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Memorial University DELTS Video Collection, pre-1994
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Mrs. Belbin : Newfoundland mat maker.
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TitleMrs. Belbin : Newfoundland mat maker.
SummaryThe wife of a sea captain, Louise Belbin spent many long evenings in her home at Grand Bank designing and producing hooked mats. Though her techniques are traditional, her designs are considered unique.
SubjectBelbin, Louise
Rugs, Hooked--Newfoundland and Labrador
CreatorMemorial University of Newfoundland. Extension Service (Producer)
ContributorsBelbin, Louise (Interviewee)
Memorial University of Newfoundland. Art Gallery (Producer)
PublisherMUN Extension Service
Associated NameMemorial University of Newfoundland. Distance Education, Learning and Teaching Support (DELTS)
Duration10:13 minutes
LocationCanada--Newfoundland and Labrador
Catalogue NumberMUN Extension Service Cat. 00240
TypeMoving Image
Resource TypeVideo
RepositoryMemorial University of Newfoundland. Libraries. Media and Data Centre
CollectionMemorial University DELTS Video Collection, pre-1994
SubcollectionAssorted Topics
Viewable OnlineYes
TranscriptThe Art Gallery of Memorial University Presents Mrs. Belbin, Newfoundland mat maker Producer-director Paul MacLeod Editor Joe Vaughan Camera Nels Squires Sound Tom Myrick Research Colleen Lynch Pastore Patty Tremlay Music Michael Owler Wileen Keough Produced by Extension Media, Memorial University of Newfoundland 1977. Mrs. Belbin: When we were children growing up every one used to do mats them times. That's in the winter months. Didn't have time - summer time in the gardens. I learned when I was a small girl from my mother. Narrator: For almost 70 years Mrs. Louise Belbin has worked with her hands. She was born in 1897 in the tiny Newfoundland outport of Jacques Fontaine. As a young woman Louise moved to Grand Bank, then one of the busiest fishing harbours in Newfoundland, where she met and married Tomas J Belbin. As a captain of foreign going three masted schooners her husband was away at sea for months at a time. Mrs. Belbin raised five children and looked after their small farm. Later they also operated a couple of general shops. Following the death of her husband Mrs. Belbin remained in the home they had shared continuing to run one tiny shop at the end of the garden. The shop and home remain her world, with loving memories of her husband, visits from children, grandchildren and great grandchildren and, always the work on her mats. Mrs. Belbin: My husband [was] always at sea and it was a lonely life and a worried life. A man on the sea is a lot of worry. You can't help these things can we? Colleen: How long would he be out to sea at one time? Mrs. Belbin: Well, I can hardly tell being that he was away from home so much you know. Eleven and twelve months to a time. Colleen: I see why you made so many mats then. Mrs. Belbin: Yeah, I had to do something. You just hem it - hem the end - and then you sew it on the frame and then you start to poke. Poke all colors in the middle like this, see? Colleen: What kind of material? Mrs. Belbin: All kinds for a poked mat but you have to have good material for a hooked mat. A hooked mat is finer work. You can't hook everything in a hooked mat like you can in a poked one. Makes a difference. You have to use heavier material in a poked mat than you do a hooked mat, yeah. Colleen: What kind of fabric are you using for the backing? Mrs. Belbin: That's burlap. Most places you get in some stores that sell feed. A 100 lb. sack makes 2 mats in this size. A 50 lb. bag makes one. You just cut it a bit off of the side so he'll be longer than he's wide. Make a better shape mat. Colleen: Is this the shape you usually use? Mrs. Belbin: That's the shape yes - I usually have for hooking and poking. Colleen: Where do you get the design ideas from? Mrs. Belbin: I just mark it out of my head. I use twine like this and I half me mat see. I measure the length and then the I double it and I mark just a dot on each side and I do the same on the ends and then I come down by the twine with this pencil and that's how I get me diamond. I like red and black for a poked mat. Most time I uses black for the corners and red around to start the diamond. Shows up your mat better. A duller color don't show up so good. Colleen: So color is important then? Mrs. Belbin: Oh yes, color is important in your mat, yeah. [Removes the mat from the frame]. There it is now, all done. Narrator: Spending most every weekday in the shop, poking and hooking mats late into the evening Mrs. Belbin has very little spare time. And what little there is is never wasted and her hands are never idle, either knitting or making brightly colored patch quilts for her family. Mrs. Belbin: I just use ends pretty much. In my spare time - a few odds and ends of minutes. Colleen: [Looking at a quilt] Look at the colors in that! Great colors! I bet your family appreciates it. Mrs. Belbin: Oh they really do. Yeah, they loves mom's work. When I taught mat hooking down to the Seamen's Institute with Don Wright the boys was awful interested. You would never believe the difference in the boys and the girls. The boys comes in the store out there when I'm at me mats they'll stand right alongside and watch me doing it. Ask questions about it. Yeah. But not very often you'll see the girls. No. I guess they don't like to do the work. I spend most of me time in the shop cause I'm alone. Spend most of me time. [Serves some candy to a customer]. [Clock chimes] Thank you. Customer: Thank you. Mrs. Belbin: That's me company. I wouldn't see anyone in the house like I do out in the store. [Begins working on her mat.] I'd like to know how many I did in me lifetime. And two or three years ago I did twenty-five one winter. Poked mats. I started on them early in the fall and I had them done in March. Takes a lot of work. Oh guarantee. Some lot of work to do mats. That's why I guess people give it up. They didn't like the work. I do it more or less for a pass time and company. I enjoy every minute, yeah, every minute. You trace your design around and you follow on however the pattern is going and whatever color suits your design. Different patterns in different colors. You have to use the color to suit your design. Most horses I do in black. White hooves and white in their face. I really know the color that suits a design cause I've been at it so long. I done the colors pretty good. This design I got of a cat I took it off a cushion. I like making the large cat more so than them small ones. So much to the face of a cat and the spots, you know. Two exactly alike. There's only the one it would be different but there's two. My mother didn't use the designs like this. They used the scrolls and flowers they used to call it, not animals and stuff. And I don't do ‘um so fast now as I did when I was younger. Cause when you're eighty you can't work like you did when you was twenty. It makes a lot of difference, don't it? The end.
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