Part 2: Dec. 4 is celebrated globally to share the friendship, and publicize how contemporary rug makers use traditional tools and methods.
Over decades the economics of communities has benefited from rughooking. In the first half of the 20th Century Dr. Wilfred Grenfell established a cottage industry in Newfoundland and Labrador producing hooked mats using silk stockings donated by socialites along the East Coast of the US. He was a doctor providing health services by boat to the provincial communities and saw the technique of mat making – encouraging designs of polar bears, fishing and local living. Today the mats are treasured, valuable and documented by author Paula Laverty in Silk Stocking Mats. In Cape Breton, during the same time frame, American, Lillian Burke is credited with refining the Cheticamp rug tradition and showcasing it to the world, when she began designing rugs made with wool rather than rags and commissioning Cheticamp women to produce them in the 1920s. Burke, who had first come to Cape Breton while working as a tutor for the grandchildren of Alexander Graham Bell, then sold the rugs to an eager American market. (excerpt from post about contemporary rug maker Yvette Muise) There is a book about Burke and this community: The Story of Lillian Burke, Dr. Edward Langille. Throughout the US cottage industries also supported regions during the depression years.
Today Guatemalans interpret their regional motifs into hooked rug designs sold as the Multicolores Collective, through Cultural Cloth, the Wisconsin coordinator. With Cultural Cloth, fiber artists can take a tour to work alongside the Mayans in their villages designing, sourcing materials and making their own rug. The book Rug Money by Mary Anne Wise and Cheryl Conway-Daly describes the development of the program and rewarding self-esteem benefits. On the African continent in Gambia, since 2007, Rug Aid empowers visually impaired students to make hooked mats which are sold to fund the project organized by Heather Ritchie from the UK.
Many rug hooking groups meet regularly in public spaces inviting people to watch, and join in the work. In Western Australia the Wannaroo Rug Makers meet in the city library every Saturday morning over the past 10 years. There is a community rug on a frame each year. These have been donated to the children’s section of the library, and installed in other government buildings. Rug hooking has been recognized as a category in craft fairs and exhibited in other states. Groups in Queensland, New South Wales, South Australia and even Tasmania share the rugmaking traditions brought to Australia by immigrants from Canada, the US and UK. Wool is not easily available or any of the materials treasured by those countries so the innovative Australians source materials and tools to make unique work.
International Rug Hooking Day exposes us all to the wide range of textures we create pulling, prodding, punching and braiding. Check out the facebook event Rug Hooking Magazine has created and look at the posts under discussion.