Location: St. Albert

Rachelle LeBlanc – Fine Craft Through Fine Rug Hooking

Rachelle LeBlanc – Fine Craft Through Fine Rug Hooking

The Picnic

Fibre artist Rachelle LeBlanc had no idea that when she took a stress-reliever escape trip to Shelburne, Vermont back in 2003 that she would be returning with more than just a rested mind, but also a new found passion. It was while touring what is now called the Patty Yoder Gallery that she was intrigued by the remarkable hand-hooked rugs displayed there. With the often frenetic pace of work and raising a family she knew that she needed another focus, a hobby that would allow her to unwind and release her energy. Upon her return home she learned that her mother-in-law had a latch hook that she could have for free. Rachelle didn’t need any more encouragement than that, and she started playing around with some scrap pieces of wool and quickly realized that she had found it; she was hooked.

Sweetness In The Shade

Sweetness In The Shade

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Rachelle says that she loves being an artist because it suits her temperament well. She loves doing her own thing and rug hooking is an activity that requires her to slow down, breathe and enjoy the quiet time within her studio; a meditative process that acts to expel the stresses of daily life. The balance to this, and her favourite facet of rug hooking, is the fun she derives from creating challenging patterns and working through the difficult details leading up to the fulfilling completion. This is why she chooses to do fine rug hooking as opposed to the primitive style. A piece can become more difficult by utilizing more colours and detail, and she notes that the longer a rug takes to complete the more spectacular it will become. The Picnic (shown at top) had more colours than any other piece she has done and took 2 1/2 months to complete. Personally, I am astounded that every difference in colour, shading, wrinkle or detail of a subject is a different piece of wool and can be put together with such clarity. Another challenge she took on was to hook a three dimensional piece. She chose a male child as her subject and using a mannequin of a one year old she designed a pattern. Using the problem solving and results from her first sculpted piece, Rachelle is looking forward to creating a series and adding more dimensions such as the next figure having ears and so on.

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Harvest

Harvest

Rachelle always creates her own designs with good reason. Inspired by her family and what’s going on in her life at the time, Rachelle’s subject matter for her rugs are a reflection of her own story and the emotions she felt surrounding a particular moment. In her studio she can take that emotional thread and release it into a hooked rug where it will forever be memorialized. Through time and hard work I can see that she is creating a “storybook” or “photo album” chronicling parts of her family’s life that can be handed down to the next generation. I also feel that she is leaving a legacy of her passion and of who she was. I especially like the subject matter reflecting the simple pleasures of life and things that matter the most; family, nature and events surrounding both.

Bed of Violets

Bed of Violets

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The process of hooking a rug will start with an initial sketch from a photograph of a particular scene or subject. Rachelle will then do mini watercolour paintings to figure out the colour variations, even down to the proper skin tone, and will lay out her piles of coloured wool to determine her palette and what she has available. If she is lacking the proper colour she will dye the amount of wool needed to accommodate a specific section. It’s much like a painter determining their colour palette to use and mixing paints to arrive at the vision they imagine.

Orchard

Orchard

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Unlike painting, rug hooking has historically not enjoyed the same recognition as a fine visual art. Admittedly Rachelle has not experienced this stigma herself but has rather received great support and feedback from the arts and crafts community. Will we someday see hooked rugs hanging in fine art museums around the world? Maybe it is already happening, for back in 1990 Rachelle saw some Jacquard weaved pieces hanging in a fine art museum and this ignited in Rachelle a goal to someday see her own work hanging in one. I think Rachelle’s drive to always challenge herself and push the boundaries of rug hooking, along with finding joy while doing so, are all the ingredients she needs to achieve her dream.

Enjoy our video interview with Rachelle and please feel free to comment below and share on social media and email.

Kristin Anderson’s Flowers are Blooming Beautiful

Kristin Anderson’s Flowers are Blooming Beautiful

It’s finally here! After the lengthy endurance of winter’s icy grip and with the arrival of the first day of spring, we move forward with great relief toward warmer temperatures. The palette of nature transforms itself from stark white to a rainbow of colours as the blossoms and flowers pop their heads up to greet the warmer sun and begin the celebration of a renewed cycle of life. For many people the arrival of flowers brings great joy. In droves we head to the garden centre to stuff our trunks with annuals and perennials to build little flower communities in our gardens. For the remainder of the warm months we find our senses become drenched in the colour and fragrance of the happy blooms. What if you were the kind of person who, in the company of flowers felt like your head was about to explode? Many people solve the problem by using antihistamines. We know of one unfortunate sufferer of flower allergies who found an innovative and fun way to enjoy their beauty without the irritating consequences. Meet Kristin Anderson, a polymer clay artist from St. Albert, Alberta.

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Kristin loves flowers but unfortunately they don’t love her. Ironically, her mom Flora is a florist and she would give Kristin beautiful arrangements for her birthday but sadly she couldn’t have them in her house. Then one day Kristin decided that a big old tree in their front yard had to go. It was blocking all the natural light into their home so Kristin’s intent was to replace it with a Japanese Cherry Blossom tree. To her disappointment, she discovered that Alberta doesn’t have the climate to support this type of tree. Determined to have a Japanese Cherry Blossom in her life she decided to sculpt one, and so began her journey into creating three dimensional wall art with flowers being the main focus.

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The need to have this particular tree in her life led Kristin into a creative endeavour that she never imagined would bring her to where she is today. She found that she had an affinity for the polymer clay, and within six months her hobby found it’s way onto the walls of friends, then onto the walls of admirers, and then a solo exhibition at the Muttart Conservatory in Edmonton. She hasn’t looked back and at times finds it hard to keep up. She sold ten of her twelve pieces at the exhibition and acquired fifteen commissions from that show. I find this truly encouraging from the perspective of people who would like to step into a creative realm as well as the enthusiasm shown by people buying art from artists.

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Art and flowers should be something that all people can enjoy including those that are physically impaired in some way. Kristin knows this all too well. Her allergies prevented her from enjoying flowers but at the same time that affliction was also the catalyst to a new art passion. In turn, this enabled her to share both her art and flowers with a lady who is visually impaired. When we were visiting Kristin she was in the process of finishing up a piece for her. Kristin’s goal was to make a durable orchid so that it could be admired and appreciated through her touch. What a wonderful way to bring visual art to a tactile world!

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Through an odd twist of fate, Kristin followed in her mother’s footsteps and became a polymer clay florist. Her flower creations are arranged on canvas and placed in the appropriate frame. The frame is the vase where each bouquet remains everlasting. Long stem roses are deserving of a crystal vase or an ornate frame while poppies are better suited in something more demure; either way Kristin seems to have a talent for cultivating beautiful blooms in her oven.

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I have to admit, I am not a cut flower person. It is not that I don’t enjoy their beauty but I am pragmatic about it. It makes no sense to me to spend money on something that comes up short lived on the enjoyment meter. I would rather they stay in the ground where I can enjoy them for a much longer time. Having said that I don’t judge people who do like a vase on the table. However, the next time you want to buy your sweetie some cut flowers consider this; Kristin’s blooms will last a lifetime and maybe even for generations; they are always beautiful; their petals never fall off or fade; they brighten up a space even in the middle of winter and they can always remind that significant someone of a moment in time when they received that special bouquet.

Please join us as Kristin talks more about her creative passion. Also, we love comments and appreciate it if you share Kristin’s story on social media and through e-mail. Thank you.