* This is a post from a guest blogger, the first of many in the next few months
Rughooking: Tradition or Innovation?
Marie-Claude Hébert, multimedia artist and translator
Rughooking is set deep in the memory of most of New Brunswickers and people from the East Coast. In fact, whenever I find myself at a rughooking exhibit or demonstration, people tell me stories about how their mother, grandmother or grandfather used to hook. But what has become of rughooking? Fibre artists from this region and from elsewhere in Canada use it as a means of expression equal to painting and drawing while remaining proud of their roots, as shown by the NB Mat Registry which continues to catalogue mats 25 years and older.
In a medium where you can’t avoid learning the basics right from the start, artists that devote themselves to this discipline are of all sorts. We respect tradition or we stray from it, everything goes and as it happening in many mediums, the line between arts and fine crafts is fading Certain artists mix different materials and techniques wonderfully, including bas relief, embroidery, felting and other techniques to their work, like Danielle Ouellet, veteran textile artist, (image 1) and Lynn Losier, textile artist and costume designer, (image 2), and others perpetuate the glorious tradition of figurative work like Charline Collette, an artist currently focusing her graduate studies at NBCCD on rughooking (image 3), Marielle Poirier, rughooking artist (image 4), or Joanna Close, graduate and now a teacher at NSCAD University.
Others still, such as Pat Winans, a multimedia artist member of the Canadian-American group Plein Air Hooking Artists, take their hooking outdoors (image 5). Artists can let their inspiration run wild: natural dyes and recycled fibers or new silk and over dyed wool cloth. Postmodernism’s hybridity which has long been integrated in many fiber arts is now also part of rughooking, a field that deserves to play a bigger role on the arts scene.
Workshops, exhibits and conferences are also multiplying. Locally, we’re lucky to see the advent of a new festival in Grand-Barachois from August 28th to 30th, which will this year focus on recycling art and fibre arts, and Michele Micarelli will offer a rughooking workshop in Shediac May 16th. Also in May, The Rughooking Guild of Nova Scotia’s Rug School offers week-long classes every year.
The Hookeuses du Bor’de’lo collective’s tribute exhibit Les Hookeuses et Roussel will be shown at the New Brunswick Museum all summer long and the exbhibit Hooking Loops of Love for NB will travel to the Hooked Rug Museum of North America in Nova Scotia. Regionally and nationally in October, the Newfoundland Arts Board offers an international fibre conference and the International Guild of Handhooking Rugmakers welcomes its 8th Tri-Ennial in Victoria this year. I for one will keep exploring what’s being done in terms of rughooking and I have a feeling this discipline will keep surprising us.