Imprints is a new feature at CrafStory.com. Often when carrying out work as artists and crafters it is easy to see work as just being a pastime, or as a means of making a modest crust with little thought for what our legacy might be. Its difficult to conceive of the idea that the makes we create will be part of treasured memory that those we love hold onto when we leave them behind. Imprints seeks to share your memories, your histories and create an archive of the imprints left with you for all.
“One day she stopped hooking because she felt she had accomplished everything she could in her craft – plus we ran out of wall space!”
Thora Dawn Taylor didn’t see herself as an artist, but her bold use of the traditional craft of rug hooking became a way of drawing a community around her and expressing love and respect to those she held dear.
“Mom never considered herself an artist, just a crafts person,” said her daughter Katherine Taylor. “I would argue and call her an artist but she thought that term was too uppity for her. I think she also thought artist was a title for male professional men and not for women or at least not for her.”
“She had a joie de vivre and a loud, infectious laugh that people could recognize a mile away,” explained Katherine. “According to my dad, before she became a rug hooker or hooker as my father would fondly say, she was quiet and reserved.”
Having trained as a teacher, Thora was forced to set aside her profession when she became a mother. She took up rug hooking when Katherine was a year old and found it was a way to break out of the isolation of being home with her children. The craft sees “hookers” making rugs onto a stiff woven base, such as burlap, linen or rug warp, by pulling or “hooking” loops of yarn or fabric through them to make a pattern or image.
“Rug hooking gave her an outlet to connect with other women and to unleash her creativity that was lurking inside of her. Mum told me she was obsessed with hooking right away and would stay up till all hours of the night to work on her pieces.”
The obsession was so that Thora even dyed her own wool on the kitchen stove, filling the house with the smell of vinegar as she stood over the pot in the search of the perfect hue.
The walls of the family home were soon filled with her prolific works, framed and in carefully chosen locations throughout the house.
“Mum decorated her house down to the finest detail,” her daughter explained. “She loved colour and she hooked mostly flowers and outside scenes.”
She added: “Mum never sold her work but if she loved you she would make you a piece. People offered her thousands for pieces she didn’t even like. Mom used to say you could never put a price on the countless hours and – I would add love – that went into her work.”
Katherine’s favourite work by her mother is a stunning work of trees, which hangs above the mantle in the living room of her home today.
“This was an abstract piece depicting the Niagara Escarpment near our home – she finished it when I was three,” said Katherine.” I love it because it’s moody and beautiful – just like mum. Her shading is amazing and I just love the way the trees look and the colours she used.”
She added: “I talk often of my mum with my girls. They had a very special bond. Our house is filled with my mum’s work so my girls are surrounded by her creativity and warmth. They both have several pieces in their rooms. My mum’s art helps to make our house a home.”
Thora came together with others to share their work at the hookers’ guild J J Ruggers, eventually becoming president for a time, and relishing the time spent at the group’s annual conference at Trent University.
Thora worked tirelessly at perfecting her craft and ultimately started teaching others in the basement of the family home.
As well as her creative life Thora took pride in her role as a wife and mother to Katherine and her older brothers Paul and Mike. Thora’s husband Robert became Mayor of their city, Brantford Ontario, and she gave him strength with her support. Thora even hooked the city coat of arms that hangs in Brantford City Hall today.
Thora passed away from cancer five years ago aged 74. Her funeral was attended by hundreds of friends and during the visitation her work was placed on display to recognise its place in her life.
“Mum’s legacy is great,” said Katherine. “She helped dozens of women create and express themselves and she provided a safe place for them to work and share. She kept a traditional art alive and added her own flare to it.”