Louisa Lewis


Painting in Rags
An Exhibition of Rag Rugs by Lewis and Louisa Creed
12th November - 20th December 2002
DARTS: The Point, 16 South Parade, Doncaster

To see the rugs, follow the links from their titles in the text.


I cannot pretend an ignorance of the work of Lewis and Louisa Creed as I have seen Louisa’s work since 1993 and the evolution of Lewis’s from his first small projects that convinced him “this is not for me” to his first rug, Owl, a glimpse of which can be seen in Louisa’s rug Lewis and Louisa Making Rag Rugs, a portrait of the two of them at work. Despite my familiarity, this exhibition made me take a fresh look at their work.

The arrangement of the exhibition, including minimal distraction from labels and other information, encouraged finding one’s own way to relate to these works of art. The exhibition was in a pleasant modern wing of the building. One comes upon the exhibition as an open stairway descends into a courtyard room and Louisa’s set of four rugs Tree Seasons (approximately 3’ x 3’) draws one into an appreciation of nature through the seasons. Louisa is exploring the effect of the seasons on different trees – from the Summer grove where a woman sits surrounded by greenery, through Autumn with its rich red leaves, to a Winter sun colouring a snow covered landscape and, finally, Spring, interesting from an artist’s viewpoint because it violates the rules of composition yet its row of birches marching off the hessian compels rather than confuses the viewer.

Louisa’s rugs are neither abstract nor literal. For example, two scenes from their three-month trip to Australia and New Zealand dominate one wall in the cafe – Ayers Rock and Volcanic Craters, this latter an aerial view of extinct volcanoes filled with bright turquoise water. At a medium distance this could be read as an abstract in grey, brown and beige with random turquoise circles; close up one sees the strands of colour (green, blue, red) woven in to give the neutrals vibrancy. The lines of the hooking follow the contours of the hills and, from a distance, I see the landscape not “as I know it from photographs”, but as I imagine Louisa sees it: rich in colour and texture, light and shadow, direction and form.

In Ayers Rock, Louisa’s palette is not restricted, and her characteristic use of hundreds of closely related shades makes the rock gleam and throws light and shadows on the surrounding vegetation and desert. My first impression was of a familiar picture – this unmistakeable rock rising from the desert – but after contemplating it for some time, I realised that it was an unusual view. Only part of the rock is seen in the upper right quadrant so the viewer must take an active part to complete the picture. The effect is dramatic and engaging. Other rugs influenced by their trip include Louisa’s stylised Lizards of Oz, and Lewis’s rugs Seaflower (a fantasy in blue and green) and Kiwi (the bird, not the fruit).

On another of the cafe’s walls hang a quartet of Lewis’s animals – Cock on a Dung Hill, Penultimate Dodo (with egg), Puffin and Red Parrot. Although these were not made as a series, seen together they have a unity. That unity of purpose has been evident since Lewis started saying “this is for me”. He says that he makes “fun rugs”, and his experience as a cartoonist comes through in his whimsical bold designs, and his background in weaving and mosaics is evident in the precise way he handles the fabric. His rugs are approximately the same size (3’ x 3’), and most often the design is a central figure framed with border. His preferred material is wool scarves so if your local charity shop has no interesting winter scarves, you will know that Lewis has been in.

When you have the opportunity to study a number of his rugs together, you will see that while the composition may be similar, the effect is not of sameness. He demonstrates that an endless (and at rug 44 it does seem endless) variety can be achieved by exploring within one’s own style. Not only does he treat each figure differently in terms of the blending of colours or the deliberate use of large areas of the same fabric, but his backgrounds vary from the wavy yellows in Kiwi to the dead calm straight lines of the sky in Puffin reflected in the choppy water to the dark diagonal lines in Cock and Hen which cut through the light squiggles. It would be easy to imagine that Lewis works from a bag of random fabric but I assure you this effect is achieved by working in a very ordered way.

More of Lewis’s work is exhibited in the back hallway: endearing Walrus, Clown (uncharacteristic in its flat “poster” quality and very bright colours), portly Cock and Hen, animated Frog with Red Worm, Mermaid (inspired by a medieval carving in Zennov Church, Cornwall) and a naked woman obviously flinging Discretion to the Winds.

The exhibition ends with Louisa’s series of four large (3’4” x 4’10”) rugs entitled View over Rowntree Park (York). Each rug is so different that people take some time to realise that these rugs were worked from the same drawing. Louisa completed them during the appropriate season, working, as it were, from life since their house overlooks the park.

I hope that you are as lucky as I was and saw this exhibition; if not, you can get a taste of it by viewing their excellent website (www.louisa-creed-ragrugs.co.uk).

© Glenda Morris 2003
If you would like to reproduce this article please contact Glenda at gbmorris@btopenworld.com





Louisa Creed
York, UK, 2001-2018