Hooked Rugs As Folk Art


Warm hues, textures and forms of folk art will beckon visitors into the Lexington Avenue armory from the wintry NYC streets  as Antiques at the Armory, produced by Stella Show Mgmt Co, gets under way January 20-22.

This show is known for its stellar lineup of antiques dealers who specialize in folk art, and one of the most popular expressions of the canon are the wonderful New England hooked rugs. A floral hooked rug on a white ground is a Maine hearth rug hooked on linen, which, according to Tom Jewett of Jewett-Berdan, Newcastle, Maine, makes it earlier than one hooked on burlap.

“This rug dates to about 1850 to 1860, judging by the fabrics and design of the rug,” says Jewett. Its maker also used a combination of hooking and shearring techniques, the latter simply the hooker cutting the loops after it was hooked in certain areas, such as the leaf design, to give it a more textured look and dimension.

“What is great about this rug, even though it is of mid-Nineteenth Century design, is that it could easily fit in a contemporary setting with its free-flowing sense and abstract center,” says the dealer. It measures 26 by 52½ inches.

Jewett and his partner, Charles “Butch” Berdan, gravitate to rugs from an earlier time period, sewn rugs that include several techniques, such as shirring (not the same as shearring), a technique in which fabric lies on top of the rug. “They are very rare and getting harder to find,” he adds. “Right now we only have two in our inventory that are reed stitched from this period. We just sold two rugs — one yarn sewn and the other a shirred sewn rug. But we love hooked rugs and have always bought them and we always have a number of them in our inventory.

Another rug the dealers will showcase is a whimsical house rug in a colorful garden and folky tree design. Just as a gardener would plan a growing space, the hooker of this rug gave its design a tremendous amount of thought. “You have a wonderful flowing floral and vine border, a house that is oversized in the center with a checkerboard-like roof. Then you have a number of wispy trees,” says Jewett. He points out that a successful use of colors in the background in the flowers and landscape of this rug also makes it a natural for fitting into a contemporary setting. The rug is hooked on burlap and dates to the 1920s and measures 37½ by 71 inches.

The third rug coming to the show is one of the dealers’ all-time favorite rugs —a rug hooked on burlap depicting an oversized turkey and a cheery “Welcome to Turkey Hill.” “We had known about this rug for years in a private collection and tried to buy it, but it was never for sale,” says Jewett. “Then, it finally went up for sale and we ended up with it after some stiff competition. The creator of this rug was an accomplished rug hooker because of the use of colors, design and fine hooking. The artistry also endows the rug with an abstract, folky quality.

In short, it is  just one example of something that, according to Jewett, “just makes you smile when you look at it and that is what folk art should do.”

Jewett-Berdan also have a few surprise rugs coming to the show. Make sure to visit their booth and check out their website at www.jewettandberdan.com. For show information, www.stellashows.com or 973-808-5015. —W.A. Demers

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1 Comment

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