Nine Lessons in Hooking Freestyle with Deanne Fitzpatrick
This is one crazy course. It is all over the place. That is how I hook, that is how I love sometimes. It is an authentic look at how I created what I believe to be important in making rugs freestyle.
In putting together this course I realized that freestyle is not just a technique it is a way of being. It is a way of living. I have combined two ideas here. One is living like an artist. Whether you feel you are an artist or not you can act like one. In acting like one you become more like one, and becoming more like one is an essential part of hooking freestyle. This course will go over nine elements that I think are important in hooking freestyle.
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Lesson 1: Introduction to Hooking Freely
Here is the place we begin.
You have to let go of everything you have been "taught" as a rug hooker.
In art there are no hard and fast rules. This is your time to explore.
Picture yourself running down a gentle slope of wildflowers. Experience the colour, the drama, the unsteadiness underfoot. Picture yourself feeling safe and comfortable in the uncertainty. Knowing that everything is going to be alright.
Because it is. It's only a rug after all.
That sounds like I don't care. But the truth is I care so much. My rugs are really important to me. But I know I have to let them come out of me. I cannot try to hard to control every step of the process.
I always find metaphors for art and life. And this is just another one. My rugs are not like my children. I never understand when people ay that. My children are far more important to me.
My children do have something in common though with me rugs. They are partly my creation, and in being a creation they are completely their own thing. If I tried to control my children, I would stifle them and if I try to control my rugs I stifle them.
In fact I think I have come to realize that there is no way I can control either and I have come to accept that. I did not start out that way. I think in the beginning I thought I had some control over each of them. Time has a way of fixing that for you.
So many times I set out to make a rug and it turned out so differently that I imagined. Any of you who have children, know the same it true. Your children are born with their own soul. So is our art.
I learned this with my second rug. I had a swatch of chintz wallpaper and I was going to hook a rug like it. Well there were problems from the outset. I did not have all the right colours. I did not have the skill, I was a beginner. But the real problem was not a problem at all I learned.
I could not make it exactly like that . I had to make it like me. I had to make it the way that was inside of me, which was different than what was inside who ever designed that wall paper.
So like my children, I started out thinking there was some control, only to learn that as a parent you are just facilitating. You are creating, and creativity has it's own way of being. That rug , my second ever, was one of my greatest lessons in rug hooking. I learned that you cannot make things exactly as you want them . You have to let it happen, let them emerge.
The thing is , that the rug was itself. That is enough, and that is all it can ever be.
Just like you as a person, you cannot be someone else.
Each of is ourselves, and that is enough in itself.
It may not at times, be all we want to be, but it is what we are and what we are is enough.
Enough in itself.
So know that this course is going to be about more than making a hooked rug. It is about becoming.
It is about emerging.
In the coming lessons I will be showing you my process for this. In doing that I hope it will help you uncover your own.
It is about blooming.
Rug hooking has helped me bloom as an artist but also as a person. I think that you cannot really bloom as an artist with out blooming as a person. Art is about looking at yourself, and the world around you sand filtering that back out to the world through whatever medium you choose. For me that has one ever been making rugs.
It has helped me examine my own life, my family life, the women around me, the landscape I grew up with, the landscape I live in. It has made me understand, and it has made me forgive. Rug hooking has deepened me and widened me. What more could you ask from a craft?
There is no doubt in my mind that art has made me a better person. In taking the time to make rugs I have discovered things about myself that I never would have known. I am so grateful for it.
So in making it more important. In putting more artfulness into your rug hooking, you are about to embark on a journey. It is a journey that is going to allow you a lot more freedom and I hope you'll grow as I have on.
This is an early work where I examined my child hood home so closely. In making these rugs I though so much about my relationships with our neighbours, about how I loved the landscape where I grew up. I think many artists go on this road of self discovery whatever their art form. Writers, painters, rug hookers, singers, many of us feel the need to explore our pasts.
Your early work as you begin to hook as an artist is going to be influenced by what you know and understand. Our childhood and the world around us are the first places we look.
What is Hooking Free Style?
It is simple. It is just letting go.
It is difficult. It is just letting go.
It is about throwing away the book of rules and finding your own sense of movement so that your stitch becomes your own.
In my experience of over twenty five years of teaching rug hooking, letting go seems to be the hardest part for people. Some people innately have it. They come to it easily but they are very few. For most people it matters. For some people every loop they pull matters.
Kaffee Fasset , the renowned designer came to my studio once for a talk and a workshop with a group of people. In the evening, after the class was over he was puzzled and frustrated that people were worrying so much about the height of their loops. He said that they hooked like every loop mattered, instead of thinking of the work they were doing as a whole. When you are so concerned about every loop , it is impossible to get lost in the process. It is impossible to get any flow.
It would be easy if I could tell you that certain personalities can let go more easily than others but I have not found that to be true. What I do know is that letting go can be a learned behaviour. It takes practice.
I would like to tell you there is a ten minute technique that can lead you there but there isn't. There are some small specific tips that I can show you that will help and I will . This lesson though will focus on something biogger than that. It will focus on the process of design and creativity that I use in my rugs.
We will not be working on how to create a specific rug. Instead I want to explore my process with you, and through the discoveries you make here, I hope you will uncover some of your own possibilities for hooking freestyle.
There are things that are important here, and as much as I do not like to create rules, there are several "musts" here that are important.
You must put art into the process
If you want to hook freestyle than thinking and learning about art is essential. You are going to need to be inspired and to do this I suggest you start visiting local galleries, reading art books, learning about the lives of artists.
As you do this you will naturally start to imbue your own work with artfulness. What does artfulness mean? That is a good question, with no answer. It is different for everyone. I can tell you what it is for me.
Here is my creative manifesto:
I like to create original designs.
I look for inspiration in other peoples work but I try not to emulate or copy.
When I am influenced by someone's work I try to re imagine it from my own experience knowledge and perspective.
I do not limit my pallette.
I create interesting pallets for each new rug or series of work.
I buy as much wool or creative tools as I want. As long as I am making things it is money well spent . It is an investment in my art.
I watch the world around me.
I take notice of the details in things. Whether it is the fringe on a scarf, the carved details on a stairwell, what someone is wearing. The details of something distinguish it and make it beautiful.
I keep track of all ( well most) my ideas in a note book of some sort.
I ask lots of questions.
I satisfy my curiosity whenever I can.
I really examine colour. Whether it is the decor scheme in a restaurant , or the pattern on a dress. I examine the way colours are put together and the way they react to one another.
I collect art.
I collect art books.
I save bits of paper that inspire me.
I save rocks, sticks, and bits from nature that are beautiful to me.
I put all these things in places where I can see them. Sometimes I keep them for months. Sometimes I keep them for years. Either way I make an effort to reexamine them once in a while.
I work at making something nearly every day.
I think about my life as an artist and take note of what I am thinking about. It is called Metacognition in psychological terms. I think it is an important part of being an artist. You need to be reflective about who you are , the way you think and feel.
I walk for exercise to stay in good physical shape because making things requires you to be in good shape. This is very important also as a time to reflect on the work you have made and want to make.
I walk so I can see the world around me and take note of it. I like to see the changes in the light from day to day, and in the seasons.
I listen and I learn. While I hook I try to make sure that I have some good podcasts and online classes that inspire me to become better in my art and my business.
I watch other artists and how they do things, what they make and how they live their lives and I learn from them.
I add things to this list as often as I can!
You must make space for yourself
It does not have to be a studio but it needs to be a dedicated space. Perhaps it is a chair and a table, and a basket . The thing is it needs to be set up and ready for you to hook all the time. This way if you get ten minutes there is no preparation. Also if you are suddenly taken by the need to hook ( this will happen as you practice it more artfully) you can just go to your frame and it is ready for you.
Making space for yourself is also about making time for yourself. You will need a routine or some dedicated time if your rug hooking is going to become a"practice".
You must be open in your approach to design
If you hook patterns you will adapt them. If you draw your own you might adapt those as you work along. Personally I have never stuck with one type of design. I look to all kinds of art for inspiration.
You must be open to mixing old ideas to create new ones.
You have to let go of some old ideas to make room for new ones. You can also do this gradually by mixing your old ideas with new ones as they come along.
You must be willing to do the work.
If you do not make the work you are not an artist. If you do not write you are not a writer. If you do not sing you are not a singer. You must work, as Anne Morrow Lindbergh suggested about writing, "at any cost. This is how it feels to be an artist. You will not be able to stop yourself from creating.
This sounds a little harsh but there is a truthfulness to it. You have to set aside time to hook, to make things if you want to be an artist. It is only in making rugs that you will get better at making rugs. Making rugs, whether they turn out good or bad, will teach you everything you need to know about rug hooking.
Some offs only have an hour a week. Some of us have four , some of us have lots of time. Most of us just have bit of time to dedicate to art. The goal for most of us is not to be a full time artist. We just want to become better at what we do. We want to grow in our art and out craft.
To hook freestyle you have to be dedicated tp the practice of making rugs, whether it is once a week for an hour or everyday for hours. Either way, you have to make it a priority and commit some time to it because it in making that you will learn.
You must draw, experiment and play. This is a learned skill. You will get better at it. You will also find your style just like a new writer finds their voice. For years I thought I was not a particularly good drawer, then one day I discovered that my drawings did not look like anyone else. That was it for me. I might not be a master drawer but I do have style.
In order to be an artist as a rug hooker you must pull out that sketch book and try to draw. No worries, it is ok whatever you draw
There are no rights and wrongs, but certainly some things work better than others for the freestyle of hooking that I create. Bigger loose drawings that translate easily to pattern work for me.
Lesson Two: Practice the Freestyle
Finding the Freestyle: Six Simple Tips
I like to make sure of six simple things.
- I keep my posture relaxed. Tense muscles create all kinds of problems. when I am physically tense I can only hook for a short while.
- I hold my hook loosely in my hand. I do not grip my hook tightly. I suggest you hook like you would hold a child's hand, with love and tenderness.
- I keep a cushion on my hook for comfort. Mine is a grab on for a pen that I split and glue to my hook. They come in boxes of 20 for $1 at the dollar store.
- I make sure my chair is comfortable. I have bought a few chairs over the years and found that wing back suits me best.
- I bring my frame to me rather than leaning into the frame. This lets me sit up straight and work.
- I use a backing with an open weave so that the wide cuts of cloth slip up easily through it. I never fore my hand to pull up a strip. It must come up easily and comfortably.
Three Videos that show the very basics of hooking freestyle
Holding your hook and frame
Ok, so now let's practice. I want you to play with your hook.
Toss it in the air and catch it.
Rub it between your hands. Warm it up.
Close your eyes and hold it in your hand like a pencil.
Squeeze your hand really tight around the hook.
Feel the muscles in your forearm begin to tense.
Now hold it gently in your hand like you don't want to hurt it.
Go sit at your frame.
Hook for two minutes.
Stand up, go put on some music that you love .
Hook to this for ten minutes.
Stand up .
Lay down your hook. Shake out your hands.
Turn off the music.
Pick up your hook. Hold it gently.
Start to hook in the silence.
Close your eyes. Keep hooking.
Now listen to the sound of the hook. There is a thrumming sound.
Feel how your two hands are working together.
Feel the motion.
Hook with your eyes closed for five minutes and feel the motion.
Repeat this tomorrow and the next day.
Repeat it until you no longer need to. You'll know when this is!
Lesson Three: Put Art into the Process
I love telling people that there is no secret to being an artist.
Because there isn't.
It is way more about what you do than it is about any secret or hidden talents. Being an artist is about how you spend your time. what you do with it....that is what will make you an artist.
I love that I am an artist. I always try to remember that I became an artist. It wasn't just bestowed on me as an adult. I really worked at it.
As a child I did have some important qualities of an artist. Probably most children have these. I was curious, I was always watching, and I loved to draw.
As I matured the first two remained but the physical action of drawing disappeared. Somewhere along the way I lost interest.
I only became an artist because I found a medium that I loved...hooking rugs.
In finding that I was able to start drawing again. I was also able to put my natural curiosity to work again. Suddenly my keen eye and my observant nature were valuable. I was no longer just nosy. I was an artist and there was a reason for me to be watching, looking, recounting, documenting. Saving bits and pieces of odd things and picking up stones and bringing them home was suddenly part of my work.
It was like I found something to do with the odd bits of myself. The parts that were part of me but that did not really fit in.
My curiousity before I became an artist was a bit of a nuisance. I have always wanted to know everything. In my early twenties I worked with a very caring group of women in a counseling centre. I remember one day a woman was walking by with a brown paper bag in her hand. I said to her, "What's in the bag?" What seemed like sheer nosiness, instead of an insatiable curiosity just rolled out of me. Another co-worker summed it up. She said, "She just wants to know. She doesn't care what's in the bag. She just likes knowing." I thought about it and realized it was true. I really tried to reserve judgment of what I learned from my curiosity. I was just curious. The woman with the bag, nodded and laughed. She said, "It's two kotex, now are you happy." We all laughed and , yes, I was happy.
I have this incredible curiosity that can bug other people, that can make me seem impertinent. In fact it can and does make me inappropriate sometimes.I have to make sure I am following my artist nose when I use it, and not something else.
As I have matured as a person I have learned to tame my curiosity just enough so that I find out what I need to know rather than what I do not need to know. This is important. as a naturally curious person you can fill your head up with too much, or with things that bother you. I really try to create a healthy balance here. One where I do not stifle my curiosity but yet I do not overload myself.
Important qualities of an artist:
- keenly aware of nature
- like to experiment
- willing to make mistakes
- not afraid to waste time
- liking ideas
Actions of an artist:
- they make things
- they gather interesting things that inspire them
- they sketch and draw
- they record their ideas
- they go to galleries
- they look to other artists for inspiration
- they do not copy other artists unless they put their own spin on it.
- oh yes...and they hook rugs
Many people do not feel like they are an artist. It is not important necessary to consider yourself an artist to make beautiful hooked rugs. In fact you do not have to consider yourself an artist to make great art.
But it helps.
Look at the qualities above and assess which ones you have in abundance and which you need to work on.
What qualities do I possess that would enhance to me as an artist?
What qualities do I need to develop further in order to become a better artist?
Making art is about putting yourself out there. It is about taking risks.
It was about immediacy, responding to how you feel at any given time.
Sometimes you will feel foolish. Sometimes you will feel like you are playing a part. Just keep playing it. Keep up the act until it becomes real. And it will.
As long as you keep making work, you'll keep getting better.
For me art has always been a bit of a prayer. I don't know what I am going to get when I go into it. I just start hooking, take the chance , and I have faith. That is the prayer part. Art and soul just go together
Activity: I am an Artist
You have to get used to the idea of being an artist. You have to practice it. You have to start acting like an artist. It feels very odd at first.
For years I could not say it. If I was introduced somewhere, I would avoid saying I am an artist. First of all it sounded pretentious to me and I have always prided myself on being down to earth. Secondly, I felt like as a rug hooker, I would disappoint people because I was not a painter. After a while I began to realize how silly this was.
First I want you to say out loud, "I am an artist"
Secondly I want you to stand in front of a mirror and say to your reflection, "I am an artist."
Thirdly I want you to take an ink pen and write on your forearm, "I am an artist " . Write it nicely, almost as if you were giving yourself a little tattoo. Leave it there for a couple of hours. Every once in a while read it.
Think about the idea of yourself as an artist and let it sink in.
You might try some other writings on the hand that holds your hook. Try writing "fearless" or "let go as you how. You know the words you need to hear. Write them on your hand and you'll be reminded of your own advice as you hook." so those words are staring back up at you
Hooking the Creams Freestyle
Letting Art Takeover
Three Squares Freestyle 1
Lesson Four: Journaling Freestyle
This is my free writing from my journal. I encourage you to do it. Just write , say anything. You do not have to share it. Just write it out and discover what you think. I think by writing you'll discover lots about yourself and in doing that you become a better artist.
Part of hooking freestyle is doing other things freestyle. In writing sometimes you can write your stream of consciousness. Just let everything flow. This little story is about how it feels for me as an artist. It is lifted from some journal writing I did a few years ago and is a very personal glimpse of what it means to me to make things everyday;what it means to me to be an artist.
Truthfully it has no real important value yet in a way it in invaluable because in this writing I have let go. I was not worrying about what someone else was going to be reading. I was not worried about what others might think. I was just writing.
Freestyle is like I imagine jazz to be you just play and see what happens. In order for you to get better at hooking freestyle you might want to try writing freestyle.
Excerpt from Deanne's Journal 2017.
For every rug I have hooked, there might be a story, but there might as likely not be one. Some are just guttural responses to colour. I want the wind to feb as if it is blowing across the mat so I hook in big swooshes. I want the water to be rollicking so I hook in a rollicking manner. This might sound a little silly but it is definitely true. When I hook I put my whole self into the rug. My physical and my emotional energy are joined together and are strengthened by each other. Together they empower the completed rug.
That is what people respond to in my rugs. It is the joining together of these two things, and me pouring myself into the mat. It is what all art is made of.
Does this happen overtime I sit to hook? I am afraid not. Often I am hooking as a craft. I am outlining and filling in colours. I am not trying to do anything other than that. It is like colouring.
Other times I am trying to express an idea.
Other times I am just there, feeling more, thinking less. I am trying to get a flow going where I forget what I am making or doing and I am just hooking. It is the best when I can do this. I get to a place where time passes and I do not even know it.
How do I get there?
It often starts out with a craft like motion.
I am just making the thing.
It is when I forget about what I am making.
It is when my mind begins to roam freely.
It when I am thinking about everything and nothing at the same time.
That is when I am there.
I don’t know the steps to get there. I just know that you have to show up a lot. You have to hook a lot. and then you’ll just arrive there and you won’t know how you got there either.
Yesterday someone asked me what my word is for this year.
I thought about what I needed and I quickly answered "love".
To love myself more.
Not in the buying myself stuff kind of way. I already do that.
I need to be kinder. Kinder to myself.
I need to realize my accomplishments. Appreciate them.
See my two grown children, the goodness of my impact, their strength , their ability to love, to negotiate the world around them for themselves.
Know that for 25 years I have walked a mile or three everyday and taken care of this body I live in.
For twenty five years I have loved and fed my husband. I have been there for him as he has been for me. I still like to have a quiet supper with him.
That my rugs have matured and grown from folk art to big beautiful modern looking pieces.
That my business has been good. That ideas keep coming. That customers keep coming and feel welcome in my place.
That my books have been written and read and people have learned from them and grown.
That I have worked a long time with many of the same people, and that I meet good people to help me in my work.
Love is the word I chose because I need to remember to love myself.
I have always been good to myself. I have always bought myself things. I have always taken time for myself.
But deep unadultered love is a different kind of thing.
Being able to feel the humility.
Feeling like a child of God.
That is something I need to work at.
Being enough with out all the accomplishments.
Enough in oneself.
That is the real work of love.
To love yourself.
What would I be with out all of this I asked myself.
No such thing.
I looked around the studio and it was me.
It was part of my essence.
It was not like I was looking around at a bunch of stuff I bought at a department store.
I was looking at rugs I had made.
My spirit was as much in the room as I was.
I was thinking about loving myself, more fully.
I was thinking of trying to get beyond my ego.
To my id.
If I remember right, that is the basic personality that came at birth, your most basic person.
And there I was on the wall.
I wonder about God.
I wonder why he is keeping me up. Is there something I am missing?
Then I wonder if he exists at all. Then I remember my faith will restore itself in the morning.
Then I sleep for two or three hours after having been awake and laying there half the night.
I wake up hopeful the day will not be too tiring.
By five or so in the evening I feel safe and relieved that I made it.
I feel the promise of a good nights sleep coming.
I get scared alone at night, sometimes it only lasts a second or two. And I pray.
The Our Father. Hail Mary.
And I remember how when I was younger sleep was never an issue. I found it so hard to get up with my kids in the middle of the night. I could barely stay awake.
I try not to worry to much about it.
It is just part of the mid life me. Part of growing older.
I am thankful for the rest I do get.
Thank full. For Blessings. For Joy. For a full night’s sleep. For whatever is good in the world.
Now I sleep better and I am thankful. I wake up ready to embrace the day. Really to love wool into something that even my imagination cannot predict. I write . I hook.
I hope. I dream. I pray.
I rest when ever I need it. I try not to get anxious about things. I try to roll.
At fifty two, there are so many things I am finished with and so many things I am look forward to.
I have a lot of hope and hope sustains.
When my children were small it was so easy to fill time meaningfully.
Anytime you spent with them was meaningful just because you were with them.
Now that they are adults the time to fill is all my own choice. I no longer drive people to hockey games,or pick them up from birthday parties. I am free. There is space to fill.
So sometimes I paint.
For no reason. I am not a good painter. Sometimes I like what I paint and can hang it but for everyone of those I paint over ten more.
But painting feels expressive to me.I feel like I need to waste some time and that is a great way to do it.
I also feel guilty when I waste time. I feel like all time should be productive. I should be making something. I should be making money. There are people working here and they need to be pain. My rational mind jumps in and says “Don’t waste too much time.” It is good that part of my mind is there but I must tell it to shut up because wasting time is sustenance. It is the juicy part of life.
It is the part the makes the other parts possible. The creative part . The can’t stop with ideas part. It is necessary to waste time. It is important.
But the two parts of me fight this out all the time. Should I work? Should I play? Should I go or should I stay?
It is a daily battle to let myself be. Just be.
Just frig around and be Deanne.
The girl from Freshwater, not the artist, the author, the entrepreneur, all the things I pride myself on.
Just my pure unadulterated self.
The little soul I arrived here with, and the one I am leaving with.
Just play and be that girl.
Write. Walk. Paint. Draw. Doodle. Just nothing important.
This winter is a good time for this. Play.
Write your own personal Artist's Manifesto
You can go back to lesson one and read mine to get you started. You can rewrite some of it if it fits. You can also just answer the following questions:
What does art mean to you? Why do you make art? What makes you a good artist? How do you devote time to your art?
Lesson Five: Making Space
Making Space for Yourself...
These are not directly related to rug hooking but to creativity. You simply go to iTunes on your computer. Search them and Subscribe. I like to listen to all kinds of things while I hook that do not relate to rug hooking. It lets my mind wander. I get less focused on the loop and more on the overall idea.
The Unmistakable Creative
The Good Life Project
The Splendid Table
What Should I Read Next
I am always reading. My philosophy is read anything. You never know where an idea is or how your mind will translate the written word.
Cabinet of Natural Curiosities by Albert Seba
Expressive Drawing by Steve Aimone
Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain by Betty Edwards
A Wackmon the Side of the Head by Roger von Oeck
The War of Art by Stephen Pressfield