Republished with permission from Cassidy Chisholm at CBC Nova Scotia
A Dalhousie University veterinarian celebrated the life of his deceased mother on Wednesday by laying out 200 rugs she hooked by hand over the last 30 years, on the lawn at the school.
“Imagine your whole life’s work laid out — very few of us would ever have the opportunity to see that, but hopefully she’s up there looking down and is happy with what she did,” Chris Harvey-Clark told CBC Nova Scotia: News At 6:00 on Wednesday.
Harvey-Clark’s mother, Carol Harvey-Clark, was well-known in the Nova Scotia rug-hooking community. She was also internationally known for her design skills and her use of vivid colours and textures.
She died unexpectedly on Dec. 12, 2019, just shy of her 80th birthday.
“Coming into the new year, I really wanted a way to celebrate her life and especially the hundreds of rugs she made and all the people that she got into the business and the joy of making rugs,” Harvey-Clark said. “We couldn’t do anything because of COVID in terms of a celebration of life, so we did this outdoor installation.”
Harvey-Clark displayed his mother’s art on the lawn at Dalhousie University on Wednesday because she grew up nearby and would play there as a girl.
Carol started rug hooking shortly after the death of her husband in 1990. While grieving, she and her son vacationed in Hawaii — and that’s where she fell in love with the art form.
“We went to a museum in Maui where there was an old hooked rug from the 19th century and my mom looked at it and absolutely fell in love with it,” said Harvey-Clark. “And when we came back to Canada, she took some courses in how to do rug [hooking].”
Since then, she created hundreds of beautiful, intricate and whimsical pieces and opened the Spruce Top Rug Hooking Studio and Économusée in Mahone Bay.
Harvey-Clark said his mother had thousands of people go through the studio over the 26 years it was open.
“Mom was a well-known and well-loved figure in the rug-hooking world, and it was because she was such a great mentor,” Harvey-Clark said. “She was very kind in her teaching techniques. No matter how much somebody messed up, she’d find a way to help them fix their rug … and her students adored her.”
Her obituary said she taught throughout Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia, and she has pieces all over the world in private collections and museums.
In 2019, Carol was awarded a lifetime achievement award by the Nova Scotia Guild of Rug Hookers and was a long-term member of the International Guild of Handhooking Rugmakers.
After his mother’s death, Harvey-Clark cleaned the rugs, photographed and labelled them, and then stored them in a climate-controlled room in his home — but he knew they couldn’t stay there forever.
“I always thought these rugs have a life of their own and they’re sort of in prison in there and to put them [outside] and let them just breathe the air and sunshine and then to see them from the sky … every piece just jumps out at you,” he said. “There’s a lot of life and passion and love in these pieces.”
Harvey-Clark said he will be donating the rugs to charitable auctions and giving some pieces to his mother’s friends.
“I don’t think I’ll be able to sell any of these pieces,” he said. “They have to go to homes where they’ll be loved because they were made with a lot of love.”