Catalonia: a treasure of cultural heritage | The press

(Clermont) It predates New France. The catalogne, this blanket made of stripes, has adorned beds or served as a carpet from generation to generation. One of the few artisans still carrying on this tradition recently woven her last major catalogue. The press met her.

Posted at 12:00 p.m

Gabriel Beland

Gabriel Beland
The press

Anne-Marie Hamel does not hide her sadness. She is about to experience a little sadness. After decades of producing a hundred major catalogues, she is now weaving her last.

“Catalonia is full of threads, dust, and it’s getting into my lungs. I have had asthma for three years. I’m in the process of eliminating the risk factors,” said the 67-year-old woman, who was struck at her home in Clermont, Charlevoix.

“I will be heartbroken, but it’s not good for my health. »

The weaver will keep weaving. But the large catalogs that cover the beds and that heritage lovers crave are no longer produced.


PHOTO GABRIEL BÉLAND, THE PRESS

“Catalonia is full of threads, dust, and it’s getting into my lungs. I’ve had asthma for three years,” says Anne-Marie Hamel.

She will leave her big loom to a younger man. She hopes that he will continue this age-old technique which, without being lost, is not nearly as popular as before.

“When you go to Estrie it’s more the English influence, it’s more quilting. But in the eastern regions it is still alive,” says Anne-Marie Hamel.

It has never stopped Catalonia, in Charlevoix, Bas-Saint-Laurent, Gaspésie, Saguenay…

Anne-Marie Hamel, weaver

The catalog consists of interwoven stripes. The technique was probably “imported by French mercenaries fighting under the banner of the kings of Spain,” wrote ethnologist Robert-Lionel Séguin in 1961, hence the name.

  • Catalonia designed by Anne-Marie Hamel

    PHOTO GABRIEL BÉLAND, THE PRESS

    Catalonia designed by Anne-Marie Hamel

  • The catalogs are made from strips, most often cut from old, repurposed fabrics.

    PHOTO GABRIEL BÉLAND, THE PRESS

    The catalogs are made from strips, most often cut from old, repurposed fabrics.

  • Mrs. Hamel found a man willing to take up the large trade necessary for the production of the large catalogues.

    PHOTO GABRIEL BÉLAND, THE PRESS

    Mme Hamel found a man willing to take up the large trade needed to produce the large catalogues.

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Then the French settlers brought the technology here. Catalonia was first mentioned in 1634 Jesuit Relations. At the time of her death in 1673, Montreal co-founder Jeanne Mance owned a “large white Couverte de Catalougne”.

“It’s an artisan production that allowed farmers to survive in the 1920s and 1930s,” said Michel Laurent, former curator of textiles at the Musée de la Civilization, in an interview. “With the development of tourist routes, there were roadside kiosks and people sold their products, including catalogues. »

Made from strips of fabric, the catalog also allowed for the reuse of old garments. “Nothing was wasted. It was the maximum use of fiber,” notes Mr. Laurent.


PHOTO GABRIEL BÉLAND, THE PRESS

Despite changing fashions, Catalonia continues to hold a special place in the hearts of Quebecers.

“It was gone in half an hour”

Anne-Marie Hamel was not born into a farming family. She grew up in Montreal and then moved to Charlevoix in 1975 “in the hippie years”. “I joined a circle of peasant women and learned to weave,” she says.

Since then she has been one of the most famous weavers in Quebec. Then she started making her large catalogues, those pieces traditionally used for beds.

On the day of our visit she is weaving her last. Due to the size of the piece, her friend Huguette Dufour has to help her on the big loom.

I find it enveloping, a catalogue. Ever since I was born I’ve seen catalogs on the beds. My mother used to do that. It’s reassuring, a Catalonia.

Hugotte Dufour

She’s not the only one who thinks so. Despite changing fashions, Catalonia continues to hold a special place in the hearts of Quebecers. “When I came onto the market with catalogues, it was gone in half an hour,” says Mme Hamel, which divides its weekends between the Baie-Saint-Paul market and the La Malbaie market.

Sometimes customers touch and sigh. “It brings back memories for them. Some whine. “Once I saw a woman from Gaspésie who said to me: ‘I can’t find anything here anymore.’ »

She estimates that a single queen-size Catalonia took 20 hours to cut and then 6 hours to weave together. “You can’t sell a catalog for more than $350. An hour isn’t expensive,” she said.

“One day a woman came to the market and asked me the price. At the time I sold it for $300. She gave me $100 and said, “My husband is coming, tell him it’s $200, okay?” says M.me Hamel laughs.

A Lost Legacy

Anne-Marie Hamel worries about the future of weaving. She also practices the buttoned charlevoix, a technique that is in danger of extinction. She wants to keep going for a long time. With the support of the Quebec government, she even began teaching courses to pass on this technique.


PHOTO GABRIEL BÉLAND, THE PRESS

Charlevoix buttoned cushion. In particular, Anne-Marie Hamel wove 5,000 towels and a hundred cushions in Catalonia for the Hotel Le Germain Charlevoix.

“It’s a heritage treasure that’s disappearing,” notes Michel Laurent. Mme Hamel is one of the last in the Charlevoix region to make buttons for sale. »

The man is less worried about the future of good old Catalonia. You can still find them for resale, and several circles of peasant women still make them.

But some circles of women farmers are closing, Anne-Marie Hamel regrets. “There aren’t many women who make catalogs anymore,” the weaver notes. There are not many young people weaving. »


PHOTO GABRIEL BÉLAND, THE PRESS

Anne-Marie Hamel is very proud of her latest creation

His last major catalog is full of colour. Anne-Marie Hamel will not sell that on the market. She reserved it preciously for her granddaughter who was just born. Who knows if, when she grows up, catalogs will still be woven in Quebec?

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