The pathway of heritage rug art in New Brunswick leads directly to the door of Miss Grace Helen Mowat. From her farmhouse, known as ‘Beech Hill’ in the seaside town of St. Andrews, New Brunswick, Miss Mowat dreamed, organized and executed the now century-old business known as the ‘Charlotte County Cottage Craft’. Practically schooled in art at New York ‘s Cooper Union and at the Richmond School of Art and Music in England, Miss Mowat eventually returned home to her rural roots to start her business – and so began the legacy.
The hooked mats you see in this exhibit are evolved cousins to those hooked a century ago. In the ‘olden days’, feed bags from farms, often mended to fix a chewed mouse hole or two, were used as a foundation for discarded strips of cloth, often from the ‘rag bag’ to be hooked through the open weave in the burlap feed bag. Everything was recycled; even the designsof the rugs themselves. Miss Mowat encouraged the farm women she employed in her cottage industry to draw what they saw around them. She wanted the hooked rugs to capture the landscape, the colours, and the beauty of the everyday happenings in rural Charlotte County, N.B.
This exhibit of hooked rugs is a design replication of Miss Mowat’s artwork. Sadly, the utilitarian hooked mats of a century ago have long since passed away. We no longer put our hooked mats at the back door for those entering to wipe their feet on.
Today our rugs are most often seen hanging on the wall, or adorning the back of a chair. If they go on the floor, it is often out of direct foot traffic, nestled somewhere to be seen but not tramped upon.
The Mowat Exhibit is a permanent collection at the Hooked Rug Museum of North America, in Queensland, N.S. and officially opened last June, 2013. With the help of Evan and Michelle Ross, the current owners of ‘Cottage Craft Ltd.’ in St. Andrews and HRMNA Museum founders, Suzanne and Hugh Conrod, original art designs of Miss Mowat’s were recovered and replicated for this special memorial exhibit.
The rugs themselves were hooked by artists from various parts of New Brunswick, and many of these ladies either live in St. Andrews or have a connection to Cottage Craft itself.
Featured artists: Nancy Carson; Muriel Jarvis; Hella Haun; Louise McGrattan; Karen Eagles; Suzanne Bousquet; Kerri Chrus; Diane Turner; Sandra Lewis; Carol Baker; Mary Jones; these ladies hooked collectively on the the mat of the red cottage craft building.