A symbol, like a work of art, means something unique to every person who sees it. Some symbols, however, are so familiar by way of their antiquity that just to see them is to join others in appreciation of their manifold meaning.
Perhaps the best example of this kind of symbol is the circle—the mandala of Hinduism and Buddhism, the Celtic cross, the circle symbolizing Heaven to the Chinese, the stone circles of the Druids. Ancient peoples who observed the passing seasons conceived of a circular universe; the circle came to be seen as a protective device, a code denoting unity and ensuring protection.
This is why the Hospice Knot, Victoria Hospice’s official logo for thirty years, has not only withstood the test of time, but continues to deepen in resonance for everyone who contemplates it.
The Hospice Knot logo was created as a donation to Hospice by Victoria graphic designer Dee van Straaten. She based her design on early Celtic art and on the combined role of medical caregivers, family and loved ones, and the community in supporting patients at Hospice. Though she has designed many other projects over the past three decades, the Knot is imprinted brightly in Dee’s memory. “A circle is infinite,” says Dee. “It doesn’t end. Here, the circle is the person being cared for. Weaving around the person are all the supports she needs, surrounding and encompassing her.” In effect, Dee’s Knot speaks to what Hospice does, both broadly and generally as well as on the most intimate levels of care and compassion.
The Knot inspires not only patients and those who love them but other artists, too. In 1997, Avis B. Caddell, a quilt maker and fabric artist from North Saanich who, in her words, uses her quilts “as a vehicle to explore and expose personal and social issues”, created an elaborate quilted wall piece for Hospice featuring the Knot. On the back of the quilt, Avis included a statement from Dee van Straaten about the design: “many persons linked together and interwoven, surrounding the dying person with care and support.”
For Avis, the interwoven scallops around the circle’s perimeter speak to “the hidden depth and reach of Hospice care in our community… the scallops in the border replicate the path traced out by a moving wheel and suggest the rhythm of day to day life. The arches formed by the tracing and the quilted stonework represent caregiver strength.”
The Knot also spoke deeply to Victoria stained glass artist, David Bone. In 2005, his mother Edna Hadfield passed away at Hospice. In memory of Edna, David crafted a stained-glass panel featuring the Hospice Knot in pale rose-coloured glass set in clear glass textured like rippling water. Four years later, David himself was admitted to Hospice, where he passed away on Christmas Day 2009. His sparkling tribute to his mother and Hospice still hangs in a window in the Foundation’s offices on the fourth floor of Richmond Pavilion, catching the sun’s glow and casting the pattern and the protection of the Hospice Knot across spaces and people throughout each day.