Restorer donates expertise to fix art museum's rug

May 11, 2002|BY SCOTT BUTKI

A Hagerstown native whose passion and business are rug restoration is using her skills to repair the edges of a wool rug from Northwest Persia in the Washington County Museum of Fine Arts.

Angela Risser, 32, of San Francisco, is donating her time on the project.

Risser grew up in Hagerstown and graduated from St. James High School in 1987.

She has been doing rug restoration for about six years, she said.

She learned the craft by working as an apprentice to a California resident who has been restoring rugs for more than 25 years, she said.

While visiting her parents, Don and June Risser, in November, Risser went to the Hagerstown museum. While there she noticed wear on a rug people walk on when visiting the museum's collection, she said.


The museum board of trustees accepted her offer to fix the rug at no cost.

The 13- by 19.5-foot rug was donated to the museum in 1940. It is probably at least 75 years old, Risser said.

She began working on the rug Thursday and will finish by the middle of next week, putting in a total of about 25 to 30 hours, she said.

Risser said she is using needle and thread to tighten up parts of the rug's edges. For other areas of the rug she is wrapping the edges with yarn that matches its colors.

She will not have time during this trip to Hagerstown to complete the restoration, she said. She will probably return sometime next year to replace missing knots in the rug's borders.

Risser thought it appropriate to donate her time and energy to the rug restoration because she feels a connection with the museum. She took art classes and took part in piano recitals there, she said.

The museum does not have the money to pay for someone to do what Risser is doing, said Barbara Fulton, who is on the Museum board of trustees.

"We are indebted truly to have such skilled native Hagerstownians ... donate their time," said trustee Mary Kay Shaw.

From 1988 to 1991 Risser attended the Philadelphia College of Textile and Science. She planned to go into fashion design but decided she was more interested in textiles.

After working at various jobs in Philadelphia and, later, in San Francisco, she decided she wanted to work professionally with old rugs.

"I don't know why but I have been drawn to them all my life," she said. "I can't explain it."

Maybe it is because her grandmother used to braid rugs, she said.

"Rugs have always been part of my life," Risser said. "I had to find a way to work with old rugs. And so my way to work with them is to repair them."

She loves to weave, spin wool, and do rug and tapestry restoration, she said.

"I do anything you can do with yarn," she said.

She does restoration as a business and the weaving as a hobby. Most of her clients are in California but she also does some local work when visiting her parents, she said.

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