So many ways to share

The picture says it all.

Willing hands reach to tuck goodies into a basket destined for this weekend’s Annual, courtesy of Ottawa Olde Forge Rug Hooking Branch. The basket will grace a silent auction table, joining many other fine offerings.

Several will be containers like this one, packed full of lovingly-donated items that our guild members think a fellow hooker might appreciate.

I think that kind generosity is typical of rug hookers — maybe of all creative people. It’s abundant, often overflowing. I’ve experienced it myself, and seen it many times at branch meetings and other events where we gather.

It may surface when you’re grappling with something in a piece you’ve been agonizing over. Just ask, and someone has really useful advice to give. Or you’re encouraged to consult another nearby expert – or two, or three – who can help you work your way through the difficulty. In the five years that I’ve been with my branch, I’ve never been disappointed when I push pride and personal reserve aside to seek experienced guidance!

The support can come in other ways, too. People will stop by to rave about your design or colour choices, or slip you a hank of their latest sari silk ribbon or a bag of colourful worms in alternative fibre(s) that were left over from a recent endeavour. “I know you’ll find a place for these … because you often work in the non-traditional textures and fibres, right?”

It’s hard to put into words the lift these gestures bring, or the sense of freedom and acceptance you feel when you’re with fellow rug hookers. So I did what I frequently do when I need some elevated thoughts to bolster my theme: I went looking for an appropriate quote. And found these absolute gems:

Generosity is the most natural outward expression of an inner attitude of compassion and loving-kindness. — Dalai Lama

For it is in giving that we receive…— St. Francis of Assisi, from the Peace Prayer of St. Francis

Being thankful can be contagious

Working on the Annual over the past 18 months has exposed our planning committee members to generosity and strong mutual support in other ways, too. Lesley Larsen, our ball-of-energy leader, has shared (via email) these reflections:

“Beyond the learning and sharing that has contributed so strongly to my hooking, I’m particularly grateful for the friendships that never would have begun without my involvement in the 2018 Annual … I’ve met many remarkable people, and to come away with some deeper friendships is a gift that is not easy to come by.”

She raises the other ‘G’ word that has been forefront in my thoughts since I started to write this post: gratitude. It is sparked, over and over again, as a direct result of the kind of caring behaviour I’ve described. And it’s something I suspect we all feel when we experience that warmth and nurturing.

So one more amazing quote to ponder:

The essence of all beautiful art, all great art, is gratitude.— Friedrich Nietzsche

Thank you, all; hope to see you in the Ottawa loop soon,
Marla, Content creator

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Celebrate Spring in Ottawa!

Photo by Marla Fletcher

The good news is that it will definitely be spring by the time the Annual rolls around. The bad news is that our famous spring celebration, known as the Canadian Tulip Festival, doesn’t open until after our gathering has ended.

And since the blooms are weather-dependent, we have no idea whether we’ll see any of the beauties during our event.

But you can meander along scenic Queen Elizabeth Drive and visit Commissioner’s Park, near Dow’s Lake, to see if any buds have opened. And read about this historic, spirit-lifting festival at: https://amsterdamtulipmuseumonline.com/blogs/tulip-facts/what-are-the-origins-of-canadas-tulip-festival

I know many rug hookers are also gardeners – or at least love being outdoors, appreciating nature and perhaps strolling through exquisite gardens – so a visit to the Central Experimental Farm and the nearby Fletcher Wildlife Garden might be in order. It will probably be too early for the lilacs, but I’m told serviceberries and cherry trees should be sporting blossoms.

Marvel at water’s power and attraction

One area exhibit I’d love to see involves a journey into the Ottawa Valley to visit Almonte, located less than an hour’s drive from Ottawa. This spring, the Mississippi Valley Textile Museum features a multimedia exhibition (April 7 — June 23) that nicely complements our Annual’s ‘Hooked on Waterways’ theme. It’s called ‘Tributaries’, and reflects the area’s history with the textile industry and immigrant labour.

Savour this juicy description posted on the museum’s website: “The exhibit features Emily Rose Michaud’s living tapestries, cyanotype drawings, maps, and paintings, layered with the sounds of water, Gaelic folk song, social and political speech, and out-takes from Esmerine’s atmospheric melodies.

Find out more at http://mvtm.ca/?exhibition=living-tapestry.

A restorative ramble

Photo: Property of Beechwood Cemetery, kindly shared

And here’s another suggestion to round out this triptych of local prowling opportunities. Treat yourself with a date to explore Beechwood Cemetery, a garden treasure located in east Ottawa.

Among its attractions, Beechwood has several thousand bulbs planted by its gardening staff annually, so there’s bound to be a glorious seasonal show.

Established in 1873 and designated as a National Historic Site in 2001, the cemetery reflects is rural roots. Wandering through its 160 acres, you’re transported from urban bustle and noise to a serene woodland park setting that features gazebos, ponds and a marsh, nature trails, fountains, fascinating monuments and glorious gardens.

As the burial ground of diverse notables ranging from renowned poets Archibald Lampman and Duncan Campbell Scott to business tycoons, sports heroes, fathers of Confederation, former prime ministers and other prominent politicians and luminaries, the cemetery’s historical significance is apparent.

Beechwood is also Canada’s National Military Cemetery, the Ottawa Police Service Memorial Cemetery and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) National Memorial Cemetery. Special ceremonies, walks and events are held each year. Group tours take place often, or can be arranged on request.

I haven’t been there for a while, so high time for me to revisit!

Stoking the creative fire

Guaranteed, you’ll come away from any of these delightful diversions with your head full of new images and fresh ideas!

See you in the loop,
Marla, Content creator

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Inside the kaleidoscope

Van Gogh’s ‘Starry Night’ hooked by Carol Pugsley, Ottawa Olde Forge Rug Hooking Branch; pattern and workshop by Carol Shewan

A thousand rugs and other lovingly crafted hookings. The mind boggles! And on the Sunday – when members of the public come for the Open House – the buzz is electric.

My eyes will glaze over and I’ll be experiencing sensory overload long before I’ve made my way through some 35 branch displays, the Theme, Beginner and Individual entries, the judged category pieces, the ‘Hook the logo’ collection and all the rest. But what a rush!

Susan Sutherland’s ‘Heidi Halstead — Protest Hooker’ is almost 5 feet tall, developed from a 2017 workshop with UK rug hooking teacher Diane Cox

For this post, I consulted – in person or via email chats – André Pinard, this year’s displays coordinator, and three women who are entering works in their branch displays.

Special attractions? More than 30 pieces reflecting our ‘Hooked on Waterways’ theme; judged categories ranging from primitive to wide cuts, multi-cuts, original designs, pictorials and more; an Area 1 display of variations on our 2018 Annual logo comes to mind. For the Members Choice/Rowan Award, Annual participants love voting on what wows them most, but I find it almost impossible. Too much to hold in your brain for long, with so much talent on display!

People participate to show … their work and craftsmanship, and to feel part of the rug hooking community … It shows you belong,” André observes. Mounting the displays is a big job requiring several dedicated volunteers to pull it off, but knowledge about the process and ways to improve it have increased over the years.

Displays bring growth, pride to OHCG

It’s funny how some variation of the word “inspire” kept coming up. Carol Pugsley, of Ottawa’s Olde Forge branch, is entering a piece she completed in early 2018 that originated in an earlier workshop. She’s eager to see how other workshop participants interpreted the image. She appreciates seeing the new colours, materials and techniques used, and believes the show is a great benefit for OHCG members.

It shows the volume and numbers we’ve got across Ontario … (and) the wonderful things that people are doing … I’m in awe. I get inspired.”

Susan Sutherland, an OHCG teacher and member of Kitchener Waterloo Rug Hooking Guild, has entered branch displays many times and has three entries this year. She thinks the displays bring huge value to the Annual, and offer “an amazing opportunity to see the creative process of pulling loops.” She, too, cites inspiration as a significant plus and feels it’s important to contribute regularly to the show.

Why put your hooking up for public scrutiny?

‘Deer and Bird’ hooked by Debra Scott, Ottawa Olde Forge branch, from pattern by Karla Gerard

Now we’re getting personal. I think I’ll be submitting a piece for my branch’s display, but the prospect makes me queasy. Debra Scott, another Olde Forge branch member, has displayed at the last five Annuals and strongly encourages participation. She’s a prolific hooker with an eye for whimsical designs, so she looks for something she’s particularly proud of and that she feels demonstrates a variety of cuts, materials (especially recycled) and interesting colour combinations.

Learning from each other is a big part of membership in the rug hooking chapters… Seeing the displays from other groups gives me ideas as to what I would like to try in the future.”

My sources say feedback from their peers is instructive, and always kind — with an emphasis on the positive.

Those all-important choices

It can be downright daunting to consider displaying your hooking to such a discriminating audience, my fellow crafters agree. And then the question becomes: which one(s)? The rules stipulate that entries must be by an OHCG member, fully completed and never displayed at an Annual before.

So if you have a half-dozen pieces that meet these criteria, as Debra does, then some serious assessment comes into play. “It has to be something … you feel is worth displaying … in terms of quality.”

Susan notes that she tries to hook something new each year, and likes knowing that she can choose to display it at the Annual. “If it is something that is an original design by me, I will enter it. If it’s a commercial pattern I may, depending on my interpretation of the pattern.”

For her part, Carol feels there’s safety in numbers — you’re in good company if you enter. She admits she can be swayed by fellow branch members to “get it done and get it out there.” But really, it’s the joy of doing that matters most.

Timely tip

I’ll definitely follow some sage advice from my esteemed interviewees. Don’t try to take in the whole show in one walk-through. You’ll be gobsmacked, no matter how you approach it. Just visit a couple of aisles at a time and then take a break, to let your eyes and mind rest! Or scan for favourite themes as you move through, only closely examining works in your areas of special interest. Small nibbles, not big bites — and let the works resonate with you. Don’t feel compelled to commit to memory every detail in every piece.

Wise words to remember when approaching any new challenge, don’t you think? My thanks, as always, to those who generously contributed to this post with their time, thoughts and images.

See you in the loop,
Marla, Content creator

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You’ve been asking: an Annual primer

Confession: This isn’t a typical blog post. You won’t hear me exclaiming about our craft or burbling about what I’ve learned, what excites me. But it is sincere, and I hope a service to those who don’t know all there is to know about the Annual.

I’d like newcomers to feel at ease – and have a great experience – by providing a heads-up on what to expect. It promises to be a memorable event!
Q: Is there a dress code for the Saturday night gala dinner?
It’s not a formal or theme event, but some participants are happy to ‘dress up’ for the occasion. It’s really up to you; the band providing the evening’s entertainment will be sporting ‘business casual.’

Q: Can I bring in my own food and snacks to the Ottawa Conference and Event Centre?
The venue dictates that no ‘outside food’ is allowed onsite, so boxed lunches (prepared by the event centre) are offered in the Annual registration package. Contact the Registrar by April 9 for food requests not previously noted on the registration form. There’s a restaurant at one of the adjacent hotels, and fridges/microwaves are provided in guest rooms. Shopping centres, restaurants, grocery stores and LCBO outlets are just a short drive away. What you consume within your hotel room is up to you.

Q: I’m not able to register for the Annual this year. Is there another way to see what it’s all about?
Yes and no. The Annual is a valued benefit offered to members of the Ontario Hooking Craft Guild (OHCG) and its branches, so learning and collegial experiences are only available to those who register. However, there’s an Open House on Sunday that welcomes members of the public for just $10 admission (free parking). That provides access to stunning displays of hooked rugs and other items, as well as to vendors. The OHCG and Teachers Branch will have tables with information about the 2019 Annual, and more. A sale of hooked items made by Area 1 hosting branch members is also featured. Another highlight this year will be an area where those interested can try out the craft, with guidance from experienced rug hookers. We hope many will take advantage and enjoy the show!

Q: What do I need to know if I’m confirmed for a workshop? Are supplies provided, or do I need to purchase them?
You’ll find some details about workshop supplies fees and preparation on this website; see Sessions. Instructors usually advise registrants, when they contact them in advance, about what to bring — including frames, hooks, scissors and other supplies necessary to complete their project. They may also have extra hooks and other tools on hand as temporary loaners.

Q. What happens at the AGM?
At the Annual General Meeting (AGM), members hear from the OHCG board about the past year’s activities and initiatives. Reports are presented and questions fielded. Attendees vote on acceptance of the audited financial report, any previously published notice of constitutional changes and any new slate of officers. Winners of the judged competitions are announced, except for the Rowan and Theme awards — which are revealed at the Saturday gala – and newly accredited rug hooking teachers are introduced.

Q. Will a detailed schedule and map be available before arrival at the Annual?
Yes, we will post a downloadable schedule and sitemap on our ‘Event details’ page in April.

If you have further questions, please Write us to continue the conversation.

See you in the loop,
Marla, Content creator

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Inside the hooking room: hidden treasure

It’s probably one of the least-known perks of any Annual. And yet it has a special role…

I’m talking about the ‘Hooking room,’ somewhere I have yet to visit but am adding to my must-check-out list for next May.

“We have seen how our members will find a space somewhere and create a small hooking area so they can visit,” explains Jayne Nevins, the OHCG Annual Advisor, when I ask. She confirms that a hooking room – or designated open area – is provided at most OHCG annuals, and has become a popular tradition among attendees.

“Friends and acquaintances get to catch up, as sometimes they only see each other at each Annual,” she explains in an email. “It is also a place for hookers to rest their weary bones during the weekend!”

Joan Shouldice, the lead for this aspect of the 2018 Annual in Ottawa, agrees. She notes: “It’s … good to have a place for people who can’t walk a lot” but want to share in the Annual’s buzz and creativity. She also thinks it’s an opportunity for those who favour traditional rug hooking to gather “in fellowship”, since some of the 2018 workshop sessions lean to more contemporary approaches.

Here are some great reasons to visit the hooking room:

  • Peer learning — The room is often full of experienced rug hookers who are happy to share their knowledge in a friendly, informal way. I’m told it’s a great way to ‘see what’s going on out there in the rug hooking world.’ And there’s nothing like seeing what others are working on, and hearing tips/advice firsthand, to boost your own craft knowledge.
  • Quiet refuge — It can be a peaceful place to park your bag(s), sit and sip a quiet cup of tea and take a break from the noisy bustle of workshops, vendor booths, displays and hallway chatter. You can work on a piece you’ve brought along or newly acquired, or try out something you’ve just learned about. On the other hand, the room can be lively, the laughs a bit raucous and the pleasure of gathering totally infectious!
  • Be inspired — As well as admiring the work of fellow visitors, you can gaze in wonder at the digital images of 100 amazing rugs and hooked items from past annual gatherings, courtesy of OHCG. See the craft’s traditional roots and more contemporary approaches.
  • The not-another-project solution — If you’ve been hooking for a while and have more than a few unfinished projects tucked away, the hooking room is a guilt-free zone. You can work on what you please, compare shopping finds, discuss new trends/techniques or just chat. No need to start yet another new project, and no pressure.
  • Designated meeting spot — Notify friends that you’ll meet them in the hooking room, much easier than making your way through halls, exhibit space and lobby trying to find them in the crowds…

See you in the loop,
Marla, Content creator

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One fish, two fish…

Photo by Vicki Cameron: Fishbowl creations by the Fabulous Five

“We had a blast!”

“They are addictive.”

“We laughed and played like kids in a sandbox, each doing their own thing but marvelling in others’ creations.”

That’s apparently what happened when the ‘Fabulous Five’ spent much of a cold November day creating vibrant fishbowl prototypes for the 2018 Annual.

I sure wish I had been there! I try not to waste much time or energy envying anyone – or their possessions, accomplishments, creations – but this one definitely had me feeling jealous. It sounded like such big fun! And the camaraderie and inspired sharing that the participants described perfectly captures what I think rug hooking is all about.

Laura Boszormeny was delighted with the outcome of her end-of-course challenge to students taking the ‘Textured Techniques in Rug Hooking’ course, part of the Fibre Arts certificate program at St. Lawrence College (Brockville campus). “The results far exceeded our expectations … The fact [that] the students were using what they had learned in class [about 3D creative stitches and alternate fibres] and moving beyond that was special for me, personally.”

The longtime rug hooking teacher says the students who agreed to add an extra day to their course to participate were happy to help with pre-Annual preparations. They pooled their materials, vision, excitement and “treasures” to produce samples that various ambassadors will now use in travels around Area 1 to encourage more contributions, and to stir up interest in the event.

Contributor Vicki Cameron summed it up nicely: “That one word, fishbowl, opened up a whole flood of ideas … [and] when an idea this brief conjures up so many creative responses, you know it’s a great idea, and a project bound for success.”

Let’s hope she’s right; some 50-55 fishbowls are needed by next May!

The marine-themed creations offer a refreshingly lighthearted take on centrepieces. You’ll see some remarkable wonders relating to the theme ‘Hooked on Waterways’. Think crazy fish, sunken ships, turtles, lighthouses, sparkly things, mermaids, shells, starfish, frogs on lily pads. They’re sure to make a splash.

And then there’s the dinner

Some 400 Annual attendees and guests are expected for the Saturday night gala. That’s when winners of the Theme and Rowan awards are announced and rug hookers gather to catch their breath, take stock of all they’ve learned and enjoy the company of friends old and new.

No problem, right? Even our indomitable planning lead, Lesley Larsen, admits that the details, logistics and expectations have kept her hopping. Ottawa is an expensive place to host a big do, she notes, and it’s tricky to figure out timing, menu and entertainment that will suit such a large, diverse crowd while sticking to a tight budget.

“It’s like when you entertain at home,” she explains. “You want it to be fun and entertaining … [but] you know you can’t please everybody, and that’s hard.”

There’ll be live music, and Lesley has alerted those who are so inclined that they should bring their dancing shoes. The Back Beat is an Ottawa-based band with considerable experience playing pubs, community events, private parties, bonspiels and more. You’ll no doubt hear a favourite tune — whether you favour music from the ’50s, ’60s, ’70s or something more current.

Let’s party, everyone!

I can’t close without expressing my deep thanks to the Fabulous Five for so openly – and quickly – telling me about me their impressions and experiences relating to Project Fishbowl: Laura Boszormeny, Vicki Cameron, Lesley Larsen, Sue Perry, Maureen Robertson.

See you in the loop,
Marla, Content creator

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The program: how we got to all these great choices!

Photo by Carol Pugsley: 2017 Annual workshop, Cobourg, ON

Photo by Carol Pugsley: 2017 Annual workshop, Cobourg, ON

When you ask Elaine and Margaret, co-coordinators of the 2018 Annual workshops and education program, which sessions they’d like to take their reaction is swift. They exchange a glance, eyebrows raised — then break into broad grins.

“I’d like to take all of them,” says Margaret Mitchell of Ottawa Olde Forge Rug Hooking Branch. Co-lead Elaine Armstrong agrees. Both are “totally excited” about the range of sessions planned for the May event.

They’re pleased with the expanded timetable (full program coming soon on the ‘Event details’ page), covering both long and shorter workshops, the introduction of other presentations and the addition of instructors from outside OHCG to broaden the mix of topics and styles available. They hope an estimated 350 participants will be happy too.

“This is an event for the members,” Margaret emphasizes. “We’ve tried to organize workshops that would be of interest … and generate enthusiasm, and give the opportunity to try new things.” A key criterion was finding proposals that responded to survey and other feedback they received about what members wanted to learn. Another was finding workshops where the project could be completed – or nearly finished – within class time.

18 sessions, including:

  • private viewing of Canadian Museum of History’s hooked rugs collection
  • ‘cutter’ workshop to learn the ins and outs of cutter care, maintenance
  • presentation on Cheticamp rug-making from Canadian Museum of History curator
  • watery, fishy & nautical elements in some workshops to complement ‘Hooked on Waterways’ theme

Steep challenges, deep satisfaction

Challenges abound, including: having more selection and the right blend of instructors and presenters; arranging suitable session space and volunteer helpers; ensuring all registrants have equal access to registration; offering a program that breaks even.

Since hands-on workshops are generally limited to 12-15 participants, it can be tricky to accommodate high interest among registrants. Prioritized choices have been added to the registration process, to provide better access to popular selections.

It has been interesting, satisfying work, Elaine states. “We wanted to contribute in a meaningful way.”

While neither has attended many annuals, Margaret and Elaine have taken many classes and participated in similar events. They say the best workshops are those that involve stretching their skills, seeing things in new ways and savouring the shared creative experience. It’s about trying something you’re seriously interested in, and having the satisfaction of finishing it during the class — or soon after.

Top-notch instructors

The instructors who have stepped up are dedicated souls who love to help fellow rug hookers expand their prowess and enjoyment, the coordinators note. The planning group initially received a handful of excellent proposals from OHCG teachers, and then equally appealing submissions from outside Ontario. The latter instructors are making a big commitment, since they must spend valuable personal time and their own funds to travel to Ottawa — and can’t sell beyond their workshop kits/supplies unless they’re also registered as vendors at the event.

Register early

The registration process opens with the publication of the OHCG Winter Newsletter in mid- to late December, and online at the OHCG website. I know I’ll be early off the mark to make those hard choices and get my registration in! How about you?

See you in the loop,
Marla, Content creator

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Our fibre fixation

Iverson: Photo courtesy of Wilhaven Ridge Alpacas, Cumberland, ON

It’s amazing what you can tuck into a developing rug hooking piece to bring it to life and personalize it: a shiny porcelain button, shards from a broken bracelet, a rusty nail or a bit of sari silk, maybe some alpaca fleece.

It’s all part of the joy of creation, a fringe benefit to being involved in fibre and multimedia arts — and a way of stretching your vision and your work.

“I like to have a variety of things to work from when I’m hooking … To me, the multimedia thing adds to the fun of the piece,” says Barbara Lukas, Ottawa Olde Forge Rug Hooking Branch member and fibre/multimedia artist. “The other fibre arts I use inspire me to reach out and try new things.”

Her creativity was sparked when she started taking courses at the acclaimed Green Mountain Rug School, in Vermont. Some 30 years later, she still attends annually. Her circle of arts and crafts endeavours keeps widening, and the ideas keep coming. Since retiring in 2009, she’s bumped up the inspiration level by taking lessons from experts in areas that interest her, and happily shares that with fellow creators.

It’s a healthy trend

Barbara thinks rug hooking has opened up to more contemporary interpretations and personal designs over the last decade or so, with broader acceptance. She finds that refreshing, and notes the Ottawa area is well represented in this movement.

She’s probably right. The number of rug hookers I meet who also knit, weave, quilt, sew, do multi-fibre art, make lace and/or other fibre-related creations just keeps growing!

One woman who can attest to this is Roberta Murrant, coordinator of the annual Fibrefest event hosted for the past 22 years by the Mississippi Valley Textile Museum in Almonte, ON. She observes that interest in fibre arts (and related activities) has grown “exponentially.” Annual attendance has now surpassed 2,500, filling two sites over one very busy weekend in September. Visitors can see remarkable works of art, craft demonstrations and a kaleidoscope of everything from beads to fine weaving, smocking, quilts, yarns and even ‘woven wood’ from some 80 vendors. Hands-on workshops were offered for the first time this year. Roberta says Fibrefest’s reach is wide and deep, and she finds this group supports and encourages its members continuously.

Thriving local fibre community

‘Ice Storm’ by Barbara Lukas, 2014

The Ottawa area also boasts an active community of men and women who rejoice in fibre. The collective known as Out Of The Box (OOTB) is self-defined as a “group … passionate about creating innovative and thought-provoking works of art with fibre.” It includes artists working in: silk painting, felting, weaving, embroidery, mixed media, art quilting and more. At monthly meetings they “share ideas, techniques and inspiration,” according to the group’s website. Other activities include: periodic ‘play dates’; theme or technique challenges; presentations by guest artists.

This group’s public Fibre Fling shows are eagerly anticipated each year.

There are some businesses that serve rug hookers and other fibre aficionados well: Wabi Sabi in the Wellington West neighbourhood has an excellent selection of yarns, kits and other specialty items, and Wool-Tyme in southwest Ottawa has abundant knitting and sewing/needlework supplies. At locations in the Glebe and Kanata, Yarn Forward sells yarns, sewing machines and craft-related goods.

If only Fibrefest was on in early May! Then those of us who love playing with colour and fibre could get our fix while attending the 2018 Annual. But as a friend has pointed out, then we’d be agonizing over how to get the most out of both events in an all-too-short weekend.

See you in the loop,
Marla, Content creator

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Setting up shop: the vendor perspective

Photo by Carol Pugsley, 2017 Annual

It’s still more than eight months before the 2018 Annual opens in Ottawa, and Martina Lesar is already drawing patterns, ordering more supplies and dyeing wool. Several more rug hooking suppliers are making similar preparations.

This is a big event in their business year.

“The Annual allows me to connect personally with customers (who) normally place orders via phone, email or website,” Martina notes. She has been a regular in the vendors’ hall for the past eight years, and says it’s a great place to launch new products and boost her business profile. [Martina Lesar Hooked Rug Studio, Caledon, ON]

Loretta Moore, who has sold goods at the past three annuals, considers the event “an amazing experience” that has benefits well beyond sales and visibility. She counts creative inspiration, renewing connections with rug hooking friends/customers from afar and the chance to see “all the amazing rugs” among personal highlights. [Hooked On The Lake, Godfrey, ON]

What makes a vendor happy?

Vendors – and attendees! – say a great Annual includes a healthy mix of suppliers, all offering a grand array of attractive wares. Imagine numerous tables overflowing with woollen fabrics in eye-popping colours and blends, neat tools and accessories, and tempting yarns, ribbons and novelty fabrics.

The Ottawa gathering is expected to feature more than a dozen vendors. If they feel appreciated, they are most likely to delight the discerning rug hooking crowd. So I wondered what vendors need to make their participation truly rewarding. The survey of past vendors (conducted last spring by the 2018 Annual planning group) provided interesting insights.

Respondents told us the top five factors when deciding to participate are:

  • early notification of acceptance to sell at the event, and a list of participating vendors, to assist with planning (six months’ notice preferred, minimum two months)
  • big, bright sales area, ideally in the same space as the hooked items display
  • help from volunteers with loading/unloading and booth set-up, and to provide short-term coverage for food breaks, etc.
  • free WiFi to facilitate online transactions
  • reasonable fees for booth space and table rentals, to offset vendor costs for travel, accommodation, any hired help

Changes introduced for the upcoming registration process are generally being well received, states Nora Lee, 2018 vendor coordinator. “Vendors can now bring their own tables… and vendor fees based on booth size now replace the Annual registration fee requirement. We are also working to arrange a lower price from an outside supplier, for those who need to rent tables.”

Challenges

Vendors say ensuring they have adequate supplies to meet customer demand is essential. Customers can place orders for later delivery, but it’s far better to satisfy whims and desires on the spot. It’s also a spatial challenge: can you squeeze all you want to offer into the size of booth you’ve reserved?

Finding new products to keep customers interested and to set you apart is also important. “I think people are becoming more experimental and looking outside the box, so I have been offering alternative fibres and options,” Loretta notes in an email. Silk ribbon, roving and other natural texture yarns, as well as new/unique varieties of dyed wool, are among current trends.

What’s on your wish list? For me, the sari silk beckons.

See you in the loop,
Marla, Content creator

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Hooking up a winner

I recently heard a singer-songwriter on the radio talking about creativity. It got me thinking about the OHCG Theme challenge that’s part of every Annual. She declared: “Everyone wants to create…”

I know that’s true, and extends to all the creative arts. As formidable as hooking a Theme piece sounds, I believe that award answers this basic human need. Here’s why.

Demands originality, creativity — The rules require that the design be ORIGINAL. The OHCG Judges’ Score Sheet notes “…(t)he piece is your thought, your drawing, your own work. It is not meant to be an adaptation or interpretation of another artist’s design, photograph, greeting card…”

Pushes boundaries — You’re challenged to really think about your potential piece, maybe do some research and focus on colour, design and what you’re trying to express. Susan Clarke of Georgetown Rug Hooking (2016 winner for her psychedelic footstool; ‘Going for Gold’ theme) regularly enters the judged categories. She explains: “It pushes me to do my best, and to … look for where I can improve … I appreciate having feedback, even if it’s to tell me where I fall short.”

Fosters learning — You may have to get outside your comfort zone, learning about the theme and elements you’re considering, trying new techniques and exploring new colours/textures. All my interviewees described doing considerable research through personal observation, buying books or scanning online for useful information.

Personally rewarding — I’ve never entered an Annual judged category so I can’t confirm this, but I’m told it’s deeply satisfying to see a piece through to completion. “I was very pleased with the finished piece,” notes Debbie Harris of Woolright Society (2017 winner for her Quidi Vidi Harbour scene; ‘Images of Canada’ theme). “I had captured what I set out to do,” which was to preserve fond memories of a Newfoundland vacation.

For some, doing a Theme entry is a process that evolves over weeks or months. For others, it’s a last-minute decision when the announced theme resonates strongly or aligns with a recently completed hooking. André Pinard, the 2018 display coordinator, says our theme is likely to connect with OHCG members: “Many hookers already incorporate water in their rugs… and it appeals to our Canadian identity, easily motivating.” While the Theme display has usually featured 10-15 pieces in past years, he’s expecting 20-30 for the Ottawa event.

One way to prepare is to take a class! Karen Kaiser, a three-time Theme winner and an accredited instructor, is teaching ‘Elements of Design’ at the OHCG School in Ancaster in October (now full). She loves helping hookers “create art”, and declares the most important elements when designing are Simplicity, Contrast, Balance and asking What if?

As Gail Mueller of Orillia Sunshine Hooking Group (2015 winner for her ‘Live in Colour’ piece; ‘Graffiti’ theme) urges: “If the subject interests you, enter, because it’s interesting for the audiences to see different interpretations.” Karen adds: “Lose the fear of being wrong — just do it!”

The rug hookers I approached were happy to ‘chat’ (electronically), so my sincere thanks for their contributions to this post!

See you in the loop,
Marla, Content creator

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