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Grenfell Mat

Curated Submission
Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada
1936 - 1939
DIMENSIONS in centimetres
107 x 79
Materials & techniques
Burlap, silk; Hooked
Gift of Robert Walters
Textile Museum of Canada T84.0117
Mat hooking in Newfoundland and Labrador is a craft whose roots lay with the earliest English and Scottish settlers, and was well established by the time Doctor Wilfred Grenfell arrived in 1892 to create a medical mission in the remote areas of Labrador and the Great Northern Peninsula of Newfoundland. Along with its medical programs, the Mission built schools and helped establish a commercial handicraft enterprise. The “Industrial,” a cottage industry, was established in 1906 and became an important part of the Mission, creating alternative sources of income by allowing residents to sell hooked mats and other items at North American retail shops.

The map design was in production in 1936 and was hooked in large numbers in four sizes. It charts the coastlines of Newfoundland and Labrador, and the headquarters of the Mission in St. Anthony is marked with the small white house to the left of the spouting whale. Other mission hospitals and settlements are represented with wigwams and igloos. The walruses, moose, ships, and lighthouses tell the story of life in the North, where communities were isolated and struggled to make ends meet, living off the uncertain and variable resources of the sea.

Originally used for warmth and decoration, hooked mats provide whimsical glimpses of a place and time. Through the Mission, these mats became a means of securing necessary clothing, food, and medicine.
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