Labor of Love




It’s not easy work, but hooking rugs is how one master of the craft preserves cherished places.When Ann Winterling was a child she watched her Aunt Helen hooking rugs and got, well, hooked on the craft herself. “I always wanted to do what she did,” she says. And so she did — big time.

Today she is a juried member of the League of N.H. Craftsmen and considered a master of traditional rug hooking. She has exhibited her rugs nationally and internationally, and in 1999 was invited to demonstrate her craft at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival in Washington, D.C. This month she’s showing her work at the League’s Gallery 205 multi-media exhibition called “The Things We Do for Love.” It runs until March 26 in Concord.

Winterling is passionate about her craft and has been since she started taking lessons after she moved to Concord almost 40 years ago. “I get excited about the colors and the scenes. It is a great joy for me,” she says.

Her designs — they’re all her own — are what she calls pictorials, some of them lyrical like the “Mid Summer Night’s Dream” shown above and some of them farm scenes like the one to the right. When her children were young, she and her husband raised lots of farm animals — horses, sheep, geese, goats, chickens, pigs and one cow. “I’m definitely inspired by the memories of our farm. Everything I do is a place that I know and love.”

Winterling uses spun wool fabric that she dyes herself (“I never use it as is”). She saturates it with color because she feels it gives the work more character and makes it more interesting. Her backing is woven linen or cotton monk’s cloth.

It takes Winterling four to six months to complete a rug. “It’s very labor intensive,” she says. She no longer sells her work (“I tell people how to make their own instead”), but she does often exhibit at shows and her rugs are featured in several books on the craft. For her, hooking rugs is simply a labor of love.

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