I mentioned once before that she never had a bad word to say about anyone but one day she dropped in after the guild hook-in wearing a bit of a scowl. I had to pry what happened out of her and after the words were spoken we both broke into side splitting laugh. A couple of rug hooking teachers told her they didn’t like the design, that the cats were pinheads. She loved the pattern, nothing would change that, but she resented the comments because they were unnecessary and hurtful to me. She told me that some of teachers had cooled toward her since she started coming to me for advice, designs and colour planning. Apparently the new kid on the block had inspired a bit of professional jealously. Well, I took that as an elephant sized compliment! Wow, seasoned rug teachers offended by little ole, wet behind the ears me! It seemed ridiculous and for want of a better thing to do, we laughed our socks off.
Pinheads…what a lovely new name for my folk art kitties! The trio was never meant to be serious, just a few cats boldly wearing hats, probably heading for lunch at Tiffanys. When was the last time you saw pear shaped, big bottomed cats, wearing a string of pearls and wide brimmed hats? They weren't meant to be serious, Just a bit of whimsy. Jean and I shared that private joke, we'd look at one another and I'd see that sparkle of mischief and we'd launch a new round of chuckles.
Mary hooked the design next. I loved the way Jean’s turned out but it was a gift for a family member so all I had left was a picture. I mentioned it would be nice to have the pattern hooked and on display in the shop and Mary took the challenge. Back then, both Mary and Susan Leslie helped me fill the shop walls with my hooked designs. I would give them a pattern, they would hook it to their own specifications and then I would buy the rug to hang on the wall to showcase the design. It as a win win situation as I didn’t have enough time fill the shop with hooked pieces on my own and I had a vision!
So Mary decided to portray the cats as members of the Red Hat Society and a clever idea it was. So she made the felines varying shades of purple and capped them off in red chapeaus. It made for a pretty fetching rug. The cats bold expressions have rich with personalities and the rug has served me well as a display piece, selling patterns and kits and is still hanging in the shop today. Except for that group of teachers, not one customer since has called my hatted cats pinheads.
Since then a number of people have hooked this pattern, each putting their own stamp on it. I’ve made several kits of dyed, carbon copies of Mary’s version but I do love to see different colour palettes, such as the two featured pieces by Janet Delo and Shirley Good below.
I’ve run into a a few problems over the years designing patterns but I’ve let it roll off my back. You have to look at the source and consider where the comment is coming from as to whether it’s constructive criticism or something caked with hidden agenda. One of the teachers that called my cats pin heads also told a student that another pattern of mine was riddled with design flaws and couldn’t be hooked, the now infamous "Away in the Manger" rug. I’ve talked about this before and I hooked the rug to prove that it could be done. I'm a bit temperamental about my work and don't like having it slagged off unfairly. But like I said you have to consider the source and judge accordingly.
So that leads to another story. I was in business for a few years when a woman dropped by the shop, someone I knew well and was respected as one of the matriarchs in the rug hooking community. She said she would like to have a ‘chat’ with me about something "we" are concerned about. The “we” indicated she was the appointed spokesperson of her group and the conversation went like this.
Woman - "Christine, We feel that you shouldn’t be designing oriental patterns."
Me - Hah? (to shocked to form a sentence)
Woman - “Yes, we feel that because you have never taken an Oriental rug hooking class, your knowledge of Oriental design isn’t enough to produce proper patterns."
Me – “I can draw and I can hook..... I think I'm capable of knowing if a design is hookable or not."
Woman – “Yes well, we feel that you should first take an oriental class before undertaking those particular designs. They are quite difficult.”
Me – Tell me, who am I supposed to be taking this oriental class from? It is abundantly clear your group only endorses Dorothy Height, who is no longer teaching, so please tell me, who am I supposed to be taking this class from?”
She sputtered a bit, didn’t have an answer so I continued.
Me – “You know as far as I’m concerned rug hooking isn't rocket science. If you want to make it
sound difficult that is perfectly fine but I don’t. And as far as my designs are concerned, they are meticulously drawn. I hook them in my head as I draw the lines."
I could tell that she was highly offended that I thought rug hooking wasn’t rocket science but always the lady, she took what I said gracefully and quietly replied. “We just thought you should know” and left me to work through what the hell just happened. It was a scratch your head moment, an out of the blue, slap on the hand.
I stood there utterly bewildered and let her words fully absorb. After a big shrug, I went back to my work table that just happened to have an Oriental drawing in progress. I didn’t blink an eye as I picked up my pencil and continued to create Blue Beijing.
I didn’t hold the little "chat" against her and until she passed away we were good rug hooking friends. The fact that I continued to design Oriental patterns was never verbalized again, but I was well aware how that group of "we" placed me on the rug hooking totem pole. Silly was the word that came to mind because I view rug hooking as fun; a craft; an outlet for creative thought, not world domination where you have conform to someone elses ideal. It's your prerogative if you want to think rug hooking is only for the Oriental, fine cut elite, and you can think you’re climbing Everest every time you hook a rug; just don’t tell me or anyone else for that matter, that they have to climb it as well.