Editors Note: The following information was passed on to Jo Franco via email after a chance meeting with Faye at a rug hooking event in 2014 in Strathalbyn, South Australia, where Faye was clearing out her stash of rug hooking supplies collected over 40 years, including some rug patterns on burlap (hessian) stamped with the “Rittemere” label. This label originated with the Rowan Studio in Canada – it became Rittemere, later it was to become “Rittemere-Hurst” and is now “Rittemere-Hurst-Field” – the floral rugs Faye referred to as being “imported by Pam Whitehead” appear to be Pearl K. McGown Designs.
Fay has also provided images of rugs made by the Elizabeth Rug Hooking Group (formerly the American Rug Hooking Group) and exhibited in the Barossa Valley and in Salisbury – these can be seen on the “Archives of Australiana Rugs” page.
“In 1972 I began to learn to hook from Pam Whitehead when I attended her Adult Education Classes held in the Elizabeth East High School using the Domestic Science room – it had a heated dryer we used to dry our dye samples. I finished my beginners rug in 1973 using the standard shapes of rose, petunia, lily, pansy and marguerite daisy from my dyed swatches and using the traditional ‘finger shading’ on them and also on the leaves. We generally used the 6 jars in a stew pan method to obtain 6 graduated shades.
During the 1970’s and 1980’s Canberra was the Australian centre for arts and crafts, especially fibre arts and ceramics. Craft Australia based in Canberra printed a photo of an Elizabeth Rug Hooker, Frances Barton’s (Dec) own design (Australian wildflowers – in colour). Her rug was round, with a fringe on it.
It must have been late 1970’ before France’s rug was pictured as the Elizabeth Rug Group had had an exhibition and the photo was taken then. One of my own designs “Dragster” – a rug with a checked border and finished in 1974, was shown (black and white photo) in Craft Australia, Summer 1985, “Galleries and Exhibitors” page 87.
The Elizabeth Rug Group knew of the existence of rug makers in Canberra consisting of wives and employees of the USA and Canada diplomatic corps. There were ‘lone rug hookers’ in Victoria at that time and they may also have been in diplomatic circles.
Joyce Emery conducted rug making classes around the local district after Pam no longer could do it and Joyce also began demonstrating the technique at various community events. When enough interest was shown she would go to those interested, and teach it.
Pam was from Lancashire, UK, and emigrated to Australia after spending time in Canada. The Elizabeth Rug Group were all Pam’s early students and for over 30 years gathered at her home the first Sunday of each month for show and tell and afternoon tea and encouragement on projects. A lot of information and fabric was shared and Pam held a stock of rug patterns and fabric dyes (imported). Pam imported cutting machines, hooks and other tools to sell to the Rug Group.
I have found some correspondence from 1985 concerning an art gift to Fort Worth, Texas from Salisbury City Council. I contributed to this and received letters from both Salisbury City Council and The City of Fort Worth, Texas in appreciation. The gift was a hooked and embroidered wall hanging of SA State Emblems.“