Mary Ann Dotson Silvey braided her first rug in 1980, when her aunt Virginia Boone offered to provide her with wool if she would come to Virginia’s rug making class at Haywood Community College to learn how to braid rugs. “When I braided that first rug, I never dreamed I would continue,” says Mary Ann. However, in 1998, she began helping Virginia fill rug orders and demonstrating rug braiding at the Village of Yesteryear at the North Carolina State Fair in Raleigh, the Heritage Village Working Craftsmen exhibit at the North Carolina Mountain State Fair in Asheville, as well as a few other select arts and crafts exhibits.
A former home economics teacher and school counselor, Mary Ann enjoys teaching others and sharing her love and enthusiasm for the craft. She has taught rug braiding in several community colleges to students from Buncombe, Haywood, Henderson, Transylvania, Polk, Rutherford, McDowell, Madison, and Yancey Counties. For Mary Ann, rug braiding is more than an effort to preserve a craft that is part of our colonial American heritage; she also views it as an art form and therapeutic exercise for stress reduction. And, she says, “It is an excuse to sit in a rocking chair and not do what I ought to be doing.”
Each one of Mary Ann’s rugs is a unique adventure in color, shape, texture, and design. Her rugs have won multiple awards and blue ribbons in statewide competitions. By lacing braids creatively into various shapes, Mary Ann goes beyond the traditional round and oval rug shapes. She has won awards for her hearts, butterflies, flowers, octagons, and more. “I enjoy doing things that I have not done before,” she says, “creating unique and custom designed rugs for individuals who will enjoy them for a lifetime.” Smaller home accessories include chair pads, stair treads, and runners. Mary Ann also designs three-dimensional shapes to create baskets, handbags, totes, casserole cozies, and pet beds.
Mary Ann tries to make her rugs affordable, and has kept her prices at about one-half that of comparable rugs from New England. “I only want to make them for people who appreciate the time and talent which is involved in creating one-of-a-kind, heirloom-quality rugs. With normal wear and care, they will be enjoyed for generations,” says Mary Ann. “I want them to go to good homes. Each one is a labor of love.” As mills ceased operation and prices for wool fabrics increased, Mary Ann began stockpiling high-quality wool fabrics in a wide range of colors and weaves, which fill much of her home and a separate storage building. “I have to keep working to support my wool habit,” she quips. “I look forward to braiding rugs and teaching others who want to learn for many years to come.
Mary Ann and her aunt Virginia, who is still braiding rugs in her late nineties, were interviewed for an article in the October 2007 issue of Our State Magazine.
Mary Ann Dotson Silvey is available for workshops and classes or individual instruction on braiding rugs and other accessories. She exhibits at the Heritage Village at the North Carolina Mountain State Fair in Asheville and also at the Village of Yesteryear in October’s North Carolina State Fair in Raleigh. Mary Ann accepts orders for custom-designed rugs.