“If you want to know where I am at any given time I’ll be sitting right there, at my frame, looking at the lake.”
On a fine Sunday afternoon in early October, my husband and I drove over to visit with Grace in her house on Governor’s Lake in Raymond, NH.
We shot video of her in her studio, surrounded by her rugs. We share some clips of that visit here on this page, to introduce you to Grace. Other clips of the visit are included on the portfolio pages for the different rugs, including explanations of trapunto in Elvis and Springtime on the Island.
Below the videos you’ll find the article by Anne-Marie Littenberg that appeared in Rug Hooking Magazine, timed to coincide with Grace being one of our featured artists for the Physical Show planned for October 2020. (Thanks to Rug Hooking Magazine for giving us permission to share the article here.) We hope you’ll enjoy learning about Grace and her work, and then come see the pieces in person when we get to have a “real” show, maybe in 2022?
The House and Studio
On Art and Craft
The Hooked Rug Art of Grace E. Collette
from the profile for Rug Hooking Magazine, September-October 2020
by Anne-Marie Littenberg,
Grace Collette’s rug hooking career began over 50 years ago when she took her son to the YWCA so he could play while his older brothers had gone to school for the day. “I asked if there were any craft classes I could take to pass the time, and they said there was one available for rug hooking.” Grace says her response was, “Whatever.”
Little did she know it would be a life-changing event. “I was very young and the teacher, Ruth Hall, was very old,” Grace explains. “I learned to hook the way it was done in my teacher’s childhood, in the 1800s! She taught me to look at the world with what I see, not what I know.
A leaf is not just green. Before I pulled a loop, I was sent to dye my own wool, and to soak up the beauty of this world. For the rest of my life, whether hooking rugs or not, I have been so enriched by her lessons.”
Grace insists she “not an artist.” She has always enjoyed a variety of fiber arts and crafts, such as knitting, crocheting, embroidery, quilting, cross stitch, crewel, beading, woodworking, and pottery. She also believes, “If I can draw, anybody can.” She has been an avid reader of Rug Hooking magazine since its first printing. It did not take Grace long to notice that many original designs published in the magazine were created by people who had formal art educations.
She says, “At first, I thought that wasn’t fair because I am an accountant and had never drawn even a stick figure in my life. But then I decided that if I couldn’t beat them, I could join them. When I retired [Grace was a Professor of Accounting for over 20 years], I went to my local library and checked out some art books. It was like a light bulb lit up in my head.”
Grace started to visit museums, buy a wide variety of art books, and take photography classes. Eventually, she “graduated, happily to a pencil and paper!”
“I learned, through art books, that a good design is not a copy of an item. Rather, it is something that evokes emotion.”
Grace looks back on the happy times in her life, such as a honeymoon or a new baby, and uses these moments as inspiration for designs. She explains, “It makes me happy when I see all these reminders from my past hanging on the walls of my home. And they also make others smile.”
Blessed with a large family, Grace says there is no end to the happy times and beautiful people to immortalize.
Ruth Hall was her first influence over 50 years ago; today Grace says that, “Donna Hrkman is my hero.” Grace also loves the artistry of Matt Gaser and Jan Schmuckal, as well as the Group of Seven.
When thinking about her own work, Grace says she mostly “prefers exploring my creativity on my own. I start with a happy thought and a strong focal point. Whatever is the real, natural color of the chosen focal point determines my color plan. I try to keep to split complementary Cushing dye colors, and I enjoy using swatches and dip dyes as much as possible, all enhanced with a wide variety of embellishments.”
Grace finds that Cushing dyes have natural blends that most closely resemble the way she sees the world. She does a lot of dyeing because it can be difficult to find swatches that transition from one color to another in a way that is consistent with her vision, even though, “Mother Nature is overflowing with hues that melt from one color to another.” She spends a lot of time dyeing in order to arrive at the precise palette she seeks. She says, “I’d rather be hooking, honestly, but you know how it is when you have a color in your head and nothing else will do.”
To enhance drama, Grace likes a full range of values in her color plans, from lightest lights to darkest darks. “I usually prefer warm colors for focal points, and cool colors to complement and support. A combination of solids, plaids, spot dyes, and swatches add great interest, while making it possible to keep to a limited palette. This is also a great excuse to have to go on field trips with my fellow hookers for supplies.”
Gear is important, and while she has many frames, Grace’s favorite is an old Pittsburgh collapsible because it lays flat, is so portable, and the gripper strips aren’t too sharp. In addition, she can easily turn it around on her lap for directional hooking. “It travels the world happily in my suitcase, and has held up for 40 years. In addition, I like a fine-size Moshimer hook, and a size 8 Halcyon yarn basic rug hook. I change back and forth between hooks to ward off carpal tunnel syndrome.”
Grace plans to continue studying, critiquing, and advancing her art. “I am more narrowly refining my own style,” she explains. “I am my own most critical analyzer, and do a thorough critique of each of my own pieces. I also do a great deal of volunteer work for the rug-hooking community because I am deeply aware of its importance in the lives of many.” Her long career as a college professor taught her to “understand that knowing how to do something, and knowing how to teach it, are very different skills. I still use these skills wherever the opportunity arises for spreading the joy of rug hooking.”
Grace has been in Celebration eight times, and won awards at various exhibits for best of show and people’s choice. She is also in the Rug Hooking Hall of Fame. Now that Grace is retired, she enjoys attending the Sauder Village Workshops and reading. In addition, she will be one of the featured artists at the Green Mountain Rug Hooking Guild’s Hooked in the Mountains next exhibit Grace says, “I look forward to sharing joy and inspiration.”