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Canadian Connection: Seven Seasons of Fogo Island

From poem to hooked rug

By: Story by Gwen Burt; Photography by Gwen Burt and Craig Goudie

Seven Seasons, 76" x 22", #3- to 7-cut hand-dyed and as-is wool on linen. Designed and hooked by Gwen Burt, Northern Arm, Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada, 2013.

Rugged and windswept, Fogo Island lies off the northeast coast of Newfoundland surrounded by the wild North Atlantic—it is a place unto itself. Life here is shaped by land, sea, wind, and tide. Islanders like Zita Cobb’s father felt there were far more than the traditional four seasons. In a poignant poem, “The Seven Seasons of Fogo Island,” Paddy Barry paints vivid images revealing the bounty and challenges of island life. Zita Cobb, founder of the Fogo Island Inn, has presented the concept of seven seasons worldwide and that concept inspired this mat. As I hooked, I thought of my home community, Barr’d Islands, and what it was like to grow up in “the cove.” 

This project provided me with an opportunity to reflect, capture, preserve, and—perhaps most importantly—share stories of life here. Thousands of loops of wool fabric have been pulled through linen to create images that depict a seasonal lifestyle, a lifestyle that can be compared to the cyclic ebb and flow of tides or the familiar patterns of wind. These same loops reveal qualities of character that define our people: hard-working, resourceful, resilient, strong-willed, and hopeful.

Our story is one of survival. Subsistence meant exploiting the resources of land and sea. Life was revealed in our cast nets, cod traps, fishing stages and flakes (drying platforms); in our vegetable gardens, root cellars, hills, and marshes; and in our colorful patch quilts, hooked mats, and clotheslines. Each panel features a distinct season; rope is used to frame each season, much as it often has framed our view of the world. Ropes secured fishing boats to their moorings, littered twine lofts, and spanned kitchens as men repaired nets and knitted linnet, held the seats of children’s swings, and stretched across meadows as clotheslines.

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