Barbara Prentice: Class of 2023
Name: Barbara Prentice
Location: Cambridgeshire, England
Tell us a bit about yourself. What are some of your interests and hobbies?
I have spent most of my life as what is often referred to as a “trailing spouse,” our two children and I moving to follow my husband’s jobs in the U.S. and overseas. Some of my hobbies reflect what I can do where I live at the time. I love archaeology, and I have volunteered in both the United States and in England. I enjoy kayaking and walking. I belong to the Ramblers Association here in the UK and also walk on my own. I also am a serious “church crawler” and belong to a group here based near my home. I also love to read and make mosaics.
How did you get introduced to rug hooking?
My husband was attending the Naval War College in Newport, Rhode Island, and I decided, as I often do, to learn a local craft. I had only seen rug hooking in books until then, since it wasn’t really anything I had heard about while growing up in California. I took a night class in the Claire Murray store in downtown Newport and completed a yarn mermaid kit. The instructor later confessed she thought I would never get the hang of it, as I kept pulling out my loops, but I was the only person who finished my rug during the class period.
What was your first project?
The last night of my Claire Murray class, the instructor brought in a #3-#5 cut rug she was repairing (though I couldn’t then identify it as such) that a client’s puppy had chewed up. I was fascinated by the mosaic-like quality. Some years later, when I was in language school in Germany, I kept thinking about that rug. I needed a hobby to relax. I looked online, and bought a Celtic peacock rug pattern from RHF in Canada (now sadly gone) and wool from Jeanne Benjamin, who I called between her many teaching assignments. I ordered a Rigby cutter from eBay—when it arrived I thought I had somehow been sent a medieval thumbscrew! I just copied the colors of the finished rug as I was having a hard enough as it was and didn’t think I could handle anything more. I kept jumping up and unravelling an hour of outline at a time! I couldn’t imagine how people did more than one rug, but I finally got the hang of it.
Is there one rug that stands out as being particularly memorable?
Probably my Adam and Eve rugs. I saw Eve in a museum in Burgundy, where she had been used as a house foundation after she had been pulled out of the cathedral of Autun. I took so long to do her that a model miniature of Adam showed up in auction just as I was finishing her. I was in Autun last summer, almost by accident, and when I returned to the cathedral museum to visit Eve, I saw that fragments of the demon tempting Eve had been newly discovered. Luckily, I save a yard of my principal background color just for this eventuality!
Is there a particular style of rugs that you're most interested in hooking?
I feel rug hooking, more than almost any textile art, can express movement. I am most drawn to rugs that reflect this quality, whether or not it is a fine or wide cut.
What's your favorite part about hooking a rug?
Strange to say, but it is the moment I pick up a rug, and the weight is more of a rug than a piece of backing. It is a textile I’m making after all, and that moment reminds me of that.
What's a piece of advice you'd give to a new rug hooker?
It is hard to give a general piece of advice, since people make rugs for all kinds of reasons, and we are all so temperamentally different. I would say the one piece of advice that works for everyone is: value is your friend. Remember that color gets the credit, but value does the heavy lifting.
What do you love most about Celebration?
I enjoy meeting people and rugs that I haven’t seen yet. Sometimes I do get to see the makers and rugs in real life later, and it is a thrill. And sometimes I’ve seen these rugs as they were being made, and that is exciting, too.
The Bottles Cannot Hold
The Bottles Cannot Hold, 40” x 60”, #4- to 6-cut wool on linen.
Designed and hooked by Barbara Prentice, Farndish, Bedfordshire, UK, 2022.
I wanted to do a rug that reflected how I felt about the stress I felt the country was under.
Lockdown Pomegranates and Figs
Lockdown Pomegranates and Figs, 32” x 72”, #4- and 6-cut hand-dyed wool on linen. Designed and hooked by Barbara Prentice, Farndish, Bedfordshire, UK, 2022.
Ode, 28” x 24”, #3- and 5-cut hand-dyed wool on linen. Designed and hooked by Barbara Prentice, Springfield, Virginia, 2019.
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