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Bernice Howell: Class of 2018

Note: Bernice Howell passed away in 2015, but we'd like to send a big thank you to Bernice Howell's husband, son, and daughter for helping to pull together materials for her profile. We're honored to include her and her work in the Celebration Hall of Fame. The questionnaire below was filled out by Bernice's daughter, Anne Reeves.

Tell us a bit about yourself. What are some of your interests and hobbies?
My mom was married for 58 years. She was a great wife to husband, Robert, and mother of two children, John and myself. The family also includes a son-in-law, Justin, and daughter-in-law, Robin, and grandson, David. She started her professional career as a high school English teacher and later taught at the University of Maryland. She dabbled in oil and water color painting and was a prolific seamstress and she shared and passed these skills (the sewing, not the painting!) to me.

How did you get introduced to rug hooking?
After retiring in 1985, Mom was looking for a creative outlet and saw a notice for a rug hooking class taught by Roslyn Logsdon.  She had no idea that her initial curiosity would turn into 30 years of enjoyment and beautiful creations.  Several aspects appealed to her and kept her going – her love of fabric and color, the ability to have a “re-do” if something wasn’t working, and Roslyn’s approach in letting her students develop their own style.

What was your first project?
I don’t remember her first project. I do remember early project chair cushions. It has been fun see her work progress from the simple design and color scheme to the complex designs and shading. I’d sit and stare at her work and wonder how she was able to capture the detailed elements in each piece.

Is there one rug that stands out as being particularly memorable?
What I remember is hearing of her excitement as she described working on the face and eyes of Ethel Hanevold (My Mother).  When she put in those tiny threads, they made the piece come to life. I think she got a few tears as she couldn’t believe her touch made the piece so lifelike.

Is there a particular style of rugs that you're most interested in hooking?
Mom was drawn to traditional hooking, using #3 and #4 cut wool throughout her hooking career. Some of her sources include family photographs, adapted pictures (with permission) from greeting cards and drawings in the newspaper, and printed rug patterns.  She always had her eye out for the next project. 

What's your favorite part about hooking a rug?
I don’t remember her talking about her favorite part of hooking a rug. I can guess that it may have been in the color planning at the start of a project. I can picture her diving in to the bags of wool in her workroom closet to find just the right shade of whatever she needed.  

What's a piece of advice you'd give to a new rug hooker?
I’ve been the recipient of this advice:  Relax, experiment, and have fun. If you don’t think some part is working, leave it in until you get surrounding areas done. Often, the parts look so much better when the context is created.  

What do you love most about Celebration?
I love the variety of entries and I am amazed at the skill and artistry – it’s evolving and getting better all the time.   

In the early 1990s, my mom came to visit me. “I think you’ll like this,” she said, as she handed me a small rug hooking kit. I got the hooking bug right away – I had a wonderful teacher! When I lived close by, we would have great fun going to thrift stores in search of those perfect finds. Since 2000, we’ve lived on opposite coasts, so if I needed fabric, I would send an SOS, and she would go through her bags and send any color I needed. 

My mom’s last rug was supposed to be an easy, no-shading rug. When it arrived, all 39 x 63 inches of it, it was not quite what she expected. I helped her make design changes to make it more to her taste. She planned the colors and hooked all but one of the borders. I got to finish the rug, and I treasure this piece as “our rug.”

Grandma Howell's Porch, Celebration I

Grandma Howell's Porch, Celebration I

When our children were little, they spent many happy hours at Grandma Howell's, roaming the farm and rocking back and forth in the old porch swing. Grandma is gone now, our children are grown, and we don't... Read more.

Pride in the Land, Celebration IV

Pride in the Land, Celebration IV

Bernice is constantly looking for new ideas for hooking, and she came across this one while reading the horticulture section of the Washington Post. Carol Schwartz's black-and-white sketch spoke to Bernice... Read more.

Ancient Wall, Celebration V

Ancient Wall, Celebration V

Ancient Wall was born while Bernice was having her morning cup of tea. She was visiting her daughter in Minneapolis, Minnesota, when she saw a picture in the travel section of the Sunday paper of an ancient... Read more.

Attic Windows, Celebration VI

Attic Windows, Celebration VI

This rug was an honorable mention in Celebration VI. Read more.

Backyard Feeder Friends, Celebration VII

Backyard Feeder Friends, Celebration VII

Backyard Feeder Friends is a reflection of Bernice Howell's interest in bird watching. "We have several feeders in our backyard and are fascinated watching the activity as different birds come to eat," she says. Watching them... Read more.

Ethel Hanevold (My Mother) 1898, Celebration VIII

Ethel Hanevold (My Mother) 1898, Celebration VIII

Inspired by Victoria Hart Ingalls's Portrait Lady (See Rug Hooking's June/July/August 1995 issue), Bernice Howell conceived a portrait of her own: an image of her mother as a child. Taken from a cherished... Read more.

Shadows on Snow, Celebration XI

Shadows on Snow, Celebration XI

Bernice Howell and her husband awoke one morning to find that it had snowed. Awestruck by the back yard's beauty, Bernice wanted to preserve the scene as only a hooker can. She planned to re-create it in full... Read more.

Best Friends, Celebration XIII

Best Friends, Celebration XIII

Bernice Howell prefers subjects that have special meaning to her as a way to preserve memories and loves turning photographs into wool masterpieces. After doing a hooked rug of her mother's portrait, it seemed... Read more.

Autumn at Lake Artemesia, Celebration XIV

Autumn at Lake Artemesia, Celebration XIV

This rug was an honorable mention in Celebration XIV. Read more.

Anne, Celebration XX

Anne, Celebration XX

Bernice Howell designed this rug from a photograph that her husband took nearly 40 years ago. In it, their daughter, Anne, stands waiting for her mother to make alterations to a dress she is modeling for... Read more.

Gold Hill, UK, Celebration XXII

Gold Hill, UK, Celebration XXII

Bernice Howell had one goal in mind when hooking this rug: Recreate the original photo as closely as possible with only what she had on hand in her stash. And she almost did it.

"As the old saying goes, you... Read more.

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