Friday, February 27, 2015

Nature Is Calling!

Intrepid Souls close-up

Nature is always sending out little messages to us.

As if to say, take notice of me, look at this, do you see that!? Lately, in my yard I've observed a budding crocus wedged between concrete pavers and curb. An odd little hanging nest left over by last summer's bushtits. A surprisingly pinkish acorn that the squirrels must have hidden in my garden last fall, that is now bursting out of its shell sending roots into the earth. The other day a flock of vireos came through my yard calling to one another as they flew from shrub to bush, searching for insects. Today the hummingbirds that overwinter here, were in my magnolia making their clicking sounds. All these observations make me happy and excited because they can become the seed of inspiration for a rug.

sprouting acorn
bushtit hanging nest

Nature is calling! Hurry! Grab your sketchbook and pencil! And, I don't mean to offend, but no one gets to claim that they cannot draw! In my world, art isn't about your ability, it's about your connection to your life and experiences. If you are not confident in your drawing abilities, I encourage you to grab that sketchpad and pencil anyway. Write down what you notice, describe its shape or make a rough sketch. Note the colors, the sounds you hear, the way it makes you feel. If the bird you draw is a little wonky, all the better. If the flower buds are two different sizes, that's wonderful. If you can see, smell, hear, touch, taste, you can record these experiences in some way. By keeping a sketchbook/journal you will learn what pleases you! That little seed of inspiration can become a meaningful expression of your experiences for you!

It is so gratifying and soul satisfying to create beauty. Learning what colors or motifs inspire you to best express yourself! I believe all of us are designers, creators, and the more we practice, the better we understand our artistic selves. Some of our favorite antique rugs are primitive, folk-art style. Naive and simply rendered animals, flowers and other motifs from nature. Our fore-mothers beautifully captured their world, and you can too!

Live Laugh Love

Nature is calling! Pick up your sketchpad and pencil, your wool and hook and answer!


Monday, February 23, 2015


The Valley

Many years ago, when I first learned to hook. I was newly married and working part time while my husband was in grad school.

On the days I had off, my hooking project would consume me, and I would hardly remember to get dressed. Luckily, in those early days I was taking dyeing and hooking lessons from a spirited and generous "Norwegian" woman, Gretchen Leiberg. She played the part, of her husband's Norwegian heritage well, wearing her gray hair in braids, a long skirt hiked halfway up her middle, and said certain phrases with a lilt to it, followed by a "don't ya know." She was a very talented artist and rug hooker. She could easily free-hand draw a detailed pattern onto a burlap backing. In her retirement years she did rosemaling paintings on her husband's handmade furniture that they sold at local art fairs. Her past was interesting and colorful and she loved to share many details through her lively gift of gab!

"Before you begin to hook each day" she admonished me, "you must do these three things."

"One, get dressed!" She assured me that I didn't want to still be in my pajamas when my husband came home at the end of his day!

"Two, make the bed." She believed it would give the appearance that I had done some chores in the house, if the bed was neatly made.

"Three, put something in the crockpot." The house would smell of the delicious dinner, and again, hubby would be lulled into thinking I had been busy cooking all day!

Bless you Gretchen!

This very day, before I allowed myself to get lost in my hooking, I showered and got dressed. I made the bed. And I made a hearty chicken soup in the crockpot. I have to admit, I've added a couple of tricks to my "look busy repertoire". Leaving the vacuum out as if I am ready to use it at any moment, and wearing an apron makes it look like I am perpetually in the middle of some important kitchen chore.

Funny thing is, my husband probably wouldn't mind that I had hooked all day. And, if truth be told, why can't we spend a whole day every now and then immersed in our own creativity.

Wise, dear, Gretchen wasn't saying not to hook, or paint or get lost in your passion. In fact, she encouraged it. She wanted you to be able to concentrate on your rug making without getting distracted by the list of "shoulds"! So, I challenge you to turn off your internal taskmaster and focus on the here and now. Your work deserves your full attention! Your time to make and create beauty is now! Gretchen once said, "Art has been my soul" ...and so it should be!

Thus, before you begin, do these three things!


Thursday, February 19, 2015

Do We Choose the Art, or Does the Art Choose Us?

Yes, it's the fox again! And I am compelled to tell you HIS complete story! I jokingly call this the "woo-woo" factor of a rug! And though I laugh about it, I honestly believe, that sometimes our work takes on a life of its own. And by the way, I live in Eugene, Oregon, and I own at least one pair of Birkenstocks, ok, maybe two.

It was last spring, the eve before my husband's scheduled day surgery. Like any good rug hooker, I was packing my traveling frame and hooking project to have with me during the day while I waited at the hospital. I had two new designs I could hook, one called All Seasons Squirrel (it's still waiting to get hooked) or the Cozy Fox. I decided the color plan for the fox was the most straight forward, so I cut some wool and packed my bag. I admit I was a little hesitant beginning a whole new design, away from my wool stash, but I figured, it was just for the day....I'd be fine!

That next morning once at the hospital, my husband was ushered into the pre-surgery area, while I was told to wait until they called me back as well. I sat near a window so I had good light, had hot tea in my thermos, unpacked, and began hooking. I had barely begun, having hooked maybe a few strips establishing the chin line of the fox, when I was called back to join my husband.

As I sat down near my husband's bed, the wonderful nurse (all nurses are wonderful in my book) curiously asked what I was working on. I showed her and she exclaimed how SHE adored foxes, and that she had a statue of a sleeping fox in her backyard. I love it when people get excited about what they love. I continued to hook, and we continued to wait. I was glad to have my hooking. I wished the curtain partitions on either side of us were as good at blocking out sound as they were at blocking out sight.

The next nurse came in, checking on my husband in some other way. She looked at my work and commented, "Wow, a fox! Did you know, that your surgeon, Dr S. likes foxes so much that his son's middle name is Fox." Hmmm, I thought, interesting. She left and so we continued to wait.

People were coming and going, I could see from where I was sitting, on the board, behind the nurses station, that my husband's time to get wheeled out was getting closer. Then an elderly couple walked past us, going to the partitioned curtain area next to us. I thought it was nice that they allowed them both to come in together, he was walking with a cane and seemed happy for her support. I continued to hook, as my husband was dozing, and I tried not to eavesdrop on others' privacy.

And then I heard it. I sat straight up in my chair, thinking, no, I'm not hearing right. I looked up to the nurses station to that board, and saw a couple names written below my husband's name....and there it was, three letters plain as day! And I heard the nurse's voice again, sweetly asking MR. FOX some routine admittance question. People!!! Did you hear me?! That lovely elderly man's name was Mr.Fox!!! I could dismiss the first fox statue comment, and even the second one about the surgeon's son's middle name of Fox. But the third encounter, a Mr Fox?! Ok, Universe. I'm listening!

Later, when I shared this story with someone I was told, that in Celtic folklore, foxes are known for leading others into the spirit world. I like to think that the fox was there as a protector that day. Since that experience, I've often wondered what would have happened if I had brought the squirrel pattern with me instead of the fox.

So tell me, do we choose the art and create beauty, or does the art choose us?










Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Fantastic Mr. Fox

There are many ways to approach color planning. Maybe you are inspired by a painting, a piece of fabric, or
want your hooked piece to fit in with your home decor. There is not one, right way to choose your colors. 
However, a little bit of planning, even consulting your color wheel, before you begin, could save a lot 
of heartache for you in the end.
In COZY FOX, I used a triadic color plan, using, violet, orange, and green with a heavy dose of neutral grays for the background and neutral brown for the tree.
Getting a sense of how the colors work together. A muted orange with some earthy tans for the fox. The leaves lean towards a yellow green, and a soft lilac purple complete the magic!

Sunday, February 15, 2015

It's all about that gray 'bout that grey, no color!

Here in the Pacific Northwest we can get a lot of grey days! Sometimes it's rain, other days it's a fog that never lifts. I'm ok with these kind of days! I like how the mist and rain acts as a shroud or cloak of neutrals that envelopes me and challenges me to use color sparingly.

These past two years I've been fascinated with the color gray! Look at how all these similar in value, beautiful shades of grey blend and give interest to the background. ..warm, cool, greenish, taupey, solids, textured!
In-progresss rug, Garden Gate.

Overcast days invite me to appreciate all that is gray in nature. Think about how that can translate to your hooked work!

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Hearts + Valentines


Yes, I suppose in my heart of hearts I am a sentimental fool! And There are a lot of us out there. I do get teary-eyed at commercials that are meant to pull at your heart strings, I do talk in a high baby voice to my dog sometimes, and I do love to put hearts in my hooked work, I even sign the "o" in my name, Marijo, when writing, with a heart shape! MARIJ❤

I don't pretend to be the only fiber artist that loves hearts, I have a photo of a rug dated from 1875 with two big hearts in the center as focalpoints!

One of the first rugs I designed back in the 80's had a heart at the center, birds on either side and vining flowers. Thirty years later, I haven't gotten tired of using the heart motif, sometimes it's just exactly that, a heart, as in Farm & Sugarloaf Mountain... Sometimes it's a strawberry, with the shape of a heart, or a mouse with a heart hanging from his tail, or in my most current in progress rug, it's an open heart, inspired by a lovely iron garden gate.
Garden Gate, In Progress

Do you have a favorite rug that you've hooked with a heart? Or One on your wish list of projects? Maybe from a vintage rug? And I suppose it is possible, that hearts aren't your "thing" in any way, shape or form. That's ok! So, if that's the case, and hearts aren't your thing, then surely there is some other motif or design topic that does make YOUR heart sing!

Epimedium in my Garden

Find my work at: at: