs, I could really use some more beauty in my life right now!

50s rug with new mat'l
Click for the full sized image

PS- Besides the dedicated rug email shown in the picture in the previous post, I have added an email contact form to the blog. It is the lowest item on the left sidebar. So please feel free to contact me with questions, suggestions, etc. It gives me as much joy to spread and share this craft as it does to practice it!

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