|By Kent Roberts '00|
Norma Sturges ’45 braided her first rug in 1949. She figures she has braided about two each year ever since. Over those 65 years she has also become perhaps the country’s strongest advocate for recognizing rug braiding as an American folk art, as important a fiber art as quilting, weaving, and knitting. “It is just as important as any art form,” she says, “and it is uniquely American.” Because most rug braiders are women, Sturges, the author of The Braided Rug Book: Creating Your Own American Folk Art, believes the craft is also an often overlooked part of women’s history. Sturges even began teaching rug braiding in 1982 after she moved to Denver and “became aware that braiding was becoming a lost art.”
The craft scene may finally be coming around to her point of view. Last
year, the National Historic Trails Interpretive Center in Casper,
Wyoming, presented an exhibit that focused exclusively on her life
work, and the Denver Art Museum recently contacted her to obtain a rug
for its collection. In February 2014, Sturges was one of five
recipients of a Wyoming Governor’s Arts Award. Her show in Casper may
have been the first ever to consist entirely of braided rugs.
Similarly, Sturges’s commission for the Denver Art Museum’s textile
wing will be the first braided rug in the museum.
While Sturges is thrilled that rug braiding is finally getting its fair
shake, she wonders why it took so long. “I still don’t understand why
it got overlooked,” she says.