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Cutting a Rug

“Mary Sheppard Burton is a storyteller, a treasured tradition-bearer who recounts the history and heritage of rural life in the early years of the 20th century. Mary has taken a utilitarian craft and elaborated upon it to create works of art that are both personal and communal: vibrantly visual, exquisitely designed and crafted hooked rugs. Like all great folk artists, she creates for the pure joy of creativity,” Peggy Bulger, director of the Library’s American Folklife Center, has said.

The Secret Place. 1994 Minnesota State Winner, "...and Jack's mother threw the magic beans out of the window." 1993

A resident of Germantown, Md., Burton is considered one of the world’s foremost authorities and lecturers on the art of rug-hooking. For Burton, rug-hooking is more than simply an artistic medium, it is a treasured family heirloom; one pioneered by her grandmother and great-grandmother.

Burton has authored three books, the first two – “Judging by Merit” and “Educational Standards” – used extensively by home economists as guides when judging county and state fair rug-hooking competitions. Her third book, “A Passion for the Creative Life: Textiles to Lift the Spirit,” has been lauded for capturing the joy and beauty of not only her own work but also of the art of rug-hooking. She has taught numerous classes and workshops throughout North America and has a long list of awards and accolades, including winning Best of Show in the Crafts Collection presented by the Creative Crafts Council of Greater Washington D.C.

In March 2006, the American Folklife Center acquired Burton’s collection, including a set of 12 rugs that comprise a series titled “Tell Me ‘Bout,” which relates a personal narrative about her family. Accompanying each image of the rugs is commentary by the artist, explaining the story behind the scenes depicted. The carpets, which are as large as 45" by 69", may be viewed as complete images (in two sizes) or interactively using the "zoom" view.

The American Folklife Center provides online access to selected portions of its collections. These online presentations cover a various topics and the American Memory collection provides additional online access to selected collections. Content includes audio samples of music and stories, digital images of rare letters and photographs, and video clips.

The American Memory presentation Quilts and Quiltmaking in America features recorded interviews and more than 400 images of contemporary quiltmaking styles in the United States.

A. The Secret Place. 1994. American Folklife Center. Reproduction Information: Reproduction information not available.

B. Minnesota State Winner, "...and Jack's mother threw the magic beans out of the window." 1993. American Folklife Center. Reproduction Information: Call No.: AFC 1997/011: Folder 9017 P1