|Detail from 'Toronto Graffiti' by Kathryn Taylor 14"x 14" wool on linen [photo: Joe Lewis taken with permission|
group show: Diane Ayles, Gunda Gamble, Trish Johnson, Karen D. Miller , Kathryn Taylor, and Simone Vojvodin
March 4- 15 , 2015
The Paper Mill Gallery, Todmorton Mills
67 Pottery Rd
“The technique of pulling a loop of one fiber through a woven foundation has probably been done since the earliest manipulations of textiles. Examples of the technique can be seen in 4th century. Egyptian textiles where remnants of wool tufts were pulled through a linen base. Various sources attribute the Scandinavians during the Bronze Age of practising the technique and passing it along to the British Isles and onward to the Canadian Maritime Provinces and the Northeastern United States. That said, rug hooking as we know it today has been practiced for fewer than 200 years.” [*1.]
Celebrating Colour in Fibre was a rare gem of an exhibition and an eye opening experience. It will have only been up for 12 days when it closes on Sunday March 15 at the Paper Mill Gallery at Todmorton Mills locate on Pottery road in Toronto's Don Valley, If you miss the opportunity to see this exhibition you miss an intense presentation showing the beauty of contemporary rug hooking. With imagery ranging from the sometimes photo realism of Diane Ayles to abstract expressionism looking extreme micro close ups of natural landscapes by Gunda Gamble. This in not what you would expect to see in what people often assume is a quaint traditional folk art/ craft. Rug Hooking as a medium of creative expression has a growing number of practitioners like most fibre based medium. I do not see rug hooking exhibitions that often but I do see hooked rugs in exhibitions, trade fairs, like the One of A Kind and the Interior Design show and the many house museums and historic villages I make a habit of visiting when traveling in Canada.
|Hooked rug in second floor bedroom of Keen Hotel, Lang Pioneer Village, (living Museum site) Keen ON, Canada|
|‘Tapis crochetés- Hooked Rugs.” exhibition catalogue. image on cover is hooked rug, Quebec, end of 19th, beginning of 20th MMAQ 732-1547, Publishers Musée des Maîtres et Artisans du Québec and Cahiers métiers d’art/Craft Journal, 2008|
|Gallery view Paper Mill Gallery at Todmorton Mills taken at opening of Celebrating Colour in Fibre|
While the exact origins of hooked rugs is not known there is a body of academic research into Hooked Rugs and well documented collections in a number museums because collecting them as ethnographic/ folk artifacts began at a time when the origins where within living memory less then a generation or two away.
The beginnings of the ongoing cycle of the revival of lost crafts which began with the Arts and Crafts movement is nearly concurrent with the beginnings of rug hooking. It was not ever going to be a lost technique, without a necessity for them their popularity as interior décor may have waxed and waned over the last hundred years with the DIY movement of the 1990 being yet another “Revival” period. In the 1937 book "The Hooked Rug" by William Winthrop Kent provides these dates for the classification of /for hooked Rugs in America: Antique 1775-1825; Early 1825-1875, Late 1875-1900, Modern 1900- 1923 and even mentions the difficulty in knowing if some are done from kits. [*2.] We know that Burlap aka "Hessian was first exported from India in the early 19th century It was traditionally used as backing for linoleum, rugs and carpet" [*3] As a a secondary/ recycled backing cloth for rugs the "gunny sacks" used for shipping things like coffee beans and potatoes where plentiful by 1850 the middle of what Kent would call the "Early" period. His "late 1875-1900" period is when the roots of what is today's three streams of teaching textile making and embellishing as physical rehabilitation,"hobby Guilds and two teared institutional manual and design education. In the United States the Colonial Revival began after the The 1876 Philadelphia Centennial Exposition and while it really was an early "interior design" fad it brought about and interest in weaving, braiding and rug hooking and with it a "How To" industry. [ there have been at least 5 subsequent "Colonial Revival'' design fads each occurring after a war or American Military action and the replicas of the first are the Antique of the last ] The other aspect of this time period was textile skills education as job creation for the widowed and surplus female population after the American civil war similar to employment schemes in Great Britain and Canada after the Crimean War which fed into the Arts and Crafts movement and the Canadian Handicrafts Guild. One make work project Grenfell Mission and its production of hooked rugs in Newfoundland and Labour in which both physical rehabilitation and income production came together in 1905 when Dr. Wilfred T. Grenfell who had been working in there since 1892 met Jessie Luther, an American woman who had set up a sanitarium with crafts as part of the treatment in Boston in the post Civil war era is known in Canada.
|Printed Burlap "Culley's" Cottage" completed by unknown, designed by George Culley for Eaton's in the 1940s this image was provided by Trish Johnson.|
" Hooked rug designs are of two kinds: home—drawn, and commercial patterns. Hone—drawn designs were done on the burlap, usually in outline, with ink or bluing. The sources of inspiration ranged from household objects and garden flowers, to magazine and book illustrations—the Royal Ontario Museum even has a rug that was obviously inspired by the White Swan toilet paper trademark: ...
Edward Sands Frost, a Maine tin—peddler, got the idea first in 1864. He cut some tin stencils, and made up a stock of patterns on burlap. Be tween 1870 and his retirement six years later, he had cut some 750 plates and was stenciling his burlap patterns in colour. Frost’s patterns are still sold and hooked today.
In Canada, Wells & Richardson of Montreal published a book of patterns in 1899, the Diamond Dye Rug Book (“Do not sell your rags to the traveling rag—gatherer; save them and work then up into handsome and useful Rugs and Mats.”) By 1905 Eaton’s was advertising hooked rug pat terns on burlap in their catalogue. And in the early years of the century, Mambly & Wilson of Toronto were also producing patterns on burlap." [*4]
While there may not be as many Rug Hooking shops there are Quilt shops, there is a large range of specialty products available for today's rug hookers and like the quilt shops it is new rather then recycled cloth that is the thing pre-cut and in kits to provide the satisfaction of not having to think about or design your own rug/ or quilt or “Folk Art Craft”. There is a counter balance to this crass merchandising there are also guilds that keep the history alive, bring together generations, encouraging original design or adaption of published ones. They organize exhibitions and competitions the bring work from different regions to central locations and present them to a wider audience.
|Toronto Graffiti 9 (14" X 14") wool on linen by Kathryn Taylor|
While the makers in this exhibition may or may not have a direct family line to this time period and the locations mentioned above they have access to the very organized guilds and all they provide. I was participating in an event organized by the Hooked Rug Museum of North America in Nova Scotia that lead to these six Ontario based rug hookers that brought about this exhibition
The creative imaginations behind the work in this show is as varied as the work. In his easy “Hooked Rugs and Rural Life in Quebec” in the “ Hooked Rugs : Tapis crochetés” catalogue Denis Longchamps (current director of the Burlington Art Gallery ) speaks of the makers looking to the flora and fauna of their immediate surroundings for inspiration. [*5] Kathryn Taylor looks to her urban surroundings in her “Toronto Graffiti” series. These 14 X 14 square works of wool on Linen are wrapped on stretchers and presented like paintings and are very much within a group of artist and makers exploring the urban environment and mark making. While not being a graffiti artist them self like Jean-Michel Basquiat and his contemporaries :Keith haring Kenny Scharf who all came off the outside walls of New York and onto the gallery walls her work like that of Laura Ortiz Vega a Mexican artist who fuses traditional Mexican artisinal techniques (Thread pressed into bees wax on board. ) with contemporary graffiti imagery addresses that vernacular and poses the question does graffiti mark territory or prove existence. We know there were Vikings in Istanbul during the Viking Period because of graffiti. 2 There is also something else going on in the work of these two female makers using images of a predominantly male form of mark making (can you name a known female graffiti artist) and by using what is an assumed traditionally female medium of fibre to create their work. There is a further point of interest in Kathryn Taylor's work and that is the removal of function. While you can hang a rug on a wall you can also take it down and put it back on the floor but by placing the work on a stretcher she is claiming its right to be observed in the way a painting can be, for it to have meaning (outside of a folkloric or ethnological meanings which can be read on oriental carpets and rugs) This is all supposition on my part but it is that a hooked rug allowed me to travel down these different paths that makes the work exciting.
Chris and Blackie: Summer of 1977” 2006
Trish Johnson. Photo provided by Trish Johnson.
Trish Johnson's family series comes from a very different direction and her studies in photography and collage at the Ontario College of Art (now OCAD University) With the use of overlaying multiple family images with images of hand written journal text, maps,and isolating patterns chosen from the wallpapers and domestic textiles in the family photographs she has produced and evocative family saga.
I will now describe “Chris and Blackie: Summer of 1977” completed 2006 central to the piece is an image of her mother wearing an oversize out of fashion oddly pattern sweater with the family cat in her lap the kind of pet photos people post on facebook, They are sitting in a pattern upholstered arm chair that has a pattern bath towel (we had the same pattern in my family home) draped over the back of the chair . This image is surrounded by the blue line drawing lifted from a blue and white Regency Chinese style wallpaper . Floating above this mash up of pattern is a hand written text
“ Our House is very quite as Fred forgets to talk most of the time and lets the TV do it for him. The Kittens have their eye open and soon should be allowed to climb the sheer curtains in the living room, as they will need plenty of sunshine to grow”
Johnson made a booklet that gives a biography for each piece in the show and while it explains her ways of making and provides details for each piece it is not necessary to a reading of the story as i read it by the way it was hung.I have to say i saw the grouping in one room i took as one work and then the other pieces hung individually or paired as separate works. The grouping i looked at as an interactive story board/ post modern book with hyperlinks: though you have to follow them yourself and find the public part of the story
"Working on the Railroad" ,2012Trish Johnson. Photo provided by Trish Johnson
Geography describe/ identified / marked;
The image a location specific map giving the location of Capreol Ontario which was the divisional point where the train from Toronto joined the train from Montreal to continue west to Vancouver and vice versa. [Working on the Railroad ,2012,] memories of Oak Park 2009 ,(Oak Park, New Brunswick)
Lighthouses: Douglas at Sallowtail, 1997 (Grand Manand Islan) , Gannet Rock, 1998 (Bay of Fundy), Memories of Oak Park, 2009 ,(Oak Park, New Brunswick), My Grandmothers Diary 2003 (Machias Seal Island) ,
Individual houses: The W.L. Harvey House 1996 (seal Cove, Grand Manan Island), Grandpa Johnson's House 1998, Baby Jean at Aunt Eliza's 2000, Memories of Oak Park, 2009, :Bucknam Benson's House at Seal Cove, 2014
She uses things that mark time frames (eras)
Handwritten text from family undated but generational: My Grandmothers Diary 2003, “Chris and Blackie: Summer of 1977" 2006
Photograph of family which are generational and dated by the clothing: “Chris and Blackie: Summer of 1977", "Working on the Railroad" ,2012
The Lighthouses, the railway tracks have a through line of history from constitutions through usage: Follow a hyperlink so to speak and you can find out about each and build a component of the story yourself.
|"Memories of Oak Park", 2009 Trish Johnson. Photo provided by Trish Johnson|
To add to my own Post-Modern, or perhaps Post-Structural element to writing this would be review / article the urgency of getting it done and posted to get people out to the show passed quickly because the show only ran for 12 days . Followed by the distraction of looking a rug hooking history and getting sidetracked by the Hobby industry aspect of it. The Hobby industry is strongly entrenched across most aspects of contemporary Textile and fibre arts and has in spite of peoples opinions/ attitudes about it contributed majorly to them. I doesn't easily come down to Them and Us though I know many "professionals" need to see it that way. Again I am distracted and some of you might have noticed by reading me I have a tendency to stop rather then finish stories and that is simply because there is more to be told. below you will find a partial biography of Rug Hooking books I am am just starting to read. The story isn't finished but the article is.
*1 "A few loops of hooked rug history" by Tracy Jamar http://www.antiquequiltdating.com/Hooked_Rugs-Jamar.html accessed March 16 2015
*2 Hooked Rug by William Winthrop Kent (member of American Institute of Architectural League of America, Tudor Publishing Company New York -1937
*3 Hessian Cloth - Wikipedia ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hessian_%28cloth%29 ) accessed March 23 2015
*4 Hooked Rugs: A Canadian Tradition, exhibition and catalogue, Max Allen and Simon Wagemaekers, Ottawa Public July 2-130 1975 part of Festival Canada
*5]Hooked Rugs : Tapis crochetés, “Hooked Rugs and Rural Life in Quebec, p 20, Denis Longchamps
(a) Hooked Rugs : Tapis crochetés Texts by Denis Longchamps and J. Penny Burton, exhibition catalogue, with the Musée des maîtres et artisans du Québec, in French and in English, 2008, 64 pages.
ISBN: 978-2-9809569-5-9 Sold out
Silk Stocking Mats: Hooked Mats Of The Grenfell Mission. Lavaerty, Paula
197 pages Publisher: McGill-Queen's University Press (August 30, 2005)
197 pages Publisher: McGill-Queen's University Press (August 30, 2005)