Earl and Pat O’Rourke of Fulton will display their hooked rugs at William Woods University, starting in January.
The O’Rourkes will display 30 to 35 rugs in the Mildred M. Cox Art Gallery of the Gladys Woods Kemper Center for the Arts Jan. 7 through Feb. 6. A public reception will be held from 4 to 6 p.m. Jan. 8.
Ten years ago Pat O’Rourke saw a hooked rug pattern and wanted to try hooking rugs. “I’ve always had a deep love for hooked rugs,” she says. “We always had them in the house.”
With a little digging, the O’Rourkes found instructor Emma Lou Lais in Kansas City to help them learn the process. Because of the distance, Lais held individualized lessons in her home for the couple. According to Earl O’Rourke, their instructor called them her ‘long-range hookers.’
The O’Rourkes said hooked rugs were originally done on burlap. Unfortunately as the burlap ages, the burlap dries and cracks. Rugs are now done on monk’s cloth, a coarse cotton weave that lasts much longer.
Pat O’Rourke dyes the wool, making sure to get exactly the color she wants. Her husband takes care of the hooking process. Using quarter-inch wide strips of wool he hooks it through the monk’s cloth with a tool similar to one used in the past to tighten ice skate laces.
The O’Rourkes create rugs ranging from 12 x 14 inches to 36 x 72 inches. They are used as both wall hangings and floor coverings.
Most of their finished rugs are on display in the homes of family members, though some special orders are taken for others who really want them. Prices range from $90 to $100 per square foot.
Earl O’Rourke is currently working on a rug depicting a farmhouse that was built in 1832. The house is his wife’s birthplace.
Both O’Rourkes have strong ties to William Woods University. Pat received degrees from William Woods in 1952 and 1974 and has been a member of the National Alumni Board and president of the Callaway County Alumni Board.
Earl, a Westminster College graduate, has helped his wife with a number of WWU-related activities and was the recipient of the Order of the Owl Award in 2000. Their daughter, Erin O’Rourke Lankford of Liberty, Mo., graduated from WWU in 1980.
Pat O’Rourke is a retired Missouri School for the Deaf teacher, who still works part time, helping with MSD publications. Earl O’Rourke retired as general sales manager of Danuser Machine Company in 1996.
Admission to the Cox Gallery is free and open to the public from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday and 1 to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Call 573-592-4245 for more information.