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‘I can probably do that’: Westminster student hooked on traditional rug making

Before the mass production of rugs began, rug making was largely considered a traditional art. Traditionally, rugs are made through a slow, time-consuming and detailed process.

A photo of traditional rug making by Maile Kilmer.
Pictured is the second rug Maile Kilmer ever made. Kilmer draws design inspiration from the southwestern United States, influenced by the patterns, animals, plants of the region. (Sage Stewart)

A process that seemed to be the perfect way for art enthusiast and third-year environmental studies student, Maile Kilmer, to spend her time through the pandemic. 

“I’m inspired by the bright color and sharp design of Maile’s rug collection,” said KC Carter, third-year communication student and multimedia artist, in an email to The Forum. “I know hand poke rugs have become a popular art form as creatives have had more time on their hands during quarantine, and it’s so cool to see Westminster students translating their skills into new styles of art.”

The Forum sat down with Kilmer to learn more about her process and inspiration for hand making rugs. Answers are edited for clarity and conciseness.

Q: What got you into rug making?

A: I actually just wanted to redecorate and I really wanted a rug, but they’re pretty expensive. So I was like, I can probably do that. 

Then, as I looked more into it, it looked really interesting and a really cool form of art. It’s a different style than I’ve ever tried before, using textiles. So yeah, I think the necessity is what got me into it. Then as I started doing it, it just seemed really cool. 

Q: How does the cost of making a rug compare to buying one?

A: Yarn is probably $3, maybe $5 at the most for a spool. Obviously, if you want to do more colors that will add up, but usually for one rug, I’ll probably spend like $35 on yarn and I can re-use it for another rug. The fabric is around $20 for a big thing of it and the wood was probably like $10.

Rugs are typically pretty expensive — like, several hundred dollars. So I don’t think it’s that bad and especially because it’s handmade and it’s unique.

Q: How long does it take you to complete a rug?

A: The smallest frame I have probably takes me around 15 hours total to finish. 

It definitely is super time-consuming. But, you can just listen to music or a podcast or TV or whatever. It’s one of those things where you do it and time flies by, like three hours have passed and you’ve done a tiny little patch of it.

Q: What are your feelings when you get to see someone walk away with something you spent so long making?

A: I always love seeing them in people’s houses. My brother bought one for me, which is really cool, and so did a few friends. When they send me pictures of it, on the floor or on the wall, whatever it is, it’s a cool feeling for sure.

I definitely still feel like, ‘Oh, this is not good enough for you to like, give me money for’.  But I mean, it does take a long time and I really, really appreciate the support everyone has given me. It feels super good. 

Q: You started with making a rug, just trying to get decorated, is there a reason why you kept going with it? 

A: I liked the medium of it. I think there’s a lot of cool things you can do. My first rug is very basic but, the more I’ve gotten into it, I’ve enjoyed trying to shade and add more detail to it. 

It’s just so unique. Like you can use it as a rug or you can put it on the wall and I think that’s super cool too. I feel like it’s just really versatile. I love the different textures that you can incorporate with different yarn. I love the 3d feel of it.

Q: Is there a reason that you keep creating art in general? 

A: This is kind of dumb, but one of my resolutions this year was to just incorporate art in my life more because like I said, I’ve just done it a lot growing up, but I don’t really prioritize it.

Making that more, a part of my life, it’s just made me a lot happier in general. It’s something I really like to do. And art is such a wide term, so putting that in my life more definitely is just something I look forward to and it’s fun. I don’t know, I like the feeling of creating things and it just makes me feel good and it’s fun to express. So yeah, that always is the reason I keep doing it. 

It’s one of those things that’s hard to make yourself do. You know you love it and you know, it’ll make you feel better. Which is so dumb, but yeah, it definitely just enhances my life in every way. I think it makes me more creative and every other aspect that isn’t technically art.

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Sage Stewart is a junior communication major at Westminster College. As a lifelong multimedia artist, Sage feels that art, no matter the medium, is one of the best things our world has to offer. When they aren’t obsessing about the arts, you can either find Sage peacefully lost in the outdoors or reading about theology and human interaction. In the future, they hope to work helping people gain access to arts organizations and communities.

1 Comment

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