Chemainus artist Val Gavin has been making hooked and braided rugs since 1979.

Chemainus artist Val Gavin has been making hooked and braided rugs since 1979.

The heritage of rug hooking is alive and well in Chemainus

Sherry Bezanson shares Val Gavin's history of creating hooked and braided rugs in her Community Art Showcase column.

Chemainus resident Val Gavin has found a creative life in making beautiful items for people to walk on — hooked and braided rugs.

Her studio, Renditions in Rags, is the hub of creative activity and where she welcomes in students throughout the year.

She was originally taught the craft by her grandmother when she was a child, and then began a consistent rug-making journey as a young adult since 1979.

She mainly uses wool and with a crochet-type hook pulls the pieces through burlap backing. Gavin advises that wool is the best medium, as it is strong and contains natural lanolin which increases its resistance to wear and stain. She uses old blankets, recycled sweaters and coats, and, often, these are random donations that people leave on her porch.

Gavin’s studio Facebook page shows a 1904 photograph of her great-great grandmother Annie Stevens at the piano in the parlour of Ladysmith’s historic Travellers Hotel. On the floor, near the piano, are smaller rugs that were made by Annie Stevens.

And the heritage of rug hooking continues.

With this rich history, it is no wonder that the craft comes so naturally to Val Gavin.

She notes that she is inspired by the colours of the wool that she gathers — if she gets a lot of greens, a vision of a forest or kelp scene may come to mind. She is drawn to nature images: flowers, birds, ocean, fish, crabs, mermaids and starfish, to name a few.

At times, she also does geometric images.

Often, she does commissions, and some of the more intricate ones become wall hangings instead of floor rugs.  Her images are like paintings, with shading and muting to give depth and intrigue.

Visually, they are highly engaging, the wools thick and luxurious, and they stimulate a desire to snuggle up on the floor with one.

In addition to the rug hooking, Gavin also started creating traditional braided rugs five years ago.  Lately, she has been combining the two arts, lending a framed look to the hooked rugs.

She enjoys the functional aspect of rugs, a piece of art that can be used in a practical way.

If you feel inspired to take up this craft, you can participate in a one-day beginner class for $125. If you feel more inspired to purchase or consider a commission piece, Gavin charges approximately $50 to $60 a square foot.

You can find this gifted artist online.