Eilean Donan Studio
Laurie McCrae is a multidisciplinary artist: she paint in oils, and she paints with wools and other textiles.
Her first exposure to hooked rugs was in Nova Scotia, a “Mecca” for traditional hooked mats. “I loved them the minute I laid eyes on them,” she says, purchasing her first rug from an artist in Mahone Bay, NS. Years later she attended a quilt show in Wellington, Ont., where a vendor was hooking a mat from her booth.
“I was mesmerized by the action of pulling loops through a linen backing and was asked if I wanted to try my hand at it,” says Laurie. “From the moment I sat down at her frame and started pulling loops, I knew I was smitten with the process.”
Rug hooking has its North American origins along the Eastern Seaboard in the US, and in Atlantic Canada. Rug hooking was a considered a “craft of poverty,” whereby women would use fabric scraps and burlap bags (for backing) to create their own homemade floor coverings.
While Laurie prefers linen backing or Monks Cloth over burlap, she says, “What I do have in common with my forbearers is my use of recycled and deconstructed clothing which I cut into strips for hooking.”
“I love the feel of wool cloth and chunky yarn but I also enjoy using many other materials including, hosiery, sari silks, velvets, metallic threads, jerseys, and wool rovings,” she says. “I love the physicality of working with textiles and the visual effects I can create with the many different textures of the materials. For example, silks provide a wonderful sheen, metallic threads produce spectacular highlights on water in a landscape, velvets beg to be touched on a rendering of a bunny, wool rovings produce curly locks on a rendering of a lamb.”
In the 19th century, rug hooking was considered a ‘country craft’ (and thus derogatory); today it’s considered a fine art. When asked about her distinction between Art and Craft in her work, Laurie says, “The craft in what I do is in choosing the right materials, pulling the loops technically well and making the finished piece stable. The art in my craft begins with my intent to create a textile painting,… Instead of a paint palette of oil colours, I carefully select the right colours and textures from my piles of cloth strips to achieve the desired effect. It is not so much a mental exercise as it is highly visceral and intuitive.”