Friday, June 24, 2011

Lafayette slept here. Probably.

Did you enjoy the NC Mountain Arts Adventure Studio Tour?  I hope so.  I went to see some of the YVCG members participating the week before and it was fascinating!

The weekend of the tour, I was in Williamsburg, Virginia where I had a brilliant time invested in history and heritage tourism. There is an exhibit on clothing at the Dewitt -Wallace Decorative Arts Museum you do need to see..

The reenactors never left their time period. They used the streets and housing as sets for stages and  for a moment I thought I had met Lafayette in person. However, he still could not tell me what happened to him when he left his landing point in SC and traveled by horseback through NC to Pennsylvania during his very first visit.

My idea is that he avoided the east.  Fayetteville, formerly Cross Creek and now named for him, was a hotbed of loyalists at the time he arrived.  Did he travel through Salem, Bethabara and Bethania, home of Moravians? We know he was entrusted to the Moravians of Pennsylvania later when he was wounded.  Did he remember the Carolinas and the good care the Moravian culture took of their fellowmen?  Did he see pottery, cloth and glass, hear the music, eat the good food here?  We don't know too much because he did not speak English very well during these first travels as he only learned it during the 3 week voyage over here, but surely he made notes and wrote home to his wife in French.  The answer is probably locked up in a tower written in a letter  in France as we speak.

Well, the important thing here is that the marriage of history and craft has made a significant impact on the economy, the historic preservation and the education of people visiting Williamsburg.  It's like tourism is all they doin SE Virginia now  except for those working for the Navy and NASA.   Tourism includes storytelling, craft demonstrations and sales, food, drink, music, hotels and history.

Ironically, I learned from a weaver demonstrating there that the CRAFTS - fiber, clay, glass, iron, wood and imagery (photography sort of ) of the time were almost ALL imported from England.  People in the east were very busy with their farms.  Growing tobacco allowed them a higher standard of living and they shopped (!) instead of "making do"!!

I learned that not all homes in the east actually owned a spinning wheel.  This revelation makes CRAFT in the back-country, our region of the Yadkin Valley Craft Guild, all the more special. In its grandest form, CRAFT really is unique to the foothills and mountains.  We have something special in our knowledge and traditions.

It makes it all the more important to understand the huge sacrifice of Eastern women to give up their imported fabrics for homespun at Edenton and the sacrifice of Western women and families to tend the land primarily as subsistence farmers, carving their own wood, weaving their own baskets, fabrics and furniture, mining their own ore for iron and copper metalwork, spinning, glass blowing etc.

At Williamsburg, they even claimed the gunpowder was imported.  Little did they know a Woman (from Virginia for goodness sake), Mary Patton, made 500 pounds of gunpowder for the Battle of Kings Mountain.  Without her skill and craftsmenship, we'd probably still be at the mercy of the Queen.  I couldn't bring myself to press the reenactor on this fact in front of his audience any more than I could bring myself to press Lafayette for details of his first trip to the north.  They just don't know the story.

We have story to tell.  And it includes our arts and sciences.  They can not be exported.  Williamsburg does not compete, but compliments our story.  Their tourists can reach us in a quick, quiet trip down
I85 to I77.  This means business.

And, the true artisan is still required today.  Glass Blowers are needed at NCSU to produce laboratory glassware.  Raleigh is still dependent on craftspeople.  YVCG should continue its educational purpose as well as its merchandising purposes.

So Up and At'em as Colonel Ben Cleveland used to say. Raise a glass of fine wine for the Yadkin Valley Craft Guild on your upcoming wine tour to its bold mission to produce, preserve and promote the skills and arts of fine and heritage crafts from the Yadkin Valley watershed region. Hip, Hip, Huzzah!

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