Saturday, May 7, 2011

Hooked Rug Storytelling

A slightly different blog post today as The Book has arrived at last. I haven’t mentioned it before on the blog because I was waiting to actually see it in the flesh so to speak.

This is the wonderful book written by my brother’s partner Lesley Mary Close about extremely talented rug maker Heather Ritchie. I have mentioned Heather in a previous post but this is the first time that this book has seen the light of day. It is a beautifully crafted wonder about the life of a Yorkshire rag rug maker and the fascinating history behind her story rugs. It is crammed full of fabulous photos taken by Lesley, and details of her rugs and exactly how she made them and why. It is the story of the life of a Daleswoman illustrated in textiles. It is published by American publishers Schiffer and is quite a solid book. Lesley has slept, ate, dreamed and lived this book for many a long month with countless re-readings and editing and e-transfer backwards and forwards across the pond. We are all immensely proud of her achievement. You will have to excuse my poor photography of the book but it was too large to scan.

Heather has a well deserved international reputation as a teacher and creator of rag rugs. She has travelled the world and taken her rugs and hooks with her. She is busy enough doing that but also has found time to found and run a charity in the Gambia called Rug Aid which teaches blind Gambians to make rag rugs for sale. An almost impossible task is what we all thought when we heard about it, but Heather was determined to try to help these terribly deprived people who have to beg on the streets to survive. You can read all about it on the website here. You can also browse Heather’s own website here.

I was asked last year to draw some simple line artwork for the chapter headings and I produced 17 in total and you can see some of them at the end of the blog post. They might look simple but some of them required blood, sweat and tears from me, especially the architectural ones. If you see any mistakes in them please don’t tell me..haha.


and here is the original photo of Heather holding the lambs.


The rug below is one of my favourites because of the gorgeous colours she has chosen. Purples and greens are great combinations and Heather dyes most of the wool she uses herself to get a huge range of shades.


Here is the photo that inspired the Jackdaw Jeans rug below. I think the jeans are especially good. Heather has the knack of removing extraneous detail to simplify the image.



The rug below is Victory Garden and was created after Heather found a photo of her grandfather on his allotment. I bet quite a few people can remember the old call of “digging for victory” so that extra food could be produced to feed the population during the second world war. My favourite part of this rug are the pigeons and the sense of distance and perspective. You really feel that you have a pigeons’ eye view here. If you enlarge the photo you can see my little drawing at the top.


This is the so-called Reeth Parliament which were a group of elderly men who used to congregate in the village bus shelter to put the world to rights. Heather’s rug shows amazing attention to detail. The chaps are all gone now but this rug remains as a lovely memory.


This rug shows “Percival’s Bus” which was one of the companies serving the dales town of Reeth where Heather lives. When I was drawing my little bus for the front of the chapter I had plenty of references as there are lots of photos on the Internet of vintage buses of this type.


This gorgeous rug is called Guiding Light and shows Heather as a young girl guiding her father through the streets when his eyesight failed.


Heather in The Gambia workshop helping one of the blind rag rug makers. She is a wonderful teacher. You can imagine the patience needed to teach blind people to make rugs.


I love her depiction of Hall Farm where she and her husband lived. The pinky-purple heathery colours are stunning.


Fleet is Heather’s gorgeous border collie. He is full of life and fun and heather has depicted him beautifully in this rug. I love the detail shot of the swirly different shades of green to suggest grass. She has put in so much accurate detail about Fleet that you could recognise him just by the rug.


This page details how Heather finishes off her rugs and sorts out the hanging details.


Back Cover Of Book


Paradise Gardens drawing. I loved doing all the flowers for this one but it took ages to outline the black lines on the computer in order to make them clearer.

Reeth Village Green drawing. This wasn’t too hard as it was basically straight lines – well buildings are aren’t they?
Reeth Parliament drawing. I used an old pair of my dad’s boots, his flat cap and his stick for the reference for this drawing.

Percival’s Bus drawing. Quite a tricky little one with bits borrowed from various bus photos to make a composite.
This is the drawing for Victory Gardens. I loved drawing that cabbage.


The Evacuees drawing. Loved drawing the teddy but the suitcase and the gas mask were tricky.

This is an image I have been working on recently. I found some beautiful tree paintings in a book about the Lord Of The Rings Trilogy and tried to produce my own but I don’t think they are comparable. Still, I quite like them. This is my elongated hand again. Coming in quite useful really.

This is the finished version of Blessing The Garden. I have altered quite a few things and made the bird white in order to make it stand out more. I may do a black and white version of this image too as I really like it.