Jerry Machen, of Kingsport, has been creating innovative, pictorial textile wall hangings and custom carpets for over forty years. The owner and operator of Agape Carpet and Rug Specialists, Jerry is also one of the foremost rug restorers in the southern region. Interested in art since he was a young boy, Jerry devised a way to take the byproducts of his carpet installation and repair business and create inspired works of folk art. At one point early in the life of his business, Jerry had accumulated a rental house full of spare carpet pieces. His wife said that they all “had to go.” But Jerry, after seeing a beautiful photo in a magazine, realized that he could recreate the image from scraps of carpet to make a one-of-kind rug or wall hanging. He was soon hand sewing custom designs, including landscapes, mountains, animals, characters, logos, and geometric designs. “I custom-design rugs and wall hangings using carpet remnants, which I “paint” into a picture. It all came about through a spirit of will to do better and different than what is ordinary,” Jerry explains. “I am self-taught by prayer since 1972.”
Since the 1970s, Jerry has been invited to show his “carpet art” in presentations at the Kingsport Mall, as part of the “Black Awareness: Talents/Opportunities/Accomplishments” exhibits, and at other shows related to Black History month and Black Arts workshops. He has taught other employees this art form, with special instruction given to his sons and grandsons. Jerry explains: “I do believe that this work and this art is important. I work with business owners, decorators, designers, architects and the public in our area and beyond, in cleaning and reweaving antique Persian rugs and creating art pieces and hand cut custom rugs in our unique workroom. I do believe this could become a lost art and trade and should be passed to the next generation.”
As part of the Traditional Arts Apprenticeship Program this year, Jerry will be teaching apprentice Stacy Kimbler the full process of his art and trade. Jerry notes that Stacy, already an experienced contractor and home builder, has limitless potential when it comes to working with his hands and creating art pieces as fine as his own. “I would like to learn the trade and someday have my own business. Jerry has built his business from the ground up and has tons to teach me. We mesh well together as he is very good at explaining what we are doing and what is required for each job. He is both a skilled tradesman and artist.”
*This team is funded through a special partnership with the South Arts’ initiative In These Mountains: Central Appalachian Folk Art & Culture.