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New work and a new word, for the new year.

January 26, 2015 by Elisabeth Rutt


A while ago I wrote about my delight at having a bursary to buy a new frame which was to enable me to make more and larger rag rugs. I have spent the last couple of months experimenting with the technique on my new frame and I am hooked (excuse the pun)!

I have not made it easy for myself by trying to make geometric and circular shapes in particular, in as crisper way as I can. The technique lends itself to more organic forms, due to the constraints of the squared, warp and weft structure of the ground fabric. Incidentally my son amused me when he saw my drawn design for a rug by saying ‘it’s almost a real graphic design’. Oh for the days when every piece of design, graphic or otherwise was drawn by human hand. I am not being a dinosaur but good design predates computers by quite a while!

Anyway there is something exciting and anticipatory about starting new work and timing it with the start of the new year makes it somehow doubly exciting. While I am making I am planning my creative year ahead; what is coming up and what I should do and by when.

There is something very haptic about the hooking process I am using to make my rug/hangings. I lay the fabric, that I have first cut or torn into thin strips, under the hessian and using a hook I pull it through to the top surface so passing from one hand underneath my frame to the other on top. I cannot see the ‘thread’ and have to position it to meet my other hand on top by feel alone. I have recently discovered the word ‘proprioception’ a wonderful word which I think is the sense I am using to be able to make this movement. It is the antithesis of the expression ‘the right hand doesn’t know what the left hand is doing’; and has I am sure developed from years of stitching and embroidery.

This sounds monotonous and although repetitive I do not find it monotonous as it does enable me to think about what I am doing and where it will lead me next. The physicality of handling and manipulating the materials is not only enjoyable but also very satisfying. Any maker who uses textiles knows this feeling that I am struggling to explain.

I always find that my best work starts in my head while I am making the piece before. Knowing this means that while enjoying what I am doing, I am always anticipating new work. Of course none of this makes my work successful, that is something I work for and hope!



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