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Macramé Fish Wall Hanging

Public Submission
Atikokan, Ontario
Circa 1960
Materials & techniques
Polypropylene cord, white and rust coloured dye, ceramic, glaze, clay, metal, glue
Constructed by Carol Lefko & Mary Bordynuik
Atikokan Centennial Museum, 1981.11.1
Macramé artists create ornamental works made from patterns of hand-knotted cord. This particular piece was created using rust and white coloured synthetic fibers intricately woven into the shape of a fish. Each cord consists of three individual strands twisted together. They are knotted to create diagonal and horizontal bars, sennits and spiral stitches. Cords are fastened to a central metal ring by individual lark head knots. Twelve light brown, clay beads are woven into the project, each with a stamped flower decoration. A taupe, glazed ceramic detail with abstract embellishments forms the head of the work. The piece fittingly ends with loose cord hanging down, resembling a tail.

Macramé comes from a long artistic tradition that many believe to have originated with Arab weavers in the 13th Century. They knotted excess thread found on the ends of hand-loomed fabrics to create decorative fringe. This art form spread to Spain during the Moorish Conquest; it was later popularized after being introduced to the Court of Queen Mary II in the seventeenth century. Sailors took up the craft during their time at sea and further contributed to macramé's dispersion. These men traded and bartered their crafts with people from South America, China and Africa. Macramé had a resurgence in the 1960s and 1970s, with many individuals creating wall art, hanging baskets and jewelry.

There are two symbols within the piece that are intimately tied to Atikokan's rich history. First, the shape of the fish signifies Atikokan's long fishing tradition. Historically, the Ojibwa First Nation, who traversed the area, subsisted on hunting, fishing and gathering. European settlers then came to rely on the same measures for their survival. Fishing today is largely a recreational activity enjoyed by community members and tourists. Second, the rust colour of the cord is reminiscent of iron ore. This imagery is particularly significant because Atikokan boomed as a mining town after the opening of Steep Rock Iron Mine and Caland Ore Mine. Many community members nostalgically recall when red dust penetrated every crack and coloured the outside of every house with a reddish-tinge.
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