BY MARY ELLEN GEIST
In an historic stone building across from the well known restaurant called Legs Inn, rugs in rich vibrant colors and in soft muted earth tones in all shapes, sizes and designs hang from the walls. And big bins of freshly wasted wool shorn from sheep raised on Northern Michigan farms are being prepared to be dyed with Eco-friendly colors.
On any given day seven days a week you can hear the truddels moving up and down on rows upon rows of wooden loons and shuttles whispering through a warp. The weavers here are local artisans some of them carrying on hundreds of years of their ancestors traditions, others are just beginning the trade after taking courses at this store.
In the back room Sheila Petoskey Shalako, a descendant of Chief Petoskey for whom the city of Petoskey is named labors over a rug in rich dark green and brilliant blue wool yarns the design depicts a fox hunting down a bird.
“I’m filling in the big picture I look at each of these little pieces as like a puzzle piece, because each one is going to be a different color.”
Passing down Native American traditions is an iatrical part of this store’s mission.
“Oh, I did a pattern of Ojibway beadwork that was flowers mostly it was a floral pattern.”
Former executive director of Cross Village Rug Works Mandy Anderson explains how this unusual non-profit cottage industry was born,
“In about March of 2007, MaryAnn Van Lockeren and Cheryl Reed were sitting saying what can we do to help Cross Village because Cross Village formulated a township survey and a master plan in ’03-’04 and three parts in that master plan that they really, that Sheryl and Maryann felt were very important to focus on were economic stimulus, agricultural preservation or preservation of open spaces as well as historical preservation of the area because this is the longest continuously settled area in Michigan.”
Cross Village Rug Works is local in every way,
“A big reason that the community is involved is because we are supporting the economic development of this area by providing these materials and this area for people and this training we’re allowing people in the Cross Village in the greater Cross Village area to stay here and work.”
Even the dying process employs local teachers, local artists and uses local plants.
“The natural dyes that we did are from plants native to this area so it’s like bear berry and that’s willow twigs it’s amazing the things that we get from it.”
One of Cross Village Rug Works goals is to be a self-sustaining economic engine with up to thirty artisans by the year 2011.
What’s called the punch needle method makes Cross Village Rug Works able to make photos and other custom made artwork come alive.
“It starts with a photo and then it gets transferred on to paper and then it gets blown up on a projector and then it gets redrawn on the monks cloth and you work from the back so it’s difficult because you have to draw everything backwards.”
Anderson is stepping down from her position to move to Alaska.
“The idea of Rug Works itself has been from the very start has been pretty astonishing and to be able to be apart of that and learn along with that is pretty incredible.”
Karen Darton is taking over as executive director.
“We have twenty artisans now close to twenty and they’re all local and myself.”
Darton says new products are on the way,
“We’ve had such a tremendous response we’re selling things really quickly so now we need to keep that up and make more,”
And new ways to pass on this tradition are being created,
“Also our web presence, develop that so when people are not in Cross Village they can still order from us and see what’s new”.
As Cross Village Rug Works weaves the old and the new into a beautiful design. For CMU Public Radio, I’m Mary Ellen Geist in Cross Village.