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Out & About: Howe Library Circulation Director Says Thank You With Art

  • Selections from a collection of hand-dyed and hand-hooked rug hangings created by Kristina Burnett, retiring Howe Library head of circulation services. The exhibit will be on display at the library Aug. 3-Oct. 3. (Courtesy photographs)

  • Selections from a collection of hand-dyed and hand-hooked rug hangings created by Kristina Burnett, retiring Howe Library head of circulation services. The exhibit will be on display at the library Aug. 3-Oct. 3. (Courtesy photographs)

  • Selections from a collection of hand-dyed and hand-hooked rug hangings created by Kristina Burnett, retiring Howe Library head of circulation services. The exhibit will be on display at the library Aug. 3-Oct. 3. (Courtesy photographs)



Valley News Correspondent
Sunday, July 29, 2018

Kristina Burnett knew in 2015 that she would be retiring from her post as head of circulation services at Howe Library in Hanover in a few years, and she wanted to commemorate her tenure with a tribute to the library’s staff. In her spare time, Burnett, a Canaan resident, makes hand-dyed and hand-hooked rug hangings, so she decided to create a piece for each of her colleagues.

The finished group of 35 hangings will be showcased at an opening reception at Howe from 3-4:30 p.m. on Friday, after which they will be on display through Oct. 3. (After that, Burnett’s coworkers get to take them home.)

The pieces range from 8-by-12 inches to 15-by-35 inches in size and Burnett estimates each one took her about month to make.

Burnett talked about her work and her plans for retirement in an email Q&A. The exchange has been edited for length and clarity.

Question: Can you tell us a little about the hangings and the process and materials you use to create them?

Answer: I am drawn to folk art both because it’s colorful and fun, and because it lends itself nicely to the hooking medium. I use wide-cut strips of wool hooked into a loosely woven linen backing, which is strong and resilient. I like hand-dyed wools best for the depth of color, either dyed by me or by someone else, but I also will use “as-is” wools from the bolt. Sometimes I use cast-off wools from skirts, coats, hats or scarves.

Q: How did you learn the craft?

A: I love beautiful things and I like to use my hands. My father made beautiful wooden cabinets as a hobby and his father was a violinist, so perhaps I come by this naturally. I picked up rug hooking after admiring some chair pads on a neighbor’s dining room chairs. She gave me the tools and, being a librarian, I did some research, then jumped right in.

Q: Where do your ideas and inspiration come from?

A: I go where the wind takes me. This exhibit is the result of three years of work. I had just made a folk image based on an old Czech postage stamp and decided then I would make one small “stamp” for each of my colleagues. After 20 years’ worth of shared stories, I came up with an image I hoped would please each person.

Q: How has the nature of your job — and the kinds of services the library provides for its patrons — changed during the time you’ve held the position?

A: Circulation service at our library is all about patrons — people — and that hasn’t changed in 20 years. We try to connect people with the information they come for, and we do our best to send them home satisfied. Yes, we have migrated from paper and due-date cards and rubber stamps to an ILS (integrated library system), but our goal of 100 percent patron satisfaction hasn’t changed. I have been very lucky indeed to have been a part of this profession and count myself among the most fortunate to have had 20 years at Howe Library.

Q: Do you consider your creative work to be more of a sideline, or a first love? What are your plans for your art when you retire?

A: I have always had my hand in some creative endeavor. I’ve already started the next project. My daughter, who is a veterinarian in Brooklyn, has asked me to decorate her new clinic with hooked mats. The first installment will be a series of playing cards with animals on them.

I live in a cottage on Canaan Street Lake with my husband and our big labradoodle, Mookie Betts. I hook at a window that overlooks the lake. When I’m tired or distracted or bored, I just gaze at the clouds reflected in the lake. When I retire, I plan to do more of this, but I will also see more of my children and grandchildren. And I plan to start an asparagus bed.