“Caught!” accepted into “Grafted” Exhibition

I had a bit of a thrill this morning when I found out that my piece “Caught!” had been accepted into a juried fibre and mixed media competition and exhibition at the Red Rock Regional Theatre and Gallery   http://www.redrockarts.org.au/  in regional Victoria. It’s a small, new gallery located about 10min from Colac and my sources tell me that if you want to visit the Red Rock Gallery on your way out of Melbourne would need to head toward Geelong then on to Colac. The tourist info shows a lot to see on the way to the gallery and if you had a weekend you might want to include a trip along the Great Ocean Road. The gallery appears to be only open on the weekends (like so many galleries it is run by volunteers) but it may be that a few people will see it.  I’m in hopes that someone might actually buy the piece! We’ll see.

For those of you who might be in the area, the Exhibition opening is at Colac Performing Arts Centre (not the Red Rock Regional Gallery) to coincide with the opening of the CrossXpollination Textile Event on Friday 5th of July from 6.30 – 8pm.  The Prize will be awarded at approximately 7pm. The Colac Otway Performing  Arts Centre is located at the corner of Rae and Gellibrand, St., Colac.

The “Grafted” exhibition focuses on innovative, multimedia work that incorporated a fibre component while keeping in mind that “to graft” is to join two things that do not share a natural relationship of affinity to each other.

The exhibition will be on through the 25th of August.      Caught!

If you’re a Victorian “on the move” I hope you get a chance to see it.

I’m just tickled!


New additions to RugCrafting Australia

G’day All!

I have been extremely busy updating and expanding this site so if you haven’t visited for a few days, take some time to have another look.

There is now a new tab “Eureka!” where I have started to flag some of art I like from a range of different media (pottery, textile, painting, etc.)

I have also greatly expanded the information and links  you’ll find under “(Rag) Rug Craft” with a separate menu for Hooked and Prodded rugs; a bit about colour, fabrics and some of the great online groups  you’ll want to investigate.

My “Gallery” tab now includes (and I’ll add a few more later) a separate set of information and slide show on the “how tos” of some of my Waldoboro style pieces and how they evolved.

Under the “Links and Blogs” tab you will find links to an amazing range of You Tube videos that aren’t so much about rugcrafting as they are about perception, creativity and thinking “upside-down” about the world. Many of them are great fun and generally about 20 min long. We can all use a “whack on the side of the head” sometime to shake us from our thinking ruts.

Finally, under the “Tutorial” tab I have expanded the number of excellent videos on this craft made by some amazing artists.

When you have some time, sit down with a cuppa and have a look!



Which is it? A Talk? Demonstration? or Workshop?

Well, it finally happened….someone approached you and asked, “could you come and talk to my group about rug hooking?”

What do you say?

When this happens, your first reaction will to be genuinely pleased, flattered and enthused to think that someone wants to know more about this traditional craft and they want you to give them a talk!

Before you start bobbing your head wildly in affirmation, step back a bit and don’t attempt to answer to their question – yet!

There are a number of questions you should consider asking before you make a commitment of your time, energy and money. Obviously you can make up your own mind about how and what you might do at any session, but….if you want to maintain some control over your time and sanity you may wish to give serious thought now  to the following questions so you are ready with your considered response the day you are asked the inevitable question!

So…what should you consider?

  • What exactly does this group want?

Each group is different and the “one size fits all approach” doesn’t usually work for any presentation, no matter what the topic.

A talk?  A talk is just that. A talk. And a talk can take you in a number of directions with regard to this craft. What do they want to hear more about? The history and evolution of rug hooking in North America? Rug hooking’s rise and near demise in Australia? Do they want to see samples of different types of work and understand how it differs from latch hooking? What? Ask very specific questions so you will know how to focus your talk.

A demonstration? This is a bit more than a talk and involves elements of “show and tell”. Again, what do they want demonstrated? How the hook used? The prodder? What’s the difference between the two techniques and how are they used? (Historically and in contemporary works). A demonstration is a demonstration not a “hands-on-workshop”.  Depending on the size of the group, you might decide to let them each “have a go” to hook or prod a few stitches but anything more than that and you have entered the world of The Workshop!

Yes…yes…I know it’s hard to “draw the line” when you are doing a demonstration as to how much “extra” you can allow…it’s your call. But…if you have materials ready in advance as part of your “demonstration kit” (You do have a demonstration kit, don’t you?) then you have already set the parameters for your session.

A Workshop? Now you’ve entered the “Big Time”! [I refer you to the document, “Planning a Workshop?” for more details on how to think about the structure of your workshop, and the planning questions to ask!]

In brief….the most important thing to think about here is that you NOT confuse a demonstration with a workshop (unless you don’t ever plan to distinguish between the two; then this won’t matter).

When you demonstrate:  you SHOW.

When you teach a workshop: you SHOW and DO; then the participants DO (with your help).

There is a big difference between the two activities and it is easy to set participants up for failure if they think that by seeing a demonstration they know how to DO the craft. So….be aware of how you will sell these two concepts and make your distinction clear when you decide to say “yes” to the request.

  • You know what type of presentation the group wants, what else should you consider?

How much time will I have and how many people will attend? It is absolutely critical that you know the answer to these two questions. The answers will determine whether or not you can offer the kind of presentation the group thinks it wants. YOU are in charge here and you may need to let the group know that they will have too many people for you do offer an effective demonstration and that you would be happy to do a “talk” and work with them to set up a demonstration at another time (so you can bring some assistants or helpers, etc.)  OR it may be that you are only given 45min for your presentation, in which case you are probably looking at a “talk”. Be clear about what you can and cannot do within the allotted time and for the size of group.

Will I have time to set up before my presentation? Will there be help?

There is nothing worse than finding out you’ll have to set up your equipment, computer, frames, whatever AFTER the group has their regular meeting. This means you will have to waste a portion of your presentation time setting up – and finding out too late there is no power point or enough room for everything you brought! Ask about the room, how it’s set up and what is available.

 Will you pay my travel expenses? Often we are happy to make a local trip to give a “talk” and don’t expect any reimbursement (although many groups have some funds and are generally happy to help with a small gratuity if necessary). The real issue I think, is when you are traveling – even a “bit more” – than a local trip, then you need to decide whether or not to discuss travel expenses. It may be that you’ve wanted to get a “foot in the door” with a particular group and are willing to travel at no charge any distance just to have access to them for a session. It’s up to you, just don’t automatically “forget” your transport costs. (Remember, if you are doing a session that requires you to have extra people as assistants, they too need to be paid).

Will you pay me for my time? Many organisations will pay a small stipend or honorarium to a speaker. So ask! It may not be a lot but it does serve to hold a groups’ attention when they are paying for the speaker’s time! If you are offering demonstration (which involves a lot of preparation and hauling materials, etc.) then you should expect some payment for your time. The same is even more true for a workshop! You should have already factored your “professional” fee (including travel) into your workshop costs, but be sure you are getting paid something. Again, I refer you to the “Planning a Workshop?” document.

Can I sell supplies, kits, materials at the session? If you can’t sell materials, tools, or kits at the session (the venue used may have it’s own regulations about selling) then you may have to make a decision that you will:

1.  Only offer a “talk” and they can arrange to have a demonstration or workshop (you should have dealt with the venue issue during your planning so it shouldn’t’ be an issue) at another time and venue when you can offer items for sale.

2. Plan the talk or demonstration such that you will “give away” materials. Again, if this is a “talk” there isn’t too much anyone would probably know enough about to buy; if it’s a demonstration you may decide to supply the “have a go” materials and not have anything for sale.

Be sure you have business cards available with your contact information and any other materials about yourself and what you do. This is a great time to let others know you are available as a teacher, presenter and demonstrator.

How will you accept payment?  If you are able to sell items, how will people pay? Cash only? Cheque? Credit Card? You should make sure people are told that items will be for sale at the session and how you will accept payment.

These are a few of the key questions you should address BEFORE you are called on to be a speaker. Establish your own criteria with regard to what groups you want to work with – and those you don’t.

J.Tompkins 2013

“Education is not the piling on of learning, information, data, facts, skills, or abilities – that’s training or instruction – but is rather making visible what is hidden as a seed.”
Sir Thomas More

The touchy task of providing feedback

How do you assess your rug work – or that of someone else?


The touchy task of providing feedback

 That’s right! Sooner or later you are going to stand back and take a long, hard look at a piece of your own rughooking in order to make an assessment about the good, the bad and the “I gotta rip it out” aspects. To cast a critical eye over your own work is one thing, but what on earth do you say if a group member asks, “will you give me your honest opinion about my work?”

For most of us, our first response is to mumble something generic like, “Gee, that’s really interesting,” or “I’ve never seen anything quite like it,” and proceed to move hastily in another direction. That response will buy you a bit of time but it doesn’t address the problem about of how to offer useful and constructive feedback.

We all know the good feedback is important to both give and receive but it needs to be tempered with some thought and reflection to be of any value to the recipient. Most of us tend to be highly critical of our own work and generally have a pretty good idea about where we went wrong….but often fail to note where we went right…or where we could improve. Having a balanced view of your work and that of others is a skill in itself but there are a few general guidelines you can follow that might help you offer some reasonable, useful, balanced comments.

Note: The information offered here is intended for use by the untrained “judge” or a person offering some “informed” but informal feedback. It is not intended to represent the criteria used by the professional artist or a judge for a juried fibre / textile event. Most events or exhibitions, whether they be at the CWA or an Art and Craft Show, or a more sophisticated professional gallery exhibition or competition will have well-established, clear judging standards and criterion set in advance. As a result, professional artists and exhibitors are well aware of the standards and criteria they must meet.

Technical Skill Assessment

Try to assess the technical aspects of the piece – technique used, execution, construction – and any other demonstrations of the skill and craftsmanship of the person involved in making, finishing, hanging / installing the piece.

So….you might consider:

  • What kind and quality of backing is used? Is it appropriate for the piece?
  • What fabrics are used in the piece and are they appropriate for the technique used. For example: Perhaps a different yarn or fabric would have been a better choice for a Waldoboro style than what was chosen to achieve a particular result.
  • Does the piece include a label on the back with information about who designed / hooked the piece – copyright information should be included if appropriate; the date and location; the title of the piece if it has one; description of the fabrics used (new/recycled, other specific fibres and embellishments); care and/or hanging instructions.
  • If a rug described as being in a particular rug making style, does the piece reflect that style? For example: Waldoboro, primitive, geometric. etc. Depending on the style – like Traditional, originality in design may be encouraged.
  • Does the rug look “good”? Is it clean, well-blocked and hang properly? Rugs for the floor and wall hangings should lie flat and not be hooked so tightly that they curl.
  • Although rug makers are often very “touchy” about someone looking at the back of their rug, but in most formal judging situations or if the piece is for sale, the back needs to be seen.
  • Backing foundation should be well covered so no backing shows through the top. Loops should be at an even height unless irregularity is part of the design.
  • Foundation showing underneath is acceptable…the amount exposed will depend on the style and design of the piece.
  • Avoid crossovers of hooked material, this not only looks bad, it sets the piece up for damage and fraying over time, particularly if it is to be used on the floor.
  • Have a neat finish. A number of different finishes may be used and the finish may depend on the work’s style. Eg. A burlap backing turned back and simply hemmed may not be acceptable except in a particular style.
  • Colours should be pleasing to the eye. Try to avoid an area “jumping out” at you. Brilliant colours should be over-dyed to dull them unless that special effect is desired and part of the general style. Again, this can be very subjective and much will depend on the subject and design of the work. It may be intentional that a colour is used the way it is.

Artistic Considerations

Various galleries, art / craft shows and competitions generally have well-established  criteria that must be met before pieces can accepted for juried shows. Even if you are not a “professional” artist you can still learn a lot from looking at the established guidelines, standards and criteria that have been set for exhibitors within a particular venue.

Professional jurors will take into consideration criteria like:

  • Freshness and originality. What is it exactly that gives this work a “new take” on an old story / theme / idea? Or is this first time this has ever been done before? What was the visual surprise? A new never-been-done-before use of a fabric? Embellishment? Whatever it is, it’s NEW.
  • A marriage that works! Is the whole greater than the sum of the parts? The individual parts / elements of the piece are important, but together they manage to create something better, bigger, or more interesting. Sometimes you need to step back, squint or even turn your back and view the piece with a mirror over your shoulder to get a fresh perspective on how the piece is put together to work. This is a key concept or criterion (defined in a variety of ways) that many juried exhibitions will always want.
  •  Intention. Often comments like, “My three year old could do better than that!”, or “How did something like THAT get into an art show?” are made about seemingly simple or even “sloppy” pieces of fibre art, pottery or paintings but a closer look reveals that refining (or “fixing” the workmanship) would destroy the message or story of the piece. It doesn’t make sense when you stop to think about it because it appears that “sloppy” is good…but only when it is done with deliberate intent and skill.
  •  Whimsy! Does the piece strike the chord of joy or delight in you? Does it have a whimsical slant? Does everything in the piece work to give you a “whack on the side of the head” because it works together so well to convey a level of joy, happiness and fun? This is of course a subjective assessment and not all pieces intend to offer this aspect – but gee it’s great when they do!



Thinking about starting a rug group?

So, several of your friends have seen your rug work and are now pestering you to “get a group together so we can learn how to hook”; or perhaps you are frustrated by be so isolated that you do all your hooking on your own and decide to start a group just to have a bit of company.

What do you do next?

Groups of people come together for a variety of reasons and operate in different ways, so the information here is intended to give you some general ideas and things to think about before you set up your group. You are encouraged to explore all the options!

Why do you want to start a group? In other words, what kind of group do you want?

  • A casual group of friends have asked you to teach them how to hook?
  • You want to “spread the word” about rug hooking to a wider audience?
  • You would like to teach rug hooking as part of your business?
  • You would like to be with other fibre artists to expand your knowledge about ways to “push your limits”?
  • And the list goes on.

Do you need to start a group yourself, or is there a similar/related group you could join?

The issue here is to not ignore the obvious! Don’t reinvent the group wheel unless you really want a group that only does hooking. You may find another group in your area that has a range of spinners, weavers, sewers, knitters, etc. who would be delighted to have an new, traditional craft added to their mix!  If you were seeking company while you do your craft work, this might be a good first step! It is quite possible (and probable) that people within an existing fibre art / handcraft group would be interested in what you’re doing (and you can always barter for some of that wonderful wool they use)!

Your group structure may be determined by your venue!

Depending on where you hold your group meetings (now that you have decided to start your own group) you may need to “refine” or “fine tune” the way your group will, meet and run.

The simplest and easiest first option?

Simply invite the interested people – your friends probably – to your home!

Stage one:

  • Invite any interested friends to your home for morning tea or a shared lunch  and talk about rug hooking and demonstrate how to do it!  Congratulations!  You’ve just started a rug hooking group! After meeting for a few weeks or months your group may decide to rotate the meeting place just to “share the load” and vary the location. Easy, huh?

Stage two:

  • Your group may never want to move to this stage and that’s just fine! However, if over time, your group would like more of  your time and even some structure lessons, you will need to consider whether or not you will charge them – and how much. Remember: if you are going to offer regularly offer workshops for a fee, you will need to be sure your home’s public liability insurance will cover them in the event of an accident (check your policy). It might be easiest to simply charge each member on an annual basis to cover the cost of any additional public liability insurance you may have to add (or fact the cost into your workshop fees). If your group meets on a rotation at various members’ homes and no fees are charged then you are simply a group of people meeting at a friend’s home the public liability issues doesn’t rear its ugly head! (This of course assumes that you carry general public liability insurance anyway!)

Using a venue other than your home:  What kind of group are you?

Community Group formed through a Council

Some groups are set up within existing Council-supported organisations, like arts and crafts groups, or fibre and textile art groups. If you decide to join one of these existing groups or to start a new one with Council approval in  order to access to the venue you need, you will probably find they have a number of regulations and requirements that you and your group must follow. Don’t let this discourage you, but do take the time to find out how you can access the facilities and what you need to do to be part of the community structure. You may find that for some organisations you will be expected to make items “for the community good” or some such. After all, you are a “community” group using community resources.  This can be a good thing and serve to give you, your members and the craft a good public profile. Just be aware of what the advantages and disadvantages of working through this avenue.

Again, make sure you are clear on the public liability issues for your group. Are you covered though the Council or do you need to still have your own public liability insurance? Most forms you complete will make this answer very clear.

Members of the Community using Council facilities

This is different from being a “community Council-supported group”. In this case (for example) the Council library may have a community meeting room available for use by “members of the community”.  It may be that you need to give your “group” a name – which you would probably do anyway – and then arrange for your group to use the community room on a regular basis. Since this is not a Council recognised group (in that they are providing any support) you will probably have more freedom in your projects and would not be expected to produce items “for the community” although it might be a good idea at some point to produce a “gift” rug / wall hanging for the library just to let them know what you are doing!

Once again, you will be confronted by the public liability issue. It is up to you and your group to decide if you want to take on additional insurance to cover any incidents or accidents that may occur within the group – the Council and library would still have offer the usual protections to you when it is a library accident as opposed to (for example) someone tripping over a frame during a group session. This is an issue you will need to discuss and decide for yourselves.

Your group meets as the arm of another organisation.

Your group might decide to join the CWA (Country Women’s Association) or the local historical society so you can be another “arm”  of these groups. Again, you may find that as members of the larger organisation you might be expected to take on organisational work (work the cake stall, serve as a tour guide, keep minutes of your meetings, or other organisational duties). Again, this is not necessarily a bad thing, you just need to be aware of their internal structure and how they operate before you decide. Any organisation that receives money for their group (of which you are a part) generally has a legal obligation (at least in QLD) to keep records and maintain a file of minutes of how funding is used (acquittal forms) and the activities of their organisation. So, beware that you might have to have a bit more “structure” about your group and its meetings that you may want.

Again, check on whether your group is covered by the organisation’s public liability insurance. You would assume that you are if you are under their “umbrella” of activities but don’t assume this is true!

No matter what kind of group you start…enjoy yourself! You can’t have too much fibre in your life!

I found I could say things with color and shapes that I couldn’t say any other way–things I had no words for.” Georgia O’Keeffe

Thinking of taking a rug workshop?

Rughooking activities are on the rise (finally!) in Australia and many of us are discovering that there are workshops available.  It can be a bit daunting to sign up for a craft workshop if you’ve never taken one before – particularly on a new craft. So,  what exactly should you look for or expect from a workshop and the instuctor, especially if you are paying for it?

Before you commit yourself to taking – and paying for – a workshop session, give some thought to why you want to take it and what you hope to take away from the session. We most often decide to attend workshops and training sessions because we expect to expand on, or improve on our existing knowledge or skills.

Make sure the workshop you want can deliver what you expect. If you’re unclear, contact the instructor to clarify your questions. I know this is stating the obvious – and it is! However, many people set themselves up for failure or disappointment because they didn’t get the details about the skill level needed, what they would do or take away from the session.

So, here are some common sense guidelines you might like to use before you sign up to your next workshop:

Questions to ask and answer:

  • Do you know – or have you heard about – the workshop facilitator? If you don’t know anything about them, have a search on the Internet to see if they have a website that describes who they are and what they do. Most people who teach workshops do them as part of their business and so will probably have a website. What kind of fibre art / textile art / rug work do they do? Do you like their style? Most workshop instructors don’t teach everything but focus on their particular area of interest or expertise. Do you know anyone else who has attended their workshop? If you can, try to get some word-of-mouth insight about the workshop facilitator before you make your decision. Sometimes you’ll hear that the workshop information was “great” but the instructor / facilitator was the “wrong person” to teach it!  Or that the instructor was good one-on-one but couldn’t manage the group. Then you will need to make a decision on what you are willing to trade-off.
  • Do you really need to pay for a workshop? Or could you simply answer a simple question through an Internet search or by watching an online demonstration or explanation? Money is tight for all of us, so target your training dollars on skills and information you can only get from a hands-on workshop.  The social aspect of training is also important and you may decide it is worth the money just to meet others at a session – a valid reason. Just be sure you have thought about your choice before paying for your sessions.
  • Who is the target audience for the workshop? Experienced hookers? Beginner hookers (with some experience)? General public/novice hookers (never held a hook before)? Be sure you are at the right skill level for any session you take. Otherwise you set yourself up for failure or disappointment.
  • What is the workshop focus? What is the title? What kind of workshop session are you expecting? A planning workshop? Designing? Hands-on hooking? Learn a specific technique or project?  Is the topic of the workshop narrow and well-focused?  If it is too broad, you may not receive the one-on-one help you want and need.
  • Be wary of workshops that don’t limit the number of participants. The workshop teacher may have enough assistants so everyone gets individualised help…but often the teacher-student ratio is too high for a workshop and you are really attending a demonstration. A good rule of thumb – depending on the topic of the workshop – is one-to-six when learning a skill. Many more than that can be accommodated at a demonstration.  Ask the instructor what the ratio is when you sign up.
  • Be sure there is adequate time for group interaction – after all, meeting others is also what many are looking for at a workshop.
  • Be wary too of sessions that attempt to cover too much; especially introductory workshops. There is a lot of groundwork to do and material to cover: “information overload” is not a good first experience and does not constitute “value for money”. An over-prepared teacher will keep you coming back.
  • How long is the workshop? Half-day? Full-day? Weekend? Adequate time should ensure every member of the workshop can achieve each stage being taught. You should be able to complete – or nearly finish – whatever is planned for the session. I know some people “get it” quicker than others but a good workshop plans for that. What will you do if you finish early? Some workshop instructors will offer another small activity, but if they don’t, consider offering to help someone else – unless the instructor doesn’t want you to! Sharing knowledge and skills with others is all part of the craft philosophy.
  •  What is included in the workshop fees and what must you bring? Lunch? Morning/afternoon tea? Are tea and lunch breaks provided on site or BYO? Will you bring food for a shared lunch? If you must leave the site for breaks or lunch do you know the nearest location? Or is there a map? What supplies are included? Are you expected to buy materials at the session? What will they cost and how can you pay? CASH? Credit Card?
  • Did you do and achieve the workshop goals? You will have to answer this for yourself? Was the session value for money?