“Exploring the Tarot” hand-hooked rugs exhibit opens on Saturday at Athens Cultural Center

Diane Phillips' "The Fool"

Diane Phillips’ “The Fool”

The Athens Cultural Center is hosting a three-week-long exhibition that opens this weekend during regular gallery hours. “Exploring the Tarot” is a collection of 23 hand-hooked rugs, created by fiber artists hailing from Nova Scotia to Georgia. In a deck of tarot cards, the Major Arcana consist of 22 representations: the Magician, the High Priestess, the Empress, the Emperor, the Hierophant, the Lovers, the Chariot, Strength, the Hermit, Wheel of Fortune, Justice, the Hanged Man, Death, Temperance, the Devil, the Tower, the Star, the Moon, the Sun, Judgment, the World, and the Fool. These images are often rendered in a particular style or theme.

In this show, the cards are interpreted in hooked wool. Each hooked rug has been designed and completed as an original work of art. The 23rd rug in the show represents the design on the back of the cards in the deck. Each individual artist chose one of the cards and created his or her own drawing for the approximate 24-by-42-inch rug, most hand-dyeing their own wool as well. The project was almost two years in the making and was shown at a gallery in Vermont before being transferred to Athens.

The idea for turning the tarot into fiber art pieces was conceived by two local McGown-certified traditional rug-hooking teachers, Loretta Scena and Michele Micarelli. Both multi-talented fiber and bead artists, Scena and Micarelli invited Diane Phillips of Fairport, Mariah Krauss of New Gloucester, Maine, Wanda Kerr of Wiarton, Ontario, Elissa Crouch of Cambridge, Maryland, Stepanie Allen-Krauss of Montpelier, Vermont, Liz Marino of South Egremont, Massachusetts, Lynne Fowler of Onancock, Virginia, Jennifer O’Rourke Lavoie of Huntington, Vermont, Liz Alpert Fay of Sandy Hook, Connecticut, Rae Harrell of Hinesburg, Vermont, Lisa Chaloner of Merrimack, New Hampshire, Kathleen Herbert of North Grosvenordale, Connecticut, Doug Rankin of Halifax, Nova Scotia, Jule Marie Smith of Ballston Spa, Emily K. Robertson of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Cyndy Duade of New London, New Hampshire, Celeste Bessette of Littleton, New Hampshire, Mary Doig of Mahone Bay, Nova Scotia, Linda Rae Coughlin of Warren, New Jersey, Devin Ryder of Somerville, Massachusetts and Pris Buttler of Gainesville, Georgia to join them in producing the works.


Like many esoteric fiber-art forms, rug-hooking attracts serious creatives, some of whom have become a community that meets up for weekend retreats and follows the works of particular artists. The method involves pulling continuous loops of wool fabric, which is cut into strips, through a backing usually made of linen or cotton. Alternate materials and techniques are sometimes employed.

An award-winning teacher, Micarelli spreads her knowledge through engaging classes. She is known among rug-hookers as an expert colorist and troubleshooter. She’ll conduct a one-day workshop on Saturday, November 5 from 12 noon to 5 p.m. Participants may bring in a new creation to work on or something that you’ve started and need some help with, but this class is not for the beginner. Some basic knowledge and experience are necessary. And bring your credit card: You may be tempted by new patterns and wool that will be for sale. Free coffee and donuts are on the afternoon’s agenda. The workshop costs $40, and space is limited; preregister by e-mail at info@athensculturalcenter.org or phone (518) 945-2136.

That same evening from 6 to 8 p.m., a wine-and-cheese reception will celebrate the exhibit, and tarot card-reader Maria Curtis will be on hand to do readings. “Exploring the Tarot” will be exhibited from October 29 through November 20; regular gallery hours at the Athens Cultural Center are from 1 to 4 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays.