I grew up in Toledo, OH. In the third grade my teacher, Miss Clifford, recommended me for a program at the Toledo Museum of Art. I attended Saturday art classes for several years. Later I joined the Toledo Artists’ Club and my proudest moment is when my watercolor painting got a ribbon in the show. I beat out 14 year olds!
Then life intervened. You need to make a living so art got put to the side. I married early and soon found myself with a family. I got my college degree in Construction Management while working full time. It took several years but I landed my dream job. After only a year, I quit that job due to health problems. The doctors were having trouble pinpointing the problem and since I was in a very stressful job, my work life got blamed a lot. No job is worth your health, right? So I quit.
A year later and still no concrete diagnosis, I was doing a complicated counted cross stitch piece by Thomas Kincade. I realized I messed up somewhere and was “off.” A new segment started on the television show I was watching, Home Matters. I was mesmerized by the look of the rugs and the colors. I immediately got on-line and looked up the information on the show. The phone number for a shop in Georgia was disconnected. The show must have been a rerun. Because I was so curious, I got my keys and drove to the main branch library in Toledo.
I took out every book in section. I read them cover to cover. I visited fabric stores and craft stores. No one knew what I was talking about. Luckily I noticed in the bibliographies a common thread – Rug Hooking Magazine. Turns out there was only one bookstore in Toledo that carried it.
I purchased that first magazine with Margo White’s Lion on the cover. The clerk told me that a new issue was due out the next week. My lucky day. I was there when the store opened the next day and got my second issue. In an article called the Loop was the name of a woman from Sylvania, OH, about 50 minutes away.
I joined that group, found supplies and hooked my first chairpad in about 2 days and that was after re-hooking the background several times because I packed horribly. The only hooked pieces I had seen up to now were a few small sample pieces at the shop and those hooked by the “Sylvania ladies.”
Two weeks later was the rug exhibit at Sauder Village. My daughter went with me. What a high. This was the first time I had seen real rugs hooked by other people. And the vendors. . .
I remember being in the vendor area and seeing a group of women gathered around one of the tables. Of course, I was curious. I stood on my tippy toes to see what was going on. One of the women made room for me and welcomed me in. That was just the beginning of the kindness I have found in the rug hooking world. A woman was holding up different kinds of wool and suggesting how they could be used. This is a good wool for the center of a sunflower, use this wool for trees, etc. As she turned, I saw her name badge, “That’s Barbara Carroll, she’s famous!” My daughter just shook her head. She knew I was hooked.
I signed up for a class with Jule Marie Smith that Friday and Saturday. I had so much fun. I sat next to Sue Hammer who patiently answered my questions. The next week I received a package of 31 back issues of Rug Hooking Magazines that I got from ebay. I was shocked to find out that my teacher had several covers and that several of the people in the class had published articles. I had been in the presence of greatness.
That weekend changed my life forever. I attended the Sauder Village workshop every year since. I noticed quickly that I had missed a lot of fun Friday night when I went home. Most of the class stayed at the hotel and hooked into the evening. I’ve learned since that much of the fun of rug camp happens after class time.
I found June Mikoryak in Allen Park, MI. I drove an hour and a half each way. I was able to get a spot in both the morning and afternoon classes so I could stay all day. I could feel my rug hooking muscle grow every Tuesday.
June encouraged me to get certified and sponsored me in the McGown Teacher Certification program. During my first year there I spent about an hour waiting to pay my bill for the week. I spent that time chatting with Genieve Patterson. I really enjoyed our talk. Several months later at Sauder Village, Genieve told me she had someone she wanted me to meet. Billie Jean Glass was the director of Cedar Lakes Rug Camp and she was looking for a new teacher! She said she needed primitive teachers. My rug, “Village of Pemberville,” had just won best of show and People’s Choice that week, but could I teach primitive? Luckily I had my photo album with me and she flipped through a few pages. When she got to “Standoff: Samson v Kitty Mom” she looked up and asked what my schedule was in May. Was I available to teach? It turned out that one of her favorite rugs was my dog and cat rug. I was in.
I taught every year at Cedar Lakes for the next 10 years. That camp starts Mother’s Day and kicks off the rug hooking season for the year. Just a few weeks later I got a call from Shirley Engle to teach at one of her camps. I later found out that I had a guardian angel, Genieve Patterson. She was retiring from the rug camp circuit and was recommending me to her directors. I got a great start because a kind rug hooker spread the word for me.
As they say, the rest is history. I taught all over the country and enjoyed every minute of it. When travel became a chore I decided to take a break. In 2013 I stopped accepting invitations to teach and notified the directors of my current camps. It was a decision that has saved my sanity.
In 2013 we bought a house in the country that needed everything. My husband was diagnosed with congestive heart failure just 10 days after we closed. He had surgery to get a defibrillator installed. I fell in Jan 2014 and broke my kneecap into three pieces, more surgery. Dave had his shoulder replaced in March 2015, an infection of his defibrillator wires that needed more surgery in August 2015. Somehow during all that we got the studio remodelled. I teach three day workshops in my own home. You can find out more here.
I love teaching at home where I have everything I need. No more packing. As you can see, the students enjoy the other members of the household. The class size is very small, no more than eight. I can really give the kind of attention to each student that cannot be duplicated in an away workshop with 15 -21 students.
Thank you to all my students. You have become my friends. Those of you who keep coming back for more stretch me to my limits. I always want to have something new to share. You are fueling the search.
If you are ever in the Bowling Green, OH area (where I-75 and Route 6 intersect, south of the turnpike) give me a call and stop by the studio. I have the largest wool selection in the area.
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Cindi Gay Rug Hooking Newsletter
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