Deanne Fitzpatrick's lovely hooked rugs hang in the Permanent Collections of The Art Gallery of Nova Scotia, The Canadian Museum of Civilization, The Nova Scotia Art Bank, and The Art Gallery of Newfoundland and Labrador. She is a member of the Editorial Board of Rug Hooking Magazine, and is part of the Rug Hooking Guild of Nova Scotia, Visual Arts Nova Scotia, and the Nova Scotia Folk Art Society. Fitzpatrick is also the author of "Hook Me a Story, a History and Method of Rug Hooking in Atlantic Canada", published in 1999, and now in its fourth printing.
Learn more about the life and art of Deanne Fitzpatrick by visiting her Web site and blog at HookingRugs.com.
We are all flawed. Everything is flawed. I don't believe in perfection, just beauty. I believe in beauty. — Deanne Fitzpatrick
'The Spirit in the Mat' of Creative Rug Hooking Artistry
An engaging perspective on personal truth, story-telling, creative expression, and rug-hooking art. Plus: 101 Ideas for Living Creatively.
The Art of the Critique
The critique can be tricky business, and it takes both backbone, and soul for it to work right. Advice for giving and receiving critiques on creative work.
Romancing the Cod
An introduction and history to Deanna's fish rugs, excerpted from her 2006 book East Coast Rug-Hooking Designs: New Patterns from an Old Tradition.
The Rug Hooker's Guide to Creativity: from Every Craft there Grows an Art
A three-part series exploring Creativity and Inspiration, Digging for Ideas, and Ideas to Nourish the Creative Genius within You.
Q: Tell me about your early career? Did you always have an interest in working with hooked rugs, or did you begin your professional life in a totally different field and come to this work later in life? Where did you start, and how did you end up here?
A: I began as a therapist, learned to hook rugs on a weekend away and never looked back. I wanted rugs for an old farmhouse where I had settled. Though I did not know how to hook, it was something I had always been familiar with. As a teenager, I began seeing rugs for what they were. I marveled that a woman's hand had pulled up every loop in a rug that lay on the floor of my sisters' farmhouse. In my mid-twenties, I went to an annual meeting of The Rug Hooking Guild of Nova Scotia, and Marion Kennedy taught me the basics. How to cut your wool, and how to pull up a loop, then she told me to get to it. As soon as I started hooking rugs I knew it was for me. It was a simple technique, and I could see my progress. I finished my first little stamped pattern with in a week and so it began.
Q: What is your creative process with a new piece? Do you make a sketch, design, or pattern to work from before beginning? Can you describe the process from start to finish — the seminal idea to the end result?
A: I sketch all the time. I keep my sketch books and pore through them for ideas. Sometimes a design emerges out of nowhere. I walk five miles a day, and sometimes inspiration emerges on the walk. I then sketch the design on burlap or linen and hook it. I learned that I could tell stories, and express myself through rug hooking. This is what really got me involved with it. Each time I make a rug I create a new design. In many of my pieces I tell stories or express ideas about the world. I work full time as a rug hooking artist. Each piece I create is different from the last. I use recycled cloth, and gather old wool clothing from real people in real communities. The clothes are washed, dried and torn apart. It is then hooked, loop by loop, on a backing of burlap or linen.
Q: Describe a simple project people can do at home to get a taste of what you do all day?
A: Most people start with a little kit from my website but you could just get a piece of burlap, put it in a hoop, cut up a few t-shirts for "yarn" and try hooking it with a rug hook.
Q: Do you ever work with other media, such as watercolor or sculpture? You seem to have a painter's eye for color and tone. Have you received any formal training in this field, or are you a self-taught artist?
A: Not much. Wool is my medium. No, I'm completely self taught.
Q: How did you become interested in this art form? Is it something passed down through your family, or did you discover it on your own after you grew up?
A: I discovered it after I grew up. Both my mother and grandmothers did it but they did not teach me.
Q: The colors in your work are so rich and vibrant. Do you work with a palette of yarn, a color wheel, or other tools to help create the color scheme for each piece? Are there any special materials you work with? What are the supplies needed to create a basic piece?
A: Color for me is completely intuitive. The more you use your intuition with it the better you get at using it. I keep a palette of colors available to me.
Q: When you're in the studio, what aspects of your environment are most important to you? (Lighting, music, time of day?)
A: The morning light. Right after my walk, I faithfully go to the studio and sit to work.
Q: Do you listen to music while you work? What type of music makes you feel inspired, creative, juicy, and ready to work?
A: It is not an important part of my work.
Q: What advice would you give to those who want to begin working in this media? How have you created such a successful career for yourself — is there a "secret" to what you do?
A: I work really hard, and have a very strong focus. Focus is everything, it makes all the difference for artists. I think working on staying focused and being committed is good advice for any discipline.
Q: Do you ever feel stuck, blah, or just plain bored with it all? How do you pull yourself out of the doldrums and return to a place of inspiration, productive creative work, and juicy ideas?
A: I go to art galleries, take a break, read a mystery novel. I never force myself to work when I don't feel like it. I sometimes make a really large simple mat of squares or circles in a modern way to step back from ideas. I really love this type of project, as I can use my color sense and hands but not get bogged down by ideas.
Q: Do you handle all aspects of this business yourself? If not, who composes your team? (Agents, managers, accountants, etc.) Did you start out doing it all alone?
A: I started out alone. I have four part-time studio assistants, and someone who does the books now.
Q: Who are the writers and artists that feed your creative fire and inspire you to create such beautiful works of art?
A: There are too many to name. I really liked John O'Donohue's book, "Beauty". It got me rethinking some things. I look at lots of art books but rarely read them — I am motivated by the images. I like many different artists. Famous or not, they just need to be edgy and interesting.
Q: Many artists find that it's a challenge to balance their personal lives and careers — has this been tough for you? What is your best way to handle such stressors?
A: I walk four or five miles a day. It is good emotionally and physically.
Q: Is there a spiritual or healing dimension to this work for you? It seems as though it would be a very calming and meditative experience to create these beautiful hooked rugs.
A: All art is a bit of a prayer. It keeps me close to God. I am inspired by the beauty around me.
Q: Some Native American weavers purposely weave a flaw into their designs in order to acknowledge that they are human, fallible, and imperfect themselves. To create a perfect piece is to offend the Creator. Can you speak to that philosophy? Do you strive for perfection or humanity? Are there flaws and mistakes in your work, as well? Do you find that these flaws make a work more personal or meaningful?
A: We are all flawed. Everything is flawed. I don't believe in perfection, just beauty. I believe in beauty.
Q: During different phases of your career, you've faced different challenges and experienced many types of success. What is your definition of success now, as opposed to ten years ago?
A: My definition of success has not changed. Are the ten people around me happy? Am I happy? Can I do what I want to do with my days? Can I follow ideas around another bend freely? This is success.
Q: What are some of the challenges you faced as a young woman, just starting her art career? How do they differ from the challenges you face as an established artist today? What has been the most rewarding aspect of creating this beautiful and fascinating body of work?
A: As a young artist, recognition is a big challenge, and it continues for mature artists. I think there is so much visual stimulation for people these days it is now harder to get people to pay attention to visual art. Pretty things on paper are everywhere…why should anyone take notice?
Q: What helps you stay fresh and full of ideas? What is your greatest source of inspiration?
A: I read a lot of non fiction, I listen to people, and I keep my eyes wide open all the time just like Johnny Cash told me to do. [My greatest sourece of inspiration is] the world around me, nature, and the people who inhabit it. I love land, especially fields. I find that a bunch of scrub and brush is a beautiful thing. It changes all day long with the light. I love the smell of fresh air on a person. It makes me want to hold them.
Q: What does the future hold for you?
A: I hope to write another book. Every year we have a symposium, you can read about next year's symposium on the website. I really look forward to that! I also have a show coming up called "The Art of Visiting," at the Art Gallery of Newfoundland and Labrador that I am working on.
I grew up in Freshwater, Placentia Bay, Newfoundland, the youngest of seven children. My mother and both of my grandmothers hooked rugs as a past-time, and as a chore of necessity. By the time I was born by my grandmothers had died and my mother had long since abandoned rug hooking as a chore of poverty.
In Newfoundland in the late sixties, and early seventies very few people were hooking, though there was still a scattered mat hanging about people's back doors. For the most part it was out with the old and in with the new. I can still see a Rita Murphy, my friends mother, sitting in her back room, hooking away on her mats. Her floors were a carpet of many multicoloured hooked rugs. At the time to me it seemed an old fashioned thing. Little did I know that I would spend years doing exactly the same thing.
I learned to hook rugs because I wanted rugs for an old farmhouse where I had settled. Though I did not know how to hook, it was something I had always been familiar with. As a teenager, I began seeing rugs for what they were. I marveled that a woman's' hand had pulled up every loop in a rug that lay on the floor of my sisters' farmhouse. In my mid-twenties, I went to an annual meeting of The Rug Hooking Guild of Nova Scotia, and Marion Kennedy taught me the basics. How to cut your wool, and how to pull up a loop, then she told me to get to it. As soon as I started hooking rugs I knew it was for me. It was a simple technique, and I could see my progress. I finished my first little stamped pattern with in a week and so it began.
I learned that I could tell stories, and express myself through rug hooking. This is what really got me involved with it. Each time I make a rug I create a new design. In many of my pieces I tell stories or express ideas about the world. I work full time as a rug hooking artist. Each piece I create is different from the last. I use recycled cloth, gather old wool clothing from real people in real communities. The clothes are washed dried and torn apart. It is then hooked loop by loop on a backing of burlap or linen.
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