Rug hooking is both a craft and an ancient art form that has been around for centuries and one that has seen a growth in popularity in recent years.
In Southampton recently, it was a beehive of activity when approximately 40 rug hookers of the Saugeen Guild of Rug Hookers and vendors descended on the Chantry Centre in Southampton for their annual ‘hooking workshop’. While there is no doubt, that most hookers are women, Doug Dawson of Port Elgin has put an end to that myth.
During the week of August 14th (2023), hookers came from as far away as Markdale, Massey, Toronto, Walkerton, Owen Sound, Shallow Lake and Bayfield to socialize with other ‘hookers’ and learn various techniques from each other.
Joan Rigby, a former Southampton resident, was among the hookers. Rigby, a long-time volunteer with the Marine Heritage Society/Propeller Club, was one of the first volunteers at Chantry Island Lighthouse to take on supervising the cleaning crew of the historic lighthouse and Keeper’s quarters. Both she and husband, John, were involved with the organization from its inception until recent years when they left Southampton to be closer to family and grandchildren.
For the next few weeks, the walls of the Chantry Centre will be lined with art works by the grande dame of hooking, Gwen Becker.
At 91, she is not as active in rug hooking due to arthritis in her hands, but the pieces on display are only a small sample of her collection.
Becker has won numerous awards for her work including the 1998 Rowan Award Best in Show that she won out of more than 500 entries in Ontario.
Everyone has a story and Gwen Becker had an especially poignant one when she created the portrait … ‘Paradise Nook – Memories of my Mother’, a love story.
“My father, John (Chick) Heatherington was a school teacher in Chesley (ON) but he also had a mink ranch, liked to build things with his hands and also liked to fish. He and my mother, Lillian were very close and loved to be together. So, my father built a woven pergola for my mother on the bank of the river. It was a place where she could sit, listen to a phonograph playing music and read while my father fished. Her favourite colour was purple and so I created a piece that incorporated all those things … the pergola, the phonograph, her reading and her favourite colour purple. She was always dressed like a lady even when she was gardening.”
“I was asked by a gentleman at the show when it was on exhibition if he could buy it but there was no way I would sell my mother’s portrait. I don’t know why he was drawn to it but it was almost instant. Never did find out his name or why he wanted it.”
For anyone interested in learning more about rug hooking, the Saugeen group meets Monday mornings at the Chantry Centre on Grey Street in Southampton, where you can drop in and learn more.