December 13th, 2011
the Rug

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.

Dec 14 2011
1:18 am
demie writes:

good morning Keri : )
your rug is precious. such as only things made with love, care and because they found its way through need. its a life i pursue, although i am living in one of the richest countries in the world, i walk my own way and live in a house with things who have stories to tell… never forgeting what grandma learned me…
thank you for your inspiring words

greeetings from the other side of the north

Dec 14 2011
6:54 am
kate writes:

I love all of that too. I love making things but sometimes it is still just more stuff. Stuff that we have dug up the earth for and stuff that has to end up somewhere…. still handmade stuff is better than mass produced stuff and cool stuff made from old stuff well thats pretty good stuff. Stuff and nonsence…thats why I think gardening is my favourite hobby – you don’t need much to do it and it feeds you too. But i do love to make things and I also love to treasure that which my Granny made me. By the way, I love the books of yours I have read and your blog and many of the links, poets, artists you have introduced me to. Thanks! Good luck with the little ones and sleep, I have three.

Dec 14 2011
10:13 am
sonrie writes:

Things that are made of old materials – recycled, repurposed, etc are not always shiny and packaged new, but they are made with love and can ‘catch the eye’ as you say. I have several crocheted items from my grandmother and wished that she would have been able to teach me what she knew.

Dec 14 2011
4:47 pm
kim dubay writes:

Hi Keri….I am a big fan of yours. I own 4 of your books (I can think of) and have given 2 away as gifts recently….and just wanted to tell you how much I enjoyed this blog post about your grandmother’s rug! I taught myself to hook rugs 22 years ago when I needed them for a B & B my husband and I were remodeling. I wish I had someone in my family I could have learned from or someone now who would value the knowledge I have about making them…….I am guessing that your grandmother has passed on but I bet she is smiling down on you with a love that comes from knowing that you “get it”. That is what those of us who make things with our hands and our hearts wish for…….blessings.

Dec 14 2011
8:53 pm
Line writes:

Your post reminds of Dolly Parton’s song “Coat of Many Colors.” When Dolly was growing up, they were very poor. One winter it was extremely cold, but her mom couldn’t afford to buy her a coat. Being the resourceful type, Dolly’s mom made her a coat using material from other bits of clothing. At the time, Dolly was a bit embarrassed to have such a coat, but now views it as one of her most prized possessions. Nothing beats a gift handmade with love. Happy holidays!

Dec 14 2011
11:05 pm
Karen writes:

Your rug story resonates with me. The other day I was remembering my great Oma, who came to Canada a widow with three young sons. She lived 20 years beyond her hoped-for expiry date, to the ripe age of 92. She had no money, but every year she would knit mittens for her children and great grandchildren. My only Christmas decorating consists of a large pottery bowl filled with six pairs of her mittens. Many Christmases, the mittens were far too large for my hands, but they fit me perfectly now. Great Oma planned ahead.

Dec 15 2011
5:53 pm
Jenny Smith writes:

I love that rug too! Nana was very crafty! You should post a photo of the rug. Myself and I’m sure many others would like to see it!

Dec 18 2011
11:32 pm
Deanne writes:

Lovely story. I just came back from visiting Nfld, where my mom lives and is from. Not near the Burin Peninsula, although I have relatives close to there (in NL geography – where driving for several hours is nothing:) I have quilts my aunt knit that are like your rug. Cheers

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