A couple of sundays ago my cousin phoned me about a little Ukrainian textile display in her church basement. She tells me she sees a Ukrainian influence in my work. If so, it’s not a conscious effort on my part. I wasn’t in touch with my paternal Ukrainian roots until my family moved from Nova Scotia to Alberta when I was ten. And then my cultural immersion mostly took place at family pyrogy extravaganzas and with stories. On the other hand, my cousin is quite scholarly in all things Ukrainian. She peaked my curiosity, and given that a textile exhibit of any kind interests me, I made a beeline for St.Josaphat’s with only an hour to spare before the three day event closed.
I have a general sense of traditional Ukrainian garb but I was not prepared for what I saw. It was extraordinary. There was an abundance of needlework and weaving. Some of it well over 100 years old; part of the precious cargo new immigrants brought with them. It’s intricate, decorative nature seemed incongruent with the rustic lifestyle of farmers and homesteaders. I imagined strong, rough hands working the farm by day to feed the family and at night moving like ballerinas slipping and sliding beautiful,tiny stitches to feed the soul. Those delicate threads are stronger than the thickest cable. They reach through time and tether generations to a common heritage and place. Ethnographers can pinpoint the exact small village a garment came from the by the stitches and colors used. Outside of one surviving embroidered shirt made by my paternal grandmother, I have never gotten up close and personal with this part of my textile heritage. If fact, I always connected my interest in fiber and textiles with my mother and her east coast family where there are great knitters and rug hookers (as I came to find out when I started).
I walked around and around the room absorbing the work in wide sweeping strokes until I could settle my excitement and narrow my focus enough to appreciate the miniscule hand smocking on the sleeve of a blouse. My every aesthetic bent was in that room; bold colors and combinations; pattern upon pattern; pieced and layered methods of construction. It was a moment. It was an epiphany. I can only say it felt like a warm blanket wrapping around me. I still wonder–Was it the spark of new inspiration or a sense of home?
Below is a detail of “Walleye”,an earlier rug hooked work of mine. It’s the most methodically designed piece I’ve made(so far). I sketched the motifs and general design then worked it out on graph paper. The needlework samplers reminded me of making this piece.
WALLEYE by Diane Krys
Detail of RUNNING BAREFOOT by Diane Krys( my cousin sees our roots in this one!)
Note: All exhibition photographs were taken with permission.
St. Josaphat’s Ukrainian Church in Edmonton has a small permanent display of Ukrainian artifacts.
Running Barefoot is featured in the Sept./Oct. issue of Rug Hooking Magazine where I write about combining my rug hooking and knitting interests.
Thanks for stopping in!