The Story of Red Jack
In 1996, I finished my first rug and enjoyed creating it so much that I wanted to start another rug right away, a big rug with lots and lots of red and orange. At the time, I was working with only secondhand wool salvaged from old coats. Part of the fun of rug hooking was running around on Fridays with my mom to different garage sales and rummage sales to locate old wool coats. We would almost burst with excitement whenever we found colorful coats. Imagine that one Friday when we found full length red and an orange coats. We could hardly contain ourselves.
What could I hook with such fabulous colors? Immediately we agreed, autumn leaves. So we drove around the tree lined streets of Chelsea, Michigan, and, like little kids, picked up a sackful of autumn leaves, maple, oak, and elm. Once home, I drew around the leaves and cut them out as white paper templates. On a long piece of burlap (yes I hooked on burlap at one time, but no more) I laid out the paper leaves and began to draw around them. As I got to the center of the burlap I noticed shapes between the leaves that took on the look of eyes and a mouth peeking out. So I drew these in as well. This is how Jack showed up in my rug, only instead of a Green Man, he was appeared in his autumn guise as Red Jack.
It took me until 1999 to finish this rug but it was worth the investment of time because it was selected as one of the rugs in the Celebration of Hand-Hooked Rugs magazine the following year. It was my first successful rug and launched my art studio.
It was also the last rug that my mom helped me create and saw me finish. I remember in August 1999 bringing the rug to my mom’s house when I visited her (I had moved to Illinois by then) to show her the finished piece. She had been the one to constantly encourage me over the years to finish the rug. It was so large there were times I was either discouraged and tired of it. So she was so happy to see it ready to be exhibited at Sauder Village. A month later my mom unexpectedly died of complications following an emergency surgery, so Jack in the Red (as the rug came to be called) was the last of my rugs she saw.
For all these reasons this rug became the namesake for my studio.