(Rug) Hooked on History: Exploring Our New Exhibit!

What do Tarot Cards and rugs have in common? Well, honestly not much. However, they both have a long, interesting history here in North America and in Europe. They are also the subjects of our next exhibit!


Hooked Chair Mat, ESVHS Collection

The technique of using a hook to pull loops of yarn or fabric through a stiff woven base dates back to the those of Scandinavian descent who settled in Scotland, though earlier versions of the craft can be found in other parts of Europe. The descendants of these early rug hookers eventually carried knowledge of their craft to the new world, settling in the New England and Canadian Maritime area. The craft blossomed in the Americas, as settlers had less new materials to work with, every scrap of fabric had to be reused. Many early American rugs have fabric from old curtains, clothes, and stockings. Modern Rug hookers make use of wool, which can be bought in a variety of colors, or they custom dye wool for a particular project. The craft has grown from simple floor coverings to beautiful works of art.



“The Hanged Man” Rider-Waite-Smith deck, 1910

 The history of tarot cards is similarly long, beginning in southern Europe as a card game, tarochinni, which is still played today. Many today know of the tarot as a method of divination, with the 78-card deck divided into two distinct parts: a 22-card Major Arcana (Big Secrets) followed by a 56-card minor arcana. It’s believed that a combination of each card’s symbolism as well as a variety of card layouts gave insight to one’s troubles. The symbolism and pictures depicted on the cards have varied throughout the centuries, but most are familiar with the Rider-Waite-Smith deck, first published in 1910.


Chariot, Lynne Fowler

The Rider-Waite-Smith deck serves as the inspiration for our visiting rug hooking exhibit. In 2015, Rug Hookers, Michele Micarelli and Loretta Scena, conceived of an idea for different rug hookers to hook their interpretation of a card in the Major Arcana. A group of 23 artists each picked a card in the Major Arcana, with the 23rd artist creating a design for the back of the cards. One of the members of our historical society, Lynne Fowler, was invited to hook her interpretation of the “Chariot” card.


Explore more about the exhibit and the symbolism behind each card at Tarot Rug Project News and Index to the Rugs .

Join us as we explore the Tarot Card, as interpreted by rug hookers in our new temporary exhibit “Exploring the Tarot: 23 Artists Hook the Major Arcana,” opening July 8, 2016. A reception will be held at Ker Place on July 8th from 6-8 pm. The reception is free and open to the public with a cash bar.