The early years of handhooked rugs were for practicality. They were affordable ways to keep the floor and the body warm.
Vancouver-based artist Michelle Sirois-Silver thinks those pioneers of the craft would laugh to know that their early work may be considered art. Certainly Sirois-Silver's rugs are.
Her latest body of work will be on display at the Maple Ridge Art Gallery starting when the gallery's doors re-open on Saturday, Sept. 8.
The exhibition is of handhooked rugs and examples of surface design by Sirois-Silver, a hand-hooking rug artist who brings together themes of her coastal roots and the constant passage of time, entitled Love, Decay, Repair.
Specifically, she drew on inspiration from the botanical world and the hosta plant in its various stages of decomposition.
Unlike the plant, however, these works on fibre hold possibilities of repair through layering, stitching, and other methods of reinforcement.
"The resulting works express the vulnerability of nature, the complexity of its systems of selfrepair, and the beauty to behold in every stage of its life cycle," said gallery curator Barbara Duncan.
Sirois-Silver said Love, Decay, Repair reflects her philosophy about art and craft and the seamless integration of traditional and contemporary design, techniques, practice and attitudes.
"Applying and integrating unexpected materials and tech-niques into hand-hooked work has always intrigued me," Sirois-Silver said.
In the "decay" pieces the surface of the leaf begins to disintegrate, taking on a vulnerable quality, the artist explained.
The colours are dull and muted.
Tears and cracks begin to appear on the surface and new materials and layered techniques such as hand stitching, needle felt and machine stitching are used to depict aspects of decay and repair.
Defined as a fibre artist, Sirois-Silver uses a range of materials: hand-dyed wool fabric, metal and silk ribbon, linen backing, and more.
She incorporates layering, stitching, dyeing, and resist tech-niques with the hand-hooking process to create rugs for the floor or for hanging on walls.
Although she uses what is known as the "traditional" rug-hooking technique, Sirois-Silver's work frequently acknowledges her fascination with the natural world of the Pacific Northwest.
Sirois-Silver teaches workshops, writes, and exhibits her work internationally, and the fact that she's exhibited her work internationally makes the gallery personnel pleased to welcome her for an exhibition and various other events.
Love, Decay, Repair opens Saturday, Sept. 8, with a free public reception from 2 to 4 p.m.
A free demonstration and talk by Sirois-Silver on the rug-hooking technique used for her work in the exhibition will be on Sept. 15 from 2 to 4 p.m.
Another free presentation is planned for Sept. 29 from 2 to 3 p.m. when the artist will show slides and discuss the creative process behind her latest body of work.
Regular gallery hours to see the botanically inspired rugs are Tuesdays through Saturdays 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Sirois-Silver's exhibit runs until Oct. 13.