Aussie Rugmakers visit Canada

Font: Elke Smith-Hill, Anne Schafer, Judith Stephens, Miriam Miller, Maggie Whyte Back: Jo Franco, Jenny Andersen, Jacqui Thomson

This happy band of Aussie Rugmakers attended the 2015 Triennial Conference of The International Guild of Handhooking Rugmakers (TIGHR) in Victoria on Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada.

Their travels took them literally around the world.

Maggie left first headed to Montreal to spend time with her son and then on to Toronto where she used to live to visit friends.

Miriam and Jacqui had an adventurous time staying with friends in Israel, famiy in Belgium, more friends in Uist in the Outer Hebrides off the Scottish coast and continuing on to family and friends in the USA before arriving in Victoria by ferry and walking a short distance to the Conference Hotel.

Anne took a coach tour of Nova Scotia which included Cheticamp and Prince Edward Island and a visit to Deanne Fitzpatrick’s shop/studio in Amherst, New Brunswick and

Elke and her husband took an Alaskan cruise and mountain train ride before their arrival at the Conference.

The three “Js” Jo, Judith and Jenny met in Vancouver and travelled by car and a series of ferries on a four day tour up the Canadian Sunshine Coast across to Vancouver Island taking in the scenery (wonderful Fall colours) and visiting fibre artists along the way.


Yvonne Stowell’s FibreWorks Gallery in Madeira Park was their first stop. TIGHR member Michelle Sirois-Silver, who gave the Keynote Presentation (“Intersections” the place where the hooked surface and contemporary art meet) at the Conference Luncheon, was one of 25 BC textile artists sharing their stories through creative expressions of their version of mending in  mended”  a  travelling exhibition of contemporary textile art (Surface Design Association BC+Yukon)


Yvonne’s gallery is housed in a complex of yurtz – these buildings are a modern take on the felted dwellings originating on the Mongolian steppes.  To read more about these simple, elegant and portable buidings check out Yurtz by Design. The manufacturer’s claim that these affordable buildings are durable holds up as Yvonne’s complex had been in place for nine years in a area that normally receives a relatively high rainfall – plenty of moss on the trees but none on the yurtz, inside or out.

FibreWorks_Yvonne_Stowells_Workshop     Yvonne, a spinner & weaver, graciously treated the trio to a tour of her workshop and studio. All those wonderful yarns spun with silk, alpaca and merino wool which she dyes using natural dyes were irristable. Being knitters as well as rug hookers they just had to purchase some of her beautiful yarns.

FibreWorks_Yvonnes_Japanese_Indigo_ plantThis plant growing in pots around the yurtz caught everyone’s attention. Yvonne explained it was Japanese Indigo which she uses in her dye pot – apparently its very easy to grow – Judith was taking careful notes, so it will probably show up in her garden soon.  Yvonne sells yarn, gives classes and hosts a spinners and weavers group but doesn’t sell knitting needles. Everyone was eager to start knitting with their newly purchased yarn, so she directed the travellers to Great Balls of Wool,  at Powell River, for the needles and patterns needed.  If you’re traveling in this area FibreWorks is a “must stop”,  you’ll find Yvonne most hospitable and very knowledge.

Visiting Great Balls of Wool proved interesting for the three “Js” – they’d travelled half-way around the world to be asked if they’d like to attend talks and workshops by an Australian knitter!    Jude Skeers, currently the resident artist at the wool shop. My online search indicated Skeers was previously associated with the TAFTA Forum in Orange.

Reading more about TAFTA  Orange Forums I came across this article in a local newspaper .  Apparently a main feature of that event was Perth artist Martien van Zuilen’s Mongolian yurt, used as a time-out and meeting place for the students. What a coincidence – I’d heard Martien give a presentation on yurtz at a WAFTA Talk in Perth a few years ago, and here I was now so far from home coming across yurtz and Martien’s name again.

Fish_ladders_Stamp_River_Vancouver_Island_BC_CanadaThere was more to this trip than just textiles – heading for a couple of nights in Tofino on the west coast of Vancouver Island, the travellers heard about the Salmon Run on the Stamp River near Pt. Alberni. A walk in the woods with the sun shining through the drifting golden leaves alongside the fish ladder where the salmon could be seen swimming upstream, was magic.  Although there were a few disquieting thoughts about bears maybe sharing the area, as there had been reports that morning of bear sightings on the riverbank opposite the main area of town.

And in Ecluelet, a small fishing village not far from Tofino, a very pleasant hour or more was spent speaking with the Polish owner of Rubio a family owned jewellery shop, learning all about Baltic Amber and how this family came to be in business there.

Saturday on the way to Victoria, Jo, Judith & Jenny followed the Polka Dot Trail in Chermainus Valley.  Val Galvin’s rug studio was their first stop


followed by a visit to Colleen Wilke’s Sage House Rug hooking Studio and Lorraine Taylor’s studio to see her colourful silk scarves.  By mistake we visited  Fred Law’s wood workers studio where Jo purchased a fantastic wooden spoon – it’s to be hoped it will get through Customs in OZ

By they time the 3 Js arrived in Victoria the rest of the Australian contingent was there and much swapping of travel tales began.

With so much to see and do in Victoria and so many  old and new rug hooking friends to connect with, it will take me another blog or two to report on the actual Conference and the great time had by all.                Jo Franco



Leave a Reply