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Artisans Center of Virginia

 Dana Ailer

Creating beautiful rugs the same way as generations of Southern women before me

Artisans Center of Virginia Juried Artisan

My rugs are created using a method handed down through generations of strong women in rural Virginia. My great-grandmother, Minnie May Brinkley, was a school teacher, farmer, barber, and artist. Minnie learned to make these rugs from her grandmother, and she taught my mom the craft during summers Mom spent on her Bath County farm. Mom handed the craft down to me, and I’ve been making rugs ever since.

Minnie created rugs from scraps of cloth, feed bags, and outgrown clothing; anything she could find in depression-era rural Virginia. In keeping with her spirit of adaptive reuse, I use upcycled materials in my own rugs as often as possible. I’ve retained the same “rugging” technique generations of Virginia women have used before me. This traditional method is more time consuming, but produces rugs that are durable, machine washable, and finer (thinner) than other rugs created using faster methods. I hope to continue a tradition Southern women have been exercising for generations: using something tired and worn out to create something beautiful that provides comfort and simple luxury to our families.

My long-term goal in producing rugs is to expose people (especially women) to the craft and what it means. That is, how this humble and simple craft produces beautiful, functional folk art and represents the resilience, creativity, and nurturing instinct of generations of women. It’s an important message for the women of the 21st century to know they are powerful and influential in ways they’ve never even thought of – just like their ancestors were, and just like their daughters will be. To achieve the goal of getting this message out, I plan to participate in craft shows and retreats, telling Minnie’s story and teaching the technique to others. I think the message is particularly important to women in the South Eastern states, and also in Britain, where the whole thing started.

Professional Distinction: Commission/Custom Work, Consignment/Retail, Demonstrations, Exhibition, Instruction

Dana Ailer

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