This is a story about a rug. Or should I say rather, about a rug that tells a story. Though I don’t know what the exact story is. Here is what I do know…
On the wall beside my bed is a rug. It is nailed to the wall with four nails in each corner. It measures about four feet by one foot. The pattern on the rug is of six or seven concentric rectangles of different colors, the rectangle in the middle holds seven squares of different colors that are tilted on an angle so that two corners of each square are touching other squares. The colors are rich and beautiful, blues and oranges, a central square of deep red, browns and a touch of purple all work together making the final product rather eye catching and soothing. Truth be told this was not all that calculated. Both the design and the colors were created largely by happenstance, the maker used whatever materials were available at the time. In this case the rug fabric was cut out of a bunch of old clothes, a bunch of rectangles pushed into a large burlap rectangle using an old wooden tool (the exact shape of which has faded from my memory). The design (I am guessing) was probably dictated not by what the maker may have wished to create but instead by how much of each color was acquired, (how many squares the maker was able to cut out of a coat). The colors laid out in much the same way, the widest square being a dark blue, the smallest a strip of purple.
I know this because the maker was my grandmother, and the rug was made when I was a small child. I have images in my mind of her cutting up the squares, and stacking them. I remember the rough texture and smell of the burlap, and the curious tool she had whose meaning I could not decipher at the time. She was using an old technique that was probably taught to her as a small child in Burin Newfoundland where she was born. All craft in those days in rural Newfoundland was made using whatever people had, most often something old, reconfigured and reworked. There was no money to buy something new, so if you had a need you found a way. And maybe (I am thinking) sometimes you wanted something to “draw the eye”. Add a touch of color to a room.
This rug is one of my most prized possessions. In part because it was made by one of the most influential people in my life, but also because of what it represents. Resourcefulness. Minimalism. Simplicity. Soulfullness. Handmade objects. Purity of form. Something from nothing. Indeterminacy. All of the things I value in my work and in life.
I suppose these things are often impossible to put into words. But the meaning of the rug grows for me over time, I spend more time these days looking at it and contemplating it’s nature. I think a lot about how objects do hold an energy to them. Some things speak more loudly than others. These things are not merely material objects but storytellers who hold special gifts for us.
If we take the time to listen.