Home Economics: 150 Years of Canadian Hooked Rugs

29 September 2018 – 6 January 2019

Home Economics: 150 Years of Canadian Hooked Rugs
29 September 2018 to 6 January 2019

Sim and Wakeling Galleries

Home Economics: 150 years of Canadian Hooked Rugs explores the evolution of hooked rugs, a uniquely Canadian folk art. For over 150 years, as long as Canada is old, the craft and commerce of rug hooking has been an intimate part of the lives of many Canadians. A form of personal artistic expression, reuse and recycling, as well as a means of earning a livelihood, hooked rugs are widely recognizable expressions of community and regional identity in Canada.

Home Economics focuses on the iconic images, stories and communities reflected in rug hooking traditions. Featuring 86 rugs, it draws on the rich material archives of the Textile Museum of Canada as well as public and private collections. The exhibition explores Canadian history through the development of rug hooking in Canada with a range of real-life narratives and anecdotes. While the exhibition includes many historic examples, dating from the late 19th and early 20th centuries, it also examines the active revival of rug hooking by contemporary national guilds and independent artists.

A virtually limitless range of image and design possibilities have emerged over the last 150 years, with artists and designers creating elaborately detailed hooked imagery that responds to local, lived experiences, past to present. Whether domestic scenes, decorative patterns, and regional landscapes documented historically, or content-driven artistic expression chronicling current social conditions and cultural change, rug design has always been part of a contemporary “popular” culture – in the sense of “of the people” – and a highly adaptable form. For example, in the decades following the 1960s, Florence Ryder (1935-2005) of the Standing Buffalo Reserve was part of a revival of distinct, geometric Sioux designs that took many forms. Creating a market for her unique blend of First Nations symbolism with predominantly east coast traditional craft, her sought-after hooked rugs are now housed in public and private collections across the country.

Home Economics spotlights 86 hooked rugs from the Textile Museum of Canada’s rich archive of material culture as well as from public and private collections, exploring the creative and social dimensions of this unique Canadian expression and its evolution. For two centuries, the craft and commerce of rug hooking have been deeply entwined. It is a personal artistic form integrating practical techniques of reuse and recycling, while also offering a reliable means of earning a livelihood as highly recognizable form of community and regional material expression. Presented in conjunction with the Textile Museum of Canada’s 40th anniversary and offered for circulation through 2016-2018, this exhibition highlights a core dimension of the Museum’s unique collections, focusing on the stories and communities reflected in rug hooking traditions and the iconic images that pervade this folk expression.

Today, in an age when cycles of economic and cultural disparity endure, a new era of social enterprise and craft economy is a visible manifestation of efforts towards social, economic and cultural change, in particular advancing female participation in the workforce worldwide. The core work of the Textile Museum of Canada is with global materials of everyday life that offer centuries-old evidence of the same impulses at play – craft production that goes beyond aesthetic expression and traditional techniques, speaking to local economic conditions and struggles for personal connection, individual survival, and community development across time and space.

The hooked rugs that comprise Home Economics represent generations of social entrepreneurship, women’s domestic and collective work, as well as community and rural development in Canada. Then, as now, craft consistently combined the ethic and philosophy of the handmade to support sustainable and inclusive growth. Spotlighting the tremendous variation in this Canadian folk art from coast to coast, Home Economics examines how memory, imagination and place infused this creative expression as well as the rugs’ relationship to domestic production and cottage industries and insights relevant to women’s organizations, social enterprise and community development in Canada today.

Documenting 150 years of creative experimentation and the evolution of historical tradition, Home Economics is emblematic of the Museum’s approach to the thought leadership required of cultural institutions for 21st century impact and relevance. The TMC’s artistic content is deeply engaged beyond our walls – always a means to explore a trajectory of contemporary issues and ideas affecting everyday lives, as well as the specificity of local experiences and identities in a global context.

Vignettes of rural life in Quebec by Georges-Edouard Tremblay, Pointe au PicF, Quebec in the 1930s.

Organized and circulated by the Textile Museum of Canada. Curated by Shauna McCabe, Natalia Nekrassova, Sarah Quinton and Roxane Shaughnessy. Home Economics is made possible through the lead support of the William R. and Shirley Beatty Charitable Foundation. The exhibition tour is supported by the Museum Assistance Program of the Department of Canadian Heritage. The full colour exhibition catalogue is made possible through the support of Carole and Howard Tanenbaum.