Rug Rap with Sibyl Osicka

This is the first of a series of informal conversations (Rug Raps) with hooking teachers that I am planning to post on Red Jack Rugs each month. Our first guest is Sibyl Osicka who paints with wool. She is an impressive fine-cut rug hooker, a well-known rug hooking teacher and an author. Today she shares with us her journey as a rug hooker. Photos and interview are used with Sibyl Osicka's permission.

April: First let me thank you for taking the time to talk to us about rug hooking, an art that you have devoted so much of your life to. How did you get started hooking? What are your memories of the first piece you finished?

Sibyl: I started hooking in 1982. I wanted to make a rug for my living room, which I did. Seven foot by nine foot in a Victorian style. There wasn't a rug like this to place in my living room so I decided to make one of my own. To this day I am so pleased with the rug because it goes with my furniture so beautifully. My first rug was an Oriental, 18" by 24". I sold it and the person was going to use it in their bathroom. I did this rug in a #3 cut, which my teacher didn't want me to do. There were little scrolls on the rug and I was fingering the scrolls without knowing it. I just liked the look.

April: What is it about rug hooking that makes you keep hooking, and dyeing, and teaching? Why rug hooking?

Sibyl: Being creative is the answer with the drive to continue rug hooking. I love color and finding new combinations makes me ever so happy. As for teaching, I couldn't hook all the pieces I would like to but I can with my students. They hook the piece and I enjoy the look but do not have to do the work myself. Also with teaching I meet so many wonderful people, which I enjoy so much and I am such a lucky gal to have so many friends. I find that rug hooking is so rewarding and since starting it, I haven't gone back to other crafts.

April: Why did you decide to become a certified McGown teacher? When did you make the decision? What is the process you went through for certification?

Sibyl: My instructor asked me to go to teacher's workshop. I didn't think I was teaching material, but 20 years later being on the road, I am a teacher. I love to share my knowledge with students and watch them grow into artists. I worked very hard to get my accreditation. I was able to complete it in 5 years. When I first went to teacher's workshop I realize how little I knew. So I decided to educate myself and learn as much as possible. I am still learning. I went to teacher's workshop in 1985, got my first accreditation in 1989. I then went through the new teaching program and got my second accreditation in 2004. The second program was more difficult but a very good program.

April: If someone is interested in becoming certified, what should they do?

Sibyl: Before going to teacher's workshop, educate yourself to the very best you can. Going to teacher's workshop is learning how to teach only. You do not have to excel in all avenues of rug hooking, but you should learn as much as possible before attending workshop. It will be a lot easier if you approach it this way.

April: You are also a member of ATHA. Tell us about that organization and how you have been involved in it.

Sibyl: I joined ATHA shortly after I started to rug hook. I enjoyed the newsletter. As time went on I decided to run for treasurer. I ran a dental office, had power of attorney, took care of my business books, (I was an Antique dealer plus an upholster) and did my husband's books ( he was a finish carpenter and a sub-contractor). I am very happy I did so. I have everything running so smoothly and the treasury is just fine. ATHA was put together for all hooking artists. We have redone our newsletter which I am so proud of. I also felt it was necessary to be on the editorial staff so the newsletter would have how-to articles. There are so many hooking artists that do not have a teacher near them, so with how-to articles, it will be of some help to them.

April: What current rug are you hooking? What is the process you go through to create a rug for yourself?

Sibyl: I just finished working on an Oriental and completed the finishing. I completed two pieces for the Cleveland Zoo silent auction. I have ideas on what I would like to do. I’m thinking about next year’s patterns for the Zoo. I drew the ideas on tracing paper, then transferred them to the backing. The next process is to dye the wool and I can then begin to hook them. I love the patterns I have put together for the Zoo 2010 and cannot wait to start them.

April: You have authored a couple of books about hooking. You have two dye books Soft is Beautiful I and II, where you share your fantastic dye recipes, and more recently a lovely bound softcover book Creative Journey into Rug Hooking: A Book of Color and Technique for all hookers. Can you tell us about these books and how they can be ordered?

Sibyl: I decided to write the dye books when I first started to rug hook. I had so many dye formulas that I was creating and that is how I put together the dye books. As time went on I felt that a rug hooking reference book was needed. Creative Journey took me four years to write. I tried to cover everything I could and I wanted a book for everyone to read and go back to when they were in doubt of a subject. This book is for all cuts of hooking and is loaded with information. This book can be purchased from my website, and I have pay pal. It can be ordered through me directly, or W. Cushing Company, Heirloom's Tomorrow and other places. I also bring them to workshops when I attend them.

April: It has been a pleasure talking with you, Sibyl. Thank you for giving so generously of yourself to all of us who love to hook rugs. You deserve applause for all your hard work for ATHA and the wonderful innovations you have made there. I hope to be able to attend a rug camp where you are teaching soon. Until then, good hooking!

For more information about Sibyl Osicka including her teaching schedule, a gallery of her rugs, and her books, go directly to her website