Louisa Lewis


Workshop with Lewis and Louisa Creed and Glenda Morris

Staithes, North Yorkshire


Staithes is one of those North Yorkshire coast villages that spills down the cliff and into the sea in a jumble of closely packed colours, shapes and textures. It is the sort of place where one needs net curtains on the roof lights for privacy, washing lines are hung with rug materials and people have conversations with one another.

Louisa, Lewis and I were pleased to be invited by Patricia Hutchinson to give a workshop to a group there, many of whom had experimented with making proddy rugs, knitting, sewing, embroidery and lace making as well as painting, pottery and it seems every other form of art or craft. They tried to convince me that they were cut off from the rest of the world. Maybe they are, but the effect has been to produce a kaleidoscope of creativity.

The atmosphere in the church hall was warm, relaxed and comfortable, and everyone was willing to give this new type of work a go. Louisa urged people to be expansive and to experiment with a very simple design, say just a hill, rather than using a design more appropriate to embroidery. She showed, as an example, her latest rug, which was nearly finished. It is number two in a set of four rugs of Avebury stone circle, inspired by our recent trip to Portland (see WoRR November issue). Although the focal point of the rug is a large stone, Louisa said that her real interest was in the background. There are perhaps 40 greens with no two adjacent strips of the same fabric. These strips are not in straight lines but follow the gently rolling contours of the land.

Louisa also brought along a few bundles of fabric cut in strips to demonstrate how many tones of the same colour she would use in the rug: one was of the 30 reds to be used in the sun for Avebury number 3 and so on. These were eagerly snatched up, with strips disappearing into rugs as the samples were passed along the table.

Louisa emphasised that, although we do use recycled material, what might be called “rags”, we choose our fabric carefully, and for a good result, you should be prepared to do the same. Almost all the clothes we wear are from charity shops and we cut them up for rugs, but we are not drearily “using up what we have around the house” but collecting material that produces the effect we want. I have learned from Louisa (and Lewis) to be extravagant in collecting and using materials. It is impossible (for me) to achieve a satisfying effect in my rugs without using lots of garments, and those that appeal to me. My favourites are wool / angora blends because they are so soft and stretchy, but I am willing to use anything that appeals. Louisa prefers wool, but will use other fabrics, and Lewis is particularly partial to wool scarves which form his distinctive borders.

After an extravagant lunch, prepared by Patricia, Shirley and Sean, we returned to say something about our rugs, which we had hung on the walls. My car can only carry so much, fully loaded it only allows us four rugs apiece, but that is enough to see that we have very different styles.

Louisa, as probably most of you know, “paints in rags”, usually cats or landscapes. Close up, I revel in the different patterns, textures, colours and ingenious use of fabrics but the depth and richness of the image is only fully revealed from a distance so I am always happy when I get the chance to see Louisa’s rugs in a big space.

Lewis has a very different style: his background in weaving and mosaics is apparent. His subjects, often animals, are whimsical and, while he appears to be doing missy mazzy backgrounds, they are, upon close inspection, very ordered, and he builds them up in an ordered way. He recommends starting with the border, using black rug wool to give a straight outside edge.

Louisa had many tips on ways to filet garments and how to keep the fabrics in order; Lewis, who is anything but a neat worker, had many tips on how to achieve a neat result. I am neither a tidy worker nor do I achieve a tidy end product, but I am organised. People think that I must be making proddy mats or using some special tool because my loops are as large as the fabric and technique will allow. Someone recently suggested to me that I am doing what is known as colour field painting, a branch of abstract expressionism that applies colour in large areas or fields. For example, my current rug (6’ x 3’) uses the white horse of Uffington as an excuse to allow prehistoric cave painting colours to run over the background.

Staithes and its community inspired me, and I think the workshop participants enjoyed themselves. Everyone went away well started on a small project. It sounded to me like there were many “something on toast” evening meals in Staithes on Saturday – too busy on the rug to bother with cooking tonight, dear.


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




Louisa Creed
York, UK, 2001-2018