Wednesday, January 29, 2014

A Very Special Rug Story, Dedicated to Liz and Her Family

 One of the most challenging things Jen and I do in our work is take on custom projects for our customers.  They are challenging because we are always so hopeful that the work of our hands matches the vision in our customers' minds and hearts when all is said and done.  We recently had the opportunity to create a rug from the artwork of a very wonderful young woman, Elizabeth, who passed away from this earth last year.  This is the most meaningful work we have yet had the privilege to do in our new company, and we are so grateful to Elizabeth's aunt, Jeanine, for approaching us and entrusting us with this project.  I would like to tell the story of this rug's development here, but more importantly, at the end to include Elizabeth's story as it relates to the rug as told by her family through one of her sisters, Nicole.

Last fall I received an Etsy message from Jeanine asking if I could make a rug using the following images:

I had made a rug for Jeanine in the past, our "Tesla's First Snow" pattern, and enjoyed working with her so much.  Also, upon seeing this beautiful, colorful, and seemingly whimsical work, I immediately wanted to do the project.  Jeanine explained that the original sketch was by her niece, Elizabeth, and when I expressed my delight in Elizabeth's talent, she told me some of the story behind the art.  The color interpretation of the sketch was done by artist Jessica Breedlove, who kindly gave her permission for us to use it as the color planning basis of the rug.  Jessica's web page is:

Jeanine asked that the rug be 2' x 3.'  In order to create a pattern for it in that size, I emailed the images to Jen's husband, Dan Rosenburg, who was able to enlarge the image and put it on to a 2' x 3' paper for me.  Dan mailed that from Tennessee to Maine for me to work with.  Dan sent a pencil sketch with a lot of detail in it, so that I could overdraw it in marker to include whatever detail level I thought it might be possible and desirable to hook.  Here it is after I overdrew the sketch.

The next step was to get it on to the linen.  I thought I was going to have to use red dot transfer fabric for this process, but as it turned out, I was able to see the pattern well enough through the unbleached primitive linen that we use as our backing.  

The story of the rug's creation is pretty straightforward from there, although most of the wool, probably 95% of what was used, I hand dyed specifically for this rug.  Much of the color variation you see in the completed piece is due to hand dyed mottling in the fat quarters that I used.  The trees, for example, were hooked with a couple of very mottled greens.  I hooked it mostly in a size 6, although the Forget-Me-Nots and details on the cathedral dome had to be hooked smaller.   The rug is simply bound in blue twill binding tape, and labeled as shown below to credit Liz with the design.  Here are some in-progress photos, which I was texting to Dan and Jen throughout the process for their valuable input and guidance.  

Here is the rug completed in a photo Jeanine asked me to take of myself with it in the Maine studio.

Infinitely more importantly, here is a photo of Elizabeth's family with the rug in their home at Christmas time.

Most importantly, here are some photos of Elizabeth.

Elizabeth at a spaghetti dinner fundraiser.

Elizabeth and her beautiful sisters.
I want to end this blog post with what matters most, the story of how Elizabeth herself came up with this design and what each of the elements meant to her.  It is very moving, and it is impossible for me to read it, even now, without some tears.  Having lost a sibling young myself, I feel so much for this family, including with the sadness, I want to say, the joy of simply having had a beautiful soul like this among them even for  much too short a time.  We don't forget, and we don't stop missing our loved ones, but I think I can confidently say they are with us - integral to who we are - forever.  This is Liz's sister Nicole's essay on the meaning behind Liz's art, on behalf of the entire family:

"My family cannot even begin to explain how grateful we are for the beautiful rug that was created to pay homage to my sister, Elizabeth. Elizabeth was diagnosed with a rare cancer, Rhabdomyosarcoma Alvealor, in November of 2012. She fought long and hard with multiple, major surgeries, chemotherapies, and radiation treatments. Elizabeth ended her battle with cancer August 16, 2014, a month and one day after her twenty-first birthday.

The rug we received for Christmas, a lovely gift from our father’s family, is an original design that Elizabeth drew. Elizabeth was treated at Children’s Hospital in Pittsburgh, where she was introduced to art therapy. She participated in a program called: “Art 2 Canvas” in which she sketched an image, met with an artist, and had it her vision come to life on canvas. That vision is the one displayed on the rug.

Elizabeth’s drawing has a lot of symbolism and meaning: it truly paints a picture of her life. I wanted to share her drawing with you:

The Elephant- represents a 9 year old girl that truly helped and mentored Elizabeth during her time at Children’s Hospital. Kylah, although tiny, was extremely strong, filled with power, and wise beyond her years, much like an elephant.

The Cathedral Top- represents the University of Dayton where Elizabeth was studying. Elizabeth loved her school and will forever remain a Dayton Flyer.

The ground- represents a rugby field. Elizabeth joined the University of Dayton rugby team her freshman year of college and absolutely loved the sport.

The Forget-me-nots- represents the flower of her fraternity AphiO. This service fraternity became a huge part of Elizabeth’s life and she truly embraced their motto: “Be a Leader, Be a Friend, Be of Service”.

The Birds- each bird represents a special person in Elizabeth’s life whom passed before her.
The Oak Trees- represents her three sisters. Each tree has an initial sketched into the leaves N for Nicole, R for Rachel, and C for Christina.

The Blue Heart (the elephant’s eye)- represents her parents. The blue heart is a symbol of their unending love and support throughout her journey with cancer. "

I want to thank Elizabeth's family for offering us permission to share this story on-line with our friends and customers.  They are brave and generous in this, and we are very grateful.  Wishing everyone a wonderful day, and happy hooking.  - Beth

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