Monday, March 16, 2009
The Gagetown Hookers
This rug was given to me last week by my childhood friend, Gaye, who I grew up with in Fredericton, but who now lives north of Toronto in Palgrave.
Although Gaye is not a "rabid" hooker, she is a big fan of hooked rugs and has, in fact, hooked a couple of projects herself. She took my very first beginner workshop and I think is the only one who actually finished the project. She was also the lucky winner of our "Cat's Meow" fundraising rug at our hook in last year. And we love to talk about rugs and hooking when we get together.
Anyway, she bought this rug, and another one, about 10 years ago in Gagetown, N.B. on a trip back home. She gave me this one for a couple of reasons. Firstly, it had been a little damaged by either a cat or (shudder) a vacuum cleaner and needed a bit of repair. But she also knew that I would LOVE to have it. I think she thought the damage was more extensive. I think it just needs a couple of strips re-hooked and it will be fine.
The story behind the rug is a story about a couple called The Gagetown Hookers. They were a husband and wife team (ironically named Scott) who started hooking rugs for therapy after the husband suffered a heart attack. They were definitely a "team" as attested to by both their initials in the bottom corners of the rug.
Raymond was the hooking part of the team. Lydia was the designer of the rugs. She was also the color planner, as he was colour blind. But more amazing than the story of how they shared the creation of these rugs is how prolific they were. He hooked every day from about 7:00 a.m. till long into the night (neighbours said they often saw his lights on after 11:00 at night). As a result of the hours he put in, he hooked approximately 2 rugs per week!!!!
Gaye also gave me a book about them, written by Larry E. Dubord, which has photos of many of their rugs. They were best known for their pigs, but all their animal rugs were very popular. They hooked what they knew, which was the animals on their farm and other simple designs. Their neighbours supplemented their wool stash, and they did use other fabrics as well.
In 1981, Larry Dubord, an antique rug collector and dealer, met the Scotts for the first time and bought a few of their rugs. The couple were so humble that they weren't sure their rugs were "good enough" to sell. They were so popular that Larry came back again and again. As a result, a casual business relationship was developed and over the next six years, he sold nearly 500 of their rugs.
People loved how folky and colourful they were. And I can definitely see why. Their work influenced many other rug hookers and I am very proud to have one of these rugs in my possession. When I see how joyful these are, with such a simple design and palette, it reminds me once again about that great expression "less is more".
As soon as I got the rug, I wondered whether or not their collection has been preserved and their story told. I hope that this wonderful couple will be well represented in our Rug Museum of North America when it is opened, since their story is one that should be recorded for all time.