Hooked in the Mountains XVI - Wow!

Entry to Hooked in the Mountains XVI at the Shelburne Museum Round Barn, Shelburne, VT
At the urging of my teacher and mentor, Connie Fletcher of Seven Gables Rug Hooking, I attended the Green Mountain Rug Hooking Guild's spectacular hooked rug show, Hooked in the Mountains, which just closed on November 17th. This was held in the round barn at the Shelburne Museum, in Shelburne, VT, which is a bit of a spectacle in itself. This year there was a lot of construction going on at the museum and therefore the museum was not open in its entirety, however, I do believe next year the Shelburne Museum plans to be open during Hooked in the Mountains XVII. This is important to note, and to double check on next year, because if you go it's worth taking a couple of days to see both the rug show and the museum. Additionally, the rug show runs for an entire week (hours 10 - 5 daily) and offers workshops and lectures on the craft. I was able to listen in to a lecture on color, which was very interesting. The entry fee was $8 for adults, $6 for seniors, $15 for week long passes, and kids under 12 free. I knew I was among friends when my smart phone informed that the wireless free WiFi network set up for the show was named "Happy Hooking."

And speaking of friends, can't you just somehow see yourself in this lovely rug, replete with the bathrobes and bottle of wine?

Designed and hooked by Jeni Nunnaly of Cape Neddick, Maine
The drive for me, from Paris, Maine, is about three and half hours through the White Mountains in New Hampshire. I left early in the morning and arrived just before the show opened for the day at 10 a.m., having seen the Presidential Range up close and personal and bedecked in snow. Connie and an another accomplished hooker friend were planning to meet me there by noon, so I had a couple of hours to just wander around the show alone. This was likely for the best because I think I went from rug to rug in a state of astonishment, awe and admiration (a new "3 A's" maybe?) and probably could not have been a very sensible conversationalist had we all arrived together. By the time Connie and her friend arrived, I had been around the round barn, on all three floors, a couple of times and thought I might be sufficiently re-collected. I wasn't. Well, I'd have to ask Connie, but I think I was still a little hyper...following Connie around as we viewed the art together and chattering away about this or that technique or detail that blew my mind about so many of the pieces. I think I owe her an apology. By contrast, Connie has been hooking for decades and seems to be able to maintain calm in the presence of wooly awesomeness. This is good because she's a creator of wooly awesomeness herself.

The rugs were from many American states and Canadian provinces, although I'd say the majority of them were from the eastern seaboard. All exhibitors were members of the Green Mountain Rug Hooking Guild, which Jen and I have joined in the humble hope of exhibiting there next year. The variety of styles, themes and subjects was extraordinary. There were contemporary art pieces and very primitive pieces. There were maritime themes, personal memoirs, causes and political opinions expressed in wool. I got seriously schooled on the style of Pearl McGown and there was a very small, but lovely, landscape study in the style of Deanne Fitzpatrick. There was an entire corner (you know, if a round building can have corners of sorts) devoted to chicken designs (yay!). There were three dimensional pieces, and functional pieces, for example chair and ottoman upholstery and stair riser covers. Most of the pieces were designed by the men and women (mostly women) who hooked them, but some were pieces by other designers. There was a monochromatic piece - yes, just white wool - in which the design was done strictly in loop height and texture. There was a piece framed beneath a window frame. There was a triptych, and also a 3D bird's nest. And, in case by now you are positively aching to actually see what these incredible works looked like, I did take 110 photos. Yep. And with around 350 rugs in the show, I didn't even shoot the majority of them. Here is my Photobucket file of the photos (click on "view as slideshow"), each with a shot of the card that shows who the artist was and any back story that person offered for the piece:

Beth's Hooked in the Mountains Photo Album

I had the privilege to speak to a couple of the artists while I was there. I explained that I was a newbie, and that I was humbled and inspired by their work. Here is the interesting thing: each artist I spoke to expressed to me a genuine humility, one, Cathy Henning, speaking of her own creative journey over the years as she's tried new things. She had been hooking for decades, since I was a child, and her work was breathtaking and original. Not only was it original, but her work spanned multiple styles and mediums. She even had pieces with birch bark backings. This was clear: no matter how long we pursue this art, or how accomplished we become, there is always something to learn. I know this by speaking to the gurus at the show, and I look forward to a lifetime of learning in this craft.

I would be remiss if I didn't mention the vendor area on the lower level of the round barn. This was truly an extravaganza of woolmania (is that a word?). There was all manner of wools - off the bolt and hand dyed, accessories, finished pieces and doo dads (use your imagination - if you can imagine it, it was there). Punch needle has been a mystery to me and one of the vendors gave me a demo. It was fascinating - probably not for me, but fascinating and her work was lovely. Truly, I'm just fine with the challenge of rendering a pattern the way I really want it to look working on the "right" side with a hook let alone punch needling my way through a pattern from the "wrong side." I take my hat off to all of you punch needle artists out there.

Vendor area at Hooked in the Mountains XVI
I did buy a pair of new hooks that I found fascinating and beautiful, from Cherylyn Brubaker's shop, Hooked Treasures. I got one for me and one for Jen. The actual hooks (the ends) are a bit smaller than my favorite hook from Mahone Bay, NS, but this is actually perfect as I have a fine shading pattern by Cherylyn that I have to resume working on some fine day. Take a look at these:

How the artisan got those little rings carved out is beyond me, however, these hooks are fun to use with their little rings softly clattering away as you hook. I thought it might be distracting - it's not.

I have saved the "rug that made me cry" for last. This rug was made by Anne Cox of Tenants Harbor, Maine. I wish I could sit down to tea with Anne, because just by looking at this rug I know we share a love for many of the same things. It is a view of Tenants Harbor, Maine and it is based on a poem, the words around the border being:

"Look, I want to love this world as though it's the last chance I'm ever going to get to be alive and know it. So this is the world. I'm not in it. It's beautiful."

The rug is very, vary large - I would guess perhaps 8 feet by 4 feet although someone who was there may correct me if necessary. At any rate, the photo does not do it justice. And yes, I literally cried when I viewed it.
"So This is the World" by Anne Cox, Tenants Harbor, Maine
There was a viewer's choice contest where each attendee could vote for his or her favorite rug. This rug got my vote. It made me feel as though I was standing on the Maine coast, with the gratitude and awe I feel whenever I behold the beauty of my home state, and the words were an affirmation for much that I have been pondering in my own life for the past several years. This, and many of the pieces I saw at Hooked in the Mountains, are examples of rug hooking transcending hand craft and moving in to the realm of serious art. If I can create a single piece that moves someone as much as this did me, I will have succeeded in my own right.

The Hooked in the Mountains show is a great inspiration, whether you are a rug hooker or not. The northern New England area has so much to offer - why not take a week or a long weekend to take in this amazing show next year and relax in one of the most beautiful settings on the east coast? And maybe - maybe - if you come next year you'll get to see some pieces by Jen and by me. :)

Happy hooking! ~ Beth

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