Deb Szwed: Class of 2023
Name: Deb Szwed
Location: Taylor, Michigan
Tell us a bit about yourself. What are some of your interests and hobbies?
I have loved creating since she was very young. My mediums have included charcoal, paint, floss, yarn, and numerous fibers. I have sketched, oil and acrylic painted, embroidered, crocheted, needlepointed, macraméd, and knitted. And, yes, I even did latch-hook rug making back in the ’70s. However, it wasn’t until traditional rug hooking that I found a medium that checked so many creative boxes. I love the hunt for the wool, the dye process, pattern making, and hooking.
How did you get introduced to rug hooking?
Traditional rug hooking was a medium that I only occasionally ran across. Because of its scarcity, I was intrigued. I attended a fund-raising knit-in in the summer of 2011, where I ran across a woman doing rug hooking. We chatted, and, as luck would have it, the woman doing the hooking was the president of the local rug hooking guild. She invited me to the guild’s next meeting, and I was hooked,
What was your first project?
I was gifted some “worms” and simple patterns and taught how to pull loops. Only bits and pieces of these patterns were finished. I had just completed a large quilt and chose to design my first hooked rug to be a companion piece to the quilt. This rug won the Sauder Award in 2013. I did not know about Celebration at this time, so I never entered it into the competition.
Is there one rug that stands out as being particularly memorable?
Different rug appeal to me for different reasons. My first rug to appear in Celebration was Over the Moon. Besides becoming a Celebration finalist in 2015, it won a People’s Choice Award at Sauder Village and the Craft Ontario Affiliate Award 2015. It was unique in that it was mechanized, the cow actually jumped over the moon and then returned to the ground.
However, my latest rug Cotswold Cottage, in Celebration 33, is my current favorite. I learned so much doing this intricate landscape. It was very challenging to create large areas of differing textures while also hooking the illusion of depth.
Is there a particular style of rugs that you're most interested in hooking?
I am a Certified McGown Instructor and therefore have created hooked rugs in every style. I love the speed of wide cuts and the element of surprise when introducing alternative fibers and sundries. However, I often return to fine cuts because it allows me to achieve the fine detail that I so enjoy.
What's your favorite part about hooking a rug?
I love starting a rug—who doesn’t? Quite often, the original design changes course during the process of hooking, which can lead to a rethink of the original planning. I call this putting the rug into a “time-out.” Once the challenge is resolved, I go back to the excitement of completing the hooking. I enjoy finishing my rugs, and strongly believe that finishing is as important as the hooking. I love to watch how my rug transforms from a work in progress to a finished rug.
What's a piece of advice you'd give to a new rug hooker?
Do a lot of hooking; it is the only way your skills will improve. Do not compare your beginning work to someone who has been hooking for decades. Be open to constructive criticism but follow your own desires. Remember, the rug is yours and it should reflect your creativity. Also, try to learn something new with every piece you do. Make it a personal challenge.
What do you love most about Celebration?
It is such an honor to be included in the publication. To know that a jury of your peers has found your rug(s) to be exceptional is very validating and rewarding. I love to see some of the best rugs that have been created worldwide in the past year and read about fellow rug hookers and their journeys.
Cotswold Cottage, 23” x 19”, #3- and 4-cut hand-dyed and as-is wool, wool yarn, and hand-dyed, hand-cut nylons on rug warp.
Designed and hooked by Deb Szwed, Taylor, Michigan, 2022.
There are more greens in this piece than I can count: off bolt, over-dyed, and dyed. In the bottom right hand corner, I used over-dyed nylons to give the large flat area an interesting texture. Many #3 cuts leftover from previous rugs add to the various flowers of the garden.
Minecraft, 16” x 20”, #3- to 5-cut hand-dyed and off-the-bolt wool on rug warp. Designed by Deb Szwed and Leonard Feenan and hooked by Deb Szwed, Taylor, Michigan, 2019.
The Breath of Spring
The Breath of Spring, 38” x 23 ¾”, #3- to 5-cut hand-dyed wool on linen. Designed by Pearl McGown and hooked by Deb Szwed, Taylor, Michigan, 2018.
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