Kathy Paterson | Volunteer for 18 years & former Volunteer Workroom Manager

This month’s volunteer spotlight is on Kathy Paterson. A reception volunteer since 2000, Kathy was also the manager of the Volunteer Committee’s Workroom for many years. We sat down with Kathy to talk about her time at the Museum as well as her knitting travels around the world.

How did you get involved with the TMC and how long have you been a volunteer?

KP: I became a volunteer at the TMC in January of 2000, encouraged to do so by Audrey Hozack upon my retirement from a teaching career. Audrey Hozack was one of the original volunteers; in fact I think she helped create the volunteer committee at this museum way back. She brought me in, she said, "you call me when you retire and I will have a position for you". And she did.

Describe your position at TMC. Why did you choose this kind of role at the Museum?

KP: I have always been at the Reception Desk, filling different shifts over 17 years, and for a short period early on, acting as scheduler for the front desk volunteers. I encouraged the transition from the pre-computer days of phone calls and a hand written schedule, to email and a printed schedule that could be shared online - no more phone tag! Hard to imagine in the era of 24/7 communication.

What has been your favourite part about volunteering?

KP: Greeting visitors at Reception continues to be a pleasure, especially as awareness of the TMC’s presence in Toronto has increased. Visitors from all around the world have made it a travel destination, and are often well versed in knowledge of textiles. I love it, as people come in with more knowledge, and interesting questions or walk out talking about things that they liked or with a big bag from the shop.

I was doing the Wednesday evening shifts way back, I think 2004. We had just received a donation - the Vodstrcil carpet collection. Herta Vodstrcil was an elderly woman in Montreal whose son, Andrew Vodstrcil, had sadly passed away and he had been a carpet collector. At the opening night reception for the carpet collection exhibit  there were people from Montreal, people from Toronto… and it was as much a celebration of the man as for his collection. Our Director at the time was down in the lobby to meet Mrs. Vodstrcil, so I got to meet her - it was a really big night.

Tell us about an outstanding experience you’ve had at the Museum

KP: Who can forget the “tent city” surrounding the TMC on the last weekend of May for the Annual "More Than Just a Yardage Sale"! The line-up for bargains at the annual volunteer sale of everything textile related has recently migrated to Artscape on Shaw Street. I was manager of the Workroom for many year. My years of sorting, pricing, and bagging knitting yarn for months in advance, and keeping the sale tables full on that weekend, was both the highlight and reward for me and many other volunteers. It continues, and I cheer them on!

What upcoming events are you excited for?

KP: I’m looking forward to the upcoming Itchiku Kubota exhibit! I also wish I could go to The Rooms in St. John’s, I’ve visited there a couple of times but I’d love to be there right now and go see the Grenfell rugs. I loved them when they were here and I’d love to see them again.

If you could take home one piece from the Museum’s collection, what would it be?

KP: I couldn’t possibly make a choice!

Do you have your own fibre art practice?

KP: I knit, and have done so most of my life as a relaxing and pleasurable hobby. And I have travelled with other knitters on knitting excursions around North America as well as to places noted for their history of knitting, like the Shetland Islands, Iceland, the Faroe Islands, and just about anywhere that might have a yarn mill. Harris tweed in the Hebrides, lacework in Normandy, or “gansey” sweaters in Cornwall have also been on those itineraries created by a marvelous Canadian tour planner, also a knitter. I have already booked my own visit to Edinburgh in March of 2018 to take in that city’s Yarn Festival.

What was your most memorable trip?

KP: Whitehorse - even the flight up there was memorable, it was a clear sky and we just flew over that range of mountains from Vancouver all the way up to Whitehorse. We got to meet a woman there named Wendy Chambers and she was the first Canadian to develop a way to gather qiviut yarn with the local community. Qiviut fibre is the undercoat of the muskox which is predominant on the Northern Islands. Their downy coat is even softer, even smaller in micron measurements than cashmere. It’s just so very soft and a very expensive yarn. She had a shop in Whitehorse and we pretty much cleaned it out when we were there. I think that was a very good trip, I never imagined I would get that far north just because I’m a knitter.

Thank you, Kathy!



Hiroko Karuno | Volunteer 30+ years

Our very own Hiroko Karuno was shortlisted for the Volunteer Award at the Ontario Association of Art Galleries (OAAG) Awards!

For over 30 years, Hiroko has been a Volunteer at the Textile Museum of Canada, and for the last 19 years she has dedicated a half-day a week to working with the Museum’s collection of over 14,000 textiles. Her passion for traditional textiles and her admiration for the deeply rooted skills employed to create these objects drew her to the Museum. She has been instrumental in advancing our knowledge about areas of the collection not well studied, generously contributing unmatched expertise and dedicated work to the identification and documentation of materials, and structural analysis of hundreds of textiles.

Through the years, Hiroko has brought her curiosity and unique specialized knowledge of natural materials and textile practices to her work with the TMC collection. She contributes information on objects prepared for new acquisitions, exhibitions, and museum catalogues. She has worked with all major areas of the collection, generously sharing her knowledge and deep understanding of global textile cultures.

Hiroko began studying textiles in Japan in the 1980s, and is an expert in the traditional Japanese craft of paper spinning and weaving. She has published books, exhibited her work, and taught workshops on the subject in Japan and Canada. You can see her exquisite work at the TMC until January 21 as a part of Diligence and Elegance: The Nature of Japanese Textiles.

As a long-time volunteer, Hiroko is an important part of our Museum community!


Temma Gentles | Volunteer for 14 years

December’s volunteer interview is with library volunteer and former treasurer for the Board of the Volunteer Association, Temma Gentles. A volunteer since 2003, Temma is part our group of volunteers at the Museum’s H.N. Pullar Library. We sat down with Temma to find out more about experience at the Museum as well as her work as a professional textile artist specializing in commissions for religious institutions.

How did you start at the Museum?

TG: I started at the museum around 2003... I’ve got my 10 year pin. I started on the front desk and I quite liked that. It was interesting to meet people from all over and to find out why they were coming to the Museum. I asked for the library position next because, in fact, I’d always wanted to be a librarian who inspires people to read – a young people’s librarian. So in a way, being in the library has fulfilled one of my older ambitions.

Tell me about the H.N. Pullar Library.

TG: I think the library is a great resource! The curators know the library’s catalogue and they come and help themselves, but I’d love the library to be better known by educational institutions and programs as well as the general public who visit. We have books for sale that were donated to the Volunteer Association, and we get people in here who will stay for quite a long time going through the boxes.

Something most people don’t realize is that the catalogue is online now! People don’t have to come to the Museum to know whether we have something that they might find interesting.


Temma, tell me about Torah Stitch-by-Stitch

    From torahstitchbystitch.org
   "Torah Stitch-by-Stitch honours the Five Books of Moses (Pentateuch) through the timeless medium of cross-stitch, a basic textile tradition in many cultures. Participants from numerous national, linguistic and spiritual backgrounds – regardless of gender or craft skill – are joining hands and hearts to stitch 1463 individual panels of the Torah in Hebrew, 4 verses at a time." The exhibition is on view at Congregation Darchei Noam, 864 Sheppard Avenue West, Toronto. Guided tours: Tuesdays 3pm & 6pm, Sundays 3pm. Admission is free. Group tours may be arranged in advance by contacting tsbstours@gmail.com

TG: I came up with the idea while on sabbatical in Israel in 2012. I wanted to encourage people of all cultures and faiths to engage with sacred texts through cross-stitch.  I didn’t know how many people would adopt the project, but we “went viral” and have grown to over 1,600 participants in 23 countries. A good portion of our stitchers have never done cross-stitch, and few of them know Hebrew. We are almost finished stitching the Torah and are working on sections from the Gospels in Greek, and the Qur’an in Arabic exploring the theme of Creation. The entire assembled book of Genesis is on exhibition through December 2017. The guided tours, which continue until December 19, 2017, give profound and heart-warming insights into the project and participants. After December 19, guided tours are available by appointment only; please check the website for more information.

Do you still need stitchers?

TG: Yes! We’re on the last 200 sections out more than 1,500 and we are assembling the completed book of Exodus. We would love to have people sign up.  Registration information and close-ups of many panels are on the website.

Thank you Temma!

Read more about Torah Stitch-by-Stitch on the National Post:The stitched Torah: Toronto tapestry project inspires volunteers from around the world | August 11, 2017 | by Alison Broverman

Ann Posen | Docent for 21 years & former Chair of the Board of Trustees

November’s volunteer spotlight is on education docent extraordinaire, Ann Posen. A volunteer since 1996, Ann has held nearly every volunteer position at the Museum including acting as the Chair of the Board for seven years. We sat down with Ann to find out more about her experiences and favorite memories of the Museum.

Tell me about being a education docent

AP: I love touring school children, they interest me. I always learn something from them, they see things that I never see. I’ll tell them to look for something and they’ll find it in a place I hadn’t seen before. I keep learning that way. Sometimes with the really contemporary shows that I don’t understand fully, I’ll say "You see this? I don’t understand it. Does anybody have a clue?" and they’ll always tell me and they’re always right.

What is your favorite part of volunteering?

AP: I would say the people – first of all the people. When I started I had never volunteered anywhere before and I found that the other volunteers were all really friendly and cheerful and positive and had a real vision of what this museum could be. We participated in everything so it was a pleasure to get to know people who were so cheerful lending whatever they needed to lend – a hand, a buck, anything. We all pitched in and made it fun.

Tell me about your favourite visitor interaction

AP: I was giving a tour to a Grade One and Two class and we were looking at an exhibit of Persian carpets. Unsure of where to start I asked, "Does anyone know anything about carpets?" and this little hand went up and he said "Yeah, they used to fly. The old ones used to fly." Well from there we could all talk about – where would you sit, how you would steer, who made them and where did the designs come from. We covered all of the history and the technology that I wanted them to know about making carpets, but from their perspective.

What is your favourite item in the Museum’s permanent collection?

AP: One of the Grenfell mats–they’re little hooked burlap mats from Newfoundland that were made in the 1920s. You’re sitting in a fishing shack in February on the coast of Newfoundland with no electricity with a bent nail because you have no made crochet hook because that’s just what you have. Even in a fishing shack nobody just made a plain rug, everyone made something that was pretty and charming. There are little scenes of island life there, polar bears and happy whales – I just love them. I find makers never make something too plain, there’s always an embellishment somewhere. 

What upcoming events are you excited for?

AP: There’s one on the history of the Chinese community in Toronto on November 16th and I’m signed up for that – will be interesting. Arlene Chan grew up right around the Museum – that’s the heart of Chinatown and her mother was a very famous owner of a restaurant – Jean Lumb owned one of the first Chinese restaurants in Toronto. There are always interesting speakers at the Textile Museum, it’s a chance to see somebody you would never see elsewhere in your life.  

Tell me about you artistic practice.

AP: I’m kind of a closet knitter, I’ve always knit from the time I was about 10 years old. I always have something on the go but I hadn’t ever met other people who did a lot of knitting. I didn’t think much about it and then I got to the Museum and met all these master knitters, almost professionals. It’s really a joy to know these people because they just do all kinds of stuff. They design their own stuff and they make their own stuff, they’re always keen on what other people are doing so you get lots of help.

Thank You Ann!

By Caitlin Donnelly, TMC Communications and Museum Services Associate