breathe life back into their existence. For those of you unfamiliar with Frenchys, it’s a chain of second hand clothing outlets where you can buy, new to you, brand name clothing for mere pocket change and more importantly, a place for Nova Scotian rug hookers to buy recycled wool garments.
I can’t recall a name, but a rug hooker discovered this unfinished mat in a bin and brought it to a NS Rug School to put in the silent auction; an annual fundraiser put on by the guild to raise money for charity. I was drawn to it immediately and muscled in to take the prize at any cost. I might add, there was some pretty serious competitive bidding as we all saw the beauty and merit in this piece. I don’t know what the others intended to do with it, but I was entertaining serious thoughts of finishing it.
The two things that appealed to me were the Emperor’s incredible right hand and his pantaloons.
Eerily clawish, the hand models realistic fingers and long nails that drip down into dagger like points and the pants, of numerous colours, were done in values, at least six for each colour used needing a huge stash of dyed wool to draw from. When looking at the finite details of this piece you get the feeling you are witnessing true hooking mastery.
The person who designed and hooked this rug was an artist in every sense of the word. Not only were the subjects stunning but the pattern was drawn directly on the backing, a feat few would attempt unless you held the confidence of a steady hand and the ability to transfer an idea of the mind to paper with minimal effort. There were very few corrected lines which impacted on me greatly because I know how difficult interpreting a thought to paper can be without wearing down an eraser!
The Emperor’s face is amazing. Hooked with high contrasting detail it appears hard, old, weather beaten and a little bit scary, exactly as a fearless, brutal, warrior's face would. Unfortunately the Geisha’s face was never done but you can imagine the pale white skin, a mask like backdrop to
bright, red ruby lips.
The shading of their costumes was also well done, not using as many values, but enough to make the folds of cloth appear draped and flowing. This artist/rug hooker knew how to manipulate colour to maximize a realistic approach.
There are unhooked Chinese stylistic bats around the Emperor’s head (one has a completed face) and swirls of smoke indicative of Chinese dragon designs. The lotus flowers and butterflies are cleverly shaded, sometimes very simply but done in such a manner that creates maximum effect. This person knew what they were doing when applying colour to captivate interest from an audience.
There are so many details, I wish you could see them all but the pictures are blurry when enlarged and the drawn lines are faded. These pictures were taken when I first bought the rug, before I packed it away for a later time. But if anyone is interested I could take it out for measurements and close-ups. I often pondered why it ended up in a bin and sold for a pittance when it was destined to become a showpiece. The obvious conclusion, someone must have died and their family didn’t realize the treasure they uncovered.
Unfortunately, the rug reeked of moth balls, indicating it was probably stored in a trunk for some time. You can imagine it rolled up, waiting patiently to be taken out, unfurled and finished; but alas, life’s circumstance intervened, cheating it from being fulfilled as the great piece of hooked art it was meant to be and then discarded like yesterday's trash. I aired it out in the back storage room for weeks until I could tolerate it in the shop and then packed it away for another time. Back in the day I was young and foolish and filled with romantic notions of finishing it, but now with so many relevant pieces to hook I don’t have the time or inclination to do anything with it. Besides, the burlap had sprouted a few holes along the way and looked sun baked and brittle, not a project to waste time on unless you want your heart broken. I once pondered separating it into into sections, (the designer actually sewed the panels together as if adding each of the two figures was an afterthought) finish the Geisha’s face and then frame the two figures but I hated to destroy the creator’s vision, ruin the story they were trying to tell. If anyone has an idea or suggestion of what I might do, let me know! If anyone would like to hook this design I could even make it into a pattern.
Or even better, maybe someone out there knows the history of this piece. To land in a Frenchys' bin it had to arrive from the United States as the clothing bales come from south of the border, but initially, it could have originated from further afield. The mystery is very intriguing and it’s fun to surmise the journey that transported this spectacular rug to little ole Mahone Bay.