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Needlework New Brunswick

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Tom Anderson during Harvest Day celebrations at the Agricultural Museum of New Brunswick

Tom Anderson
Mr. Anderson of Newtown (near Sussex) has been active in his community since he was a young man. The Sussex area bears the result of his many selfless hours spent making it a better place. The fibre arts community can thank him for helping establish the Canadian Sheep Breeders Association and serving as its first president. In the 1980s, he recruited fellow farmers and members of the agricultural community to establish the Agricultural Museum of New Brunswick. He was also the museum's first president, and remains active with the venue today.
Other interesting details about this community-minded man include he and his wife, Laura, operating the first farm vacation operation in Canada. From this came another twist of fate. It was one of their guests who took the photograph of the nearby Oldfields covered bridge that represented New Brunswick on the anniversary quarters in 1992. The Canadian Mint issued the special anniversary coins to mark Canada's 125th birthday.  


Dr. Ivan "Bill" Crowell
d. May, 2003
The New Brunswick craft community owes a large debt to this generous man whose foresight and dedication encouraged others to develop their creativity and pride in New Brunswick. The former president of the New Brunswick College of Craft and Design began teaching in 1922. His career started in Nova Scotia, where he taught manual skills in the public school system. He earned a bachelor's degree in science in forestry through the University of New Brunswick in 1927. Dr. Crowell went on to study in the US, before his career took him to McGill University in Montreal. It was there he embarked on his handicraft career that lead to his settling in New Brunswick in 1946.
One of the first places he taught here was at Fundy National Park, where he helped design the craft program. He later was employed by the province, serving as the director of handicrafts with the government. While in this role he helped launch a handicraft program for indigenous New Brunswickers at the Big Cove reservation in 1962.
Many New Brunswick venues are home to the more than 1,000 tapestries he wove or co-created after he retired from actively teaching in 1969. What makes this total even more impressive is that he only started weaving the wall hangings at 75 years old! One hundred of them hang at the two University of New Brunswick campuses. The last one was presented to the university in October, 2001, when he was 99 years old. It features the poem The Plan of the Master Weaver embroidered on linen with yarn in the university's colours of red and black. UNB honored his work when it presented him with an honorary doctorate of letters in 1996.
His beloved Fredericton was one of the major recipients of his creative efforts. The city's council chambers are home to 27 tapestries he and Gertrude Duffie spent 3 1/2 years creating to celebrate the community's bicentennial.
This remarkable man also introduced pewter work to Canada. He established a successful business in this metal craft upon leaving his teaching career. He spent five years learning about pewter before turning his attention to the needlearts.
His country recognized Dr. Crowell's contributions to New Brunswick handicrafts when it made him a member of the Order of Canada in 1973.
Dr. Crowell presented his looms to the Fredericton Historical Society in 1988 as his eyesight deteriorated. He left his body for medical research after his May, 2003, death. However, his legacy carries on, with a series of craft scholarships through the craft college he oversaw and gifts to the Fredericton Community Foundation.
Some of the many publications Mr. Crowell wrote or assisted with include:
Check List of Diseases of Economic Plants in Canada by Ivan H. Crowell and E. Lavalee (Unknown binding – 1942

Chip Carving Patterns and Designs (Paperback March 1978)

Craftsmen's Library Finger Weaving Part 1 (Paperback - 1945)

Design and hook your own rugs (Handicrafts series) (unknown binding) 1944

Finger weaving: Part 1 (Handicraft series) (Unknown binding) 1944

Horn craft (Craftsmen's library) (Unknown binding – 1945)

Horse-drawn carriages and sleighs: Elegant Vehicles from New England and New Brunswick (Formac) Oct. 14, 2003; 72 pages

ISBN-10: 0887806163    ISBN-13: 978-0887806162

Leather belts that you can make (Handicrafts series) (Unknown Binding -1944)

Popular weaving crafts 166 pp.; illus. Chas. A. Bennett Co. Inc, North Munroe St, Peoria, 3, Ill. 1950

A collection of short articles by different authors covering vegetable dyes; inkle, cradle (box), finger and card weaving; cross-stitch and needlepoint; braiding and hooking rugs.

Smart Buttons, Buckles and Novelty Fastenings in Leather (Craftsmen's Library) (Pamphlet - 1945)

Sheila Mackay Dick, RSA
b. 1946 - d. 2004
Ms. Mackay was perhaps best known for her love of needlework and her support of the Canadian art scene. She was born in 1946 in Saint John.
Descended from one of New Brunswick's oldest families, she had an early career in marketing and public relations in London, England and Toronto before health concerns prompted her to return to New Brunswick in 1983.
This move gave her the time to devote to her passion for needlework. While she quilted, sculpted, made dolls and conducted other needlework techniques, she was inspired to create a foundation that would help New Brunswick and Canada's best creative talents reach even higher heights.
The Sheila Hugh Mackay Foundation was launched in 1987, sponsoring many awards and scholarships. Among the better known ones are the Strathbutler Award, (an annual $20,000 prize presented to a leading New Brunswick artist), the Fred Ross Scholarship for Fine Arts (for New Brunswick high school students pursuing a career in the arts), and the Nel Oudesman Scholarship (assisting graduates of the NB College of Craft and Design to continue their arts education).
She was involved with many provincial and national arts organizations, and held occasional solo shows of her work. Ms. Mackay was generous with sharing her knowledge and skills with others. One of the organizations with which she was most proud to be associated with was the Atlantic Canada Chapter of The Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce, the parent organization dating back to 1754.
Ms. Mackay was preparing to move to her winter home in Aruba in the Caribbean in 2004 when she died suddenly. She was 58.
Learn more about Sheila Mackay:
Dilettante's Delight; a needlework chronology by Anne Fawcett  (paperback, 2002)
Published by Otnabog Editions, Box 101, Gagetown, NB  E5M 2W4
ISBN  0-9685999-8-2
To learn more about the Sheila Hugh Mackay Foundation, contact Rachel Brodie Venart at, by telephone at 506-693-5647 or by visiting the foundation website,
Violet Gillett
The graduate of Fredericton Normal School earned her education at a number of North American and European locations, using her newfound knowledge to develop the artistic scene in her native New Brunswick. She studied at the Ontario College of Art before going on to serve as an artist in the Department of Medicine and Pathology at the University of Toronto. Miss Gillett earned a degree at the Royal College of Art in London, England, then went on to study in Europe. She was invited to create the new Department of Fine and Applied Arts at the Saint John Vocational School when it was built. She worked there until 1947, when she went to New York to study sculpture.
Once back in New Brunswick, Miss Gillett and her sister started an Art and Handicraft Studio at Andover. Working from a home more than a century old overlooking the St. John River, she went on to introduce hand-printing in New Brunswick. This was when she developed a strong reputation for her hand-stencilled fabrics. Events, landscapes, animals and flowers from her beloved New Brunswick inspired her designs.
Grace Helen Mowat
b. 1875 - d. 1964
New Brunswick native Dr. Grace Mowat took her pride in New Brunswick and launched one of the largest cottage industries in the province. All with a working capital of just $10. Having studied art in New York and England, she went on to form what is now the oldest group of weavers in New Brunswick. She encouraged women in the surrounding county to develop local yarns to weave and knit into finished products, all with New Brunswick scenes and events as their theme. Dr. Mowat set up Cottage Craft Woollens in St. Andrews in 1915 when she convinced local women to dig out their looms and knitting needles and create items that were sold around the world. This idea worked so well, she was paying her workers more than $12,000 by 1921. Dr. Mowat operated the business until after the Second World War when she passed it to the son of a college friend, William Ross.
Dr. Mowat also wrote several books, many for children. Some of these titles are Funny Fables of Fundy and other Poems for Children (1928); the House that Hurricane Jack Built; the Diverting History of a Loyalist Town: A Portrait of St. Andrews, New Brunswick (1932) and Broken Barrier (1951).

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