Monday, April 16, 2007

How many projects is too many?



Since childhood, I have been a better "starter" than "finisher". Whether it was sewing, knitting, painting - I always had multiple projects on the go. Just part of the DNA and the way my brain is wired, I guess. The same is definitely true when it comes to my hooking.

Right now, I have at least 8 unfinished projects (and that is probably an understatement). Some of these probably only need an hour to finish. Some need a lifetime. Others, including two fine shading projects (including the one in the picture), may serve as teaching pieces in their unfinished state - and I don't have a problem with that. Who says teaching pieces have to be complete, when teaching and learning never are.

These pieces have all been set aside because of another 'inspiration'. I call the ones that are the most challenging my "experimental farm". They usualy begin with a "what if" or "I wonder" and they are the most exciting ones, since they are all a creative excursion that needed to be started, but may never be finished. And it won't matter if they are.

If I have an idea in my head that I need to see in wool, I put aside my other projects and jump in. And my batting average is pretty good. I have ended up with hooked bags, belts and hats that were experiments. I loved doing them. They encourage me to be fearless and remind me that if you don't try, you'll never know if it would have worked or not.

I have real respect for hookers who finish every project before moving on to another one. I think that shows discipline and a different mind set. For them, seeing the project finished well is the joy, and part of their DNA. There are definitely days when I wish I were a bit more like that. Think of the storage space I would save!

However, I am not about to change, and will therefore accept this as my lot in hooking. Perhaps when I have retired, I will find the time and the discipline to finish all the projects set aside. However, I have my doubts. The reality is that the more time I have to spend the more likely I am to increase the size of my experimental farm and my unfinished projects.

But I'm o.k. with that.

Monday, April 9, 2007

New Orientation


I have always been an admirer of Oriental carpets, whether in someone's home, in a store, or on display at a rug show. I find the history behind the rugs themselves extremely fascinating. The fact that nomadic people found ways to create colourful works of art from what they had at hand was perhaps the most appealing part of the mystique. The ability to pinpoint the origins of a carpet, what the various symbols represent, and the stories they tell are all part of the romance for me.

I think I have discovered something quite different in how I feel about creating one.

As the previous posts would attest, my attempts at dyeing were not hugely successful, and it took a lot of time to get colours that could be used in my design, Curzon. My colour plan was quite pleasing and I think (as the above small section would confirm) that the colours are working out according to that plan.

However, I realize that the things that I enjoy most about rug hooking are not a big part of hooking an Oriental rug. It is very much a "hook by numbers" exercise that follows a very disciplined process. Once the initial colour planning is done, the hooking becomes all about technique and not so much about creativity.

The things that I enjoy most in my approach to rug hooking are, in fact, mostly about the approach. The germ of an idea.
The gestation of the idea. The translation into a sketch. The scaling up to pattern size. The modification of the design at the new size. The selection of colours and textures from my mostly-recycled stask. These are not part of the Oriental process.

I'm sure that there will be as much learning with this rug as with others. I am sure that the design elements that are incorporated into this pattern will follow onto other rugs. The creation of borders and the outlining of elements within a rug will all be partly influenced by this rug.

The ability to reproduce a dye formula to match a previous batch.
The discipline of staight row hooking and perfect (or nea-perfect) tension will also reform my cavalier, freestyle ways.

But I doubt very much that I will become a "dyed in the wool" Oriental rug hooker, like some of my new-found friends.
For me, it just doesn't scratch the itch.

My friend Heidi from Ottawa is a brilliant Oriental rug creator. She loves them more than all the rest. She hooks in a 3 cut and loves every loop of it. She loves to teach Orientals. And she has found a wonderful, creative way to make it exciting for her students (I will not divulge that secret without permission). Her enthusiasm when she talks about it is infectious - in fact, I think it is partly her passion that encouraged me to hop aboard the Orient express.

My friend Jane also loves Orientals, and as a brand new teacher, chose that topic for her first workshop. I salute her!

I will learn patience and calm from this Curzon I have begun. And I will finish it, because I have already decided where it will go in my home.

But I fear that, like my fine shading pieces, this will never be a passion for me.

And while I am working away on this fine piece, I will scratch my creative itch with other projects that will take me in the opposite direction.

I will have freedom, and texture, and wild and crazy creativity to keep me balanced.

Monday, April 2, 2007

Dyeing to Succeed


Since my last post, countless hours have been devoted to achieving the colours required for my Oriental project. I'd love to be able to say they are incredible - luscious hues that no mortal could resist, but alas that would be an untruth.

They are pretty close to what I was aiming for, but they are not magnificent. I hope when I begin to hook them into the pattern, I will feel better about them. At the moment, I have that same feeling you get when creating a complicated meal. By the time you are done, you're not hungry any more.

The blue that I have settled on is quite lovely and I learned the secret to getting the saturation that I was going for. You actually have to pre-dye the wool blue before going for the formula you want. So, in fact, this blue was dyed twice and abrashed once. When you add that to the two previous blue attempts (both of which I hope to work into the flowers in this pattern), I have probably dedicated 6-8 hours for this one colour. And I do this because.....???!!!

I had vowed that if my entire 6-week workshop was spent getting my colours correct, I would be satisfied. Again, I lied. I am now officially tired of stirring that pot and want to get going. If any of these colours do not pass the mustard, I think I will purchase the glorious hues aforementioned and move on to hooking.

The challenge of reproducing any of these colours lies ahead of me. I have made good notes, including all the variances and overdyes for the ones that I love. Hopefully, if the moon is in exactly the same position and the same dog is on my lawn, I may get the same results.

And hopefully, my next post will featured a few of these time-intensive colours in position on my first Oriental ever.