A new exhibit at Fairmont State University highlights West Virginia treasures of the past and present. "Carrying on the Tradition: The Craft, The Maker, The Teacher" opened June 9 and will be on display through July 27 in the Brooks Memorial Gallery on the fourth floor of Wallman Hall.
The exhibit is sponsored by the West Virginia Folklife Center at Fairmont State, the FSU School of Fine Arts, Fairmont State Community & Technical College and Fairmont State University. Noel W. Tenney, Cultural Specialist for the Folklife Center, is curator of the exhibit. Regular gallery hours are Mondays through Fridays from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. For special viewing arrangements, call or e-mail Curator Marian J. Hollinger at (304) 367-4300 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Admission is free and open to the public.
The exhibit focuses on traditional West Virginia crafts and spotlights 11 notable craftspeople.
"Many of the people participating in the exhibit will be serving as our master craftspeople and teachers for the new Associate Degree in Craft Production and Marketing/Museum Studies offered through Fairmont State Community & Technical College," Tenney said.
The following crafts and craftspeople will be featured in the exhibit:
TRADITIONAL QUILT MAKING
The concept of stitching layers of cloth together to produce a bed covering and other traditional items comes from the British Isles. When the early settlers came into our region they found that producing fabric was an arduous task. Every small part of left over cloth was saved and thus the "pieced" quilt came into existence. Very quickly, quilters found ways to make their work decorative. Simple pieced designs soon gave way to sophisticated 'appliqu' designs.
Tallmansville, Upshur County
The quilting phenomenon that is Judy Tenney began in 1984 at the death of her father. After viewing a regional quilt show that year, she suggested to her mother that they each make a quilt. They did just that. After one quilt, her mother never made another. Judy never stopped making quilts. In the past 22 years, she has produced 88 full-sized quilts and many miniatures.
She has exhibited often at regional shows including the Stonewall Jackson Jubilee, Lewis County; the School House Quilter's Guild, Cumberland, Md.; Williamsburg, Va.; and the National Quilter's Association in Charleston, where she won the Judge's Choice award in 1994. The prestigious Vandalia Gathering Quilt Show at the West Virginia Cultural Center in Charleston awarded her both Best of Show and Purchase Award for her "Winding Rose" in 2006. She presented her first One Woman Show in May 2006 at the West Virginia Strawberry Festival in Buckhannon.
Judy learned to sew at her grandmother's side and has found great comfort in her work. She acknowledges, like many quilters do, that her creative effort is more than just a craft form, that it stirs memories and is a "place of grieving, a place of rest and a place to think."
TRADITIONAL WOOD CARVING
Whittling and carving have always been tests of skill for regional individuals. Whimsical carving has often been carried to a high level of accomplishment since the entire work is carved from one piece of wood. Wooden chain, balls in the cage, turning pieces within the wood are all examples of this skill.
Rev. Herman Hayes
Hurricane, Putnam County
West Virginia's premier folk artist, Rev. Herman Hayes, is a quiet, friendly, reserved and retired United Methodist minister. The large or minute figures that emerge from his pocket knife and skilled hands are both whimsical and complex studies, ripe for psychoanalysis or a good laugh.
For more than 40 years and after tens of thousands of carvings, Rev. Hayes has exhibited and been recognized nationally as a master folk artist and carver. His works have been displayed at the Renwick Gallery in Washington, D.C.; the Hallmark Gallery on Fifth Avenue in New York City; and just about everywhere in between. For more than 20 years, he attended the Mountain State Arts and Crafts Fair at Ripley, W.Va., as well as numerous other state shows. He was one of only seven West Virginia contemporary folk artists to be featured in the highly acclaimed book, "O, Appalachia" by Ramona and Millard Lampell. His work has been showcased in countless magazines including Goldenseal.
His unique works are readily recognized by such details as whimsical figures standing on top of each other or upside down; traditional wooden chains; balls or figures carved inside a cage; or wheels held but turning inside the wooden frame.
"I not only carve with my hands, I carve with my soul," Hayes says.
Pottery and basket making are most likely the two oldest craft forms known to man. Regionally, clay is readily available in a variety of types. The pragmatic utilitarian nature of clay ware is such that just about every community had its own commercial pottery. Few in our region produced anything more than a basic stoneware line of jars, jugs, pitchers and bowls. Usually, the extent of decorative design to the pot was a simple drawing rendered in cobalt blue.
Mud River Pottery
Milton, Cabell County
It's not surprising that Susan Maslowski became a potter and an excellent one. She grew up in Chester, W.Va., the home of not only the Homer Laughlin company, but once called the center of the pottery industry in America, boasting 30 potteries and nearly 75,000 workers during the peak of production.
As a young girl, Susan studied art with Ann and Marvin Troguba. Marvin was a designer for Taylor, Smith and Taylor Pottery in Chester. In 1963, while still a teenager, Susan was selected to participate in the first crafts apprenticeship program at the Mountain State Art and Craft Fair in Ripley. She graduated in 1972 from Glenville State College with a degree in art and mathematics.
While in college, Susan met the renowned potter Charles Counts and participated in his summer workshops at Rising Fawn, Ga. Later, she was selected to be one of four potters to participate in a two year apprenticeship with Counts, funded by the National Endowment for the Arts. It was this experience that taught her the skills of production pottery.
Her own business, Mud River Pottery, was begun in 1974. She has marketed her work at numerous craft fairs, shops and galleries throughout the area. Her pottery has won many awards in regional and national exhibitions. She is a member of the Southern Highland Handicraft Guild, West Virginia Artist and Craftsmen Guild, Tri-State Arts Association and Allied Arts Association.
She and her husband, Bob, an archaeologist and wine maker, own a 140 acre farm on Dry Creek in Milton. She maintains a showroom there which is open by appointment.
In the history of crafts, very little is older than basket making. Many types of materials have been used to produce practical gathering and carrying containers grass, wood strips, vine, pine needles and much more. Regionally, white oak splints and honeysuckle vine are the most popular. Use dictates shape with names like gathering and buttock baskets.
Connie and Tom McColley
Chloe, Calhoun County
"An artist must be fearless," say Connie and Tom McColley. "When you create something, you open yourself up and lay yourself out for the world to see. You cannot be afraid to fail or you would never act. You do it for yourself. It is what you are. There is an artist within each of us. We must teach ourselves, our children, to be fearless."
The McColleys adopted West Virginia as their home in the 1970s and soon discovered that, during walks on their Calhoun County homestead, they were inspired with both materials and ideas. White oak splints and branches for materials; plants, roots, and nuts for naturally dyed color; and shapes and objects for inspiration lead to a product that is as much sculpture as it is basket.
The McColleys have taught craft-making workshops on many levels. Currently, Connie is coordinator of workshops for Mountain Made of Tucker County and manager of that company's sales shop at Stonewall Resort in Lewis County. The McColleys have won many awards for their creations.
"In the end our goal is to engage the spirit of the viewer and reveal to that person an aspect of our reality that may not be a part of their experience," the McColleys say.
Regionally, the woodworker was often the person who would build the house, make the furniture and even construct the coffin when the need arose. The maker was sometimes hindered by the lack of proper tools, good lumber and even the necessary skills to create such fine lasting masterpieces. Yet, even simple folk pieces, primitively made, can possess great character.
Kermit R. McCartney
Glady Fork, Upshur County
Exacting attention to construction details, satin smooth finishes and the personal signature and description of wood information on each piece is what attracts attention to the exquisite woodworking of Kermit McCartney. Kermit has brought a commitment of quality work to the craft industry for over 40 years. He has created hundreds of both traditional and contemporary pieces of furniture. People note that the backs and undersides of his works are just as finished and perfected as the parts that readily show. Since a recent stroke has slowed him a bit, he specializes now only in smaller collector's boxes.
Kermit's work has been exhibited at the Stonewall Jackson Jubilee, Lewis County; Three Rivers Festival, Pittsburgh; Clifton Forge and Waterford, Va.; and the West Virginia Arts and Crafts Fair, Ripley. He has taught workshops at Augusta Heritage, Elkins and Cedar Lakes, Ripley. His work has been honored by numerous awards.
"My art is inspired by the pride in knowing that my creations evolve to become family heirlooms for future generations," he says.
Lucky Acorn Chairs
Rock Cave, Upshur County
Tom Lynch has studied art, sculpture and chairmaking. His work in traditional chairmaking began as an apprentice at the Linger Chair Factory in Upshur County more than 30 years ago. Tom now builds chairs in a "Shaker-inspired" style, in addition to a rustic "twig" style, which allows for more sculptural innovation. He uses an ancient technique called "greenwood joinery," which interlocks green post to dry rung mortise and tenon, adding strength and longevity to the chair.
Besides making chairs, Tom loves "passing on the tradition" through teaching. He has taught classes at Augusta Heritage, Elkins; Cedar Lakes, Ripley; Basketry School, Chloe; and Country Workshops, Marshall, N.C. He also accepts apprentices in his own workshop.
"Aside from the rewards of working with an enthusiastic group of students, I discovered that teaching helped me improve my own work, making me more aware of the creative process involved in chairmaking," he says. "I look forward to each teaching experience as a chance not only to pass on traditional chairmaking techniques, but also as a chance to improve myself as an artist."
Tom has won numerous awards for his work and markets his chairs through many shops and online venues, including MountainMade.com and his own luckyacornchairs.com.
TRADITIONAL DOLL MAKING
Dolls have entertained children for eons of time. Even ancient burial site discoveries have included examples of children's toys and dolls. Dolls have been made from a wide variety of materials. Simple twigs, whittled wood, cornhusks, carved and dried apples and scraps of cloth have all been used to create a beloved toy.
Hickory Flat, Upshur County
Skilled hands, nimble fingers, attention to minute detail, a wry sense of humor and a love of people make Ruth Talbott a master craftsperson, an icon among state doll makers and a beautiful individual.
Ruth's Raggedy Ann and Andy dolls are sought after just as much by adult collectors as they are by children. She has created thousands of these treasures over the nearly 40 years of production. One of her specialty dolls is called "Fanny Feed Sack" and it is created almost entirely from historic printed "feed sacks" of the early to mid 20th century. Farm animal feeds were sold in bags that contained about a yard of good quality cloth which, in turn, became a valuable rural commodity for use or trade. Ruth has an extensive archive of these historic sacks numbering more than a 1,000 different design examples.
Ruth's dolls have been exhibited and sold at the West Virginia Arts and Crafts Fair, Cedar Lakes, Ripley; Dogwood Festival, Oglebay; Stonewall Jackson Jubilee, Lewis County; the West Virginia State Fair, Lewisburg; as well as at Tamarack and the Greenbrier.
Ruth's grandest award, although much too modest to discuss the many others that she has received, was being inducted into the West Virginia Arts and Crafts Hall of Fame, 2005, in Ripley.
At the center of the early village was the blacksmith shop. This heavy, back breaking industry was of utmost importance to everyone. It was in this shop that needed tools could be produced, repaired and sharpened. The blacksmith also created one of the most utilitarian items of any craftsperson- the horseshoe. The blacksmith might have to install this item onto the horse but technically that job was the role of the ferrier.
Bray's Knifeworks, Mussleloading & Supply
Farmington, Marion County
Anyone who has visited Prickett's Fort State Park has most likely encountered Greg Bray. Greg serves as Assistant Director at the fort and has become the mastermind behind many elements of its operation. He continues to practice his craft skills both at the fort and in his home studio/forge in Farmington. He has worked at blacksmithing for over 12 years and as a cutler (knifemaker) for more than 16 years. He also produces replica historic guns.
Greg first served as an apprentice at Augusta in Elkins with instructor, Bob Elliott. Since then, he has taught many interpreters and young people introductory principles of blacksmithing at Prickett's Fort. He served in 2006 as the first Master Craftsperson for the Folklife Associate Degree program from the West Virginia Folklife Center at Fairmont State.
Greg's production skills have allowed him to specialize in the reproduction of 18th and 19th century ironwork. He has produced specialty pieces for many museums throughout the United States. His work is also sold at Tamarack, Prickett's Fort and at his studio and through his catalog.
Intertwining threads to produce a large piece of cloth is an ancient process. Regionally, simple tabby and overshot weaving lent itself readily to the making of "coverlets" to "keep me warm one night." Wool from sheep for warmth and linen fiber from the flax plant for strength produced an excellent marriage of fibers. They could be dyed simply with berries, nuts, plants, roots and other natural colorants.
West Union, Doddridge County
Elegance, exactness, thoroughness and quality are words that describe Karen Smith's work and life. As a weaver, she has made the journey from the traditional to the contemporary. Karen is as easily at home in her work with the intricate patterns of traditional overshot coverlet weaving as she is with sophisticated chenille yarns and designer clothing styles. This flexibility has made her much in demand as a producer and teacher in the craft circuit.
Karen served for many years as a master craftsperson/teacher at the Fork New Salem, Salem College project. Her educational challenge there was to work with students preparing for craft production, museum interpretation or public educational application. She has always been highly revered and respected as an outstanding teacher.
Her work has been exhibited widely at regional shows including the Mountain State Art and Craft Fair, Ripley; Stonewall Jackson Jubilee, Lewis County: West Virginia Mountain Heritage Arts and Craft Fair, Harper's Ferry; "Skaterwood," Columbiana, Ohio; National Craft Fair, Gaithersburg, Md.; Mountaineer Week, Morgantown; and the Juried Exhibition, Cultural Center, Charleston. Karen's weaving has been sold in such exclusive shops as Studio 40, the Greenbrier; Isadora, Sedona, Ariz.; Village Weavers, San Antonio, Texas; and Tamarack.
Karen's work has received numerous awards and recognition including Master Artisans and Merit honors at "Indian Summer," Parkersburg, and the Juried Exhibition, Charleston. She was selected to be a part of the Arts and Letters Series at the West Virginia Governor's Mansion in 1991. Her work has appeared in Hand Woven magazine.
TRADITIONAL GLASS MAKING
Ron Hinkle Glass
Sago/Buckhannon, Upshur County
Ron Hinkle is a master craftsperson and a master at marketing his creations. The clear molten glass is extracted from the glowing furnace, takes on color, shape and design, materializing into a vase, a stemmed goblet, a bowl, an ornament or some other pragmatic or decorative treasure. No molds are used. All pieces are created entirely by hand.
The Ron Hinkle Glass company is a model in both creativity and productivity. Ron's work has won many awards throughout the region, and his marketing skills have been recognized over and over. He has been presented the Top Sales Producer award for the last several years by Tamarack in Beckley. He was honored with the Tamarack 2005 Craftsperson of the year designation as well. He also received the Made Right Here in West Virginia Outstanding Small Scale Manufacturer's 2004 award from the Center for Economic Opportunities, presented by U.S. Sen. Jay Rockefeller in Charleston.
Ron's work is marketed in over 30 states and in more than 50 shops in West Virginia alone. He offers tours of his studio and conducts classes for beginners on a scheduled basis. His sales room is open Mondays through Saturdays.
Jeweler Glass Bead Maker
Fairmont, Marion County
"I like to get the feeling I can walk around in the piece I am designing. Get lost in its dreams, and come out when I am ready," says Genny Zbach.
Genny has been a bead weaver for over 30 years. She now makes glass beads and sculptural work at her torch. In her studio she is surrounded by large clusters of colored glass rods, kilns, a variety of tools and finished pieces. This is where the inspiration arises. It's not just beads that form as the glass becomes fluid. A menagerie of animals and a garden of leaves and flowers emerge as the glass cools.
Genny's work is showcased in many local and regional shops, including Tamarack, MountainMade.com, the Appalachian Gallery in Morgantown and Artworks in Bridgeport. Her work has been featured in various national publications including Crafts Report, BEAD & Button Magazine, and Corridor Magazine. Her accomplishments include appearing in Designers Showcase, Corning Museum of Glass; being selected as a Distinguished West Virginian for Accomplishments in the Arts by Gov. Cecil Underwood in 1997; and chosen as a Yamagata Fellow Very Special Arts, one of 12 international artists also in 1997.
Though diagnosed with dystrophy in the mid-80s, she is only slightly slowed. One of her creations features a person in a wheelchair. It's titled "I am not confined."
"I wind my life around perspective," she says. "Perspective is the way I start my day."