Judith (Judi) Tompkins
I am relatively new to fibre art and traditional rug hooking (it’s not “latch hooking”) even though I grew up in the “big snow” country of the USA where this was only one of the “make do” crafts practiced during the long, dark days of winter. As an adult, my time and energy shifted to an interest in music and the sciences, so it wasn’t until 2007 – long after I migrated to Australia and had retired from consultancy work – that I was able to shift my focus to rug crafting.
I find that the two basic techniques or stitches – hooking and prodding – of traditional rug crafting are so flexible that it results in a fluid and unconstrained art form. The idea that I could “paint” with wool, by hooking one strip at a time through a backing means my work can range from the designs of simple floor mats and wall art to more complex 3-dimensional pieces and wearable art. I enjoy pushing my boundaries in an effort to answer the question, “what if…?” I love textures and nearly always embellish my pieces with found objects, jewellery, beads, timber or different styles of fibre work. I enjoy the challenge of discovering and using recycled, unwanted fibres and fabrics and love working with wool, particularly blankets and knitting wools. The colour, texture or fibre of a “good find” is all it takes to suggest a design or inspire a piece. I’ve been known to go to “some lengths” for a piece of “perfect” wool, and once followed a steel-hauler into a petrol station to ask if he would swap the brightly coloured wool blanket he’d stuffed under a lump of steel, for my grey cotton one.
He was and he did!
I create all my own designs which means each piece I make is bespoke and with a message – no matter how simple – unique to the interests or needs of a specific person or situation.
Caught! draws upon my childhood experience of living in the “big snow” area of northern Michigan (the “Great Lakes State”), my migration as an adult to coastal Queensland, and my love for adventure travel. I feel a magnetic pull to be near any body of water and Caught! includes this essential natural resource as a way to connect the seemingly unrelated elements of recycled materials/ fibres, fish, plants (both as literal tree branches and woven fibres) and water.
I made “Caught!’ shortly after I dyed a batch of bed sheets and “ugly” wool with Scribbly Gum bark. The resulting colours were so wonderful that I thought by hooking the fabric “high” I could create a textural, rough-scaled, ancient fish. To create the illusion of water running off the fish as it is hauled from the water, I hooked metallic thread in-between each scale. Water of course is never just “blue”, so I added a mosaic of colours and fabrics – wool blankets and shirt, bamboo, mohair and alpaca knitting yarns – to surround the “caught” fish as it is lifted from the water. Beneath the fish, a recycled (used twice) handmade fishing net is lashed to a Scribbly Gum frame. The fish is suspended independently from the net and I can imagine a person tightly griping the “handles” as they scoop up the fish.