On Wednesday, March 11th, I spent the afternoon with 47 hookers.
“Tea… With Hookers!” was an event sponsored by the Intangible Cultural Heritage program of the Heritage Foundation of NL, which saw a room full of rug and matt hookers come together to listen to three of their own discuss the history, craft, art and changing tradition of rug hooking.
The event was held at the Red Mantle Lodge in Shoal Brook, Gros Morne National Park, and was organized by Corner Brook-based folklorist Sandra Wheeler. A seasonal Parks Canada employee in the region, Sandra is a board member of HFNL, and is currently working on a documentary film about rug hooking.
The event took the form of a staged interview, where Sandra introduced everyone, and I gave a brief overview of the province’s ICH strategy. Following that, I interviewed three women: Molly White, Rose Dewhirst and Florence Crocker. Of the three women, Florence was the one who had been involved in the tradition the longest, having grown up at a time when hooking mats was still a functional craft. Both Molly and Rose learned the art more recently, and shared their experiences about what they saw as a tradition that has undergone a fundamental change from craft that produced functional pieces of furnishing for the floor, to an art that produces objects to be viewed on the wall.