Heritage Artisans Days in New Harmony Indiana was just a couple weeks ago in April. I was asked to help chaperone my son’s 4th grade class and so I took dozens of photos. I love stuff like this and the kids seemed to mostly enjoy it as well. I may be kidding myself, they were probably happy to not be in class… Either way on with the show!
We jumped off the bus and went into the athenaeum for a short film about New Harmony and walked out to the Red Bank Reunion Band playing us a tune.
The first station we stopped at was with Johnny Appleseed telling his stories. Steve McPhail brought the character to life with the legends surrounding Johnny Appleseed.
He was quite entertaining.
Just a few steps from Johnny Appleseed, was Claudie Parson demonstrating how to make handmade brooms out of broom corn. Broom making is an old-time trade. She even let me have some seeds so I can grow my own broom corn! I’ll let you know how it turns out.
Next up, two artisans were sharing a tent. A wood carver and rug maker.
Larry Stock is a woodwright and can use any wood from trees to make cups or spoons.
It’s amazing to think of where we are now and how things are made with machinery and mass produced out of plastic compared to how well things used to be made and were passed down in families to be used by generations. Just take a look at the skill it took to make utensils that you needed in everyday life.
Rug making was not only for comfort, but for decoration. Cleo Stock was the resident rug maker, she was using a hook. She showed me how to do it and she claims it’s easy.
She had beautiful wall hangings and was happy to show me how to do it.
Next up was the bee keeper or apiarist, Irv Rueger. He’s been keeping bees and giving seminars for 30 years. He explains why bees were important to the Harmonists and how they are still so very vital to us now. He had a honey tasting table and we sampled orange blossom honey, clover honey and another one I can’t remember. I bought some honey candy and it was delicious.
Next to the Irv was John Bielik who is an itinerant artisan, instructor and living history interpreter. He does bookbinding and beautiful paper marbling.
John’s paper and products are featured in the shops at Colonial Williamsburg and the Atheneum at Historic New Harmony Indiana.
Then we walked over to see two ladies demonstrating candle dipping. People in the early 1800’s made candles from the tallow or animal fat in a hand dipped process.
We had to wait to get into the next station, weaving with Peggy Taylor. Her website is Loom Hall.
Peggy is a friend of mine that I’ve met at the local art shows that we both had a booth at. It was fun to see her do her thing. She sat at her spinning wheel to begin with and schooled the kids on what it was like to have to weave your very own cloth in order to have towels and clothing to wear in the 19th century. It was a very time consuming process.
The wool she had came from the fleece of her own flock of Shetland sheep. Below she is spinning it into yarn. She said if the electric ever goes out, she just goes and spins yarn. It looked relaxing to do, it had a smooth rhythm to it.
All of this antique machinery is hers. The loom she told me belonged to an amish man who made rugs on it. I think it’s over one hundred years old. I loved hearing the clack clack clack sound it makes.
While we waited to go into listen to Peggy, we had the pleasure of petting her sheep. There was even a baby lamb and it was soooo sweet! They were all so soft to touch.
Look at this sweet thing! She was a little shy. I wish I could remember their names but I want to say one was Snowflake, Oak Leaf and I cannot remember the other.
After listening to Peggy, we were just in time to go into the Oculus cabin. Jim Buchanan, an artist from Scotland converted this pioneer cabin into a camera obscura – a walk-in pinhole camera. It was really cool. You go in the door that has a small hole in it and stand all along the front wall and close the door to darken it. Give your eyes a little time to adjust to the dark and then remarkably, the outside is somehow reflected in through the whole and projected on to the back wall only upside down. The woman who was running the demonstration said that it could make you rather sick to your stomach after a while.
We back tracked to see some stations that we had missed and found our way to the soap making station. Puddy McCutchan was demonstrating the 1800’s process of using animal fat and lye.
To the left of her was a man who made bentwood containers. Marion Mitchell has devoted himself to the craft of making bentwood boxes.
Right next to him was the station for artist, Polly Winkler-Mitchell. She wasn’t there when we walked up but she has been working with paper and scissors for the past 40 years. Scherenschnitte is the German word for scissor cutting. I actually have a few pieces of that style of art, though not by Polly. It’s a very pretty art that has a graphic quality to it.
Next we walked into a cabin that had more friends of mine, Tom and Ruth Wintczak. Tom is a potter and he gave the kids a lesson on being a potter. Tom is an award-winning potter and his wife, Ruth, is a great gardener and musician. If fact, I think they are both musicians.
Tom’s website and studio is called Bee Tree Pottery
Here, Tom is asking the kids what they thought people would eat off of if they didn’t have plates or bowls. They guessed the table and he said yes, and that actually people fashioned bowls carved into tables but the problem came with cleaning them. Bacteria, it can be your enemy in the 19th century!
Tom then gave a demonstration.
Ruth was the one giving the lesson on the both the dulcimer and scheitholt, two string instruments used for entertainment during the 19th century. Here is Ruth waiting for her turn to demonstrate her music skills.
Ruth tells us about how the musical instruments were entertainment for all the family.
Enjoy her music!
Here’s the dulcimer…
and the scheitholt.
We walked to the Workmen’s Institute and watched them demonstrate how to make rope.
After the rope making, we were enticed by the smell of kettle corn floating through the air. I had 5 kids in my group and we all shared a big bag and made our way back up to the athenaeum to jump back on the bus to go to Murphy Auditorium and watch a hilarious presentation given by Albert Roberts about being a medical doctor on a ship for the queen in the 19th century.
He talked about how you only had to be ten years old to join and the terminology of the ranks. They were seduced into joining by things like a big fancy hat and uniform, a sword and a firearm.
He really had a humorous way of telling about the brutalities of war and surgery in a time before antibiotics. The kids were totally into it, and I won’t lie, I loved it as well.
We then went to Murphy Park to have our lunch and let the kids wear themselves out while the adults had a nice break. I’ll tell you a nice adult beverage would’ve been perfect about now, but this was a school field trip so we just had to laugh and talk about how we would’ve loved a margarita about now.
For a final hurrah, we all walked across the street to the labyrinth to let the kids run yet even more. After loading all back up on the school bus, the 15 minute ride back to the school was hauntingly quiet. It was a full day and the kids were hot and tired and the adults were pretty much spent.
If you ever get the chance to go Heritage Artisans Days in New Harmony Indiana, you won’t be sorry. It was a fun filled day.
I got a lot of my information about the artisans here from a page they handed out. Probably written from someone at USI.
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