ABOUT ART – BY Janice Guinan: Hooked rugs to be treasured heirlooms

Published on April 5, 2016

Colchester Heritage Rug Hookers Guild member Tanya McNutt shows off her own original design, "The Salish Moose."

Submitted photo

Handmade hooked rugs are personal works of art and heirlooms to be treasured.

This traditional art form dominated by women for centuries is now becoming popular with men as well. One of the reasons rug hooking is preferred over other crafts is because it can be done almost anywhere. One can hook while watching television, or travelling or relaxing with friends.

There are also various hooking styles from primitive to realistic, which appeal to different people. Some styles are more intricate and require more patience than others, but that is all a part of hooking as there is something for everyone.

Rug hookers are also accustomed to the reactions and jokes that accompany the words hooking and hookers. As rug hooking has gained popularity and professional status, terminology of how to refer to this art form and those who do it has become a matter of discussion, whether one prefers to be called a rugger, a hooker, a rug hooker, a traditional rug hooker, a matter, a fibre artist, or a textile artist. One thing that is very clear is that rug hooking is no longer ignored by the art world as in the past.

Art shows and exhibitions in top galleries around the world now proudly display hand hooked rugs, which are highly sought after by collectors. Some of the categories of hooked rugs in demand are: pictorials, animals, geometrics, abstracts, florals, narratives, and, of course, one-of-a-kind original designs.

Rugs are no longer just for the floor, they adorn walls, furniture, table tops and also can become 3D sculptures. They can be expensive to purchase but also costly to make. One rug hooker told me when her husband discovered how much the rugs cost to make, he removed every rug she made off the floor.

It can be quite an investment and it takes a great deal of time and wool to make a hand hooked rug. One square-foot of rug can take four to six hours or more to hook and it will require five times its surface area in wool. I have read that every hand hooked rug will increase in value, if properly cared for. If you are so fortunate to have one take care of it.

I find it fascinating to consider how much this art form has progressed in recent years from its very humble 19th century beginnings as a craft born of thrift. Many rug hookers go to school to hone their craft and learn more.

The 2016 Spring Rug School is being held May 1-6 at Mount Saint Vincent University in Halifax. Nine courses are being offered from dying wool to creating 3D art. If you would like to learn more you can visit the Rug Hooking Guild of Nova Scotia website at http://rhgns.com/.

There is even a museum dedicated to the preservation and celebration of the art and traditions of hooked rugs. The Hooked Rug Museum of North America opened in June 2013 and is becoming a global attraction. It is the only one of its kind in the world and we can all be proud to boast that it is in Queensland, N.S. For more information go to the museum website, www.hookedrugmuseumnovascotia.org, and discover why so many people are getting hooked on this historic and significant art.

Janice Guinan is a local artist who passionately believes in the importance of visual art. Her About Art column appears each week in the Truro Daily News. Guinan also writes a weekly column for the Colchester Weekly News. Both can be viewed online at www.trurodaily.com. Contact her at janice@janiceguinan.com.