Why We Hook the Animals We Love

This is my Welsh Corgi, Tru.  (If you really want to get to know her, she has her own Facebook page here.)  As you can see, she was sunbathing this morning while I was putting the finishing touches on the first pattern for the Parris House Hookers’ Circle subscription service, shipping this week.   As I posted on our Facebook page this morning, I am painfully aware that Tru is now about twelve years old, and that most of my time with her is behind us.   I never thought I could love a dog this fiercely until she came in to our lives, but here I am, pondering a post-Tru world even though as of right now, she is still happy, active, and healthy.

For this reason, I have been thinking lately that I need to gather up all the photos I have of her (there are many!), and also sit quietly with her, make a sketch of her sweet face, and hook it.    Now, I have never hooked an animal in a detailed way, the way I want to hook Tru’s image.   I want to capture the glint in her eye that still exists even though I see the encroaching cloudiness of cataracts.  I want to hook the pretty combination of “red” and white and maybe now a little gray that defines her face.  I want to add the teeny tiny white eyelashes and delicate fur in her ears.  I think this project is going to have to be refined and textural and multimedia, but since I can see it, I know I can make it a reality.

Prior to this I have not hooked many animals.  One of the most popular patterns in the shop is “Tesla’s First Snow,” which, rather than a late-in-life portrait, is a depiction of our big orange tabby, Tesla, as a four month old kitten seeing his first snowfall out the window.  After being initially perplexed, he wanted to “catch” the snowflakes as they cascaded down.   I snapped a picture of the scene and the result was this:

As you can see, this is a very primitive rendering of Tesla.  His back is turned to us so that, frankly, I didn’t need to deal with the detail of his face, although that is still true to the photograph.  This was done in 2012.  I learned to hook in 2011.  I was simply not ready to take on the complexities of Tesla’s face!   (In case anyone is wondering, he is named for Nikola Tesla, the scientist/inventor.  This happens when you have four sons who dig science.)

I also hook animals for Beekman 1802, and it is absolutely true that I love these animals I’m depicting.   I actually met Polka Spot back in 2014 on the day Jen and I first presented our work to Josh and Brent.  They kindly sent us on a farm tour with Megan, who was then their artisan coordinator, and we were thrilled to see the baby goats, Bubby the cat, Onder the dog, and, as they say, “every living thing at Beekman farm.”   Bubby passed away since then, and Polka has also “gone to Paris,” but both of them had distinct personalities.  Polka was one of the most regal animals I’ve ever encountered, and it was clear that she took her watch over the goats seriously.  Bubby was just one giant furball of love, demanding our attention while Onder ran in and out of the barn playfully.  Here is the menagerie I hook for Beekman 1802.

Last year I had a major commission for a customer’s beloved Pharaoh Hound.  The story on that is here, and the result is below.

Why are we willing to put so much time and effort in to these portraits of our favorite pets or animals?  Or, if we aren’t artisans ourselves, willing to commission someone else to create them?   I think it’s about the innocence, unconditional love, and nobility of character we so often find in our pets.  I don’t say that to anthropomorphize animals.  As my biologist/ecologist son, James, likes to remind me, “They don’t think the way we do.”   And, of course, he’s right.  They don’t think the way we do.   In fact, it’s impossible for us, really, to get inside their heads.  They are coming from an entirely different reality, biology, instinct than we are.  And yet…it is so easy to make important connections with them, and they with us.  We want to immortalize them in art because we know – we are so painfully aware – that their lifespans are much shorter than we’d like and that our own lives are so much better with them by our sides.

Sometimes they’re exasperating.  Tesla wants to kill my knitting if I don’t put it up and out of the way.  Tru wants to be directly under my feet if I’m preparing chicken for dinner.   Tesla is incapable of having a hairball in any location except on a carpet.  Tru occasionally gets so excited over visitors she pees at their feet.  Yeah.   And the fur.  It’s everywhere.  No vacuum on this planet is its equal.

Yesterday, my oldest son, Robert, shared this picture of his and his girlfriend’s, Tracy’s, cats peering out their apartment window in much the same way Tesla peered out at his first snow about five or six years ago.   They are Valentine and Playdough, respectively, and both are well under a year old.   Just the beginning of another generation’s connection with animals.

I hope you will share pictures of your animals and also pictures of artwork you’ve done inspired by them.  Feel free to tell their stories and what they mean to you.  I look forward to learning all about them.

Happy hooking! – Beth

Tesla one-upping Tru and snagging the sunny spot.

 

Lessons from a Weaving Lesson: A Beekman 1802 Artisan Experience with Rabbit Goody of Thistle Hill Weavers

Last weekend I had the good fortune to take a beginner weaving class with Rabbit Goody of Thistle Hill Weavers.  Some of you may know that Rabbit is an extremely well known and highly respected weaver, with an extensive knowledge of her art and so many related topics and disciplines.  For a more complete portrait of who she is and what she has done, click here.  Rabbit is a fellow Beekman 1802 artisan, and it was through Beekman 1802 that this particular class was offered.   The extremely imperfect scarf shown at left was the result of my first go at weaving, showing many errors on my part, but I fully intend to wear it anyway as a reminder of this fantastic experience and some of the larger life lessons it brought to mind.

Rabbit is a generous, patient, and effective teacher.  It is nothing short of miraculous that she is able to take a room full of absolute beginners and, at the end of two days, send them off with wearable, lovely silk & worsted scarves of their own making.  Mine was by far not the best example in the class; one in particular looked flawless to me.  While as a student I was mainly focused on process, not result, I know that when I am teaching I take a certain amount of satisfaction in seeing my students produce something truly beautiful.  I think Rabbit does too, and she certainly achieved successful results.

I think there are often life lessons embedded within any creative pursuit, and weaving is no exception.   Here are just a few that came to mind as I learned the rudiments of weaving.

Small actions can have lasting consequences.   We spent the entire first day of class learning how to wrap the warp and set up the loom.  I had previously known nothing of the painstaking work required to prepare a loom for weaving, and these were relatively simple four-harness looms suitable for beginners.  Once the warp was placed on the loom, we needed to carefully thread each heddle in the correct order, one strand at a time, to achieve the correct pattern in the final result.  Following that, each thread had to come through the reed in the correct groupings.  Needless to say, for a beginner it is very easy to make a mistake at some point in this process, and I did.  A couple of my errors were visible right away to Rabbit, who corrected them, but another was only apparent once the weaving began.   Rabbit was able to fix the latter to some extent, but there is still an imperfection all along the warp in that section of the scarf, a reminder that just one small mistake can have lasting consequences.  But I don’t want this to only be read in the negative.  It is also true that one positive act can have far reaching and lasting consequences for good.  There is a ripple effect in many things that we do, and being focused and present even in the smallest of things can matter a great deal.

Bringing your best to whatever you do is a wise investment and multiplies your efforts.   Rabbit provided us with beautiful silk and worsted thread with which to weave our scarves.  She knows what I also know as a teacher:  if you do not provide your students with the best materials for their very first project, they will not get a result that will encourage them to continue in the art.  Additionally, they may actually have a harder time learning, because cheap, low quality materials do not perform well in an artisan’s hands and can be uncomfortable and frustrating to work with.   Whether you’re a beginner or a master, bring your best to every endeavor and share that best with others if you want your message, your passion, your art – whatever it is – to become a contagious force for good.

Sometimes, we seemingly create something from nothing, and when we do, it is deeply rewarding.  One of the many wonderful conversations that took place over the weekend was about the almost inexpressible satisfaction that comes from having a real, three dimensional, thing of beauty come in to being under your own hands.  Ideas are powerful.  In the course of our weaving weekend, ideas became scarves.  In my own work, a fleeting glimpse of a landscape or the issue behind a protest may take root in my mind as an image or an idea.  From there it will make its way on to paper as a sketch, then on to linen as a pattern, then through wool and handwork it ends up a work of fiber art, tangible, tactile, real.  All it was at its inception was an idea, and it becomes a physical thing, but it doesn’t end there.  It becomes a thing that generates more ideas and feelings, and may even become part of someone else’s story, which may in turn generate more inspiration that becomes some other new thing.   Archaeologists have unearthed woven fabric that is thousands of years old, fabric that started out as someone’s idea.  This manifestation of creative thought presents itself thousands of years after the death of the thinker.  In some ways, creative making is the closest we get to immortality while also being reminded of our own personal impermanence.

Don’t judge anything too early in its story.  The hookers in the audience know that it’s impossible to truly judge a rug prior to the steaming process.  In fact, when I teach hooking, I confidently promise my students that upon steaming, their rug will subtly, and yet dramatically (yes, I mean that contradiction), change for the better.  Imagine my delight to find out that finishing is equally – possibly more – important in a woven piece.  Rabbit taught us a variety of finishing techniques for our scarves.  In the case of mine, she sprayed it gently with water and ran it through a vintage rotary iron.   After the steam pressing, she handed me my scarf and it was amazingly, tangibly, thrillingly transformed.  It was softer, my weaving errors were less apparent, it had developed more of a sheen, and it was just significantly different.  This is a great reminder that often it is best to withhold judgment, especially during moments we are most compelled to judge.  Judging too early can lead to giving up too soon.  It can lead to unfairly dismissing a project, an idea, or at worst, a person, long before we have enough information or legitimate reason to.

Believe you can.  To be honest, when I first signed up for Rabbit’s class I was not at all sure that I would be able to come home with a scarf even as good as the one I have, even with the mistakes its sporting.  Weaving is a precise, intricate, mathy, technical, and yet endlessly creative art form.  It seems to me to require a Renaissance mind, one that is equally comfortable with traditionally left and right brain thinking.  I am infamously weak with mathy pursuits.  I somehow passed calculus in college, but I remember none of it, with the exception, perhaps, of the trauma the class inflicted on me.  I knit…a little…but, oh please, do not ask me to design a knitting pattern or fix an error three rows back.  My chosen art, the one I’m so passionate about, is way more abstract, like painting with wool.  I can handle that with relative ease.  Why on earth would I think I could do something with such strong spatial and technical components?  Well, on one hand, I correctly believed that Rabbit was simply a fantastic teacher and that she’d seen the likes of me before.   On the other hand I simply chose to believe that I could do this.  This is a discipline in itself, and one I learned later in life.  As humans, we really do have limitations, innate characteristics that might really prevent individuals from doing some things.  However, I believe that we have to sort out the real limitations ( I will never be an Olympic athlete) from the lies we tell ourselves (I’m not left brained enough to weave).   The best things that have happened to me in the past several years have come about because I’ve learned to silence the inner voice that fabricates limitations, and listen to the one that objectively recognizes realistic opportunities and possibilities.

Creating things creates community.  This needs very little explanation.  On Saturday morning, we four students and Rabbit had never met before and, except for Rabbit, had never woven before.  By the end of the weekend we had chatted about our lives, our families, things we love to do, and watched and supported one another with the challenges of learning a new art.   We shared our experiences to our wider communities on social media and spread the word about this incredible workshop.  Today I showed my new scarf to our Tuesday hooking group, and the circle became wider.  Humans are innately driven to create and share in the creative process, and I have to think that this is not only because that drive is somewhat evolutionary – a means to physical survival – but also because it binds us together in communities that meet our needs for connection and belonging.

There are so many more lessons within the lesson, but these were foremost in my mind as I drove the six hours back to Maine from upstate New York.  I am very grateful to Rabbit for sharing so much of her time and resources with us, and to Josh and Brent of Beekman 1802 for arranging this experience.  I am also grateful to my three weaving classmates who were inspirational in their own right, creating beautiful things out of “nothing” as well.  If this is something that would interest you also, follow Thistle Hill Weavers on Facebook where Rabbit posts her upcoming classes.   Also follow Beekman 1802 on Facebook for notifications of other upcoming Artisan Experiences as they are offered.

I’ll share some other pictures from the weekend, from Rabbit’s gorgeous studio, and from the Beekman 1802 Mercantile below (click the side arrows to scroll through).  I hope you’ll consider doing something totally new to you this year, and pondering the lessons within the lesson too.  – Beth

 

Save the Date! New Hook In Event in Belfast, Maine – April 22nd, 2017!

Beautiful downtown Belfast, Maine.

Looking for a new event to ring in the arrival of spring this year?  Get your calendar or digital device out and save this info!

When:  Saturday, April 22nd, 2017, 9 am to 3 pm

Where: The First Church in Belfast, UCC, 8 Court Street, Belfast, Maine

Featured Speaker: Rose Ann Hunter!

Sponsored by:  207 Creatives

OK, so you probably have questions…

Who is/are 207 Creatives?

207 Creatives is a collaboration formed by Connie Fletcher of Seven Gables Designs, Ellen Marshall of Two Cats and Dog Hooking, and me, Beth Miller of Parris House Wool Works.   It is our aim together to bring you the very best of fiber art and creative events, rug hooking patterns, supplies, & finished hooked pieces, and more.   Together we have three times as many ideas, resources, and experiences to pool than we would have alone, and we plan to use that to help make your creative experiences even better.

Tell us more about the featured speaker…

We are so excited to present accomplished fiber artist Rose Ann Hunter!  She will be doing a presentation called, “Enhancing Your Hooking with Historical Techniques.”   In her presentation, Rose Ann will share with us how she mixes and incorporates historical techniques in her rug hooking. Her imagination knows no bounds and you, too, will soon be talking about standing wool, quillies, shirring, tambor, and more.  Rose Ann’s bio on her webpage reads as follows:  “Rose Ann Hunter has been a textile structuralist for the last thirty years. She was chosen in 2005 as craftperson-in-residence at Old Sturbridge Village in traditional rugmaking 1790 to 1850 and lectures at various museums, conferences and guilds throughout New England and the US. She has adapted and developed over 30 techniques of rug making by recycling fabrics that are sewn, knitted or crocheted into folk art.”

Will there be great food?

YES!  There will be wonderful food at this hook in, provided by For the Love of Food & Drink.  If you have attended the Paris Hill Hook In for the past two years, you will be familiar with this wonderful catering company.  A fresh and delicious breakfast, lunch, and dessert, served by the friendliest people in catering, will be provided.

Will there be vendors?

Indeed.  There will be vendors, to be announced, who will have everything you need for the craft.  Yes, we know you already have stashes bursting down your doors, but hey, we’re hookers.  You know how it is.

What is the venue like?

People have been worshiping in this beautiful church in seaside Belfast for over two centuries.   The church hall where we will be hooking is spacious and light filled, and we are sure it will become a favorite hook in space.

Is this hook in replacing the Paris Hill Hook In in November?

NO!  The Fifth Annual Paris Hill Hook In sponsored by Parris House Wool Works will still be there this fall with bells on (or a bell in the church tower, that some of you have actually rung…).  I will be selecting a date for it soon and will get that information out to everyone.

How do we sign up???

We will be providing sign up information very soon, so please watch this page, our Facebook pages, and all of our social media for that.  In addition, we will be sending post cards for those whose addresses we have, and I will be putting the info in The Street Corner email newsletter.   If you are not sure we have your contact information and you would like a post card or email, please email me at parrishousewoolworks@gmail.com and we’ll put you on the list!

And there’s more…

We are still working on more fun details for this great new event, and will share more as we finalize those.   We hope you are as excited as we are and will come out and spend some time in one of the prettiest towns in midcoast Maine.   For more information about Belfast, please visit  Our Town Belfast.  

Thanks for reading, happy hooking, and we hope to see you in April!  – Beth

 

 

 

 

 

Maine Craft Weekend & Registration for the 2016 Paris Hill Hook In Happening Now!

exterior1 The Fourth Annual Paris Hill Hook In is not yet filled!  Join us on November 5th for a hook in that past participants describe as one of the best (and sometimes they say “the best) hook ins they have ever attended.  I chalk this up to our warm, welcoming, and historic venue, our amazing locally catered fresh food, and, of course, the good company of over 60 hookers coming together for a wonderful fall day.  We also have an informal rug show, the ringing (by you!) of the historic Revere Foundry church bell, and this year only we will pull the winning ticket for our Maine Medical Center raffle rug.  Don’t have a ticket for that yet?  No problem.  You can buy them now by clicking here or you can even buy them in person the morning of the hook in.  Once again we will be welcoming Kim Dubay of Primitive Pastimes and Cherylyn Brubaker of Hooked Treasures as our vendors, along with, of course, Parris House Wool Works.  There will be door prizes as well (it’s not a hook in without door prizes).

You can get a hook in registration form HERE, but there’s a doubly fun way to sign up.  You can join us this coming weekend for Maine Craft Weekend!  We will be participating by having the Maine studio open both days, Saturday and Sunday, October 1st and 2nd, from 10 AM to 4 PM.  Here is what you can expect:  Parris House Wool Works is located in the beautiful Paris Hill National Historic District of the Western Lakes & Mountains Region of Maine. You can find us at the 200 year old historic Parris House at 546 Paris Hill Road, Paris and we will be open both days to introduce you to the heritage craft of North American wool-on-linen rug hooking! Join us for refreshments, demonstrations, lessons in rug hooking, and a studio filled with everything you need for the craft, including hooks, frames, original patterns, and wool, as well as assorted finished decor pieces to purchase. You will also be able to buy a raffle chance on a 3’x5′ hooked rug to benefit the Maine Medical Center Kidney Transplant Program; drawing November 5th. Feel free to walk the historic village while you’re here! Walking tour maps will be available.  

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We have recently added a variety of classes and events to our new calendar, and you may notice that the website is completely, beautifully re-imagined.  This creative work was done by Jacks McNamara of Root & Blossom Design.   Her services were extremely professional, but also warmly collaborative so that the site ended up looking like Parris House Wool Works, not a cookie cutter version of other sites.  I highly recommend her!

So, hopefully you will join us for Maine Craft Weekend, the Paris Hill Hook In, or any of the other fun classes and events we have scheduled for the fall and beginning of winter.

Happy hooking, and see you soon! – Beth

Facebook Contest!

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Would you like to win the bundle shown above?  It’s three of our handcrafted soaps, two wool fat quarters, a beginner Moshimer hook, and 10% off any purchase in our Etsy shop or from our studios!

We are looking to reach 1000 “likes” on Facebook and will pick a name at random of those who newly “like” our page, or who “like” and/or “share” our post there that features this picture.   You can head on over there now by clicking HERE.

Thanks so much and when we reach 1000 “likes” we’ll share who the lucky winner is!

Good luck and happy hooking. – Beth

Upcoming Classes in April at the Maine Studio! Join Us!

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One of the things we promised to do in 2015 was offer more educational classes in a variety of great crafts and skills.  So here we go!  Here are some brand new offerings for April.  Space is limited for each class, so please contact me (Beth) at 207-890-8490 or at ParrisHouseWoolWorks@gmail.com to sign up!

Saturday, April 11th – MAKE A MAY BASKET WITH MASTER BASKET WEAVER KAREN ELLIS

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10 am to 3 pm. Who doesn’t want to make an adorable May basket just in time for Spring!?  This basket can be made in a variety of colors.  Karen will bring many colored reeds to choose from!

The $30 class fee includes all materials needed. Just bring yourself and a bag lunch! Snacks and beverages will be provided. Space is limited to 12 students, so sign up soon!

Tuesday, April 14th – PENNY RUG/APPLIQUE WITH FIBER ARTIST MARY DELANO

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9:30 am – 3:30 pm.  Join us for a wonderful penny rug/applique class with fiber artist Mary DeLano (see her artist profile here: https://fibercollege.wordpress.com/2014/07/08/artist-profile-mary-delano/).

Mary goes beyond the blanket stitch in this class suitable for beginners and also those who want to learn new stitches and techniques for penny rug making. Mary will provide her expertise, embroidery floss, ribbon, and other notions as well as some wool materials. Students need to bring the wool for the background and any scrap wool they might like to incorporate in to their design, and a pair of scissors. We also have plenty of wools and scraps at the Maine studio to choose from.

Class is $45. Please RSVP to secure your spot!

Saturday, April 18th – INTRODUCTION TO WOOL DYEING WITH BETH MILLER

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9 am to 12 noon.  We will introduce pot dyeing, microwave dyeing, and casserole dyeing in colors of your choice, and maybe make new recipes with experimentation!  Class including materials, $32.   Space is limited to four students.  This one is almost full right now, so don’t hesitate!

I will continue to post class offerings here, but you can also always go to our Workshops & Classes tab to see what’s scheduled for the year.  Hope to see many of you in the studio!

Happy hooking! – Beth

First Beginner Dye Workshop at the Maine Studio Set for January 24th

I will be teaching our first beginner dye workshop at the Maine studio on Saturday, January 24th from 9 a.m. to noon.  For time, safety, and instructional purposes, I have to limit the class size to four students at a time, and will run the class only if I get at least two signed up.   This is experimental as we have not taught dyeing here before, so let’s see how this time and format works for everyone!

This class is best suited for those who have either never dyed wool before, or who need a refresher before trying it again after a long time away from it.

We will be learning three basic types of dyeing in this class:

1) Pot Dyeing

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Basic pot dyeing gives a single color to a piece of wool.  This technique can be used nonetheless to get a variety of shades of the same color, and you can put a variety of wools in to the same pot to yield different results, but essentially, there is one overall color in the pot.  This color may be made from a single dye or a recipe of several dyes mixed to achieve the desired color.

2) Microwave Dyeing

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Remember tie dyeing at summer camp?  It’s a little like that.  Multiple colors may be used on a single piece of wool for a variety of great effects.  Fun, fun, fun.

3) Casserole Dyeing

Sorry this photo is blurry!  Think of looking at steaming wool! We are going to use an electric skillet for this.  It is another method for dyeing multiple color pieces, but I find that the blending of the colors is a little softer from color to color in the casserole than in the microwave technique.

We will be using Cushing Perfection Dyes which come from Kennebunkport, Maine and are available in a very wide variety of colors for use alone or mixing and matching.

Cost of the class will be $32 per student which will include the class, printed handouts for reference at home, 3 fat quarters of plain white wool to dye, plus 1 fat quarter of textured wool of your choice to try an overdye with.

If interested, please call me at 207-890-8490, email at parrishousewoolworks@gmail.com, or send a private message on our Facebook page! First come, first served.  We will do dye workshops in Maine quarterly and the next class will be held on April 25th.

Hope to see some of you for a fun day of dyeing!  – Beth