Folk Art

Folk art covers all forms of visual art and reflects the cultural life and traditional values of a community.  There are many different forms of folk art such as music, crafts, mosaics, photography, painting, writing, and even dancing.

Folk Artists

Folk artists create artwork that is decorative or utilitarian rather than purely aesthetic. Folk art is characterized by a ‘naive’ style, in which traditional rules of proportion and perspective are often not employed.

The uniqueness of folk artwork also arises because folk artists tended to make use of natural substances like wood, straw, clay, and cloth.  Woven art, carved figures, jewelry, recycled metal art, portraits in paint and sculpture, as well as unique handmade artifacts of various materials today is very collectible. Many folk art traditions like quilting, ornament picture framing, and decoy carving continue to thrive, and new forms of art are constantly emerging.

Folk artists may never have called themselves artists, because they were making something practical for use or creating something as a hobby or for kids, however, this does not take away from their creativity and skill.  Many people in and around Metis and the Lower Saint Lawrence area treasure pieces made by people we now would call folk artists, such as the Brochu sisters’ who made stuffed animals, basketwork from indigenous people living in the area,

Did you know… ?  Folk artists can, of course, be male or female, from young to very old.  While men once tended to have been carvers and furnituremakers, some also hooked rugs and knitted.
Folk artists and their handicrafts, then and now, also received a boost from those interested in maintaining traditional craft skills.

Folk Art and Handicrafts Prized

While some people prize so-called ‘fine arts’ over folk art and handicrafts, both art forms can be creative, beautiful, and emotionally moving, becoming highly prized and loved by those who own them.  One person who summered in Metis, and came from background some would have expected to favour fine arts, in fact supported many forms of art.  Mary Alice (Skelton) Peck was born December 28, 1855 and came from a well-to-do family. She married James Peck, a Montreal businessman, in 1878 and they had seven children. In 1882, they were among the first Montreal’s to build a summer home in Little Metis as a retreat to escape the heat of the city.

James and Alice Peck were both members of the Art Association of Montreal, and by the 1890s, she had involved herself in various cultural organizations. Alice met May Phillips and they founded the Home Arts and Handicrafts Committee to exhibit and sell Canadian crafts under the auspices of the Montreal branch of the Women’s Art Association of Canada (WAAC).

During the summer of 1901, Alice Peck sought out talented craftspeople and she, with a volunteer committee, held a pioneering exhibition of handicrafts in the Town Hall at Little Metis the following year.

Ferdinand Dupère was a local resident who lived in Les Boules and was a manufacturer of doors, frames, cabinetry, etc… He made many pieces of furniture for the Metis hotel owners and the rental homes they owned. His furniture was distinctive, made of birch with square knobs identifiable by their X-style design. It is said that Alice Peck exhibited one of his chests of drawers in Montreal when the example of the 1902 Metis exhibition was used to begin a series of such exhibits.

In January of 1905, Alice Peck and May Phillips co-founded the Canadian Handicrafts Guild (CHG), and in 1906 it was incorporated as a non-profit organization with the objective to support and encourage crafts in Canada.

Many individuals have been President of the Canadian Handicrafts Guild over the years; the first was May Phillips – 1905-08, the second was Alice Peck – 1909-1911, and from 1931-35 it was Lt. Col. Wilfred Bovey, another known summer resident of Metis.


In the early years, quilts, as we know them in North America, were a necessity for providing warm covers for beds in the chilly winter months, but the quilt also was used as hangings for doors and windows that were not sealed well enough to keep out the cold.

By the 1900s, quilting was transforming into a creative artistic endeavour and today the patterns and textures of the traditional quilts convey a colourful inspiration that captures the minds and provides for a means of expressing national pride and achievement, and a powerful reminder of our past.


Textile literally means ‘that which has been woven’. It derives from the Latin word ‘texere’, which means ‘to weave’.

Weaving itself is one of the oldest surviving human practices in the world, with a history that dates back some 30,000 years – a tradition that has endured for a millennia. Weaving once was an indispensable skill, with every household producing cloth for personal needs as well as used as to trade for other goods.

Today most of our textile needs are supplied by commercially woven cloth. However, there are artisans who still weave cloth on hand looms, in their homes, who keep alive the skills and traditions of the early weavers. In Métis-sur-Mer, Louyze Caro has a small weaving business called: LES TOILES DE MER… Atelier/ boutique de tissage (117 Principale, 418 936 3838), where she weaves clothing, tablecloths and many other items.

And it should be noted that Diane Dubois wove a Métis Tartan in 2018 for the 200th anniversary of Métis-sur-Mer, which is now on display at the Métis sur Mer Municipal office.

Hooked Rugs

Rug hooking is both an art and a craft today, and there are countless annual exhibitions around Canada displaying hooker’s rugs. In the early years around Metis, rug hooking was a craft of necessity for local women to make their homes more comfortable and warmer. Using rags or leftover wool to make hand-hooked rugs was the answer. Producing a rug was made by drawing stripes of yarn or cloth through burlap or other woven materials to make the rug.  Some of these were exhibited at the 1902 exhibit in Little Metis.  As well, Heritage Lower St. Lawrence, as part of its 2019-2021 Live Our Heritage project, asked two groups – one from Baie-des-Sables, Les Cercles des Fermières and the other group called the Happy Hookers (summer residents of Metis) – to participate as groups making pictorial-style hooked rugs, creating a scene such as a landscape with a Metis theme. The thickness of wool that is used may vary; it could be wide or narrow or a mixture. The object is to make the rug look real and when the individual rugs are put together they were to tell a Metis story.  Due to Covid, this didn’t happen quite as planned, however, here are a few examples of individual work.

Knitting, sewing and the Brochu Sisters 

Handicrafts, sometimes called artisanal handicrafts or handmade, include a wide variety of types of work that are useful and decorative objects made completely by hand using simple tools.

Blanche, Alice, Cecille, Jeanne d’Arc and Isabelle Brouchu were well known sisters who lived in Les Boules and they were very talented artisan in knitting, crochet, rug hooking and other gift crafts. They made well-designed quality products in small quantities by hand using traditional methods and they sold their handicraft items at a reasonable price.  For some summer visitors, a trip to the sisters’ store was an annual event.


Did you know… ? During the winter months in Metis the women would come together and work on handicrafts to sell at the summer bazars, but they also would make items for themselves and family. One winter the ladies decided to sew outfits for themselves and in the spring the ladies had a fashion show wearing their new outfits.

Drawings, paintings and Water Colours

From the 19th to the early 21st centuries, Quebec art was dominated by landscape subjects created using pigments (colors) on paper or canvas. The pigment may be in wet form, such as paint, or a dry form, such as pastels. Color pigments produce different sensations on the eye which makes a painting tranquil or vibrant, dramatic or stark.

The earliest known artwork of Metis took the form of scenes by Rev. Thomas Fenwick who was the minister in Metis at the time. He drew many sketches of Metis in the 1860s and his work was so popular that his illustrations served as images in the days before photos were common in newspapers.

Many artists, whether they do it as a hobby or as a professional, have come to Metis with one common interest in mind, and that is to paint or to draw for enjoyment, especially as painting was considered an appropriate activity for well-bred young ladies who came with their families to summer in Metis in the late 1800s and early 1900s.  The Metis vistas and landmarks were excellent, and increasingly painting provided a distraction for those who didn’t fall into the golf and tennis set!  We’ve gathered a list of artists.

During the Metis hotels heydays, other artists visited Metis and stayed at the hotels or their rental homes and painted Metis scenes.  Some well-known painters were: John Henry Walker (wood engraving 1866), Robert Harris, Arthur Cox (painter 1895), H. D. Young (1910), Herbert Reeves (1920s), William Thurston Tophan (painter 1930s), Robert Pilot (painter 1930s), Herbert Raine painter 1933.

Perhaps the best-known name is Lawren Harris, who came to Metis as early as 1915.  A Canadian painter, in 1911 he and a friend,  J.E.H. MacDonald, together formed the famous Group of Seven. The Group of Seven initiated the first major Canadian national art movement and had a profound influence on generations of artists in Canada. After the disbanding of the Group of Seven in 1933, Harris and the other surviving Group of Seven members, including A.J. CassonArthur Lismer, A.Y. Jackson, and Franklin Carmichael, were instrumental in forming its successor, the Canadian Group of Painters. In 1969, he was made a Companion of the Order of Canada.

Did you know… ? During the winter months in Metis the women would come together and work on handicrafts to sell at the summer bazars, but they also would make items for themselves and family. One winter the ladies decided to sew outfits for themselves and in the spring the ladies had a fashion show wearing their new outfits.

Anne Douglas Savage, whose family came to Metis in the summer, was a Canadian painter and teacher. In, 1921 she joined the Beaver Hall Hill Group in Montreal. The group were closely allied to the Group of Seven. Alexander Young Jackson, who was known more as A.Y. Jackson , was a member of the Group of Seven, and became Anne’s lifelong close friend. Anne painted many scenes in and around Metis, many in the 1940s. In 1933, she was one of the founding members of the Canadian Group of Painters, and in 1949 to 1960 served as its president. She was appointed supervisor of art for the Protestant School Board of Montreal in 1948, was instrumental in the founding of the High School Art Teaching Association, and in 1955, inspired the formation of the Child Art Council, which became the Quebec Society for Education through Art.

William Benoit Turner, known as Benson (Metis’s Hillside Inn owner) did illustrated work for the Family Herald and the Weekend Picture Magazine in 1952 with Metis themes. Benson also painted Metis scenes and many ships.

Hilda Stephens was a long-time summer resident of Metis and lived at Farm Cottage on Lighthouse Road (now owned by the Verriers) with her sister Marietta Freeland. Hilda was trained as an artist and taught art in Quebec City. During the summer she led an informal amateur art group that met during the summer to paint and sketch in the barn on Lighthouse Road. Other well-known summer artists included painters such as Lillian Hingston (1930s), Hope Gaskell, who painted in the region in the 1930s, , and Betty Galbraith-Cornell and Jim Houghton, in the 1970s.

Today in Metis we have artists such as Louise Belcourt, Trish Osler, Frank Woods, David Slaughter, Janis Gillan, Lynn Fournier and many others who have carried on the tradition of painting Metis scenes, as well as Marcelle Bonenfant-Dubé who has done many paintings of Les Boules

Basketry and Beadwork

Basket weaving (also known as basketry or basket-making) is as old as the history of man and was traditionally used for functional purposes for the rural family.

Basket is made from a variety of natural materials such as willows, roots, native grasses, and twigs that can bend and form into a three-dimensional shape that could be used as baskets, mats, mesh bags, even to furniture.

The Indigenous peoples have become known as the basket makers and basket weavers of Canada and are renowned for their basket-weaving techniques and the use of their baskets.

In Metis during the late 1930s and early 1940s an Indigenous family sold items that became popular to have in many homes as a form of fine art as well as being a useful item.


Literature is art made up of words. Most are written, but some are passed on by word of mouth, such as parables and tales.  Written works create a way for people to record their thoughts and experiences in a way that is accessible to others. Literature enriches us and teaches us about life, deepening our understanding of others, of the world, of ourselves, and also entertains us. After 1900, Quebec writers explored regional and ethnic identity.

A writer uses written words in different styles and techniques to communicate ideas and evoke different moods and environments. Novelists write stories and explore many topics, both fiction and non-fiction. They create characters and plots in a narrative designed to be both credible and entertaining. There are some books written by local Francophone and Anglophone authors, all with Metis in mind.

From what we know today, the earliest known writer, on top of his other duties, was John Hutchison Ferguson, who became Seigneur of Metis in 1870, remaining Seigneur for 50 years.  He contributed historical articles and short stories to Canadian magazines and newspapers.  The best known short stories were “Cap’t Christopherson”, “Neptune”, “The Commander of the Amanda”, “An Interrupted Voyage”, “The Founder of His House”, “Ste. Therese”, “Père Nadeau”, and “Planchette”.  President of the Quebec Literary and Historical Society, Sir James Macpherson Le Moine, said of Ferguson’s writing: “His storiettes, if reproduced in book form as they should be, would be of great interest to tourists and natives.”

Some years later, Mr. Samuel Mathewson Baylis, a summer resident, wrote a small thin book in 1928 called Enchanting Metis containing informative information about Metis.

Wilfred Bovey, another summer resident, wrote prolifically for over 30 years on a wide variety of topics, from education, to military matters, to history, to handicrafts, to poetry – even an unexpected defense of Donnacona which appeared as a supplement to the McGill News.  Bovey also is well-known for books introducing the French-Canadian to English Canada (Canadien : a study of the French Canadians (14 editions published between 1933 and 1934), Canadien : étude sur les Canadiens français (8 editions published between 1935 and 1936); The French Canadians To-day 11 editions; The French Canadians to-day; a people on the march (15 editions, all published between 1938 and 1942); and Les Canadiens-français d’aujourd’hui; l’essor d’un peuple (7 editions published in 1940 in French and English).  While some may have described this effort as foolhardy, he was credited for his efforts to bring anglophones and francophones together.

Later, Alice Sharples Baldwin also wrote of Metis.  She was a broadcaster and author from Quebec who wrote travel books and narrative histories such as The Price Family; The Kirk on the Hill: The Little Metis Presbyterian Church, 1883-1983; Metis, Wee Scotland of the Gaspé, which was translated into French by Jacques Bastien and his wife Bernadette Labrie as Metis, un brin d’Écosse en Gaspésie.  Alice Baldwin also wrote a novel in 1981 called High Wide and Handsome with a Metis twist.

A current active writer is Alexander Reford.  A historian by training, he writes about the past to create coherent narratives that explains what happened, why or how. He has written many books on the Les Jardins de Métis (Reford Gardens), Elsie Reford, and a bilingual book with the assistance of Paul Gendron called The Metis Lighthouse / Le phare de Metis both Heritage Lower St. Lawrence publications.  Additionally, he contributes historical articles to a range of publications, and virtual museums.

Some Francophone books written about Métis are; Nous Irons Tous à Métis-Sur-Mer by Vincent Nadeau, Metis Beach by Claudine Bourbonnais, and Le Métis Martime, ancre passe…de 1800 a aujourd’hui by Samuel Côté.

Music and Dance in Rural Quebec

Music played a central role in the cultural life of early settlers. The traditional folk music of Quebec has diverse influences, such as Irish instrumental tunes, Scottish step dancing, European dance forms, and old French songs.

The most frequently used instruments were the fiddle, spoons, and feet. Legend says that foot clogging developed during evening gatherings, where the tight quarters made real step dance impossible.

In the absence of instruments, people made music by singing nonsense syllables, a vocal technique known as turlutter (mouth music). Mary-Rose-Anna Travers, known as La Bolduc, was born in Newport Quebec and was an expert of that wordless vocalization. In the 1930s, she was considered the Queen of Quebec Folksingers as well as Quebec’s first female singer/songwriter.

The Town Hall and home gatherings played a major social role in amusement that bonded together the community of Metis. Fiddle, accordion, guitar, bagpipes, and spoons were the different styles of instruments, that created various types of music and beats, which all corresponded to a specific dance style. Each community had their own special reel and Metis did also. The reel (both a traditional dance and tune style of primarily Scottish and Irish derivation) is a quick dance and could be with two or more couples and consisted of two or more dance steps which are danced twice.


Did you know… ?  The Boule Rock Hotel would put on an old-style dance for their guests and community in the basement once a year, usually the last week-end in July and all the musicians were locally hired and played the reels and jigs well known in Metis.


Cabaret is a form of short style theatrical entertainment featuring music, song, dance, recitation, or drama, and the performances are usually introduced by a master of ceremonies or MC. The Metis Cabaret celebrated its 50th anniversary on August 18th, 19th, and 20th in 1983.

Mary (Molson) Iverson, for over a period of 60 years, reflected the Metis scenes in producing, directing and acting in the Metis Cabaret and she was never happier than when organizing the show. Sadly, Mary passed away in 2013 but she has left wonderful memories of music and merriment for so many who shared their summers with her in Metis and her legacy carries on with the up-and-coming generations.

Written by Pamela Andersson