Friday, December 29, 2006

Antique Folk Art Hooked Rugs

Those of you who've read my blog in the past know how much I love early antique textiles, especially hooked rugs. The ones which truly catch my eye are those which are original designs, drafted by an artist-hooker 100 or more years ago. Although there are many stamped pattern rugs which are beautiful, there's just something about a one-of-a-kind design that speaks to my heart.

Today I'm showing a couple of animal hooked rugs. Animal rugs are some of the most desirable designs to be found in the antique hooked rug world. Both of these were hooked by hand in wool strips, not yarn.

were both made c. 1900, and each has it's own "character". The horse rug was made by an unknown hooker somewhere in New England. It shows the fine use of shading and color, which gracefully showcases the artist's view of this prancing, dancing horse. This rug has lots of action, yet not too much in over-powering details.

Typical of the time period, the colors are muted and primarily in soft tans and browns, with only a hint of bright color in the partial blue sky and the reds, blues and whites in the leaf & vine border. This is a fabulous, one-of-a-kind piece of fo
lk art, clearly showing the artist's imagination and expertise. It deserves a special wall for all to enjoy, and belongs in a top-quality antiques collection.

It is quite large - approximately 5' x 5.5', and is mounted on a strong wood frame so it can be hung. For a hooked rug, it is somewhat uncommon in shape, being more square than rectangular. The last time I saw it, it was one of the shops in Wiscasset, Maine, priced at just under $6000.

The next rug is more stylized, also from the turn of the last century. This too is a one-of-a-kind hooked rug, and this particular hooker designed a silhouette of a black Labrador retriever with a shaded
background. The light tan shades make this dog's image really pop, and it is a really superb rug.

Approximately 3' x 5', this simple design was well-done, with good outlines of ear and eye. The use of black color blocks in each corner provide a "frame" around this rug's main character - the artist wanted a quiet, pure vision of this dog, uncomplicated and easy on the eyes. The black color "blocks" draw one's eyes inward directly towards the central image.

This rug was found recently at a Michigan antiques show, priced at $3200. It originally came from Ohio, and - as the horse rug - was mounted as folk art.

Both of these rugs were in exceptionally fine condition, showing their age and textile "patina", yet without stains or other damage. If you are looking for a good rug to add to your collection, be sure to carefully search a potential purchase for damage, stains or dry rot. Those which are already mounted might be a bit harder to examine, but you should still be able to see any major problems. Don't worry about the minor stain or damage - it's just part of the rug's history and life. In the end, you as the buyer must decide what is acceptable to you personally in terms of textile problems, keeping in mind the price of the rug and how strongly it "speaks" to you.
Just remember that there are not huge numbers of early wool hooked rugs out there - time and owner care often compromise a rug's original good looks. If a rug speaks to your heart, and you know you'll love it, buy it and enjoy it. I can tell you from nearly thirty years of experience that I've never bought a single antique that I've regretted, because I only bought those which spoke to my heart and my heart has never led me wrong.

BUT - I can give you a list more than the length of my arm of wonderful antiques which spoke to me and that I passed up, and now definitely regret not buying. Some had a bit of damage, or were priced more than I wanted to pay. I wish I'd ignored the damage, or had negotiated time payments for those special antiques. My husband and I now whistfully talk about "the ones that got away." They are gone forever now, and I do wish I'd been more open and creative in arranging for them to come home with me.

Just so you have an idea of what mounting a rug costs, the current rate in my area is approximately $15-20 a square foot for a rug around 3' x 5' in size or under. Larger rugs are a bit more of a challenge to a professional rug mounter, and sometimes the cost is more just because of the extra time, materials and special care needed for quality work.

Before you hire someone to mount your rug, ask to see some examples so you are cmfortable with their work. There are good mounters and not-so-good mounters, and you want someone who truly understands antique textiles. Discuss in detail if there are any extra costs - cleaning, repairs, mounting design that allows both vertical and horizontal hanging (good for geometric rug designs), etc.

Above all, get a detailed receipt for your rug, including a written description. Remember to take a photo of it before you turn it over to a mounter. Last but not least, do ask for an approximate date when the rug will be finished to be included in your receipt.

1 comment:

Coco said...

Just came across your blog. Very interesting! love your photos!