Collection

Hearth Rug

Collection: When modernism goes bad

Category: Furniture

Date: c.1930s

Material: cotton, jute

Dimensions: 1.5 x 100 x 60 cm

Abstract:

Semi-circular rag rug with sun-ray design 

Provenance:

Bought from a Penrith auction 

Adaptions/renovations:

None 

Why it's in the Collection:

Rag rugs are an example of a long-standing folk craft local to Cumbria. Typically made by women, farmers and fisherman's wives living on a limited budget and with limited access to high quality textiles, they are an example of so-called 'upcycling' - an attitude and aesthetic closely linked to the contemporary image of a vintage or thrift shop. Rag rugs use basic sacking to structure the rags which are pushed through a loose warp and weft. Such cheap, readily available, and reused material indicate poverty which led to the development of the technique. 

The rag rug's connection to Winifred Nicholson also highlights the collision of the international and the local, the traditional and the modern, the popular and the avant-garde - blending the different aesthetics of each. 

This is one of several rag rugs in the Lawson Park Collection. 

About the Designer/Maker:

The designers and makers of this set of rugs are unknown. However, they were purchased with Winifred Nicholson (1893-1981) in mind. Nicholson was the granddaughter of the Earl of Carlisle. The family seat was Naworth Castle near the market town of Brampton in the north of Cumbria. Nicholson became a painter, initially drawing inspiration from William Morris who was a friend of her grandfather's. She met fellow painter Ben Nicholson and they married in 1920. Fours years later they bought Bankshead, a farmhouse on Hadrian's Wall near her aristocratic home but their marriage deteriorated after Ben met the sculptor Barbara Hepworth in 1931. Thereafter Winifred spent long periods of time at Bankshead painting interior, still life and landscape scenes imbued with a spirituality associated with the Christian Science movement. Later, in the 1940s, she worked with local women, designing rag rugs for them to execute. Winifred's painting showed a fascination with light and its visible spectrum of colours, an idea assigned great significance by Christian Science as manifestation of Christ with the power to heal. The rising sun motif of this rug is, therefore, a particularly apt reference to Nicholson's work.