On today’s episode of the Craft Industry Alliance podcast, we’re talking about building a business in rug hooking with my guest Amy Oxford.
Amy Oxford is the owner of The Oxford Company in Cornwall Vermont. She’s been making punch needle style hooked rugs since 1982 when she worked as an at-home rug hooker for McAdoo Rugs, a cottage industry in North Bennington, Vermont. She worked as a traveling rug hooking instructor for 26 years and also started a teacher certification program. After developing carpal tunnel syndrome and tendinitis, Amy worked with an engineer to develop her own ergonomic rug making tool, The Oxford Punch Needle, which is now celebrating its 25th anniversary. In 2013, Amy settled down and started her own school, The Oxford Rug Hooking School, in Cornwall in a 200-year-old farmhouse.
Her work includes everything from dollhouse rugs to a room-sized rug and a stair runner. She’s the author of six books on rug hooking including her latest, Punch Needle Rug Hooking – Your Complete Resource to Learn & Love the Craft, which will be released in the fall of this year by Schiffer Publishing. She lives in an off-the-grid wind and solar-powered home in Cornwall, Vermont.
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Amy Oxford threads all her punches before sending them out to be sure there are no snags or imperfections in the needles.
We begin this interview by talking about Amy’s childhood growing up in Long Island and spending her teenage years in London, then returning to the United States to go to Bennington College. Amy was creative as a child and spent many hours stringing seed beads and doing other handcrafts. While at Bennington Amy answered an ad to become a babysitter and the family she met owned McAdoo Rugs. Soon she began making rugs for them and that was the start of her life in punch needle.
We talk about the importance of McAdoo Rugs in the history of American rug making and in her own career journey. Amy’s first business was Red Clover Rugs and through that business, she really explored almost every sort of income stream including selling kits mail order, having a brick-and-mortar shop, teaching, and taking commissions. She sold that business in 1995.
Amy’s new book will be out this fall.
When she first began working in this craft the market was very small. Amy was essentially creating much of the customer base herself. She discovered (quite by accident) that she loved teaching and has taught extensively including at the Vermont State Craft Center at Frog Hollow. Amy tells the story of how she first got into teaching and then how she came to create a teacher certification program for punch needle and the impact that the program has had nationally and internationally.
The Oxford Punch Needle is designed to be comfortable and sleek.
We also discuss Amy’s new books, including the one coming out this fall, Punch Needle Rug Hooking: Your Complete Resource to Learn & Love the Craft.
Finally, Amy talks about how she developed the Oxford Punch Needle, her own tool. She explains how she got the prototypes and got it manufactured and why she chose to do the final assembly herself along with her husband Peter at their kitchen table for many years. We talk about the viral video that Arounna from Bookhou created demonstrating the use of the tool and the tremendous, lasting impact that partnership has had on Amy’s business.
Amy Oxford’s Tree of Life rug was commissioned by a Vermont family. Made of wool rug yarn on monk cloth backing, it measures 8.5 x 11 feet and was made in 1994.
And, of course, I ask Amy to recommend great stuff she’s loving right now. Amy recommends:
- Working in the perennial garden
- Taking long walks with the dog
- Visiting grandchildren