A Craftsman’s Legacy

I recently discovered A Craftsman’s Legacy on two of my local PBS television stations.  Show host Eric Gorges (which for many episodes, I heard as “gorgeous” and thought, “Oh yes, you are”) travels around the United States, visiting craftspeople in their studios.  He spends a couple days with them, interviewing them and learning the basics of their craft.  Gorges is a craftsman himself; he’s a master metalworker and makes custom motorcycles at his shop, Voodoo Choppers, in Detroit.  At this point, I’ve seen 12 of the 13 episodes in Season 1 and all four of the Season 2 episodes which have aired for the current Season 2.

The show’s website says, “Each episode will tell the story of an Old World Craft and its importance in the building of America.”  Towards this end, each episode starts with a short overview on the history of the craft, presented as pictures with voiceover by host Gorges.  This is the least interesting part of the show to me.  While I am interested in this background, I find the presentation a bit dry and rather tortured.  The main reason for this is that Gorges’ voiceover sounds bored.  This is not at all true during the rest of the show.  He clearly enjoys meeting and talking with the craftspeople.  He loves the tools and workshops and learning new things.  His obvious enjoyment of the process is absolutely charming and a big part of what makes the show so engaging to watch.

At some point in most episodes, Gorges asks the craftsperson, “Do you consider yourself an artist or a craftsman?”  Everyone has an immediate answer to this question; clearly each one has thought about the differences and similarities between the two words, and what the implications are as they pursue their work.  A few reject the dichotomy.  One or two think it depends on the task or project.  The rest are evenly split between the two categories.

Crafts highlighted on the show include glassblowing, stone carving, metalsmithing of various flavors, boat building, woodworking, and many more.  Season 1 included a Native American basketweaver; this is the closest the show has come to a fiber craft so far, but upcoming episodes in Season 2 include a weaver (Juanita Hofstrom) and a quilter.  I love the variety of crafts presented in the show.  I don’t expect to ever pursue any of these crafts, but I love to see the ways people have organized their lives so that they can make a living with their crafts.  I also love seeing the work spaces, tools, and processes used in the various crafts.  I find the show inspirational and it provokes me to think about my personal approach to the crafts that I love.

If A Craftsman’s Legacy is not available on any channels in your area, you can join the “Legacy Society” on the show’s website.  It’s free to join and this gives you access to full episodes of Season 1.  So far, they haven’t added any episodes from Season 2.  I’m not sure if they are waiting until the season ends or if they will add the season 2 episodes at some point before then.  However you access it — local TV or through the web — the show is absolutely worth a watch.

St. Johns River Festival of the Arts

This past weekend was the St. Johns River Festival of the Arts, held annually in Sanford, Florida on the first weekend of May.  The Festival was held Saturday from 10-6 and Sunday from 10-5.  More than 125 artists had booths and expected attendance was 30,000 – 40,000.  The Weavers of Orlando guild had a booth and we set up to do spinning and weaving demonstrations.  I was in the booth helping with the demos on Saturday from 12-6 and the entire day on Sunday.  The weather was spectacular.  Mid-70s to low-80s, with a breeze blowing off the lake and little humidity is perfect weather for an outdoor art fair.  It was a wonderful weekend!

The Weavers of Orlando Booth

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The view looking out from our booth. The sky looked liked this the entire weekend.

We actually had two booth spaces — 52 and 53 — and they were right in the middle of a street.

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We had a stand displaying woven items made by guild members.

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We taught Kumihimo braiding to kids.  We had 160 Kumihimo disks made by guild members for demo purposes; we gave out the last ones about 3:00 pm on Sunday (the guild goes through more than 1,000 Kumihimo disks in a year).

WoO members Nancy (foreground) and Bev teaching Kumihimo braiding to Festival attendees on Saturday.
WoO members Nancy (foreground) and Bev teaching Kumihimo braiding to Festival attendees on Saturday.

We brought the 4-shaft Dorset floor loom and any attendee who wanted to try it out got a chance.  We had a 3 yard warp on the loom, and by about 4:00 pm on Sunday, the entire length was finished!  One attendee, a 12-year-old girl, will be sewing bags from the finished fabric.

WoO member Marilyn encouraging a first-time weaver.
WoO member Marilyn encouraging a first-time weaver.

We also had a couple of table looms and members wove on those throughout the day.  On Saturday we had three or four people spinning.  I was one of the spinners on Saturday, and I got almost 2 ounces of Cormo spun.  On Saturday evening, when I got home, I warped my rigid heddle loom so that I could bring it with me on Sunday.  I brought my wheel on Sunday also, but I spent most of my time weaving on the rigid heddle.  I got about 60″ of weaving done!

Around the Fair

On Sunday, I took an hour or so to stroll around the fair.  Many Festival goers brought their dogs with them.  I didn’t get any dog pictures, but I get a picture of this unusual pet:

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The parrot’s owner told us that he is a rescue bird.  His wings are clipped so he can’t fly.  He likes to sit on the handlebar of her bike and spread his wings out while she rides, maybe to get the sensation of flying.

I also saw another unusual pet walking around: a bunny rabbit in a harness and on a leash, but I didn’t get a picture of it!

On Saturday, this stilt walker was part of the festival entertainment, strolling along the street and interacting with crowds.  The head is a puppet controlled by the walker, and she did a wonderful job of making that head interact in a way that made it seem alive.  More than one child gave the bird a drink from a bottle of water!  When it was time to distribute ribbons to artists, the stilt walker was along for the ceremony.  I didn’t get close enough to see for sure, but I think the puppet head was taking ribbons out of a basket and handing them to the artists!  We found out from a Festival organizer that this stilt walker is a Disney employee and the Festival contracted with Disney to have her at the Festival.

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Artists

I bought pieces from four artists.

Nicola Barsaleau

Nicola Barsaleau is a Gainesville, Florida-based printmaker.  She creates her work using a methodology which has been used for centuries.  She starts by drawing onto printmaking linoleum with graphite.  By using graphite, she can erase and change until she is satisfied with the image.  Once the drawing is complete, she uses a curved tool to carve out sections of the image to make the block.  She then applies an oil-based ink to the block and presses it onto paper to make prints.  I bought two pieces from her:

Six in the Morning (photo from artist’s blog) (see her blog post about the piece)
Six in the Morning

Untitled work (photo from artist’s blog) (see her blog post about this piece)

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Six in the Morning is a limited edition print and a Father’s Day / Birthday gift for my birdwatching father.  The untitled work is for me.  I loved the image of the bee and the reminder of how necessary bees are for pollination.  I also love the round mandala-like shape, which will blend with another piece I have from a different local artist: a mandala created by manipulating a photo of an endangered gopher tortoise. The untitled work is not a limited edition; Nicola told me she loves this particular piece so much that she wants to be able to print as many as possible.

What the FORK?

The next piece I bought is a pendant from Oswego, New York-based What the FORK  (website, Facebook).  All of their pieces are made from old silverware, which is welded and hand-manipulated into new shapes.  I bought an octopus pendant because I have a wee bit of an obsession with octopi.  This piece is not pictured on their website, so here’s a picture I took myself:

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Kirk Dodd Photography

Kirk Dodd is a Merritt Island, Florida-based photographer.  Most of his work is High Dynamic Range photography, a technique in which multiple images are taken with different settings, then layered to create a final image.  The piece I bought is not on his website, and it seems strange to take a picture of a picture, so you don’t get to see it.  Sorry!  It’s a stunning image, taking at a Florida beach of heart-shaped lightning over the ocean.  The image is take at an angle at the point where water is breaking on the beach, so the beach is on the right / lower edge and the ocean is to the left / upper edge and the lightning is in the middle.  It’s beautiful.

Touch of Key West Photography

Mark Weeter is a Florida Keys-based photographer who specializes in underwater photography.  Smaller pieces (up to about 16″x20″) are printed on aluminum.  I really love this technique because it seems to bring a luster to photos that you don’t get any other way.  Larger pieces are standard photographic prints.  He and his wife frame the pictures themselves, using wood reclaimed from old lobster pots.  The frames are pretty cool, some with barnacles still attached.  He had a larger black and white photo of a sponge that I just loved, but after my other shopping it was more than I could spend.  I settled on a smaller piece, an 8″x8″ image of a jelly fish, shot from below.  This image isn’t on his website.

In Conclusion

I had a wonderful time at the St. Johns River Festival of the Arts.  Since it is always on the first weekend of May, that means it is always the same weekend as Maryland Sheep and Wool.  I’m not sure how often I’ll go to MDSW in the future; any time I’m not going to MDSW, I’ll definitely plan to be at the St. Johns River Festival of the Arts!