Elizabeth Miller of Paris works on a portrait of her younger self. The artwork encompasses natural elements, such as a loon diving as a reminder that moments from the past will always be brought back up. Anna Gouveia/Sun Journal

“I can definitely have someone hooking in 15 minutes,” Elizabeth Miller of Paris jokes, referring to teaching first-time rug hookers the craft.

She was referring to a Nova Scotia shop that guaranteed to get someone hooking in five minutes.

Although Miller is not optimistic about training someone in five minutes, she loves teaching the loop styles typical of rug hooking, the art of pulling loops of wool and other materials through a woven base to form patterns that can turn into rugs, coasters, wall hangings and high art.

Miller is clear that learning even just one basic loop enables a rug hooker to produce many different pieces.

Previously considering herself a “non-crafty” individual, she got her start in the craft after her mother died in 2011 as she looked for a “zen” practice to help her clear her mind. Almost immediately, she found herself obsessed with the creative freedom rug hooking and at times found herself determined to finish a piece at 3 a.m. hunkered down in her living room.

A rug designed and hooked by Elizabeth Miller of Paris incorporates natural elements such as leaves and pine needles. Anna Gouveia/Sun Journal

She quickly expanded her love for the art and launched her Etsy shop to sell her work. Not two years after being exposed to rug hooking, she decided to quit her career in real estate to grow her passion into a full-time job.

The living room where she got her start is the heart of the Parris House Wool Works community, where rug hookers from all over drop in to enjoy days of working in the comfort of a home setting. Miller strives to foster a community of encouraging rug hookers, and loves that the setting is collaborative. When someone needs help with a color scheme or an approach to their pattern, others team up to help.

One of the best parts about the craft, she said, is the room to experiment. Although she strictly uses wool on pieces that will be rugs, she incorporates other materials, including silks and yarn, into pieces displayed on walls. Through these practices, she has not only produced a variety of work but has created nature-centered pieces to tell her stories.

 For instance, every May after the ice melts on Sebago Lake, she heads down to her property and dips her toes into the water to celebrate the passing of another Maine winter. The water is always swirling with the debris of trees and plants that were frozen beneath the ice, filling the water with browned leaves and pine needles, she said. One year, she hooked a piece that depicts the tops of her feet and the leaf-spotted water.

Elizabeth Miller of Paris stand over a rug she made that shows off one of her favorite spring traditions where she dips her toes into Sebago Lake. Anna Gouveia/Sun Journal

Miller’s visits to Maine when she was younger and her relocation to Maine 21 years ago inspire her love of the natural elements. She also uses her work to showcase her personal beliefs.

In 2017, she responded to the inauguration of Donald Trump with a pattern that incorporated the crown of the Statue of Liberty with the phrase “yearning to be free” in bold letters.

She said she wants to remind people that rug hooking can be a powerful tool to communicate beliefs and experiences.

 She said she hopes to continue growing the rug hooking community by bringing attention to getting the ways people can get creative with it.

“You can really use it to send a message,” she said, describing the styles, methods and approaches available to rug hookers. To that end, she hopes the younger generation will get more involved with it.

The average age of those at most of her events is over 60.

Through her teaching online and in person, Miller hopes to continue expanding and sharing the craft with new members.

Elizabeth Miller of Paris points to a recent piece she hooked based on photo from her yard overlooking a beautiful landscape. She used multiple techniques to give berries a three dimensional shape. Anna Gouveia/Sun Journal

A closeup view shows the rug hooked by Elizabeth Miller of Paris of Maine fall foliage. Anna Gouveia/Sun Journal

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