Wednesday, May 20, 2015

The Valley

Ah, The Valley!

About ten years ago, I was intrigued by the idea of designing a rug with a pictorial scene, surrounded by a wide border. I was still in my "salmon phase" (for several years I designed many rugs with salmon as the focal point), so making the inner pictorial section with a spawning salmon was an easy choice.

The Valley, is inspired by my experience of living in rural settings. The earlier years of my life having grown up in Washington state's amazing agricultural Skagit Valley, and these last 30 years of living in Oregon's lush Willamette Valley. No matter where you live or have grown up, anyone who loves the outdoors and has a connection with hills and valleys, mountains and rivers, can have an affinity for this nature rug.

The wide border that surrounds the mountain, meadows and river scene, is filled with flowers and berries that the Skagit Valley is famous for growing. Before child labor laws, me, my siblings and friends all grew up working during the summer in the fields of berries, tulip bulbs and all sorts of agricultural type jobs as ways to earn money.

This past fall and winter I had the chance to hook this rug again, almost ten years after I hooked the original. I was commissioned by a wonderful woman who, like me, loves rivers, mountains, valleys and meadows. It was an honor to be asked to hook it for her, and it was a fun challenge to revisit this rug and to further explore my use of color, value, and technique.

I admit, there is a lot going on in this rug. That was the initial intent, a rug within a rug. However, that means extra thought must go into the color choices. My goal was to subtly create a connection between the pictorial section and border motifs by using wool within each that related in color, tone or value to the other. The inner colors, hint to the outer colors and vice versa. I do not mean that the river is the exact color as the border's broad tawny-toned strawberry leaves, or that the wide tulip leaves are the exact same tone as the sky color. If the colors in the border motifs were exactly the same as what was used in the pictorial section, your eyes would not know where to rest nor where to focus your attention. It is a fine balancing act, and a bit of reverse hooking was involved before the final touches were made to complete it.

The technique of directional hooking also helps to establish a difference between the inner and outer section of the rug. In the pictorial section, directional lines move with the river, fish, mountain, sky and hills to unify them and to help them stand out from the border. In the border, the background is hooked in a technique that uses blotches of related background colors that blend and make mats of color (rather than lines) and act as a backdrop so the motifs can "pop" and be the focal point.

All in all, I will admit that this design was at times, challenging to hook, however, the final result was well worth the effort. Whenever, I look at it, I feel content, as if I have my own personal, "call of the wild" to keep me connected to nature.

Below is a photo of Mt Baker and the Cascades in Washington state taken by a professional photographer. You can find more of his beautiful images at