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Vol 39  No 17
July 19, 2007


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Aug. 9, 2007

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Hooked on rugs
by David Sorensen


Emily Urquhart is heading to the top of the Great Northern Peninsula to study rug hooking. (Photo by David Sorensen)

Emily Urquhart is hooked on her research. Later this month, the master’s student in folklore will head to Raleigh on the top of Newfoundland’s Great Northern Peninsula to meet and interview a group of women involved in hooked mat production.

Ms. Urquhart was inspired to examine the hooked mat enterprise after reading an article in a local paper about women who began a rug-hooking business after the collapse of the Northern Cod fishery in 1992. Most of the women were fish plant workers displaced by the moratorium.

Her thesis is tentatively titled Hooked: The Hooked Mat Revival in Post Moratorium Newfoundland. Her supervisor is Dr. Gerald Pocius.

There are many questions she has about the enterprise, from how the women view their activity, how it fits in with the hooked mat tradition in that part of the province, and its connection to the marketing of tourism.

“I’m going in with an open mind,” she said.

Her thesis statement reads: “Is mat hooking an emotional, financial and physical replacement for the work that was lost when the Raleigh fish plant closed? Is the production of hooked mats for economic intent a commoditization of Newfoundland identity? Is the revival of this craft over the last decade due to a perceived loss of identity? Do the modern, non-traditional mat designs reflect the makers or the consumers and how are they valued by ‘highbrow’ collectors?”

Ms. Urquhart, a freelance writer with published works in some of Canada’s biggest magazines, said her folklore studies are a logical extension of her life as a writer – it involved getting people’s stories, but in more detail. “Sometimes it’s nice to look deeper,” she said.

She has continued freelance writing to help fund her studies, and has had stories about Newfoundland appear in major national publications, including Chatelaine magazine.

She will head to Raleigh in late July and return in early August.

This is part of a summer-long series on research around the province. Have a story on a Memorial researcher working in rural Newfoundland and Labrador? Contact the Gazette at sorensen@mun.ca.

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