hooked rugs


Teal McKibben (1928–2006) circa 1950.

Teal McKibben was born in Ames, Iowa in 1928. Her father was an agricultural engineer and academic and her mother was a homemaker. As a young person she was encouraged to explore all of her creative interests. She played the cello and sang; learned to hook rugs and embroider cloth from her parents, and began her lifelong love of drawing.

Later the family moved to Hawaii where her father helped mechanize the pineapple industry. Teal graduated from Punahou High School in Honolulu. She then studied art at Stevens College in Missouri and the University of New Mexico in the early 1950's. She subsequently lived and painted in Texas, Connecticut and Cambridge, Massachusetts. In Cambridge, she set up a studio and painted intensively in an expressionistic style all the while gaining recognition. In 1959 she was chosen by Art in America Magazine as one of this country's most talented young painters. (Art in America “New Talent In The U.S.A.” Number One, 1959).

She eventually settled and raised a family in Boston. Her paintings and drawings were exhibited at the Boris Mirsky Gallery and for many years she was represented by the Joan Petersen Gallery. Her work was also widely exhibited in many regional museums, including the Institute of Contemporary Art, and the Decordova, Fuller and Danforth Museums.

In this busy period of her life, Teal worked in ceramics and photography and always involved her two young sons in whatever medium she investigated. She also began to collect ethnographic arts, including West African masks and jewelry, and carved figures and reverse applique textiles (molas) from the Kuna people of Panama. It was however, Navajo and Pueblo jewelry from the American Southwest that became her true passion.

Looking into the studio

Her artwork changed dramatically in this period as she stopped making paintings and focused on drawing. Teal also began to develop trading into a business, and at the same time grew less interested in the commercial aspect of the art world. She gradually stopped exhibiting her art.

Having already established a trading business in part by frequent trips to New Mexico, in 1978 she moved to Santa Fe and opened her own shop, La Bodega. Here she collected and sold contemporary and antique Indian jewelery. She became an expert on the various techniques and styles of Navajo silver work. Cultivating lasting friendships with the jewelers whose work she represented, she became a strong advocate for Native American artists and their traditions. A trusted authority in the area of Navajo jewelry, her expertise was sought after by many of her fellow traders.

Living room

New Mexico was a place of profound discovery for Teal and her art flourished in new ways. She began to draw in chalk pastel the objects she collected and arranged in her house. These drawings, rendered in meticulous, photo-realist detail, represent not only her deep respect for the objects themselves, but her commitment to a diligent work ethic. She worked several hours each morning before opening her shop in the afternoon.

Teal also carried on her family tradition of hooking rugs. She created many large-scale geometric patterned rugs and then began to interpret Pueblo and Navajo mythological figures into new designs with an astounding array of colors.


During her life in Santa Fe, Teal made her art for herself. She understood drawing and making things to be acts of survival; meditations that allowed her to navigate each day. It was not until late in her life that the idea of showing her work once again seemed right. In 2007 a selection of Teal's work was exhibited in her shop, which she enjoyed immensely.