Maine, United States

Making No. 6 / BLACK & WHITE: An interview with Rose Pearlman
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Making No. 6 / BLACK & WHITE: An interview with Rose Pearlman

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Enjoy an interview with Rose Pearlman! She designed the Array Shirt for Making No. 6 / BLACK & WHITE.

Tell us about your craft?

Rug hooking with a punch needle blends artistic expression with tactile material. It’s a simple technique that creates looped stitches of fiber onto a cloth surface. The medium can easily be controlled and designed. Hooked rugs can be used for a variety of home accessories and objects.

How did you get started?

I started rug hooking ten years ago; I was looking for an art medium that satisfied my love of painting and my love of making functional objects. Also, I needed something that I could do at home, without needing lots of space and without creating a mess. I started when my son was very young and was struggling to stay creative. I had little time or energy to spare. Although my mother hooked rugs, it had never interested me previously. But suddenly, rug hooking presented itself as a perfect medium.

Where does your heart lie? 

For the past 15 years I have taught art in public schools and museums. Teaching is where I am happiest. Being able to share my love of art and the creative process with others and ignite their own passions is the source of my energy. Teaching rug hooking to beginners is especially gratifying; there is such a quick response and excitement when people realize how simple it is.

What does the heritage of your craft mean to you?

Rug hooking was created out of thrift and necessity and a way to make an expensive looking carpet with simple inexpensive materials. Starting in the 1840’s, repurposed clothing was stripped and hooked into burlap sacks to create rugs. Women spent countless hours of their spare time lovingly creating floor rugs that brought warmth and comfort to a home. Working within the confines of time and space to create personal functional objects is the same reason I started to rug hook. Rug hooking has been a means of self-expression and at the same time results in a functional object.

Tell us a story about something that’s happened with a project.

Repurposing fabrics into hooked rugs is a great way to upcycle materials. Recently I was going through my children’s old baby clothes; many of the items were too worn and stained to be saved or passed down yet the sentimental value attached to them made it hard to discard. It occurred to me that with a scissor I could strip the clothes and use them in a rug or wall hanging. The result was a bright, soft cushion full of memories.

Tell us about a challenge in your making that you’ve had to overcome.  

Rug hooking is worked slowly and although there are tufting guns that makes the process a lot faster, it also takes away some of the precision and quiet meditative repetition that goes into creating. A small pillow can take me days to complete and is therefore not the most lucrative way to make a living. Finding a way to do what I love and make an income, and not burn out is still a struggle to balance. I know trying to produce enough products to sell would eventually take away from the love of creating. While making a business of rug hooking removes you from the actual process, teaching workshops feeds my creativity and passion. I am able to share my love of rug hooking, create work at a comfortable pace and stay true to my vision.

Share a project, either past present or future that you are especially proud of.  

I’ve been working on a rug hooking book due out next year. It’s challenged me to think outside the box with untraditional methods and materials. I’ve tried to incorporate something for all abilities and budgets while keeping the projects accessible and open for interpretation. I am really proud of the projects I have come up with and hope it inspires others.

What role does black and white play in your making?

My first big commissioned work of five large rugs (as wall hangings) was requested in black and white shades only. My mother hand dyed the rug yarn and used one dark dye bath that became increasingly lighter with each batch of yarn that was dyed. The result was a beautiful tonal range. While I expected the lack of color to be a challenge, the limitations were in fact freeing. I was so happy to revisit working in greyscale for this issue of Making. Taking color out of the equation always makes me pay more attention to compositional elements and has a refined and classic look that suits almost every interior.

If you were going to create something just for fun today, what would it be?  

While I’ve made rugs in the past, I’ve never tackled anything on a super grand scale. I would love to make a floor rug that is over 6’x10’. While set up and materials is the most daunting part of the challenge, the actual punching is pure meditation.

If you could collaborate with three people, who would they be and why?  

I would love to collaborate with artist and designer Emily Ridings who incorporates basket weaving into her fashion designs. Baskets have always intrigued me and the way she combines a traditional craft with modern design is exciting. The artist Maxine Sutton, is a textile designer who also works on paper. She incorporates different elements into her textiles such as screen printing, applique, and embroidery. Her abstracted bright shapes are a great contrast to the finer hand stitched elements, and her compositions are genius. Jessica Marquez is a friend and Brooklyn artist, her new book “Make and Mend”, is a sashiko inspired take on repairing clothing and creating beautiful small details to everyday objects. Both her work and her passion for creating less waste is inspirational and motivating.

What currently inspires you most? 

Companies like Eileen Fisher are re-imagining the garment business by reducing consumption and waste while educating consumers on buying less and caring for the clothing they own. They are educating and supporting artists to create sustainable fashion and art, and in the process empowering women and promoting social justice. Eileen Fisher’s business model of sustainability coupled with classic design is really a model for the fashion industry and one I hope other companies start to adopt.

What tools could you never be without?

The #10 Regular Oxford Punch Needle.

What materials get you the most excited to make?

A great selection of fiber is always key to starting a new project. Seal Harbor Rug Yarn creates sustainable yarn in over 200 shades and tones. The unlimited amount of color combinations makes rug hooking more like painting with wool.

What excites you’re about the project you designed for Making?  

It’s always been my goal to design functional objects with the complete freedom of composition. An oversized cushion can be used in so many different ways and provides comfort while adding art to any room. I am excited to share my love for rug hooking and hope it inspires all abilities and ages to try this very accessible and forgiving fiber medium.

Any helpful links to online resources that might help makers create your project? 

Amy Oxford is a wonderful teacher and resource. Her YouTube tutorials on all things rug hooking gives you a complete overview on how to start and finish a rug with lots of helpful tricks. She recommends the best materials and supplies for beginning your project and encourages you without overwhelming with too much technical information. There is a lot of mis-information on the web, so her expert advice is really valuable.

What other types of making find their way into your days?

I love to make functional objects by hand with simple supplies or repurposed materials. I always have a supply closet full of cord, string and rope and with it make a variety of string bags, corded bowls and woven pouches. I’ve developed a handmade loom out of tape cores and laundry pegs and use it to make string bags and woven mats.

What are you currently making/knitting right now?

I am currently making small hooked bags for an upcoming collection. I love the surprising texture rug hooking brings to simple accessories. It’s a way of being able to wear my designs wherever I go.

If your craft would send a message to the world, what would it be?

I hope my work demonstrates that rug hooking does not have to be complicated. You don’t need a ton of supplies or technical skills to make good functional objects. Everyone is capable of designing and punching their own rugs regardless of their creative background and experience with fiber art.