Who are you?
Wow! This is a tough one. I feel like I should have a clear, concise, beautifully packaged definition of who I am, but alas….. To keep it simple and straightforward: I am a fiber artist, a wife, a sister, an aunt, and a daughter. A rug hooker, primarily, and an embroiderer who uses wool, linen, floss, cotton and paper as her supplies of choice.
What might your perfect afternoon look like?
It’s a hot summer day… Blue sky, puffy cumulus clouds drift lazily across the azure stillness, and I sit, at the water’s edge, a cool beverage in my right hand. My soul expands…
When you need to simply take a breath and reground yourself, what do you do?
I sleep. Sleep is the perfect escape, it’s free, it’s uplifting, it’s inspiring. (Of course, I wouldn’t mind spending the day at a spa, wearing a fluffy bathrobe and sipping cucumber-infused water!)
How do you nurture your creative dreams?
I listen. I step outside, close my eyes and hear. The manmade sounds, the ruffling wind, all the little bird/animal/insect voices. I focus on the whole and on each separate sound. I realize that each thing I hear has a place, a right to be. And, so do I ~ my dreams are as valid as I allow them to be.
What is your preferred medium and why?
Textiles, especially wool. The first time I actually saw a hooked rug was at the Fallasburg Art Festival in 2001 or 2002. The rug was no bigger than 6”x6” and the design was very simple, very childlike. I was suddenly transported to a place of comfort. That probably seems silly and melodramatic, but it’s true. There was an instant connection between me and this very small rug I was holding. I wanted to know how. I wanted to participate in this medium. Up until that epiphany, I ‘d always thought of wool as itchy, scratchy and uncomfortable… suddenly, wool became as soft and pleasing as an embrace.
How do you work?
Quietly. Even when my surroundings are overwhelming to one or more of my senses, I can quiet the “noise” if I have a hook or needle or bit of wool in my hand.
I start with the design, either one I’ve drawn myself or found online, and then decide on the colors. The design is drawn on primitive linen, a binding is sewn around the edges, and then the piece is attached to my frame that’s on a stand so I can sit comfortably and work. I dye most of the wool myself with Cushing acid dyes. I used to use exclusively recycled wool but it has become so expensive, and clothing manufacturers aren’t using 100% or even 90% wool-which is what I use. I need to prepare 4 times as much wool as the size of the backing. It takes me two minutes to hook a section one inch square, so a rug that’s 2 ft. x 2 ft. takes between 8 and 12 hours, just for the hooking. After I take it off the frame, I steam it, trim off the linen, and finally hand sew the binding to the back.
What’s your background?
In college I was an English major. After college, I worked with clay ceramic sculpture. I had a kiln and did raku for 9 or 10 years. Paper, embroidery and rug hooking fiber arts are my primary interests right now.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?
“Draw outside the lines.” This was my mother’s message throughout my childhood, and she wasn’t referring to just my coloring books, but to my life. I think she recognized that I felt different, undeserving, “outside” somehow, and she wanted me to know that imperfection can spark creative thinking, and creative thinking can open doors you’ve kept under lock and key.
Professionally, what are your goals?
To be a part. A part of the artistic community, a part of the conversation, though I’m at my most comfortable on the periphery. I like the concept of being “a part”… it’s not all about me, I’m not the “whole”, I’m not lonely in my aloneness ~ I am “a part” without pressure to be the “whole”. And, to feel. To feel valid and vital. (Of course, I wouldn’t mind selling a few rugs!)
One of the hardest things for artists to do is to stand apart from everyone else.
How long did it take you to come up with your own style and signature look?
Comparatively, there aren’t many rug hookers, at least as far as I can tell. It’s not a hugely popular medium like photography, painting or drawing, so I’ve never felt like I needed to try to be different from other rug hookers. However, it has taken me several years to find my niche, to find the method that leads to the outcome that makes me proud to admit that I created something.
What is your inspiration for your pieces? What keeps you motivated?
What inspires me most is color, then texture, then design. My preference is for the
soft… soft, neutral colors, and soft textured wools and backings. I lean toward the simple… simple, naïve, childlike, designs. That’s how I’d like life to be; soft, simple, straightforward and innocent.
How concerned are you about environmental issues? Does this affect your work?
I’m concerned about environmental issues in general. I liked using recycled wool but a lot of clothing that I was purchasing had not been previously worn and I felt in some way I was supporting the sweat shops. So, now I buy wool and dye it myself. I’m not concerned about the dyes because from what I’ve read, almost all of the dyes are absorbed in the wool although I do wear hand and eye protection when dyeing. What I like about wool is that it’s a renewable resource, they don’t kill the sheep to get the wool. It would be awesome if I lived in Scotland and had a farm right next to me. On the other hand, the process employs a lot of people.
Are you concerned about health risks, if any, of your medium?
As I mentioned earlier, I wear gloves and safety glasses and I use tiny, tiny amounts of Cushing dyes. I did have a problem with carpal tunnel but I got a brace that I now wear and I bought a better hook.
Rebecca’s work can be found on Etsy at http://www.etsy.com/shop/goodwool.