Potholder Rugs came to me as an epiphany back in 1990 or 1991. At the time, I was running the 40-person production company I founded in 1988. We were making and selling Ragamuffins (anyone out there remember Ragamuffins™??) as well as home goods, clothing, and accessories all from recycled wool sweaters. 350 retail outlets were served with our wares all over the United States, Canada, and even a handful of accounts in Europe, Australia and Japan. Raw materials were ordered from a network of used clothing wholesalers and delivered in 1000lb bales in tractor-trailer loads.
There was a substantial volume of raw materials amassing that was not suitable for our product mix. The growing pile of this material had holes, stains, was of mixed synthetic fiber, was very loose knit or otherwise did not make the cut for what we were producing.
I joke about needing a 12-Step Program for recycling, and honestly have a strong aversion to throwing things away that might be used in a productive way. That giant pile of sweaters without an end-use was really creeping into my thought and creative mindset. Without planning or much cognizant thought, I built a ‘loom’ from some donated canvas stretchers and finishing nails that were kicking around the studio. That was the device I used to weave the very first Potholder Rug of all time. The fruit of that epiphany — a gorgeous 4’x6’ bright red/pink and orange Potholder Rug, made in sections and sewn together — is in my studio to this day, 28 years later. It has served as a nursery rug for my son’s first bedroom (he is nearly 26 now) it has been cleaned many times, has had dogs, cats, and kids snuggle up on it, and has served as a layer of cozy on my office floor for the last couple of winters. AND it still looks pretty dang good!
Non-profit and community groups often invite me to participate in summer events around my Berkshire County, Massachusetts home base. It has been difficult to figure out how to make said events work well for me, or, to say ‘no thanks’ to people and organizations that I would like to support. The things I make and sell are high-end and not normally an impulse purchase at a community fair or festival. Back in 2015 my friends Nancy and Allen Timmons were organizing a Summer Solstice Kick-Off event for the Great Barrington Fairgrounds Community Gardens and asked me to join them with a booth of my work. After humming and hawing I realized that they, as craftspeople, would certainly understand my conundrum so we chatted about how much it would mean to me to be able to create a win/win by participating and making it worth my time to be present. Not sure now if it was Allen or Nancy who suggested a clothing drive rather than a selling set-up. Immediately inspired, rather than simply setting up a clothing donation station, I decided to bring along a giant Potholder Rug Loom, a rotary cutting pad and several cutters, and spend the day turning the onsite clothing donations into a magnificent Potholder Rug. That day we wove an amazing story. There were people from all walks of life who helped to make a big beautiful rug that was sold with proceeds going to support the community garden.
Watching those who gathered literally weaving themselves into the story, one strip of their own clothing at a time, brought me to a place of pure joy. I carry a vivid memory of witnessing the organization of a pile of what most people would see as trash into this very useful and aesthetically wonderful carpet. This moment is one in my life that needs no documentation, as that memory is gracefully etched into my very being. A door opened that day. That door has led me down the path to many joyful supportive and supported places where people have come together weave a Community Potholder Rug — that is, to build a sum much greater than their parts. As my life unfolds into all that is magical, positive, empowering, and welcome, I am able to share these strong, life affirming, beautiful events with many. So, as we are fed the never-ending diatribe of negative atrocities happening near and far, remember that there is magic happening, too. Communities are coming together. Life-long friendships are being built, appreciated, and nurtured. Strangers from all different ethnic backgrounds, generations, socio-economic groups, and histories come together to create — to weave themselves and their stories into a tangible useful beautiful Potholder Rug. It is my goal to allow all types of people to participate and be acknowledged for their bright shiny beautiful contributions to our culture. Let us spend time today, and each day following, honoring all that is human beauty. Let us begin by honoring ourselves — take a look in the mirror and see the beauty, the good, the honor, humor and magic that is you. Then, remember we all have these traits. The more we encourage ourselves and each other to share goodness, the sooner we will see the benefits of community.
If your organization would like to schedule a Community Potholder Rug Weave, contact us for details on how it all works!
AND if you would like to purchase a handful of $10 tickets to be entered in the drawing for this, my latest Community Potholder Rug Weave at Maine Fiber College, click here! The rug is approx.. 5’x7’ made from a combination of t-shirts, sweatshirts, sweaters, odd socks, and polar fleece. The drawing is scheduled for late November.
Oh, and Maine Fiber College? Yeah, That is a super charged place encouraging all manner of connection community and magic. You can learn all about it on their website and Astrig Tanguay, proprietress extrodinaire, posted all about this magic here.