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Rug Hooking Art by Debra Ponte
2010 Creative Careers in the Arts Interviews : Debra Ponte Interview

Creative Careers in the Arts Interviews

Writer & Fiber Artist Debra Ponte

By Molly Anderson-Childers

This month I am talking with Debra Ponte, a artist and writer. In her artist statement, Debra writes: "I don't feel you can know the true essence of a person without the knowledge of how they spend their time — the books they read, the music they listen to, the environment in which they live." She describes herself as a shy, opinionated, compassionate, creative woman. A Reiki practitioner and trained Aesthetician, she enjoys baking and cooking; her favorite haunts are museums, Athenaeum, bookstores, art supply shops and fabric stores.

The eldest of five children, Ponte was born in Acushnet, Massachusetts, and raised in New Bedford. Summers were spent with her family on Nantucket Island. She missed a lot of school as a girl, due to her asthma, so she read a lot of books, and describes herself first and foremost as writer. Ponte has written a few short stories and poems, and was once a columnist for a newspaper, and is currently represented by an agency in New York. This busy gal would love to write and illustrate her own books. Her literary influences include the works of Selma Ottiliana Louisa Lagerlof (the first woman to win the Nobel Prize for Literature), Carolyn Chute, Rudyard Kipling, Willa Cather, Virginia Woolf, Leonard Peikoff, Dicken, Tolstoy and Austen.

Ponte writes: "My work is essential Fiber, Primitive style, humble and non-perfect. When I'm working on a hooked project, I often think of my vava Mary who hooked rugs from worn clothing for her Murphy's-Oil-Soap scented wood floors that glistened in daylight and moonlight and the rugs like jewels lay against. Especially when I hook using the very hook she used!"

Q: Discuss the emotional impact of colors in your work.

A: There are many theories linking color to emotions. Ancient cultures believed color could heal. Perception of color is subjective — one example is that in western cultures death is symbolized by Black, and in Eastern cultures, it's symbolized by White. As an artist, in my work, color=reaction. In fashion there are rules for color — Black is style, Red calls attention, getting noticed. I wear almost all black and yet I like to live around white and off-white, especially in my sleeping environment. I have recently noticed my beginning works are darker and with time and confidence I am using more color play.

Rug Hooking Art by Debra Ponte

Q: I loved the photo of your work in progress, "Blue Scallop Shell." Even halfway finished, it is beautiful! Please tell me a little about your process — it sounds like you do everything but shear the sheep! Take me through the creation of one of your rugs, from start to finish.

A: Thank you very much. The piece is now completely hooked, I just have to bind off the edge.

I sketch each new design in a little book, and decide on a color palette. Then, I draw it out on the backing, stretch it out, cut the wool strips, and start hooking. I am working with more recycled wool and the yarn I spin for the edging. I try to stay away from dyes, unless they are natural.

Q: How long does it take to create a piece, from start to finish? What informs the creation of each one?

A: The type of project requiring the least amount of hours would be chair/seat pads. I have never timed myself; that might drive me mad! (She smiles.) Addressing your second question — I'd have to say something that inspired me. The other day, for example, I drove by an old school house. Seeing it spurred me to design a piece for a child, with the school and letters and numbers. It is my first, and it should be darling.

Q: What is your favorite source of inspiration?

A: This place where I live! I've come here, to this Island off the coast of Cape Cod, every summer since birth with my parents and 4 siblings and the dog. I moved here over 12 years ago to live year round. During my daily walks, I am always seeing something new which influences my color and design choices.

Q: Do you spin and dye the wool yourself? What is involved in this process?

A: I do spin the wool myself, and dye it with natural dyes extracted from plants. First, I take the fleece and card it, then spin it into yarn. I soak the yarn in the dye, rinse and dry it, and finally sew along the edge of said work. I'm mostly using recyclable wool for the fabric hooked into the backing. I hook in the Primitive style using wide cuts.

Art Sketch by Debra Ponte

Q: I loved the bookplates and note cards you've created; so whimsical and fun. What inspired you to branch out into other arenas of the visual arts? Any plans for doing full size-paintings and exhibiting your work in a gallery?

A: I always wanted to draw; to create art, and I did. I really enjoy the bookplates and the note cards, and am currently reworking both designs. I am optimistic about the future — in creative endeavors, anything is possible. During past summers I sold my note cards here at the Sconset Market as well as in Provincetown, MA, at S&G Store. I am currently working with oils for Gallery work in my Primitive style. The Fiber work will be in local venues selling Chair/Seat pads complete as well as in kits for children to make.

Q: What originally inspired you to take this unusual career path?

A: My paternal grandmother hooked rugs. Both of my parents had a strong artistic ability. My mother sketched, and dad did pen and ink drawings. Later in life, he painted in oils, having no formal training.

Rug Hooking Art by Debra Ponte

Q: Any upcoming classes, exhibitions, projects, or events that you'd like to share?

A: Hooked items, Note Cards and Bookplates will be in shops locally. I have two book projects in the works, one of which focuses on my Fiber Art. The other manuscript is a narrative non-fiction book currently being represented by an agency in New York.

Q: What's your favorite way to relax and unwind after a hard day, or your favorite way to spoil yourself?

A: I like to meditate and do Yoga. I walk every day, and I love to read. When I want to spoil myself, I like to schedule a spa treatment like a pedicure or a massage.

Q: Your sagest advice for those experiencing a creative block is…?

A: Keep creating. My way around the obstruction is to allow myself to flow into another medium. I write, and when the words get tangled, I work on a hooked piece. And when the loops aren't connecting in a lovely flow, I may spin a bit. Or, I will go take a walk, and return to start all over again.

Keep creating. •

Art by Debra PonteConnect with Debra Ponte

Connect with Debra Ponte and view more of her wonderful fiber art and recycled wool hooked into Nantucket pictorials online at her Facebook page.

© 2010 Molly J. Anderson-Childers. All rights reserved.

Molly Anderson-Childers is a a highly creative writer and artist from Durango, Colorado. More »