Another Introduction from Braidwood

ISSN 2007-001X   17th August, 2017

Images from Gail’s Nichol’s studio were shown on a Guild Facebook post after a visit by members of the Narrawilly Proggy Ruggers. The post prompted a request for more information about Gail and her textile art.

Gail said “It’s funny how a local get-together of rugmakers and fibre artists in Braidwood, New South Wales, Australia, leads to a request for more information from the USA!”   Not everyone is comfortable with Technology especially Facebook, however it has one big advantage, it does bring like minded people together and it is making it possible for Australian rugmakers and fibre artists to learn about each other.

Gail graciously answered all my questions about her textile art.

Gail: “This photo, taken by my husband Dave Nelson, gives an idea of the scale of my works – this piece is 140 x 95cm (55.12″ x 37.4”)

“Bobs Creek Culvert” – 2015 – Recycled fabric hooked on hessian backing.

If a gallery called you, how would you describe your work?

“When dealing with galleries I describe my works as ‘hooked tapestries’. I find this communicates what they are more accurately than if I call them ‘rugs’. I faced a similar semantic issue during my previous 30 year career in ceramics. As far as galleries were concerned I made ‘ceramic art’ because that is their language, but amongst other clay workers we were usually happy to call our works ‘pots’.

My hooked tapestries are works of visual art intended to hang on the wall. The images are abstractions from landscape features I have observed where I live or where I have travelled. The tapestries are made from new and recycled fabric hooked on a hessian or synthetic rug backing.

This work was inspired by a collection of leaves, twigs and algae amongst logs in a local rainforest creek.”

“Leaf Jam at Currowan Creek” – 2016 – 96 x 134 cm (37.79″ x 52.75″) New and recycled fabric hooked on hessian backing.

What captures your imagination about a particular technique or approach to your work?

Rug hooking came to me surprisingly naturally (following some initial instruction), similar to the way clay spoke to me initially many years ago. When you find that connection as an artist you just have to go with it. I love the tactile, rhythmic nature of the process, working directly with colour, and the freedom to develop the design as I go. From the beginning I saw potential images all around me. This medium has made me see the world with new eyes.

Who – or what – influenced your early work? Has your later work been influenced by the same person/style/technique?

In 2014 I attended a workshop led by my friend and neighbour Maggie Hickey. Maggie had learned from Miriam Miller and the Narawilly Rugmakers at Milton NSW, and Maggie invited me to attend one of their gatherings with her. Miriam was very encouraging and I bought my first rug frame from her. Her book, Proggy and Hooky Rugs, was a practical source of information. Where I live at Mongarlowe NSW (near Braidwood NSW) we have a group of fibre artists who meet once a month to share their work and knowledge. They were very welcoming and supportive of my new textile work. So from the beginning I had some wonderful support networks, and those associations continue. Recently Maggie and I helped to host both groups in a get-together at Mongarlowe and Braidwood.

Another major influence during my early stage of rugmaking was an Arthur Boyd retrospective exhibition I attended at the National Gallery of Australia in Canberra. After viewing many rooms of impressive, often familiar paintings, I entered the final room and found myself surrounded by giant hanging woven tapestries which Boyd had commissioned to be made in Portugal from a number of his paintings. I was overwhelmed by their presence and vibrance. They brought the paintings to life! They taught me the potential of textiles for creating powerful visual images. If this could be achieved with woven tapestries, why not also with hooking?

Are you pleased with your artistic progress? What boundaries or limitations do you find are the hardest to push?
I’m pleased with my progress, although from experience as a professional artist I know I will always be looking for ways to improve. In the beginning it was a challenge to just produce a small floor mat with the hooking neatly accomplished on both front and back. As I progressed the rugs grew in size and the visual images became more complex. Eventually I had to admit that even in our house no one would walk on them on the floor, so they became wall hangings. This introduced a new perspective. There was the challenge of working at an intimate focus with the design, but knowing it needed to be appreciated as a full image from much further back. Whether I’m working on a stretcher frame or a lap frame, I regularly take breaks to review the progress from a distance. I’m currently pushing the boundaries of the rectangular format, introducing more freedom and movement to the hanging work.

Where do you see your work in 1 – 2 – 5 years? In other words, where do you see yourself going with your current approach and technique?

Well, I’m not stopping, that’s for sure! Having experienced similar rapid development in ceramics, I know it’s not possible to predict what I will be making in 2 to 5 years. I will continue experimenting with materials and techniques, pushing boundaries where possible, and developing ideas for images. I have been experimenting with other textile techniques such as free machine embroidery incorporating fabric, gummy silk and paper. I expect these techniques will somehow inform and combine with my rugging, but I’ll wait and see how that happens.

I recently was fortunate to win a prize in the Queanbeyan Palerang Regional Art Awards. The Professional Practice Award sponsored by Form Studio and Gallery in Queanbeyan entitles me to an exhibition in that gallery to the value of $2000. I expect that show will take place in 2018. I have also been working with other galleries, exploring opportunities after that. I have launched a Facebook page called Gail Nichols Textiles, to share my work. I look forward to seeing where this leads.

Editor’s note: September 2016 at the Guild Exhibition in Strathnairn, Canberra, I met Gail and saw her design “Reflections at the Water Temple” in progress. It’s now finished. This small image does not do it justice, – I hope you will click the link to Gail’s Nichols Textiles and view it and her amazing body of rug art.  Hopefully her schedule will allow her to enter “Re-imagined” the current rug art Challenge in Australia, open to all rug makers and textile/fibre artists in the Southern Hemisphere   –  Happy Hooking –   Jo  Franco



“Getting to Know You”

ISSN 2007-001X  14th August, 2017

This image was included in a recent Guild Facebook post  describing a visit by the Narrawilly Proggy Rugmakers, from Milton, to the Mongarlowe Fibre Group  of the Braidwood district in New South Wales.

Over morning tea at Maggie Hickey’s Studio and lunch at Pauline Webber’s residence, a converted Mill, both groups enjoyed a day swapping ideas and stories.

A comment on the Facebook post requested an interview with the textile artist featured, Maggie Hickey and Gail Nichols.

In answer to my questions, here is what Maggie had to say ……….

If a gallery called you, how would you describe your work?

Mainly textiles (hooked rag rugs but I’ve also done some 3D metalwork using beer cans. Most of the materials I use are recycled. Some of my work is political, some just for fun.

For a mask exhibition Maggie used “Fosters” beer green cans to create the Green Man mask.

What captures your imagination about a particular technique or approach to your work?

I generally respond to a brief – either from a client or a theme for an exhibition and try to invest originality into the work – to put a new or amusing slant on it. I don’t take myself too seriously!

A special creation – Maggie made this for her grandson’s room. She said – he’s into giraffes!

Who – or what – influenced your early work? Has your later work been influenced by the same person/style/technique?

Miriam Miller taught me the skill of rag rug making. I liked her approach to use of colour and design . I have a Batchelor of Visual Art and majored in glassmaking so colour and form are important to me. I enjoy a wide variety of art forms but the Australian Modernists and American Pop Art are favourites.

Designed & hooked by Maggie Hickey, NSW, Australia. A tribute to Australian Modernist Grace Crowley.

Are you pleased with your artistic progress? What boundaries or limitations do you find are the hardest to push?

I’d like to do more and better in the area of 3D work. If I were 30 or even 20 years younger I would tackle welding and get into a lot more metalwork but I also like the challenge of sculptural textiles.

A “large” rug in progress by Maggie Hickey.

Where do you see your work in 1 – 2 – 5 years? In other words, where do you see yourself going with your current approach and technique?

See the answer above 🙂   At 70 years of age I suspect my work might not evolve beyond the expressions of ideas via the techniques I’m familiar with. But you never know…

Maggie mentioned “liking the challenge of sculptural textiles” hopefully we’ll see an entry from her in the recently launched Challenge “Re-imagined“.  She also mentioned Miriam Miller taught her the skill of rag rug making.   For those of you who know Miriam and know she’s been under medical treatment I just want to tell you that her operation last Friday was a success. Not sure when she’s due to go home but Miriam says she’s feeling good.

Happy Hooking to all – Jo Franco; Editor





Yarning Yarrabilba

ISSN 2007-001X 12th August, 2017

More news from Queensland …..

Bec Andersen, Textile Artist and Community Artist has completed yet another Community project involving children & rug hooking.

These three panels were created as part of a Community Art Project for the Yarrabilba Community Centre in 2017. The images of the panels were conceptualised by a group of children using stories of Yarrabilba past and present as inspiration.

Artist Bec Andersen and her collaborator, Margy Rose used these images to create the designs which were then produced with the help of members of the local community using the Punchneedle rug making technique.
The project was supported by the Logan Art Gallery, Logan Women’s Health Group and funded by Yarrabilba Community Enterprise foundation.  Photographer Sabine Bannard






Punch Needle Workers: Nathalie Gaveau, Rosina Friend, Clancey Covington, Kay Winnem, Ros Boardman, Debbie, Trish, Kathie, Donna Jones, Lesley Sawyer, Robin Taylor, Marg Newman, Karen Marshall, Jan Mihailou, Kim Holtz, Sandy Bailey, Maryanne, Dorothy Kirkwood, Brooke Warner, Sandy.







In her Artist Statement (shown below) Bec describes how stories of the river inspired the design for this hooked art work.

The Logan River has been a strong element in the past which has evoked over time. In this piece, it begins as “The River of Tears” symbolizing the felling of trees and disruption to the natural life of the Yugambeh people. In panel two it becomes a “Gushing river” with the movement of the red cedar logs as civilisation begins. In panel three we see the River becoming a blend of colours drawn from the earth where the Ancient ones remain, symbolising the connection between the new community and it’s past
The sky is also an element that travels across all three panels, beginning as “The Whirling Wind” it summons the past energies and blends them with the “Development of Past Knowledge and Understanding”.
Thus the river, the “Ancient Ones” and the sky are holding the energies of the past and bring them into the future with the historical knowledge and understanding that is needed.

Margy Rose facilitated the Image Making Workshop

Image Makers:

Margo Le Jeune: “The River of Tears”
Darcy Jackson: “Separation of Destinies”
Luca Weintreib: “How Do You Make a Beautiful Building”
Abbey Barnett: “Gushing Water”
Eve-Ruby Andersen: “Development of Past Knowledge and Understanding”
Grace Cameron: “The Purpose of Life”
Bec Andersen: “Sounds of Ancient Lands”
Margy Rose: “Can you Love Everybody”

Song of Yarrabilba also by Margy Rose, was inspired by the children’s response to Yarrabilba history.                                                              

Oh where are the ancient ones?
Still spinning in the whirling wind?
The children dance with your shadows.
Oh where are the ancient ones?
Still singing in the flowing river?
The children sing your tears and laughter

Here are the women
Twirling and twining the wool
Laughing, talking and stitching
The songs and dances
Into vast coloured dreams-
Full of beauty and togetherness.


“Tillie” watching all the activity

Editors Note:  Before leaving Queensland I look forward to making a trip up Mt. Tamborine to visit Bec in her Studio and bring you more news of her rug hooking activities.  I hope this project inspires other rug hooking groups to take on Community projects. Happy Hooking     Jo Franco




Call for Entries

ISSN 2207-001X 10th August, 2017

Judi Tompkins and Jo Franco, are coming together from Queensland and Western Australia to issue a rughooking
challenge with a difference – “Re-imagined”
Entries will close 31st Dec 2017 – for the 2018 event.
The Challenge is open to ALL rug makers ANYWHERE in the Southern Hemisphere – Australia/New Zealand, Pacific Islands and beyond.

Besides there being No Entry Fee, as this is a prototype event, this Challenge is different because entries are for a Virtual Exhibition.
Digital images of artwork will be assembled in a virtual catalogue and a certain number will be selected by an impartial panel to be shown in a Virtual Exhibition promoted in the online Textile & Fibre media.

Submitting artwork digitally there’s no expensive postage, so your creativity wont be limited to working on something small.
However, your creativity will definitely be Challenged as there are some seemingly strange requirements with regard to Embellishments which are the ONLY requirements of the Challenge but wait, ……. there’s a certain latitude …..
ALL the groups of Embellishments MUST be represented, however you can use the “minimum” – think cooking show and the use of “a little or a lot”.

There isn’t a “Theme”, although there is a group of Categories for you to choose from – or not!   If you don’t like the categories shown you have the option of ticking [  ] Other – and creating your own.
What we are attempting to do is have an Exhibition of textile art which includes rug hooking techniques – not just a display of rugs.

We hope you will take up the Challenge and join us in this adventure with a traditional craft in cyber-space.

Jo & Judi

You can download the Call For Entries and Entry Form  here  or see below:-


A challenge with a Difference

Australian rugmakers, Jo Franco, WA and Judi Tompkins, QLD are issuing a Challenge, open to ALL rug makers in Australia/New Zealand, Pacific Islands and anywhere in the Southern Hemisphere (no Guild membership required)
Selected Entries will form the basis of a Virtual Exhibition.

The Brief :
Create an art work (2D or 3D) using any of the listed rugmaking techniques with the addition of specific non-rugmaking items.

Conditions of Entry

  1. One Entry per person
  2. Collaboration works will receive recognition as one entry
  3. No entry fee required
  4. Artist Bio (max 150 words) to be submitted with entry form.
  5. Download entry form and submit via email to
  6. Closing date for entry forms 31st December 2017 (Note: entry form is not an online template, it must be downloaded, completed, scanned & emailed.)

The Work :  2D or 3D
Size : Work of any size will be accepted. Work must be original in concept and design and created solely for this Challenge.

Techniques: The work must contain, any one, or combination of, the following:-

  • traditional rug hooking,
  • locker hooking,
  • punch needle hooking,
  • tufting,
  • latch hooking,
  • proggy(proddy),
  • braiding,
  • chunky rugmaking,
  • toothbrush rug making
  • standing wool rugs.

Embellishments: All items must be represented as listed

  • Beads, one or more
  • Buttons, one or more
  • Recycled items; any amount of either;  plastic, metal or paper (only one type of recycled item is required, all can be used if desired)
  • Natural items; at least one of ANY of the following items, stones, sticks, shells, leaves – all items can be used in whatever quantity desired.
  • Textiles; any yarn & fabric strips – silk, wool, novelty, cotton – no requirement of type or amount.

Categories:  You may choose to nominate your work in one of the following categories or tick [   ] Other and describe.

  • Humour/Whimsy
  • Nature/Natural World
  • Steampunk
  • Fantasy/Magic
  • Nautical/Marine
  • Other – please describe

Submission of Work: To include –

  1. One overall digital image and one detail digital image of your artwork.
  2. Digital images must be saved as a high quality .JPEG file – resolution/min 180 dpi (No TIFF files).
  3. Digital Image – Maximum Size: equivalent to tablet sizing 2048 x 1536 =13 x 18cm to be emailed as an attached .jpeg file to
  4. A list of your chosen embellishments used in your entry.
  5. Title/Name of work
  6. Artist Statement (maximum 50 words, a description of your work and/or what inspired you)
  7. Closing date for Submission of Work (your digital images) 30th April 2018

Work in Progress & Social Media:

  1. Blogging, Facebook, Instagram; discussions & messages, no photos of entrants’ work in progress or completed, to be shown prior to the Opening of the digital Exhibition. It’s important we build up the anticipation prior to the digital “unveiling”.
  2. Publication of work prior to publishing of the selection for the Virtual Exhibition will disqualify an entry.
  3. Networking – a closed Facebook group (private/participants only) will be set up to enable participants to interact prior to the submission of work.
  4. Images and discussion about techniques and embellishments can be shown in the closed (private) Facebook group.
  5. Guidelines and Q & A page will be posted on the Facebook Group page
  6. Guidelines and Q & A page will also be posted on for participants who don’t have/want a Facebook presence.

31st December, 2017 Close of Call for Entries
30th April, 2018          Closing date for submission of Work (Digital images)
30th June 2018            Notification of selected entries
15th August, 2018       Publication – Online Exhibition.

Terms & Conditions: By submitting an entry form for possible inclusion in this exhibit I agree to permit images of my work, and/or all or part of my statement of my entry to be used in articles, ads, promotions,catalogues, books, websites (including any webcast coverage), CDs, current event news coverage, television productions, and/or multi-media productions.

Copyright: All images contained in this site are under automatic copyright to the artists. Apart from fair dealing for the purposes of private study, research or review, as permitted under the Copyright Act, no part of any image can be reproduced by any process without written permission of the artist.



Interviewing the Interviewer

ISSN 2207-001X  2nd August, 2017

I’m “on the road again” and have been interviewing rug makers along the way as I travel across Australia.

Maybe it’s my turn to answer these questions.

Like many of the rughookers I’ve spoken with, I come to rughooking from a background of “domestic” textile techniques; dressmaking and knitting.

First lessons from my Grandmother, a tailoress, then my Mother, a perfectionist; patterns were to be followed to the “T” and all preparatory steps adhered to.   I was still “tailor-tacking”  when everyone else had switched to knit fabrics, “quick” patterns and making a garment in an afternoon!

I also liked to draw and have dabbled with lessons in oils and water colour. Living in the USA, Caribbean, Philippines and North Africa and having been fortunate to travel in the UK, Europe and Asia; without really being conscious of it, I’ve been infused with an awareness of how other cultures use fabric, materials, colour and texture in their art whether it be fibre, tiles, rugs, paintings etc. which speaks to the importance of exposing oneself to a broad range of experiences and why pushing boundaries is so important, you never know how that experience might emerge through you work.

When I discovered rughooking it seemed as though “I’d come home”.

McGown pattern hooked by Jo Franco as a Show n Tell at a McGown Teachers Western Workshop

If a gallery called you, how would you describe your work?
Initially, I would have said I “painted with wool” (fabric strips). 






These days I’m more apt to say I use rug hooking techniques to create fibre art.

What captures your imagination about a particular technique or approach to your work?
The “simplicity” of the rughooking techniques means I don’t have to pick up a tape measure or a ruler – phew! There’s a certain “freedom” – I’m not constrained by tiny stitches or exacting work.

I find the simple repetitive movements of pulling loops to be very relaxing, even therapeutic.

These days I choose to work using recycled fabrics and yarn rather than the narrow strips of woollen fabric, width measured in 32nds of an inch, used for this rectangular Scroll Sampler (turned into a clutch purse) which shows the different types of shading.




Colour planning is now a different process for me. With an idea of the colours I want to work with – I gather fabrics in those hues, bunch them together and photograph and then begin to hook, often changing my mind as I go, instead of working it all out ahead of time, painting on paper and then dyeing fabric to come up with the desired results.

Who – or what – influenced your early work? Has your later work been influenced by the same person/style/technique?

Learning to hook while living in the United States and gaining my accreditation with the McGown Guild, gave me a great appreciation for the detailed and fine-shaded work of the many experienced rug hookers. Charlotte Price, then the Director of the Western Teachers’ Workshop, Eugene, Oregon, sponsored me, a novice rug hooker, to participate in the 5-year accreditation programme for rughooking teachers. Experienced rug hooking teachers come together at these annual week long residential gatherings to share their knowledge and rug hooking specialities, also train sponsored rug hooking teachers in the finer points of rug hooking and how to teach others. The prayer rug was the project for my first day as a rug hooker – not much was completed that first day. However, before I graduated it was finished, along with the other four projects from that first week.

Having the good fortune to take workshops from so many experienced and well known rug hookers from all over the USA and Canada, gives me a feeling of a personal connection when I see their names in print in Rug Hooking Magazine.

My fellow trainees included Laura Pierce (LWP) – from whom I’ve learned much about dyeing.  Also Michele Sirois-Silver who has taken rug hooking to a different level and is always happy to share her rug hooking “processes” with me.  “How to teach rug hooking” class was given by Michele Wise who’s gone on to become the Director of the McGown Western Teachers Workshop. Many Australian Guild members would have met Michele when she visited Australia as a member of TIGHR for the 2012 TIGHR Conference in Strathalbyn, SA.

“Rose Cottage” – was the pattern I was required to hook and teach for my final assessment.  A novice rughooker teaching a class of experienced teachers was a very stressful situation.

Something I’ve discovered about rug hookers in general though, is they are a very friendly group of people.  I’ll never forget how Oregonian Carol Fegles made me feel so welcome on that very first day back in 2002 when I arrived by myself at the Teacher’s Workshop, a complete stranger, knowing I really wasn’t qualified to be there.  I’m pleased and proud that I pushed through it, as it was too good an opportunity to miss and has opened up to me an exciting life of creativity, friendship and travel.

Several of my McGowan and TIGHR contacts are taking the traditional rug hooking craft into the world of ART. Through my association with these rug hooking artists and following their blogs I find myself wanting to “create” rather than just “do”.

“Handing it On” a hooked installation by Josephine Franco, exhibited at the Blender Gallery, Joondalup, Western Australia.

My later work has been influenced by the very creative Judi Tompkins as we work together on the Australian Rugmakers Guild website.

Entry in WAFTA’s “Mysterium” – Eco dyed silk by Judi Tompkins embellished with hooked sari silk off-cuts by Jo Franco

I also find inspiration through my association with the Western Australian Fibre & Textile Association. The membership represents emerging artists from different textile disciplines, providing an inspiring motivational environment, helping me to find my creative side, and to draw myself away from the “technical – by the book” approach! 

Volunteering as WAFTA Librarian means I’ve access to a wide collection of books on many different techniques. A learning experience in itself, as updating the library catalogue and setting up and maintaining the catalogue online, requires me to look through these inspiring publications.

Are you pleased with your artistic progress? What boundaries or limitations do you find are the hardest to push?

While I’m pleased with my artistic progress, I still value the traditional aspect of the craft of rug hooking knowing the reasons for the “rules” were mostly to do with serviceability.

However, I must say I’m enjoying the challenge of creating my own pieces. The hardest thing for me is to let myself “free up” and over-come the urge to try and just reproduce what I see and to stop worrying about being technically correct.  

Apart from pushing my “creativity”, I’m proud that in my “senior years” I’ve entered the world of IT and social media and have been able to apply what I’ve learned to various organizations; Local, State, National and International.  This speaks to networking which is so important in making the rug hooking craft known, especially in Australia, and helping to bridge the art/craft divide.

Where do you see your work in 1 – 2 – 5 years? In other words, where do you see yourself going with your current approach and technique?

Initially I was interested only in completing kits and giving rug hooking lessons.

To do this I had to first try and promote the craft and fell into the role of publicist for rug hooking in Australia. I’ve been Editor since the inception of the Australian Rugmakers Guild in  2008; covering this same position for TIGHR (The International Guild of Handhooking Rugmakers) from 2009-2015.

At the same time becoming the leader of a Community rug hooking group.

Over the 7 years of the Community Group’s existence, it has grown not only in numbers but also in creativity, with much sharing of techniques by the members.

I’ve facilitated the completion of several major works by this group, the works both donated to, and purchased by, the City, as well as creating a finalist entry in a “wearable art” competition in 2014.

Writing about rug hooking and networking is something I really enjoy, so I would like to continue with this while pushing myself to be more creative and enter rug hooked works in “textile art” exhibitions.

In what way do you think the techniques you currently use relate – or could relate – to other textile techniques? In other words, would you look to incorporation of other media as part of your work?

With the interest in up-cycling by many textiles groups and the use of re-cycled fabrics, I can see rug hooking techniques easily being incorporated into other disciplines. Likewise, embellishing and incorporating other media into my rughooking is possible, since rugs are no longer made only for the floor and serviceability is no longer the main consideration.

Aquarius – hooked & prodded by Jo Franco, featuring a shisha mirror & using sari silk off-cuts, recycled foil tape and carpet wool.



Creativity on the Sunshine Coast

ISSN 2207-001X  20th July, 2017

I travelled a great distance across Australia from Perth, in the West, to Queensland on the East Coast, (with a detour up the “red centre” to attend the Alice Springs Beanie Festival) to meet in Beerwah, Queensland with these extremely creative members of the Sunshine Coast Rugmakers Group.

However, I’m not the only one who has covered many outback miles to get here. Gail lives in Mitchell, QLD, West of Beerwah and she drove over 600ks (361 miles) a 6.5hr (non-stop) drive.

Gail; living in the Outback, is a solitary rug hooker and self taught, who likes to visit this group occasionally when the opportunity arises. We’ve had some phone and email conversations about The International Guild of Handhooking Rugmakers and I was pleased she came today to meet up with me.

Gail normally designs her own patterns, but is currently working on a Moose pattern purchased online from Deanne Fitzpatrick, Canada.  When we saw the yarn Gail had spun to use in this piece – everyone decided they must have some! and encouraged her to spin more. Purchase details for this brilliantly coloured yarn can be found on the Swap n Sell page of the Australian Rugmakers Guild website.

On a previous visit Gail shared some of her spun mohair (fuzzy) yarn with Pat who really liked the way it hooked up.

Pat; is currently working on a 3D (Waldobrough) frog pattern which she designed. A novelty blue yarn with a sparkle really gives an interest to the water under the lily pads in the hooked “pond”.  Judi Tompkins the leader of this group specializes in 3D works and has encouraged members of the group to give it a try.

Annette; arrived with her hooked “bear skin” – this project is being completed in two pieces because it would otherwise be very heavy and unwieldy.  When hooked, the body and back legs will be attached behind the head.

Annette showed us how she had used a hook to complete the bear’s face with a crocheted chain stitch. She inserts the backing between the hook and the chain being crocheted.  The backing(foundations cloth) for this project is a length of recycled curtain, it’s soft and easy to manipulate.   When the hooking is finished the edges will be turned under and a fabric backing will be stitched on.

Here is a close up image of the inside of an ear being worked in the chain stitch.

Annette said she could see this rug being used by a child to lay on to read a book, the raised bear head would make a good backrest.
What a great way to encourage kids to read!

Stella hooked away quietly throughout the afternoon of animated conversations.

  She’s working on a piece she drew inspired by an (Indian) Mewar design. Embellishments already include tails, manes and udders on the hooked animals.

Judy (Owen – not to be confused with Judi Tompkins) brought her latest rug to show me

it’s a combination of cross stitched floral squares which have been joined together using the proggy technique, with a hooked outside border picking up the colours of the flowers. It’s really quite dramatic and the colours in the border pull it all together beautifully.

Judy was a little concerned the proggy joins of the squares might cause ridges and a tripping hazard – not so, the rug lays flat on the floor and the black raised technique doesn’t create any visual lines, however accentuates each of the floral inserts.

After telling the group about a rug hooking challenge Judy Tompkins and I had discussed in length that morning, and  plan to present publicly in the near future,

Jo, Judy O, Pat & Stella, Back row – Annette & Gail (hidden)

the group discussed a recent interview between Judi and myself about creativity in hooking – it was interesting to hear the feedback as to whether they saw rug hooking as an art and themselves as artists :-

Gail felt her rug hooking was definitely art rather than craft, as she creates her own designs – her other comment was her rug hooking relieved stress. While the others mostly agreed, some felt that it also created a certain amount of stress – having to come up with a design and colour plan.

Annette thought rug hooking was addictive and also said it was a release for her fabric hording. She also felt a certain freedom working without a pattern or instruction.

Pat was drawn to watching her projects grow and attempting new techniques .

Judy O felt a certain amount of satisfaction being able to pull her other textile interest together with rug hooking techniques

and Stella eloquently commented on how she ….. loved the freedom, the fact that there were no limits, she found things in nature – particularly trees – spoke to her creative/spiritual side the most and she lost herself in those projects.   Also, it was “fast” – everyone agreed that while rug hooking was not fast for them, rug hooking was fast for Stella – maybe because she is able to loose herself in her projects and like today, she didn’t stop hooking as she talked.

Videos were made of the conversations taking place during the afternoon.

I discovered there is much to learn in order to be a videographer. Being so inexperienced, I now have many “segments”, which hopefully can be “stitched” together at some point in time to be shared online or by DVD.

The idea being, those who do not have the same opportunity to get together with a group, might enjoy hearing the conversations of like minded people. Here is one of the segments as an example ….


I hope you enjoy reading about this interesting afternoon. We look forward to you joining the discussion so feel free to click the “comment” link below and let us know what you think! The other links will redirect you to the ARG website.(Please note you don’t need to have a WordPress blog, but you do need to register with WordPress to leave a comment)

Happy Creative Rugmaking  – Jo Franco, Editor

The Art/Craft of Rughooking – a Southern Hemisphere Perspective

ISSN 2207-001X  13th July, 2017

Although there are a huge number of books, magazines and websites catering for the creative arts community, there is no platform that broadly showcases our Australian “take” on the traditional craft of rug making. Or, how the Australian artists perspective has pushed this craft into different and challenging paths by initiating a fusion of traditional rughooking with other media and techniques.

With this in mind we would like to know how you, as a textile and fibre artists, think as you approach your works; we would like to learn how you implement techniques from other handcrafts; and we are particularly interested to hear your stories and discover what inspires, influences and motivates you to create.

In the first of these interviews, Jo Franco, ARG Editor,  talks with Judi Tompkins, Textile Artist.



Migration” – an aerial coastal view

Jo: If a gallery called you, how would you describe your work?
Judi: My work derives from the traditional hooking and prodding but I have pushed both my personal boundaries as well as the limitations inherent to the traditional approach to this craft. I use a diverse range of fibre/fabric as well as “found” objects to create sometimes large 3-Dimensional, textural, embellished work that may be free-standing or unconventionally hung. About half of my pieces have been commission work and I welcome the lateral thinking challenge of tailoring a whimsical or “bespoke” piece to reflect a specific aspect of an individual or group. I love to ask “what would happen if…”?

Jo: What captures your imagination about a particular technique or approach to your work? 

Judi: I love both colour and texture whether in fibre art, ceramics, photographs, film, fine art, music or wherever else I find it. 

Deconstructed Fibre” a hooked puzzle.
Inside the puzzle box lid – “Mud map” as an assembly aid.

 I welcome the limitations and constraints placed on design ideas by the materials, techniques, tools and timelines. I’m “fired up” by textures and design ideas that let me challenge standard conventions and perceptions. My “eureka” moments tend to result in tactile fibre pieces that incorporate 3-Dimensional aspects that often reflect a bit of “whimsy”. 
At this stage, I chose techniques from the craft of rugmaking then proceeded to violate nearly every “rule” imposed by traditional rughookers. To my way of thinking, if something doesn’t make sense or work for a particular piece I will re-work the “advice” to suit my requirements.

Box containing hooked puzzle pieces – 16 actual pieces, an extra piece to create an additional challenge.


I love the meditative process of going into “the zone” while hooking and sculpting a piece. I delight in pushing the conventional boundaries and limitations of scale, shape, texture, media and technique. It’s a “good day” when I can “startle” a viewer by incorporating unexpected materials or embellishments into a piece.

The magic of this 3-D approach happens as the object or design slowly emerges from a tangle of fibre (the proverbial “dog’s breakfast”).  What is revealed is even a surprise to me.
I would hope someday to challenge the art world with one of my rug hooked pieces that could sit comfortably next to a piece of ceramics or painting.

Jo: Who – or what – influenced your early work? Has your later work been influenced by the same person/style/technique?

Folly: “Chook on a Ladder” 3D prodded chicken, hooked & proddy rug beneath.

Judi: As a child I was a collector of colourful “sparkly” rocks, driftwood and unusual buttons. My grandmother was a tailor who not only gave me buttons but made some amazing “crazy” quilts from the leftover fabrics that also found their way into her hooked and braided rugs. As an adult I became a “weekend” potter and was thoroughly beguiled by the texture, elasticity and tactile nature of the different clay bodies. Forming and shaping the fibres of 3-Dimensional pieces are reminiscent of handling, scraping and coiling clay but the material weighs much less!                               

I find the sculptural aspects of rughooking both intriguing and  even magical. I was drawn to rugmaking and hooking because of the recycled aspects of the craft and the basic stitches – hook and prod – were easy to learn. Since I don’t actually have 3-dimensional vision (only one working eye) I was perhaps crazy to make 3-D my preferred technique.
I always liked the work of Georgia O’Keefe and her use of colour, light and the juxtaposition of objects “out of place” – she says so much in a seemingly simple work. Salvador Dali and his surreal view of the world (and all who sail in her!) was pure delight!

Jo: Are you pleased with your artistic progress? What boundaries or limitations do you find are the hardest to push?
Judi: As a self-taught “hooker” I’ve surprised myself with the artistic progress I have made in the last 5 years.

Tall Ship “Tenacious” docked in Belgium (rug 26″ x 28″) recycled wool blankets, alpaca/mohair yarns, sari silk, sculpted, hooking. (This commission piece, an adaptation of the ship photo was sent to Belgium)

The boundaries I have found hard to push have to do with the traditional approaches and techniques that I don’t regularly use so my results are often not up to my expectations. I find it immensely difficult to work “small” due in part to the types of fibre I prefer. I am a bit intimidated by some of the free-form, 3-Dimensional ideas I have in my “mind’s eye” and will simply need to “have a go” and see what happens.


Tenacious” the proverbial “dog’s breakfast” view

My rule of thumb is “expect the unexpected or you won’t see it”.
I find it difficult to find others interested in discussing the process used to produce 3-D or structural pieces and see that as perhaps an unintended limitation imposed by those who are committed to the tradition of rugmaking.  I respect and have learned much from the traditions around this craft but I find tradition for traditions sake to be stifling. 

I will continue to do my own thing and seek to find others who are also interested in “different ways of thinking and doing”.

Jo: Where do you see your work in 1 – 2 – 5 years? In other words, where do you see yourself going with your current approach and technique?  

Judi: I would like to do more commission work and would particularly like to collaborate with artists working in other media.  

Baron” a family pet, a 3D commission piece sent to the USA

I have in mind to do some larger pieces that will incorporate other media – hopefully through collaboration.    I hope to expand on the whimsy in my work and perhaps incorporate more “fibre puns”.

Most of all I want to retain my apparently “skewed” view of the world and believe that Edgar Allen Poe describes me best: “From childhood’s hour I have not been as others were; I have not seen as others saw.”

Jo: In what way do you think the techniques you currently use relate – or could relate – to other textile techniques? In other words, would you look to incorporation of other media as part of your work?

Judi: Incorporating other media – including other textile arts – appeals to me because of the potential to introduce unexpected textural surprises.

Craig: The Poker Master” – a bespoke gift.


Since I no longer do any pottery or beadwork – and don’t have the hand skills for the other fine textile techniques – I would welcome an opportunity to collaborate with others who have these skills. Until I find a willing kindred artist, embellishments and “found objects” will continue to serve as my primary collaborators.


We encourage more Australian Guild members to share their rug making achievements,  please email  ……

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Rug Hooking with a difference

ISSN 2207-001X    27th June, 2017

While most of us sit quietly, contemplating design and colour choices as we hook, on patterns drawn out on a table.

Textile Artist, Bec Andersen of Mt. Tamborine, Queensland, completes her design on a computer, and then clambers up onto a scaffold to draw the design  directly onto her backing stretched taught on a large vertical frame, before plugging in her electric hand tufting gun and starting to work on her creation.

These images were taken (with permission) from Bec Andersen’s website, where you’ll see that while her technique is physically more demanding than the traditional way of sitting in an easy chair to hook, or even bent over a stretcher frame on trestle legs  ……. and, she does have to wear protective safety glasses ….. she can still “plug in” and listen to her favourite music, or get lost in her thoughts as she creates her rugs.

Bec’s somewhat unusual rug making technique came to mind as I was sharing a video post on the Guild Facebook page and updating the Guild Calendar of Events.

The Facebook post was “Soft Machine”, a rug made at Dovecot Tapestry Studio in collaboration with Glasgow based artist Jim Lambie. The rug, gun tufted by Dennis Reinmüller and Kristi Vana at Dovecot in 2016. Bec tells me she uses a similar technique but has a looser/more relaxed approach to the art of rug making.

Bec has traditional rug hooking workshops (not tufting gun) coming up at her Studio on Mt. Tamborine on the 4th & 5th of August this year. She also offers private workshops, maybe you’d like help in the design and planning stage of your rug?

If you’ve already attended a workshop with Bec, you’re invited to the monthly gathering of the Happy Hookers. RSVP essential.

Details for these social days and all workshops – Basketry, Dyeing, Printing and Special Events can be found on her website.

Bec is also very involved with community art projects as you will see from this video.

  Guild Members – do you have a rug hooking event coming up? or know of an associated textile craft event you like our members to know about?

Contact me via email and it will be added to the Calendar of Events.          Cheers  – Jo Franco, Editor






Reinforcing the Network

ISSN 2207-001X 26th June, 2017

Judi Tompkins and the Sunshine Coast RugCrafters in Queensland, recently had a visit from Jacqui Thomson of Milton, New South Wales, who had travelled north to visit her family and good friend Kathie Ryan who’d moved  from Canberra to Caloundra West

Kathie had attended Miriam and Jacqui’s rug days at Narrawilly along with Maggie Whyte, ARG Guild Vice President/Secretary also from Canberra.

Annette White is another Queensland rughooker who started rug hooking with Jacqui and Miriam in the Rug Room at Narrawilly before moving north, … so Jacqui’s trip to Queensland was a chance for all of them to reconnect.

The ladies from the Sunshine Coast are very innovated with their hooking and their designs.

Annette,  Judy and Pat, seen here admiring a rug Stella is making as a gift for a cancer treatment centre where she was treated (successfully). The group was surprised (although they shouldn’t be) at how quickly Stella had drawn and started hooking this new piece (under a week!).

“Where to from here” –
Judy Owen discusses the border of her rug with Bea Nitschke
and here is the finished project.

Annette is hooking a bearskin rug to go in front of her fireplace – a brown bear with raised head and legs splayed like a skinned bear.

 Here Annette is working on the bear’s head and chatting with Jacqui.

I’m looking forward catching up with the Sunshine Coast RugCrafters. We’re about to hit the road again, headed North to Tenant Creek and then East to Mt. Isa, Queensland – from there via Cloncurry & Longreach to Rockhampton on the coast, and south to meet up with the Sunshine Coast Rugcrafters in Beerwah.

The 21st Annual Alice Springs Beanie Festival closed today breaking several records; number of beanies submitted, and sold, funds raised and it looks like they’ve set the record for the Guinness Book of Records longest beanie; 500m of beanie worn today at one time by 125 people.
 See more about the Alice Springs Beanie Festival on the Guild Facebook page and read about it here
I spent time this afternoon talking about rug hooking to a couple I’d met in one of the workshops. Gave an impromptu demonstration – they were most interested – so it looks like there might soon be a new group of rug hookers in the Northern Territory!
Happy Rug Hooking,   Jo Franco, Editor

Australian-Canadian Rugmaking Connection

ISSN 2207-001X  18th June, 2017

The Australian Rugmakers Guild has several Canadian members. In recognition of Canada’s 150th “Birthday” celebrations Canadian rugmakers and their rugs have been featured on this Guild’s Facebook page.

Claudia Forster-Purchase (Allen) from Canada now lives in Brisbane, Queensland and has shared this image of a rug hooked by three different branches of the Nova Scotia Rughooking Guild.

Millennium Rug (2 meters x 1.2 meters)

Millennium Rug Nova Scotia CanadaThis rug was sent to each of the 3 branches in the Maritime Provinces in Eastern Canada to complete their section, and was finished in a year.

The rug was on display at the Canadian Embassy in Washington, DC for 8 years and is now hung at a college in Nova Scotia.

Before coming to Australia in 2013 Claudia was President of the Rug Hooking Guild of Nova Scotia.

Claudia said;  With more than 1,000 members in the Guild I was heavily involved with the day to day operations, including travelling to different branches, giving lectures, and teaching and organizing functions. During the summer the demonstrations would be at different venues, e.g. craft shops, community halls, schools etc. and people who attended would bring the old rugs that their ancestors had hooked, some rugs were over 100 years old.

Recognizing a record should be kept, not only of the image of the rug but the story that went with it, the Guild began a rug registry programme.

In the old days during the long winter period, women would gather at each other’s home for the day to hook rugs to be used on the floor to stop the snow and draughts coming in. One story told by an older gentleman was that he remembered as a boy having to stand on a chair and hold a lantern high so the ladies could see to hook.

This clam shell rug hooked by Claudia is a traditional Maritime pattern.

Clam shell a typical Maritime rug pattern

Claudia said; In part the longevity of the rugs was enhanced by turning them upside down for day to day use and turning them right side up when guests were coming to visit.

How about this for a cleaning process …… the rugs were laid out in the snow to kill any parasites and then swept off with a broom.

Claudia first met up with Australian rugmakers at Miriam Miller’s Rug Room in Narrawilly, Milton, New South Wales.  At that time she was working on this rug – her merpeople – “A ghra mo chroil” which she tells me is gaelic for

“Love of my Heart”

From the Editor;   Jo Franco

There have been “rug hooking  ties” between Canada and Australia since 1969.

Peter Whitehead recently contacted me to update information shown in the Guild History section regarding his mother, Pam Whitehead from the UK.  Pam came to Australia in 1953, married, then moved to Canada where she learned traditional rug hooking. On her return to Australia in 1969 Pam lived in Elizabeth, South Australia where she taught classes for many years.

Peter said; “My mother was involved in many crafts but Rug Hooking was her passion. She would have been so happy to see it continue to flourish in Australia.”