When I first moved to Pugwash, it wasn’t long before I discovered that the area was a veritable hive of hookers. Rug hookers. It seemed like everyone I met was deep into this traditional form of fibre artistry.
I was curious. Not curious enough to dive into hooking myself, mind you. I had enough on my plate with my other art interests. But, I was curious enough that I visited one of the Remsheg Hookers Guild weekly meetings in the Wallace Museum to see what it was all about. And I was curious enough that I dropped into the Deanne Fitzpatrick Studio in Amherst to indulgently immerse myself in this rich colour and fibre emporium.
Since then I have become friends with some local hookers and appreciate their passion, innovation and vision that turns, what might have once been rugs to warm the floors of their homes, into treasured pieces of art gracing their walls.
One friend is Donna Hutchinson ( https://www.redroofart.ca/). She is known for her exuberant use of colour, just as inviting and joy-filled as the woman herself. She draws her inspiration from her seaside environment, living along the Gulf Shore, just on the edge of Pugwash. She started hooking in 2005 when neighbours Diane Shrum and Marg Hoganson invited her to a meeting of the formidable Remsheg Hookers. She was immediately ‘hooked’ and has not looked back since. She has donated rugs for fundraisers, mounted a solo show of her work in Wallace and been asked to fulfill many commissions. More recently, since covid restrictions took its toll on organizations like Remsheg, Donna has worked in her own home studio. She is a member of the Pugwash Artist Collective and a reproduction of her art work, Harbourfest, is included in the Pugwash Open Air Gallery on Water St. Donna draws her own patterns on linen, using a mixture of wools, yarns, silks, lace and fleece to create her whimsical images. To learn more about Donna and how she creates, watch this:
Another friend is Vivian Godfree. She became interested in hooking in 2003 when she was looking to re-purpose her grown children’s t-shirts. Her good friend Betty Brown, who founded the Remsheg Hookers Guild in1994, was a logical resource and mentor. Vivian’s art work grows out of her social and political concerns, such as the re-wilding of our environment, climate change and inequality, making big statements through this otherwise conventional and domesticated art form. Unlike most hookers, she does not make a plan in advance. She works freehand on burlap sacking, not making preconceived decisions on size or content, but letting the piece speak for itself through her. Vivian’s Egualité is one of the art installations of the Pugwash Open Air Gallery on Durham St. To find out out more about Vivian’s process, see:
Both Donna and Vivian cite the fun of gathering with friends and neighbours at the Wallace Museum as one of the main benefits derived from their hooking experience. The Remsheg Hookers Guild has helped grow a real sense of community for the last 30 years. At its height, it boasted over 30 members and hosted an annual summer ‘Hook In’ for over 200 hookers from all over the region.
Rug hooking is also popular because it is accessible, easy to learn, easy to correct mistakes, and materials are readily available and economical. No pressure, all pleasure.
One of the biggest proponents of rug hooking in Cumberland County and Nova Scotia is Deanne Fitzpatrick. She has grown her business from hooking in her home studio into a vibrant destination for all things fibre and hooking in the heart of Amherst. Her Facebook page has over 17K followers from all over the world. She has written eight books on the craft and creativity. Deanne Fitzpatrick Studio’s shop and website offer a wonderful resource of workshops, how-to videos, inspiration, patterns and material.
Deanne has recently been announced as a member of The Order of Canada for her contributions to the advancement and recognition of rug hooking as an art form.
Read more about her journey in this wonderful Saltscapes article: https://saltscapes.com/roots-folks/3511-everyday-ordinary-moments-are-interesting.html
Rug hooking is part of the fabric of our community. At last count the Rug Hooking Guild of NS lists 51 rug hooking groups in the province and five in Cumberland County: Remsheg Hookers Guild in Wallace, Beach-side Hookers in Parrsboro, Northport Loopers, Friends Hook-Nook in Springhill, and Town & Country Thrummers in Amherst.
The International Guild of Handhooking Rugmakers underlines the prominence of rug hooking in the Atlantic Region and Canada and traces the history of the practice and use of materials in family life.