Crossroads of Culture 200 Years of Canadian Immigration (1800-2000)
Introduction Objects Photos & Papers Themes Kids & Teachers

Arts and Crafts

This brightly coloured Ukrainian Easter egg has a purple base and triangular design. The designer created it in Manitoba. She usually boiled the eggs since this helped the colours keep longer. She used a commercial kistka stylus for her designs. Kistka is Ukrainian for "little bone". It is a tool with which hot wax can be drawn onto the egg and has progressed from a small bone strapped to a stick, to a copper cone. (Ukrainian)

This Easter egg, designed in Toronto, in 1973, is an example of intricate Macedonia art work of complex geometrical designs in brown, green and yellow colours. This particular design is a modern take on traditional designs from the Bitola, Macedonia area. (Macedonian)

George Cockayne, born in England in 1906, came to Canada as an orphan in the early 1920s. He worked on farms and in lumber camps. A "rock-and-bush farm" in central Ontario has been his home since the late 1930s. There Cockayne passes many solitary hours carving and painting for his own pleasure. The buxom creature soaring into space is one of a series of shelf brackets carved with frequent reference to the National Geographic. Although his eyesight has deteriorated over the years, there has been no decline in his imagination or energy. He continues to carve his strange and wonderful creations, now done "mostly by feel". They preserve his memories of the past and enable him to reach out to others. [Treasures] (English Canadian)

"Now that's actually me. . . . That hillside is in Prince Edward County, and that was my dog, my Great Dane . . . and my ferret Pee Wee up on top there. That was in the Depression and the ferret would get rabbits out of the holes. You had to fire quick or even grab 'em.... We used to get our meat that way." George Cockayne's description of his carved and painted wooden plaque with attached shotgun shells is just the beginning of one of his long and lively reflections on life. The work itself captures the essence of his life in Canada, which has been a hard one. [Treasures]

This carving was done while he was a farmhand and logger, living on an island in the Bay of Quinte, Lake Ontario. He trained a ferret, which he named "Peewee," to assist him and his Great Dane to hunt rabbits, whose meat supplemented his meagre diet. All the important details of this period of Mr. Cockayne's life are present in the composition--his dog, the ferret cage, his cabin and rowboat, and, surmounting the whole composition, his ferret. [From the Heart] (English Canadian)

In traditional China every individual, however rich or poor, was entitled to be honoured on three occasions: birth, death and marriage. Among Chinese-Canadians marriage is similarly honoured, but the circumstances and ceremonies surrounding it now blend Chinese tradition with Western symbolism. Matchmakers and fortune-tellers are no longer consulted; Canadian born Chinese choose their spouses themselves, though some continue to avoid marrying persons of the same surname.

Weddings are now usually conducted in a church, followed by a reception at home and a banquet in a restaurant. Newlyweds maintain the tradition of offering tea to parents and relatives, but the old custom of kowtowing to elders and worshipping heaven and earth and the ancestors has waned.

Some traditional wedding gifts are chop-sticks, dates and lotus seeds, all symbolizing the wish that the couple have many children. Another ideal gift would be a jade vase, whose name ping is a homophone for peace and stability. The vase pictured here has handles shaped like ling zhi, a fungus that is the emblem of immortality. [Treasures] (Chinese)

This Tanzanian sculpture is carved in a single piece of wood showing two monkeys, one on top of the other. The one on top is biting the tail of the one at the bottom. The one at the bottom seems to be eating a marrow, and its right front leg is pointing upwards with its paw resting on the back of the monkey on top. This figurine probably originates in the Makombe area. (Tanzanian)

The Dutch are fond of wall hangings, with cross stitching being the most popular type of embroidery used. This specific wall hanging, as many do, talks fondly about the "Golden Century" (the 17th Century), with its gable houses and traditional costumes. The nearly meter-tall artwork hung on the wall of the artists' daughters' house in Nepean, Ontario for many years. (Dutch)

This hanging ornament was made in 1985 by a Buddhist to decorate the altar at his Cambodian temple. Hanging from the pillow are many strings of multi-coloured drinking straws tied into knots, decorated with plastic beads. (Cambodian)

View all items in the collection