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Folk Art Underfoot

American Hooked and Sewn Rugs on Display at Colonial Williamsburg

By: The Art Museums of Colonial Williamsburg; Images Courtesy of Colonial Williamsburg Foundation
Updated August 17, 2018

Spanning more than a century of rug making, the craft of creating non-woven rugs will be in the spotlight at the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Museum, one of the Art Museums of Colonial Williamsburg, when “Folk Art Underfoot: American Hooked Rugs,” an exhibition of 14 exquisite examples of sewn and hooked rugs, opens September 15, 2018 and will remain on view through September 7, 2020. The rugs, some of which have never before been on public view, are on loan from the collection of Joseph and Linda Caputo of Maine, along with visual documentation and a video that shows the rug hooking technique. These simple objects that express the unique artistry of their makers and were created for both use and enjoyment are considered in the best tradition of American folk art.

“This work of 19th-century artisans, most of them nameless to us today, cannot be overlooked,” said Mitchell B. Reiss, president and CEO of the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation. “Their creativity is woven through our American fabric, and we are proud to be able to share with our visitors these unique rugs as another way to explore our shared history.”

Originally created by rural housewives for use as floor coverings, hooked rugs also provided color, pattern, and warmth to country homes. Rug making gave housewives with no academic art training a way to create an everyday household object with decorative interest and beauty. Sewn rugs grew out of an earlier needlework tradition, which included sampler making and crewel wool embroidery. Sewn rugs include yarn-sewn and shirred. Rug hooking techniques originated in Maine and grew from their 19th-century origins to a national activity.

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