Growing up in rural Newfoundland Deanne Fitzpatrick never envisioned herself as an artist or an author.
The Brookdale resident operates two businesses in downtown Amherst, including a rug-hooking studio and fibre arts store and a women’s clothing store 30 Church, and has become one of the more popular rug-hooking instructors in the region with people taking her courses in person or online from across Atlantic Canada, North America and the world.
Fitzpatrick recently completed her seventh book, but instead of publishing a how to book, Making a Life: Twenty-Five Years of Hooking Rugs looks back at her career as an artist.
“It’s about what I’ve done in hooking rugs. I’ve created a life based on art, simplicity, community and tradition,” Fitzpatrick. “This book focuses on two things, on making rugs and the rugs I’ve made over a 25-year period along with vignettes of the things I’ve done as I made them.”
Some of the vignettes are about making rugs, but others are about her life and how she has built a life around her art.
“It’s a bit of a retrospective. I wrote it from the heart, wrote what I felt and thought” she said. “I really wanted a book that showed from the simplest rugs when I started to the rugs I’m making now.”
The 120-page hard-cover book is published by Nimbus Publishing and available at bookstores throughout the region.
For Fitzpatrick, who played a prominent role in creating the first Nova Scotia Fibre Arts Festival with Rhonda Kelly, said she began making rugs to cover the floor of the family farmhouse.
“I was working and as I was working I was thinking about making rugs,” she said. “I knew it was important to do it. I had this drive that it was something I had to do, and I did it.”
She never believed her passion for rug hooking would grow the way it has with a big sign advertising the studio and thousands of people coming to Amherst to visit the business, take courses and participate in the annual October festival that celebrates all things fibre.
From her first exhibition at the Nova Scotia Art Gallery that features rugs about growing up in Newfoundland, her art has evolved and features the nature and the colourful fields that dot the landscape of Cumberland County.
“It’s one of my favourite subjects, but I also do animals and flowers. It’s just whatever moves me,” she said.
As she was putting together the book, she never really thought about her creations and how popular they’ve become, but she knows she still has the passion for rug-hooking and no doubt has more rugs, and more books, on the way.
“I’m still in the thick of it,” she said. “I’m only 54 and I have a lot to do. I don’t ever think about retirement.”
The reaction to the book has also been favourable. She said one person told her the book helped her decide to purchase a piece of land where she grew up.
“She said when she read it to her husband he finally understood how she felt about the place she grew up,” Fitzpatrick said. “She got that from reading a section of my book. Other people said they’re reading pieces over and over again. I didn’t write it to be popular, I wrote it to get it out of my head and I think it’s triggering something in people. People have this creative spirit and their identifying their own creative spirit.”
Along with her books, she also worked with author Sheree Fitch by providing illustrations for one her children’s books, Singinly Skipping Along. She has also started work on her next book that she expects to publish in 2021.
“With this book I wanted to do something that wasn’t a how-to book and sometimes I don’t take the time to think about what I’ve done or appreciate the experiences I’ve had and the rugs I have made,” she said. “Sometimes I don’t savour things enough and it’s something I’m trying to do more of. It’s like my year for the word, to savour.”
More than looking back at what she has accomplished, Fitzpatrick said Making a Life is heart-warming book that also touches her family and her community. Readers should also get advice on what it’s like making art and making a life from that art.
“We all have that ability to write, or make art or create things,” she said. “It just takes work, you have to keep trying and you have to stick with it. As I said in the book I never imagined being an artist. As a child I thought it was silly and as an adult I thought it was haughty. This will help someone who never imagined being an artist, but all have that ability.”