Functional Beauties: Hooked rugs cover Maine this summer

Spotted Dog, late 19th c.  Maine pattern hooked rug
Spotted Dog, late 19th c. Maine pattern hooked rug
(Laura Fisher at FISHER HERITAGE)
  • Sheep Rug, Frost Design, wool on burlap, 23 ¼ x 38 ¾ inches, Private Collection.

    Sheep Rug, Frost Design, wool on burlap, 23 ¼ x 38 ¾ inches, Private Collection.

    Courtesy of Farnsworth Art Museum

Antique hooked rugs are a folk art form prized by collectors for their originality and artistry. This summer, both the Farnsworth Art Museum and renowned textiles specialist Laura Fisher are celebrating the best of historic hooked rugs in separate, special exhibitions on the Maine coast.

Since the first half of the 19th century, rug hooking has been a popular craft in America, likely sprung from communities in Maine and the Canadian Maritimes. Hooked rugs were made from scraps of fabric and yarn to serve as functional floor pieces and as decorative embellishments for the home.

Similar to quilts, each piece reflects the taste and style of its maker---designs range from bold, bright patterns to whimsical renditions of animals.

The Farnsworth Art Museum, in the seaside town of Rockland, is presenting about forty prime examples of Waldoboro, Arts and Crafts, cottage industry and other historic types, in Rug Hooking in Maine and Beyond, an exhibition organized by guest curator Mildred Cole Péladeau. The display is on view now through December 31, 2010.

Laura Fisher is an American textile and quilt authority known for her New York City gallery FISHER HERITAGE. She has organized 'Hooked!', a show and sale of hooked rugs at John Sideli's gallery in Wiscasset, the charming coastal village known for its antiques shops and Red's Eats lobster rolls.

From June 17 to July 17, Fisher will display geometric, pictorial and floral hooked rugs, from Maine and elsewhere, many of them from the same communities and resources on exhibit at the Farnsworth.

Highlights include a mid-19th century exuberant floral hearth rug of vivid color and monumental size; late-19th century animal rugs hooked from the patterns of Maine entrepreneurs Frost, Ross and Gibbs; a leafy geometric runner from New Hope, PA. artist Arthur Meltzer; a hunting scene and a rare geometric mat from the Grenfell Industries; raised motif Waldeboro-type florals; and graphic rugs with modern geometry and timeless appeal.

Antiques dealer John Sideli, who is also an artist, has relocated his gallery to the former ballroom of Wiscasset's 19th-century Masonic Temple. His inventory ranges from antique American folk art to African and Pre-Columbian art.

Throughout the summer, Fisher will show her selections of antique quilts, coverlets, blankets, and textiles alongside Sideli's choice collections.

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