CRAFT: Denim Rag Rugs, Blue Jeans, and American Handicraft

Although my generation’s obsession with the handmade and the authentic in all things is a unique phenomenon, I certainly cannot take full credit for my love of all things bespoke. Because if I was to be honest with myself, this love of American folk-art and contemporary craft truly came from my mom.

And although it may seem trite to say it here, her work hooking primitive wool rugs is what makes her a true artist.  Even if, in the words of my seventeen-year-old sister, “She’s just lowkey about it.”

It was my mom who introduced me to rug hooking at a young age. She often brought me with to her classes or to the store as she picked out wool and other supplies. From her, I learned how to appreciate the details of  handmade work and began my fascination with American craft.Often wholly intricate, painterly, and overscale, she takes old strips of wool and weaves them into monk’s cloth, usually following some design. Mostly her work is more figurative and pictoral, but after noticing my obsession with Native Chimayo weavings and Mexican folk art she has begun branching out into more geometric patterns that look vaguely southwestern.

Now, what does my mother and her rugs have to do with LA-based weaver Jay Palmer you ask? Well, nothing really, except for the fact that Jay Palmer’s work — the practice of weaving together old strips of fabric into something entirely new and beautiful — is not all that different from what my mother does with her own wool rugs.

I was lucky enough to meet Jay Palmer a few years ago during Levi’s Station to Station. He was in the Maker’s yurt, weaving old strips of indigo denim into something akin to a highly elegant rag-rug on a huge loom. I snapped this photo of his hands while he took a brief moment to rest.

Screenshot 2015-12-10 00.48.36

It is the very human need for textiles that makes them such compelling pieces of art. Most always pieces like Jay’s indigo fabrics and my mothers woolen hooked rugs are incredibly time-intensive and crazy-laborious to create. Once finished, they are beautiful, as it’s almost as if a bit of the other person’s soul is captured in the custom piece you now hold in your hands.

I love the idea of incorporating these folk-art methods in with a piece of jeans or a trucker jacket. It imbues the piece with a sense of heritage, place, and artfulness that is wholly special and so, so unique.

I’ve experimented with my own embroidery on old trucker jackets, taking inspiration from my mom’s hooked rugs, but never have I made a wall-hanging or rug of my own. I am pleased to report that this week my mother found another rug frame, and that this one will be for my own personal use.  Really looking forward to begin working alongside a project with with her. And super stoked to see if we can incorporate some fun embroidery, quilting, or weaving techniques with my favorite thing — 0ld blue jeans.