Hooked: Crystal Ross’s Playful Handmade, Hand-Dyed Wool Rugs

Many of us took up a domestic art or two during the pandemic—cooking, knitting, gardening—but most of us can’t say that we grew our hobby into a business. Crystal Ross can.

“It took me a while to find my way, so I tend to credit the pandemic for giving me the time and space to evaluate my path,” says Crystal. A trained fine artist, she started hooking rugs as a creative outlet when seemingly the entire world shut down. The craft wasn’t exactly new to her, though: Her maternal grandparents, Gérard and Annie-Rose Deveau, were both revered rug-hooking artisans and educators from Chéticamp, Nova Scotia, a community known as the birthplace of rug hooking.

“They were almost always working on something when we’d visit, with a rug set up on a hooking frame,” remembers Crystal, who tried the handicraft as a teen but “felt intimidated and insecure, as teens often are.” Given her birthright, it was almost inevitable that she would find her way to rug hooking again.

“In my early art-making days, I couldn’t shake the feeling that I was just contributing to the ‘stuff’ in the world. But rug hooking quelled that feeling by checking all my boxes: It gave me creative freedom, used sustainable, hard wearing materials that could fully biodegrade given the right environment, and it was a craft that I really felt connected to,” says Crystal, who makes her rugs in her home studio in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia.

Does she see her rugs and pillows as art or utilitarian objects? “Both! That’s the thing about craft, isn’t it? That said, I do get a thrill when people stomp their feet on my work—it’s built for it, and I think it’s such a fun connection point.”

Here’s a sampling of her cheerful and whimsical work.

Photography courtesy of Crystal Rugs.

crystal’s designs have folk art roots but feel modern thanks to bri 14
Above: Crystal’s designs have folk art roots but feel modern thanks to bright and unexpected palettes. “I’ve got a lot of influences, the biggest being older generations of Nova Scotian folk artists, and the very early days of rug hooking—when commercial patterns were scarce and women would draw their own designs based on what they saw (or imagined). Such an earnest way of bringing art into the home, and a really exciting time in craft history.”

“i’m drawn to a playful look that embraces warm color,  15
Above: “I’m drawn to a playful look that embraces warm color, texture, subtle imperfection—or, as I like to think of it, the mark of an individual craftsperson pushing against machine-made reproductions.”