The Canadian Carpet Ride

Look down as you walk through Canada House and you will see magnificent Canadian oak, marble and granite — and 29 bespoke carpets commissioned to showcase Canadian craftsmanship and artistry.

Artists from across the country were invited to submit their special designs to represent the province or territory where they lived. The task of translating the selected works into hand-woven woollen carpets then fell to Toronto-based design company Creative Matters. “Our designers were both challenged and delighted to faithfully reincarnate many symbols of our immense land: from cicadas, fall foliage and cranberries to the northern lights, sprinklings of snow and expanses of glacial ice,” says the company’s president Carol Sebert. “We strove to reproduce the breadth of colour, evoke the moods, generate the motion and achieve sublime balance.”

The level of detail required the designers to consider every square inch of each carpet, making sure every thread was colour-matched and grouped to remain as true to the original work as possible. According to Sebert: “Every colour was specified in a dye range familiar to the mill where the carpet was to be hand-tufted to ensure each delicate gradation and hue. At times, we were wary of adding texture where the original art did not call for it and, alternately, we were challenged to reproduce the energy that is showcased by a bold, hard-edge painting technique.”

Selecting colours for the Pacific Room carpet
Selecting colours for the Pacific Room carpet

The design team also had to calculate how they would scale the works up to fit the size of the floors they would cover, how to accurately interpret them in the medium of wool, and how to represent the artist’s intention, given the fact that the carpets would be viewed from above, rather than at eye level. It took months of work, but once each piece had been translated into a digital template, the millworkers were able to hand-weave the tiny threads of custom-dyed yarn together to make a whole.

Each carpet was individually assigned to an artisan with the requisite expertise, equipment and appropriate sensitivity to produce the carpet and remain true to its original design. 

Creative Matters considered fibres and techniques suited to the faithful reproduction of the design as well as the anticipated traffic of the room. The resulting carpets vary in size and location throughout the building, from stair runners and reception hall carpets to those found in the meeting rooms, reception areas and lobbies. 

On the grand stairway, guests to Canada House will tread on a design entitled ‘Slats’ created by Vancouver-based artist Elizabeth MacIntosh, an associate professor at Emily Carr University. Sean Will Randell and Billie Rae Rusby designed carpets for rooms named for Prime Ministers Macdonald and Laurier respectively. 

Meeting rooms in Canada House are named after each of the ten provinces and three territories, as well as Canada’s three oceans and four Prime Ministers. A local artist designed each carpet. In the Ontario Room, Toronto-based artist Elizabeth D’Agostino incorporated into her design the cicadas you can hear in the trees of Ontario when they awaken from hibernation. Installation artists Lance Belanger and Kitty Mykka captured the extraordinary migratory occurrences of the Tantramar Marshes of New Brunswick. Other carpets capture the colours of their province in their pieces just as Will Gill did with the blues, teals and turquoises of his carpet for the Newfoundland Room. 

British Columbian artist lessLIE took a more symbolic approach, depicting two eagles in a circle in a traditional Coast Salish design. Similarly, in the Quebec Room, Nadia Myre and Karen Elaine Spencer responded to the design theme of ‘Nature and Climate’ by using a line from the song ‘Mon Pays’, an unofficial anthem of the Quebecoise, by contemporary singer/songwriter Gilles Vigneault. 

“Mon pays ce n’est pas un pays, c’est l’hiver” which translates as “My country isn’t a country, it’s winter.” 

“Although our firm works on projects around the world, our designers are Canadian,” explains Sebert. “I speak for us all when I say how fulfilling it was to immerse ourselves in works of art that reflect the features, moods and values of our own country.”

Taken together, the carpets of Canada House are a truly magical reflection of Canada, the beauty of its diverse landscapes, and a testament to the skill and creativity of its talented artists and artisans and manufacturers. 

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