Friday, February 24, 2023

LET HER GO… & More


In August 2022, LET HER GO made a surprising & rare public appearance at Rug Hooking Week at Sauder Village.

RHW attendees were glad to see this 80+ year old hooked rug had been well taken care of, as they closely examined the primitive textures & colors of her background materials, the cute little hooked nose of the jockey & so many other details - that are only seen from up close & in person.

Another thing RHW attendees saw, when they looked at this wonderful rug, was... SPEED! Can you see it? You can almost hear Roger Huston – “The Voice” of harness racing, announce... "the mare is coming down to the wire." You can see the strength hooked into her legs & hooves, she could trample you! Great care was also taken to hook movement in the background too. Together they built a sense of quickness & urgency! It took skill & talent for the fiber artist to achieve this!

We don't believe that this rug had made a public appearance since the September 1974 - January 1975 Museum of American Folk Art Exhibit – Hooked Rugs in the Folk Art Tradition, in New York City. The exhibit was curated by antique dealers & hooked rug authorities Joel & Kate Kopp. The Kopps also included this marvelous Americana style hooked rug of a mare & her jockey in all of the printings of their popular book: American Hooked and Sewn Rugs, which debuted with that exhibit. Exhibit catalogue (1974) on left & all 3 editions of the book on right.

For those who have read the book:
Rug Hooking Traditions with James & Mercedes Hutchinson, you may recognize Let Her Go as one of James & Mercedes Hutchinson’s original designs. James first brought this rug to Parke-Bernet Galleries Auction in New York City & sold it in June, 1941. 

Joel & Kate Kopp were well liked in the antique world. They had a good relationship with their customers & other antique dealers. They were trendsetters in the 1970s, & soon they were known for starting a new trend "Collecting American Hooked Rugs." (What became an antique collecting trend simultaneously became a contemporary crafting trend.) It seemed they also had the "magic touch," whatever went into their America Hurrah shop went out.... customers loved it & quickly snatched it up! So, the Kopps put hooked rugs back on the map, so to speak. (See page 7 in the book for a tribute & photos of Joel & Kate/America Hurrah.) 

When it came time to gather rugs for the Museum of American Folk Art Exhibit, the Kopps asked some of their customers, whom they sold rugs too, to borrow them back for the exhibit. They also asked other antique dealers, who were now also buying & selling hooked rugs.
(While the Museum of Folk Art may have changed it's name & location over the years, it has had 2 significant hooked rug exhibits. The second was the Great Cover-Up: American Rugs on Beds, Tables & Floors in 2007.) 

In the small Exhibit Catalogue (several photos above-with the town on the cover), Let Her Go was listed as Exhibit #74 Hooked Rag on Burlap. --Lent by Hastings House Antiques-- (In the open Kopp book photo above, it states the same.) Therefore, we can assume that the Kopps borrowed this rug from Philip McNemer & Milon Barns of Hastings House Antiques in the charming town of Essex, Connecticut. For many decades, Philip & Milon lived in a picturesque spot along the Connecticut River & kept an antiques shop in the riverfront town of Essex. They also exhibited nationally at top antique shows.

Perhaps it was sometime around the excitement of the Museum of American Folk Art Exhibit that Let Her Go came to the attention of Sarah "Sally" Nelson of Storrs, Connecticut. Sally lived less than 50 miles from Hastings House Antiques. It seems likely that she was either a customer or familiar with the antique shop, as she had an affinity for Americana with a focus on collecting early lighting & country painted items. Upon looking at her collection closer... Her love of animals was clearly evident in her many oil paintings, windmill weights & weathervanes depicting horses, cows, cats & dogs. She loved furniture from Queen Anne, Chippendale periods, high chests, low boys, to country painted furniture. There was also great folk art, decoys, gameboards, baskets, weathervanes, samplers, & textiles. She loved Americana! And what could be more Americana than hooked rugs?

How do we know so much about her collection? A few years ago, sadly, Sally passed away & her estate came up for auction. Much of the above mentioned, was in that auction. Let Her Go along with 9 additional auction lots of hooked rugs were in that same estate auction. Here are photos of the other animal themed hooked rugs from Sally's auction.





So there you have it, the story or provenance of Let Her Go. There is still more that we don't know about her, a number of years that we can't account for her whereabouts. More to discovery. But in the meantime.... she is an outstanding piece of Americana. James & Mercedes did an amazing job in designing this piece. They selected a talented rug hooker (unknown) to carry out their design... "to a t" & we are left with a treasure. 

We thank Sally Nelson for taking such good care of Let Her Go, for all the years she had her. We thank the new owner for graciously loaning Let Her Go to the RHW 2022 Exhibit so we could have a chance to study & enjoy her! We look forward to seeing the Old Mare again soon!

We hope this rug & story inspires you to create fiber art!

Please do not copy... Let Her Go... 

she is an ORIGINAL... a James & Mercedes Hutchinson design. 

Thank you!


 Since the Let Her Go post appeared on our Blog, we received  questions about the other antique rugs that appeared in the RHW 2022 Exhibit, so here's MORE...

 Shed No Tears For A Sailors Bride Her Life Is Ner Monotonous. One Day He's Bidding Fond Adieu, The Next He's Coming Back To You, From London, Philadelphia, Singapore, Or Some Other Gay Metropolis.

Circa 1941

James & Mercedes Hutchinson

 Sailor's Bride Rug - Joys of a sailor's comings & goings. Depicts him & his bride, among canaries & flowers. He wraps his arm protectively around her. Over his shoulder is a parrot, over her shoulder is a nesting songbird. The words are carefully hooked.

 Hutchinson style - The sailor is a typically dapper & handsome gent, with a moustache. The bride is petite & modest/demure. Their clothing is stylish, down to her earrings. The unique Hutchinson inscription is perfectly expressed with trademark Hutchinson facial expressions!

Barbara Merry

RHW 2022 Feature Exhibit: MAINE:  HOOKED RUGS & FIBER ARTS acknowledged Barbara Merry (1923-2000) of Swanville, Maine, for she holds the title “Maine’s most collected hooked rugs!” In 2022, she passed away at the age of 100, but her hooked rugs were often mistaken for ones hooked in the 1800s. She fooled many, with her use of old materials & color removal techniques, as well as her primitive pictorial designs from childhood memories.

Cat & Dog


Barbara Merry

A charming cat & dog are the focal point in the center oval, with a subtle floral border, surrounded by a mottled background & hearts in the corner. Barbara's initials "BEM" are inside the oval. Typical of Barbara's folky style and colors.


Log Cabin with Bear

(top right)

Barbara Merry

A rugged Maine scene, a log cabin with smoke rising out of chimney, & a pond surrounded by pine trees. Typical of Barbara, & her folky style, the bear is almost as big as the cabin. Other cabins off in the distance. Her initials "BEM" are hooked into the rug, as her signature.

Lucy Barnard Trask

RHW 2022 Feature Exhibit: MAINE:  HOOKED RUGS & FIBER ARTS shared the fiber art, stories, & contributions of world-renowned Lucy Trask Barnard (1800-1898) of Dixfield, Maine – her hooked pictorials can be found in both the Metropolitan Museum of Art, NYC & the Farnsworth Museum, Rockland, Maine. Since her work can be documented back to her hometown & buildings (many still standing), along with her outstanding fiber art talents (color/design/technique) – Lucy’s MOMA works have said to be the most valuable hooked rugs in the United States.

Cherry Branch

Circa 1850 - 1898

Lucy Barnard Trask

An original hooked chair pad by Lucy Trask Barnard (1800-1898) - a branch from a Cherry tree. One of the last pieces still in Lucy's family collection - passed down to her great-great-great-granddaughter Karen, family genealogist. Karen donated several of Lucy's pieces to the Farnsworth Museum, Rockland, Maine.

Marguerite Zorach & Dahlov Ipcar

RHW 2022 Feature Exhibit: MAINE:  HOOKED RUGS & FIBER ARTS – shared the fiber art, stories, & contributions of notable Georgetown Island, Maine artists as Marguerite Zorach (1887-1968) & her daughter Dahlov Ipcar (1917-2017). Both were artists of many mediums, of which they both designed & created hooked rugs.

Still Life & Compote 

Circa 1915-1950

Marguerite Zorach

A rare original hooked rug designed & hooked by Marguerite Zorach. A still life & compote in the style that appears in so many of her other textiles/embroideries & paintings. A rare opportunity for attendees to see fiber art as this, on loan from a private collector.

An artist of many mediums, within and outside of fiber art. Marguerite was a master at applying her skills in each of those mediums. Her ease of using fiber versus paint to create a modern perspective on a still life is simply remarkable. 

Maine Shirred Floral & Geometric Rug 

Circa 1820

Maker - Unknown

A stunning example of early & rare Yarmouth area Maine work done with extremely fine bias shirring, wool on linen. Its dark brown background with red and blue highlighting is reminiscent of the period color schemes. The piece is in wonderful condition. 

Rug Hooking Week’s Exhibits, such as the 2022 Feature Exhibit: MAINE:  HOOKED RUGS & FIBER ARTS, provide rare opportunities for attendees to see extraordinary & historic examples of fiber art, such as this – which are amazing learning tools! The shirred rug was on loan from a private collector.

Renard (Fox)

Circa 1923

Maker - Unknown

Renard is the French word for Fox. So, this hooked rug is most likely a Canadian hooked piece. It’s a wonderful primitive design with a fox, birds, & flowers. There is an interesting fringed edge made from the brin (Canadian burlap) foundation, much of which has worn away.  The most unique feature is the glass BEAD for the EYE!

Folk Art Horses

Circa 1935

Maker - Unknown

Two Horses meet at the fence, surrounded by other animal pairs, like birds, butterflies, rabbits, owls, & other critters. A hooked - simulated penny/wool applique style border gives it a wonderful finish.


 « For additional information on the historic & contemporary hooked rugs in the RHW 2022 Feature Exhibit: Maine Hooked Rugs & Fiber Art....look for Kathy Wright's June/July/August 2023 article titled "The Main(e) Event" in Rug Hooking Magazine.


  Rug Hooking Week at Sauder Village

Archbold, Ohio, USA

August 14 - 19, 2023

--- Exhibit ---

Rug Hooking Week (RHW) at Sauder Village in Archbold, Ohio, USA is well-known for it’s annual & extensive contemporary exhibit of 600-800 pieces of fiber art each year.

While we may learn so, so very much from fellow contemporary fiber artists. Take a moment, now & then, to look back. There is a wealth of knowledge in the history well. Take a Dip!

That is why RHW includes antique or historic fiber art in the RHW Exhibit. Often times, at least here in the USA, we do not see these types of fiber art in our museums or in public. If we do, there is little or “no” information about them or their makers.

Is it easy to find them? NO! Most of the RHW Exhibit’s antique hooked rugs are loaned from descendants, private collectors & dealers. However, they are also borrowed from institutions & museums. We greatly appreciate their generosity.

A lot of work goes into it… Before we bring these pieces to our exhibit we gather information, authorities, teachers, & speakers. We offer gallery talks, classes & other opportunities to take full advantage of learning & teaching opportunities – from history & provenance, as well as much about the artist as we can discover, as well as, the significance of their designs, colors, materials, tools, & techniques. For anyone not participating in relevant classes, amply signage accompanies the piece & folks are on hand to answer questions.

Rug Hooking Week Website

While you might not be familiar with the American antique hooked/shirred rugs in this Blog. They are there as an inspiration, an incentive. Take the opportunity to include vintage & historic fiber art in your exhibits, whatever part of the world you live in! Or encourage your museums to pull an exhibit out of the archives!