Friday, September 11, 2009

night at the museum

On Wednesday, I trekked down to the city for a quick visit. After getting my hair cut and doing a bit of shopping at my new favourite store (they recently opened in Yorkville), I rushed a little further downtown to meet Wendie. We had plans a quick dinner before going to hear a lecture at the Textile Museum on "Hooked Rugs and the Economy" with Sharon MacDonald, followed by a sleepover and hours of chatting with Wendie. It was a fabulous 24 hour whirlwind trip.

The lecture was somewhat based on Sharon's recent journal article in the Material History Review, discussing the contribution rug making has made to the economy. She talked about four major commercial patternmakers (E.S. Frost, R.W. Ross, Diamond Dyes, Bluenose - John E. Garrett) as well as some of the smaller scale operators (Pioneer Mat, S.J Culley & Sons, Handley Wilson --> mostly wholesalers of fancy goods), cottage industries (Georges Edouard Tremblay, Madam Joyal(?), roadside stands, on reserves, etc.) and other various charitable endeavours (raffles, Grenfell Industries, etc.)

Highlights from the talk include...
  • finding out that cotton mop string was often used in the hooking of GE Tremblay landscapes, due to its low cost
  • seeing a picture of Emily Carr's studio with several of her own hooked rugs on the floor
  • hearing that in the 1930s and 40s hooked rugs were already being produced in China (usually easily identifiable as Chinese since they are not only very even and approaching machine-made perfection....but also hooked on a cotton foundation, similar to Monk's Cloth)
  • being inspired by the story of Madam Joyal (?) hooking over 900 rugs for Nettie Sharpe in the 1960s and 70s
  • seeing pictures of interpretations and variations (hand-drawn copies?) of commercial patterns next to the real thing. Apparently people were already copying in the 1940s...
  • hearing that one of the best folk art collections in Quebec is at the Musee de Charlevoix in la Malbaie, Quebec. I will have to put it on my list of places to go...
I've already forgotten much of what I heard and learned....but I think the most worthwhile thing that I retained was finding out that you can see pictures of the Textile Museum's rugs online. Did you know that there are pictures of 215 rugs on their site? It's definitely worth checking out...

I am really looking forward to our return to TMC on November 4th for a behind-the-scenes look at some of the rugs in the Museum's collection (I'm not sure if there is still room in the seminar or not, but you can find more information here). In the meantime, I know that I will be visiting and ogling these beautiful rugs again and again on-line....imagining which ones Wendie and I will be lucky enough to see up close and personal.

P.S. Things are starting to get back to normal around here -- now that I've finished reading all 9 of the Charlaine Harris Sookie Stackhouse books (upon which the True Blood series is loosely based). I tend to gorge on books, so I have a hard time putting them down until I've read the whole book. And when there are 9 books in the series, it means that I get very little done apart from the essentials for almost two weeks ;-) This weekend I am going to be making up for lost time....dyeing, hooking, drawing patterns, and more! If you're looking for a light read, I really enjoyed the series.